2017 Yamaha – The Sleeping Giant Awakens 2017 Yamaha – The Sleeping Giant Awakens
You always knew that Yamaha, if they really wanted to, could build a 4-stroke engine that would blow the doors off of everyone, once... 2017 Yamaha – The Sleeping Giant Awakens

Many years ago a Yamaha factory rep told me that each manufacturer has unique talents, and that each manufacturer would thus build what they were most capable of building. Sounds pretty simple and logical, but it is still profound, especially when we look at what Yamaha is doing for 2017.

This logic became most evident back in 2003 with the introduction of Yamaha’s RX-1, the first high performance 4-stroke snowmobile ever offered. Since that time, Yamaha has proudly leveraged their world class 4-stroke engine building capability as their way to meet the EPA emissions that were looming over the industry at that time. Since then, Yamaha has continued to evolve the 4-stroke snowmobile to new heights and has all but abandoned 2-stroke engine technology in favor of what they were most capable of building.

Sidewinder BTX LE red 3_4

Sidewinder B-TX LE 153

One of the questions so many of us have had in our minds for many years was that of a turbo. Like, why doesn’t Yamaha offer a factory turbo? Arctic Cat had a Suzuki-built turbo, a couple of them in fact, so why doesn’t Yamaha do it? Instead, Yamaha seemed to be happy offering their accessory turbo kits, first with PUSH and then with MPI. And while these dealer-installed turbo kits indeed delivered big power, they were add-ons to an engine that perhaps was never really designed for a turbo in the first place. Sure they worked good, but that is not how Yamaha does things. Ideally.

Yamaha tells us that back before they entered their mutual supply agreement with Arctic Cat that they had already started development of a new engine, designed specifically for a factory-installed factory-designed factory-calibrated turbocharger. No compromises, no cutting corners, but done right all the way from the get-go. In typical Yamaha fashion.


Having Arctic Cat as an engine customer also helped matters along. Not only could this new engine be used to sell Yamaha snowmobiles, but it could also be sold to Arctic Cat for use in their snowmobiles, as an excellent replacement for the aging Suzuki-built 9000-series turbo.

Add to this the fact that 80% of all snowmobile sales in North America are Sport sleds – Mountain, Crossover, Trail & Rough Trail. This is where the sale are at, this is where the money is. We can talk about less expensive machines and wonder where the lighter, less expensive snowmobile is at, but that isn’t where the money is. And like any good shark knows, follow the green, not the dream.


Out of all these sport sleds being sold, the split in engine size is right at 60/40 for 800-class machines and 600-class machines. Back in 2005 it was the other way around, but these days it is the 800s that drive the bus. People spend big money on big power. Again, follow the green.

Further, out of all the 600-class sleds 43% of them sold are now 4-strokes. Of that Yamaha has 17% of the 600-class sleds, and combined with Arctic Cat’s versions of the Yamaha engine and they are up to 23% of the class. Not shabby.

Sidewinder MTX 162 SE blue 3_4

Sidewinder M-TX SE 162


But when we get to the 800-class sales, 4-strokes only amount to a measly 6% of the market. A ton of 800-class sleds are being sold, with virtually none of them being 4-strokes. This my friends was identified as the primary opportunity for growth. Build a killer 4-stroke in this big power class and the sales should easily justify the investment. Again, follow the green.

Which brings us to Yamaha’s all-new for 2017 Sidewinder. Not just one sled, but an incredible TWELVE different models, ranging from a 129” track length R-TX SE all the way to a 162” track length M-TX SE, with a host 137”, 141” and 153” track length models in between, in all kinds of lug heights, colors and shock option packages.

These new machines are all built for Yamaha by Arctic Cat, but this time around the engine, the intake, the exhaust and all of the electronics are designed by Yamaha. About the only piece we’re not sure of is the muffler, that might have been done by Arctic Cat. Regardless, this new engine package is a 998cc Turbo Engine with 50% more torque and 40% more power than a stock SR Viper (FX Nytro) 1049 engine. It is similar to the YXZ side-by-side 998 engine but with lower compression and a turbocharger with an air-to-air intercooler delivering power of at least 180 HP (in conservative Yamaha dyno testing) and more like 190 HP when tested by other dyno facilities. Yamaha boasts the Sidewinder will provide the best power to weight ratio in the industry with up to 30% more power to weight than the closest competitor (2016 models).


The 2017 Yamaha Sidewinder will change your impression of what a 4-stroke snowmobile is capable of. It always runs the same, regardless of temperature or elevation. It never needs to be recalibrated, no clutching or gearing changes, ever. Where an 800cc 2-stroke might be making down around 120 HP (or less) at higher elevations, you will be making 180-190 HP anywhere and everywhere. With no turbo lag it responds to your commands instantly, lifting the front end to carry you over the bumps, or blasting out of corners with the utmost in authority. You will have mod sled performance with stock sled reliability. This is going to be as close to the perfect 4-stroke snowmobile as you could possibly imagine. Each of the Sidewinder models are the complete and total package. Not only is this a blow-your-mind engine package with power delivery that will make your arms hurt from trying to hang on, but with each model you will find the machine to be incredibly well calibrated. From ride quality to handling, from clutching and gearing to running quality and consistency. From the moment you turn the key and hear the Genesis Turbo to the moment you dare squeeze the throttle to the moment you see the landscape rush by you in a blur, you will not believe a 4-stroke snowmobile could possibly work this well.

You always knew that Yamaha, if they really wanted to, could build a 4-stroke engine that would blow the doors off of everyone, once and for all. Here it is.

  • John adshade

    March 1, 2016 #1 Author

    Looking for 2017 snowmobles

  • Robert Masterson

    March 4, 2016 #2 Author

    Great article. It sounds like Yamaha has done a great job in design and release and promoting the new Sidewinder. But what is particularly interesting will be proof in a few areas once riders mount up and the true real world rider use and abuse starts to fill websites and chat forums will be the true measure. There has so far been no dry weights published that I have seen. And a market in some respect that is torn between going to lighter sleds that riders can grab and move versus 4 stroke hernia givers really exists. I expect the true market of the new king of horsepower is to appeal to the younger rider who wants speed to be drawn away from the other brands. But really most intriguing as I own a Apex and we have 3 Yamaha 4 strokes in the family, is did Yamaha really cut its own throat with the marketing and release now of Sidewinder? The Viper Cat/Yammy partnership is still relatively in young stages with the Viper/7000 series and 1049 triple taking off for both manufacturers. The 4 cylinder 998 cc 4 stroke in the Apex a great, reliable engine that now looks like both Viper and Apex are heading to extinction. Why? Look at the prices of the Apex, Viper and Sidewinder. You tell me why you would buy a Apex when for almost the same $ you could have a Sidewinder with more horsepower and glitz. Why would you buy a Viper when for less than a few thousand $ you could have a Sidewinder? Will the Viper become the ‘old mans” trail sled as the Apex has been somewhat labelled? I’m sure the sales $ will tell the story heading into 2018/19 for the Viper and Apex. Plus Yamaha. I’m not sure why the 50th Anniversary in 2018 wasn’t combined with the opening Sidewinder gala. Certainly without a doubt in my mind the Sidewinder has made me re-evaluating waiting for a 50th Anniversary version Apex or Viper. I know where my turbocharged 4 stroke purchase will be!

  • Snomanco

    March 25, 2016 #3 Author

    The Sleeping Giant Awakens in 2017, but in 2018, Yamaha’s 50th, they will unleash the Kraken.

  • denny

    January 23, 2017 #4 Author

    any word on the colors for the 50th anniversary side winders?

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