The Most Technologically Advanced Snowmobile – Ever
Seeing how Ski-Doo first introduced their game-changing – no, make that industry changing – rider-forward REV platform for the 2003 model year, we fully expected to see Ski-Doo commemorate the 20th anniversary with something equally as new and different. You know, REV-olutionary, once again!
So, when Ski-Doo showed their hand for 2023 it was quickly obvious that the majority of the effort had been put into the deep snow version of their Gen5 REV platform. The trail version, while also called Gen5, just wasn’t what we had expected. Or, hoped for. But were we being fair?
It was pretty much the same chassis and suspensions from 2022 but enhanced with cool trickery like a new LED headlight, a new super-huge color touch screen display in the dash, enhanced drive belt durability with improved CVT cooling, a smoother experience with less vibration through a revised 4-point engine mounting, a new airbox and of course the new muscular appearance afforded by new hood, side panels, console and rider interface. It reminded us of the transition from the Gen2 REV XP to the Gen3 REV XR/XS where the machine itself was relatively the same but many enhancements had been implemented, clearly raising the bar but not being a game-changer.
One thing we’ve learned over the years is when you’re the leader, it’s difficult to know where to go next. There is no one to follow, you’re up front and breaking trail. You have to be the one with the vision and foresight of where to go next. This takes inspiration, guts and some luck, not just sheer talent or hard work. It takes all of the above.
And when you’re the leader, if you get too far ahead you often times become complacent. Why push harder and harder when you are so far ahead? Isn’t it OK to let off the throttle a bit and conserve resources? Or should you forge forward at wide open throttle, consuming resources to simply stay as far ahead as possible?
Those of us really into the snowmobile industry have watched Ski-Doo rise to dominance since the 2003 introduction of the REV, and they have held this position for a very long time. This wasn’t by chance, but by the technology that continued to be developed and introduced. Industry leading technology that many of us have gotten so used to that perhaps we don’t give it the credit it is due. Like, direct fuel injection. What was it, 2008 when Ski-Doo introduced their very first E-TEC 600 two-stroke to the world? Remember that? So, here we are fifteen years later and guess what? Does anybody else even offer a direct injection snowmobile engine? How often do we talk about the benefits and how technologically advanced this is? How clean it is, how smoothly and quietly it operates, how efficient it is, how durable it is, how reliable it is? Only E-TEC delivers a low-load stratified charge for that errie-smooth idle and low rpm operation. An extremely small fuel plume is injected into the combustion chamber just before the piston reaches top dead center and right before the spark so the fuel combusts before it even gets a chance to disperse. Fuel consumption and emissions are greatly reduced. This also virtually eliminates smoke and smell and produces a perfectly flat idle. The fact of the matter is Rotax E-TEC engines are the most technologically advanced two-stroke engines in the world. Period. They have been for 15 years. Nobody else has them, and now they have turbocharged versions as well.
Meanwhile, the competition is still using the technology that E-TEC replaced – transfer port injection, where fuel is injected at lower pressures over a longer period of time into the transfer ports as the airstream is rushing up into the combustion chamber. Yes, the other engine manufacturers have this method of fuel delivery working well, but it is not direct injection. It is not as clean, not as smooth, not as efficient, and not as complex.
Moving on to the chassis, it has only been in the last couple of years that Ski-Doo introduced us to their current front and rear suspension packages, the RAS X front and rMotion X rear suspensions. Nobody will argue with the fact the rMotion X is the premier trail suspension available. The REV Gen4 was a very capable package in its own right, and REV Gen5 continues that tradition of delivering exceptional ride and handling.
So much so that when you hop on a new Gen5 REV and compare it directly to a Gen4 REV, you might have a very hard time feeling much of any difference. It’s true. We’ve ridden the new Gen5 for well over a thousand miles now and know this to be a fact. The Gen5 is every bit as good as the Gen4, simply because it is so similar down on the chassis, suspension and mechanical side of things. Even the riding position, seat, handlebars, where your feet are, that’s all the same and explains why it feels so familiar. Because it is. The steering is precise, cornering is flat, the ride is smooth and controlled. Power delivery is instant and forceful, as we have come to expect from an engine with this kind of power and refinement.
But when we come up to the top of the sled and all of the electronics, this is where we find the changes. Ski-Doo has taken a beating from riders on their lack of an LED headlight and their floundering in the GPS/color display segment. Polaris admittedly did a VERY good job in these areas and caught Ski-Doo off guard. Many riders have been buying a new Polaris simply because of how good their 7S color display functions. It rocks and Ski-Doo knows this. And, this is why they quickly abandoned their first color display and are coming with the massive 10.25” touch screen color display for 2023. It looks like an iPad sitting there in the dash, very impressive and luxurious. Welcome to the party, Ski-Doo!
