Sport Utility with an Attitude
What kind of sled is that?
Time and time again, that was exactly what people would ask us. They’d never seen a sled quite like this before. It looked like a 4-stroke, but sounded like a 2-stroke.
And then there was the intimidating track – 154” length, 1.8” lug height, but – wait for it – the 20” width.
Maybe it was the great big guy riding it. If they saw this big guy railing through the corners on this massive beast, they could only be impressed. Perhaps they first thought it was a mountain sled, but when they got a good look at it they knew different.
There were only a select few that knew what this sled was when they first saw it. They were keen Ski-Doo fans, indeed.
“Hey, that’s one of them new Expedition Xtremes isn’t it?”
“Why yes it is.” It shouldn’t have been profound revelation, as the decals on the side of the hood told them what it was, but only a few of them understood what those words truly meant.
When Ski-Doo told us they were shipping a pre-production Expedition Xtreme to us for late season testing in the Spring, we wondered if we were in the doghouse or something. Usually we get our hands on something more exciting like a new Renegade, a new MX Z XRS or something like a Backcountry. They did have a new 154” Backcountry coming out for 2020, but no, we were getting an Expedition Xtreme.
“This sled is going to surprise you,” is what our Ski-Doo friends told us. Ya, right, like surprise us in how heavy and slow it is?
We actually let the sled sit in the garage the first few days we had it. The snow was still good, but the forecast wasn’t so we wanted to get as many miles on our “good” sleds before we had to put our time in on the 2020 pre-production unit.
By about the third day we decided it was time to get the big girl out and see what all the fuss was about. With the mighty Rotax 850 E-TEC under the hood, we should have had a clue that it wasn’t going to be a slouch. But no, we thought it would be a bore.
The first thing, and I mean the VERY first thing we noticed was the seat. Yep. The seat. We’ve been somewhat critical of the seat on the 2-stroke Gen4 REV models the past few years. They’re fairly hard, really small and slanted forward so you’re always sliding down into the side panels as you’re riding. But with the Expedition Xtreme the seat was different. It was wider and flatter, and maybe even slightly softer. For a bigger rider it was a pleasant surprise. No more sliding forward, no more bobbing back and forth.
The second thing you notice is the track. No, correction. What you notice is the overall balance. In that the track doesn’t over power the skis or the handling. You’d think a sled with a track that is 154x20x1.8 would be all about going forward and a beast to get to come around a corner, but the Xtreme defies the stereotype we had formed before riding it. It didn’t feel that long motoring down the trail. The steering wasn’t as heavy as we expected. It actually railed around the corners surprisingly well. Like, we could ride it very much like a Backcountry with speed and confidence. Really.
Of course, with this much rubber on the ground the Xtreme does run out of legs up on the top end, but you really have to wind it up to learn that. It would still scream up to past 85 mph quite quickly and easily, so top end was really never an issue. What you gain in terms of flotation and traction more than made up for the decreased top speed.
You have to understand, a sled like the Expedition Xtreme is bought by somebody who wants or needs the utility capability – be it pulling loads in deep snow, or pulling really heavy loads in normal snow, or being able to carry silly amounts of gear and cargo – but they still might want to use the machine for fun – go out and ride with the gang – just like we all do.
And that is what makes the Expedition Xtreme so special – it has all of the utility capability, but who in their right mind ever thought we’d be talking about how great the ride quality and handling is – for a utility sled? We’d normally just chalk up the cumbersome handling and bumpy suspension to the heavy sled being set up for work work work. Never would you expect to hop on it and take off down the trail and actually ride it for a couple hundred of miles going left and right, though the bumps and then take off cross country and embarrass your buddies with their so-called crossover sleds.
Yes, we did get the Xtreme stuck, but that’s the point of testing a machine, to find its limits. The other sleds also got stuck in the same area, so we didn’t feel too bad. Being a bigger sled it is much easier to get out when there are two of you, logically, but the big footprint of the track is going to let you go through deeper snow and do so at lower speeds than what you could on other machines. The 20” track width does wonders for flotation, giving the 154” length an actual footprint that was closer to a 175” track. The tapered tunnel helped with the width, but you could still tell you were riding a bigger horse.
We liken the Expedition Xtreme to a capable and sporty pick-up truck. With the body of a utility sled and the attitude of a rally car, the 2020 Expedition Xtreme takes a bold step in blurring the line between sport and utility. With this kind of power, ride and handling it actually redefines what it means to be a sport-utility sled.
So how did Ski-Doo get a sled with these kind of features and capabilities to act and feel so agile? Starting with the narrower cockpit of the REV Gen4 platform, the Xtreme’s centered mass and rider positioning allow for responsive maneuvering in deep snow. Granted, it’s not going to tip up like a Summit but it is quite responsive, all things considered. Those same characteristics also enable a rider to get about as aggressive as they desire when ripping along the trail.
Further adding to the incredible on and off-trail capability of the Xtreme is the RAS 3 front suspension mated with the DS 3 skis. The front end sticks far better than you’d expect with that big of track behind you. An adjustable (38.4” – 40.1”) ski stance allows you to choose a more planted or a nimbler front end. The SC-5U rear suspension is built for deep snow utility needs with an articulating tail, and both (front and rear) suspensions are fitted a shock package one would expect to find on a Ski-Doo high performance machine – KYB HPG Plus front and center shocks, and KYB Pro 36 R easy adjust rear shock.
Blending deep-snow DNA with utility functionality, the Expedition Xtreme features a fan radiator to aid in cooling the 850 E-TEC engine in high-stress situations. Adding durability and functionality are the rear bumper and new Multi-LinQ Plate on the back tunnel. Accommodating both 16- and 20-inch-wide LinQ accessories, the Xtreme offers a nearly endless amount of customizable storage and accessory configurations. The large cargo box behind the seat is standard, large enough to carry an incredible amount of gear all by itself.
Being a utility sled, the Xtreme features an easy shift transmission (H-L-N) with push-button reverse. It shifts easily with multiple gear ratios, built for heavy duty reliability with high load resistance and optimal lubrication. Final gearing is of course lower than normal sport sleds, so you will see a slightly higher operating rpm for any given ground speed, but crack the throttle and the acceleration is most instant and intoxicating.
So maybe you need a machine to pull an ice house. Maybe you have the need to pull heavy tow sleds full of cargo up to a camp. Maybe you’re hauling fire wood out of the forest. Maybe you just need a sled that can be used to do both work and play. Outside of the USA, people who buy snowmobiles are far more likely to have a single sled that can do the work and also have some fun on. The Expedition Xtreme could very well be the perfect sled for those who need a snowmobile to do both. Just like a pick-up truck, built with features to do the work but also able to go out and have some fun. And what fun it is!