Coming out with a brand-new turbocharged engine and an incredible number of new Sidewinder models for 2017, one kind of wonders what Yamaha might have up their sleeve for the 2018 model year. We were told several years ago to expect new models each year for many years, so if that is to remain accurate they will be coming with something different for Yamaha 2018. But, what could that be?
Let’s speculate, as we really do not know for a fact what they (or any other manufacturer) is coming with for 2018. At least, not quite yet. The one model we have been hearing some talk about is a new SRX. No, not a two-stroke triple, but a variation of the Sidewinder. It might not even be called a Sidewinder. It might not even have the turbo engine in it, but we think it will. The angle we’ve been hearing is to come with a lower to the ground lake racer, more of a slot car and a sled that doesn’t sit so high. Tall machines have high amounts of wind drag at high speeds, so if they wanted to make a lake racer version of the Sidewinder they could come with a shorter stroke shock package, front and or rear, think SX 700 or SRX style. Lake racer. Makes sense.
The next rumbling is actually encouraging, the possibility that Yamaha might bring a smaller size sled, something like what we have been asking for the past several years. Might even be a China-built machine bearing the Yamaha name, who knows. A new-age Sno Scoot, a smaller kid-sized sled bigger than the 120, something along those lines. Maybe they have been watching the Snow Leopard from Tao Tao and don’t want to let them run away with the sales of this sized machine, and since Yamaha already has the established dealer network it might give them a huge advantage. We just don’t know if Yamaha could do this with a built-in-Japan sled and compete, cost-wise, with a China-built sled of the same size. What we’re hearing about is in the same size, physical and engine, so we are very curious to see what happens here. Remember, this is all pure speculation at this point (heard that before?).
At this point we have to wonder if we will ever see a new performance sled come from the Japan side of things. The Apex and Vector models, as good of snowmobiles as they are, are now getting dated by our industry standards. Excellent snowmobiles, but fewer riders like or want the “traditional” rider position sitting lower and further back, compared to the new rider-forward sleds. We had asked Yamaha reps many years ago why they couldn’t mount a taller seat on an Apex or Vector, or lower the foot position, to get the rider’s hips above their knees. In fact, the one model they do have with the best hip to knee positioning is their RS Venture TF, the big cruiser model, with a slightly taller seat. The problem one runs into is that the running boards would drag if we lower the footrests, and the sled’s center of gravity starts to get tall (tippy) if we put a taller seat on the platform. To this we can agree, as we had one of the big cruiser Venture models a few years back, and even though it did sit slightly higher and was more comfortable it was a bit more tippy in hard cornering. Thus, we now have the SR Viper and Sidewinder models, also very good snowmobiles. Dare we say these are some of the very best snowmobiles to ever come out of Thief River Falls, as Yamaha holds the manufacturing to Yamaha standards, which is more demanding. This relationship has also resulted in higher quality sleds bearing the Arctic Cat name, even affecting the dirt machines built there as well. Lessons learned on one product line for sure can be applied to the other product lines as well. We have put thousands of miles on Arctic Cat Wildcats and know firsthand how good the latest models are compared to the earlier ones. Bottom line, the mutual supply agreement between Yamaha and Arctic Cat has been good for both parties, and we expect it to continue.
Originally published in the Jan/Feb 2017 issue of SnowTech Magazine (December 2016)
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