When you fire up the sled you notice how sharp the screen appears and the resolution detail. Then you notice how not all of the available real estate is being used for the actual color display portion, as the lit up part of the gauge is maybe not as big as you might expect. Some of the bottom is reserved for the indicator lights, things like high beam indicator and the like. Ski-Doo chose to not overlay these indicators on the map. When you connect your smartphone and have the map up on the display, the left side of the display is reserved for the sled data, speedo, fuel, tach. You can not have the full display for the GPS. And there is no on-board GPS, you MUST connect your phone, running the BRP Go! app, to display the map.
After getting used to the Polaris 7S display this is somewhat of a hitch, or hiccup, at first. Once the map is up it is remarkable with resolution and detail, but it takes more effort on your part to get the whole thing set-up and dialed in. BRP clearly was after emulating the experience of what people are getting used to with their car or truck, how nobody uses the on-board GPS and instead interface their phones into the vehicle and use that mapping instead.
After using this monster gauge for 1,000+ miles we are getting used to it. We can tell you it isn’t especially quick and easy to learn, at least according to five of our riders who have spent decent time on the machine. But once you figure out the logic and function it then reminds us of the new cars and trucks, just like we were told it would. We believe the software is a work in progress and will continue to evolve, as it should and needs to. This display will likely find its way into many other BRP products than snowmobiles so we fully expect a fast track effort to get it up to speed and acceptance. The potential is all there, it just needs continued development, which it will get. The potential is in there, the execution just needs to catch up. This is a pre-production model we have here, so we will be patient – for now.
The new LED headlights are wicked bright and should finally remove all objections about Ski-Doo headlights. We have to wonder what this will do to the accessory sales of the add-on LED lights that Ski-Doo has been so successful with the past several years. They do offer additional auxiliary LED wide lights and auxiliary LED high beams for the Gen5 Trail models, so maybe there was still room for improvement, by design of course.
One thing we have not seen is any kind of accessory windshield for the Gen5 Trail platform. The method (or location) of attachment is different so none of our Gen4 windshields are going to work. As of now we only see an accessory medium height windshield and no images of what it looks like, but remain hopeful they will become available before December 1st. This was the single biggest complaint on the Gen5 was the lack of a functional windshield during our time and miles of riding them. This is not uncommon with a new platform, to not have accessories like this ready during the introduction, so we hope this is the case here.
Our 2023 pre-production Renegade X-RS was fitted with the Smart-Shox suspension package, as was our 2022 Renegade X-RS that we had for direct comparison. We were most curious to see if we could detect much of any difference between the two, which we did not. They both seemed to be nearly identical in performance and capability, making select bumps disappear and taking the edge off the others in such a fashion that you start to wonder if it was really that good or not. This is when you need to hop on another sled and go through the exact same section of bumps at the same speed and find out for yourself. We had started to wonder if the Smart-Shox was doing much of anything on our 2022 X-RS, but when you’re riding smooth groomed trails most anything works pretty good. It’s when the groomer breaks down or the weekend traffic on soft snow pounds the snot out of the trails that you start to really appreciate what you have under you. Then when you jump on another sled and see the true difference, it becomes much clearer. Yes, Smart-Shox is fairly expensive (like almost two grand more) but when you do the comparisons and realize the difference, only you can decide if it is worth the advantage. As we get older we find ourselves wanting the best suspension package available, especially as the days get longer and the trails get rougher.
About the only other real complaint we have with this sled is the skis. They are too narrow for the type of snow we ride in. Ski-Doo opted to use slightly narrower skis when they went to the RAS X front end, which spread out the spindles as far as possible but forced them to fit narrower skis. These skis dive more than we’d like in softer or fresh snow. Our solution is to install a set of Straight Line Tracking skis from Starting Line Products (our favorite) but we’d also like to see Ski-Doo offer their Blade XC+ skis used on the Lynx RAVE. If not on the sled from the factory, at least as an accessory item. Seems these skis were not available this past season for purchase, so hopefully this year they will be. Anyone who rode the Lynx RAVE knows what we’re talking about here and the difference it makes.
The 2023 Ski-Doo Renegade X-RS, fitted with the new 10.25 color touch screen display and Smart-Shox suspension package is the most technologically advanced snowmobile you can buy. Industry experts and insiders that ride with us are all in agreement. There are many good sleds to choose from right now, but when you take into consideration all of the technology found in the chassis, suspensions, electronics, engine, headlights and color display the Renegade X-RS emerges as the clear winner. Maybe not for everyone, as this is as advanced as a snowmobile gets and carries a hefty price tag, but when you have to have the very best you can rest assured this is it. If 129” track length is more to your liking than the 137” of the Renegade, the MX Z X-RS with the same options is equally as capable and worthy of our affection. We love these sleds because they make us better riders and allow us to fully enjoy our time out on the snow.