In the bumps you all know how there are times you’d like to have the sled’s shocks set soft and comfy for the trail chop, but then when the bumps get bigger you’d like to have the shocks set firmer to control the machine’s pitch and prevent bottoming. Where ever you set the shocks, you are at a compromise. Now imagine a sled that senses what the terrain is like and how the shocks are reacting and automatically adjusts the shocks for you, instantly and with uncanny precision. The sled rides like no other through the small chatter bumps and soaks up the larger chop like it isn’t even there. Then when you get into the bigger whoops you have incredible suspension stroking and the sled stays flat – the nose stays level and the tail of the sled isn’t kicking you. The sled delivers pitch control and prevents body roll like nothing you’ve ever experienced. You ask yourself, how is this even possible? Welcome to Smart Shox technology.
Smart Shox is an auto-adjusting KYB shock package that provides incredible bump absorption and anti-bottoming but also compensates for vehicle roll and pitch. The system monitors multiple variables and sensor inputs. This system features twin-wall shocks with a 50mm body and 36mm piston in a piggyback configuration up front, with a remote reservoir on the rear. The front ski shocks and rear rail shock are all electronically controlled with the center shock being a traditional shock design with no electronic controls. Taking multiple inputs from the snowmobile, these shocks electronically adjust up to 34 times per second on compression and 50 times per second on rebound to provide ride and handling precision and control like you’ve never experienced before. Seriously. It won’t take you more than a mile to know there is something very unique and different about the sled you’re on. It is profound.
The Smart Shox system consists of:
* Three KYB PRO twin-tube shock absorbers (two front, one rear)
* Five chassis sensors
* One control unit
* Three-position mode switch
* Advanced software and damping strategies
The world-class KYB shocks with twin-tube design control oil flow through both fixed and variable valves as determined by the control unit. Oil flow is directed by each shock’s solenoid to determine the amount of oil flowing through each path; to bypass the fixed damping of the piston and valve stack, put specific percentages through both fixed and variable, or force all flow through the fixed valve. A unique twist is the ability to control the oil flow in both compression and rebound damping – a feature exclusive only to BRP.
For 2022 Ski-Doo is offering their electronically controlled SMART SHOX package on four of their key trail models; the Renegade X-RS (850 or 900 Turbo R) the 850 MX Z X-RS and the one-year-only Mach Z 900 Turbo R. We had the opportunity to ride this revolutionary new technology on all of these models and we were VERY impressed. More like blown away!
Smart Shox – 700 Mile Test Report
We’ve logged 700+ miles with the Smart Shox system on the 2022 Renegade X-RS fitted with the 850 E-TEC, along with some serious seat time on the Mach Z, a 900 Turbo R version of the Renegade X-RS and an 850 MX Z X-RS, all with Smart Shox. We first ran the system in Idaho back in January, then at a photo shoot in late February, and then for several days in the first week of March while we were racking up some miles on a new Lynx RAVE RE. Seeing how the good snow was melting quickly, we were offered the chance to do some side by side comparisons. We had been running the Lynx for a couple of days when the (pre-production) 2022 Renegade X-RS with Smart Shox showed up at our door step. Literally. We thought having a Lynx to ride for the week made us rock stars, so what did this make us? Giddy!
For the next 500 miles it was side by side and back to back with four of our most experienced riders. They all wanted to first ride the Lynx, as that was the new girl in town and was so different, they had to get that out of their system. But when they got their time on the Smart Shox they all quickly realized how different it was. Like, it was a paradigm shifter.
What is most apparent is how smooth the sled is. You know how you kinda’ brace yourself for the bumps you see coming, you’d do this but the sled just didn’t react like you thought it would. Like oh, that wasn’t so bad. So you hit the next section and again, you float right through it. It didn’t matter much, fast or slow, big bumps or little bumps. It’s like the performance window is so much wider, almost without limits. You had the smooth ride of having the shocks dialed down in the little chop, but then you had the control and capability of shocks dialed up in the larger bumps and/or higher speeds. The chassis doesn’t move as much as it used to, nor does the rider. Your level of isolation is enhanced. You immediately know it.
In the corners, the shocks sense which direction you are turning and stiffen the outside ski to reduce body roll and dive, keeping the sled flat. No body roll to the outside, no inside ski lift. Instead of feeling like a rolling boat you have the supple comfort in the bumps but with chassis control more akin of a race sled. It’s the strangest thing! Then upon exit of the corner, if bumps, holes or trail chop is encountered, the shocks automatically and seamlessly adjust to soak it up. Corner stability is absolutely amazing without otherwise sacrificing ride quality. It’s like a paradox to have it all happen at the same time, with seemingly no compromise. It doesn’t take long to come to the conclusion this is the very best overall suspension package you’ve experienced.
Three shock performance modes can be chosen by toggling a switch located on the left side cowling and you can even do so on the fly. The three modes are “Comfort”, “Sport” and “Sport +”. We found that we liked the “Sport” mode for most situations with the “Comfort” mode being selected when the trail had small chop and was fairly straight, or if we were riding more casually and wanted full comfort and compliance. In “Comfort” mode the performance window is shifted more towards bump compliance. Here the cornering performance was not as flat and level compared to “Sport” mode as more body roll was allowed. “Sport +” mode was noticeably stiff for lower speeds and smaller chop, but crank up the speed or get into bigger whoops and you have even greater capability as the performance window is shifted to better handle the higher speeds and larger strokes. A ditch banger would love it for those hard hits and large bumps. We got to the point that we left it in the Sport mode most of the time after trying all modes in various conditions.
It should be noted that the rider must still set the spring preload of the rear suspension for the appropriate vehicle ride height, per rider weight. There is no automatic load leveling in this sense. The torsion spring cams must be set for the rider weight and proper ride height. As always, the coupler blocks and center spring can also be adjusted to vary transfer, amount of coupling and ski pressure. These elements have not changed.
The question this year, of course, is how does the Smart Shox package compare to the newly available Lynx RAVE RE. We ran them side by side for several days and hundreds of miles. The Lynx is fitted with larger diameter (larger capacity) shocks and is un-coupled, so it is going to be more capable in the roughest terrain at the highest speeds. That said, the Smart Shox system will go through the same bumps with less chassis and rider disruption, right up to the point of bottoming. By the time this happens you are going so fast in such huge moguls that you resign yourself to the fact that few riders will truly be able to realize the advantage the Lynx has in these conditions. Some will, but when you then consider how well the Smart Shox performs in all other (lesser) conditions then the choice becomes easier. For all other bump sizes and vehicle speeds the Smart Shox is the superior package, hands down. It can even sense air time and stiffen up, anticipating the landing.
As good as the Lynx performs in the bigger moguls at high speed, the Smart Shox system provides an even broader performance window that is undeniable. Every single rider we put on both sleds came to this conclusion, with relative ease. These riders all own sleds like a ZR RR, Renegade X-RS, Backcountry X-RS and Polaris Assault. If all a rider did was run ungroomed tracks at speed then the Lynx was incredible, but anytime you throw in any real amount of groomed trail riding then the Smart Shox has the advantage simply because of its ability to react and perform across such a broad range of conditions. The one thing our riders ALL wanted was the Blade XC+ skis from the Lynx, stating they would prefer having these on their Renegade X-RS or Backcountry X-RS.
It comes down to what kind of riding you do most, or value the greatest. If most of your riding is on groomed trails the Smart Shox system is better suited to the task. If you ride a good amount of very rough trails, groomed or ungroomed, both sleds will perform well for you. If you ride mostly very rough trails or almost exclusively ungroomed routes then the Lynx is a fully capable machine. There is quite a bit of overlap in capability between these two, but the performance window is wider with the Smart Shox. And remember, the Lynx is uncoupled and the Smart Shox is coupled so this plays into transfer control and keeping the skis planted, or being easier to lift and carry them. Less right or wrong and more a matter of preference and matching the function to the prevailing conditions. It is more likely for someone to complain about the Lynx being too stiff than it is for someone to complain about the Smart Shox not being able to handle the bigger bumps at higher speeds.