The 2009 model year marks the 50th anniversary of Ski-Doo snowmobiles. It was 1959 when Ski-Doo built their first production snowmobile. So to celebrate their 50th year of manufacturing snowmobiles, they wanted to really do it big. They wanted to exceed our expectations. Jose Boisjoli, president and CEO of BRP stated, “BRP’s 2009 Ski-Doo line-up reflects what customers have come to expect from us; advanced technologies, cutting-edge design, and intuitive handling that all translate into the best fun you can have on snow.”
Right up to this point in time, it pretty much looked like Ski-Doo was going to carry the 2-stroke banner to the end of the battle. They’re the ones who have pioneered semi-direct transfer port injection (SDI) through their Sea-Doo watercraft and Ski-Doo snowmobiles. And more recently, they’re the ones that have really brought direct-injected two-strokes to the mainstream, again through their Sea-Doo watercraft and their Evinrude line of outboard motors.
We’ve been talking about the coming of direct-injection in the pages of SnowTech for over ten years. It was really a matter of “when” instead of “if”. Part of the problem was letting the technology catch-up to the requirements of snowmobile engines. Outboard engines don’t spin at as high of RPM levels, so the injector technology needed to be “brought up to speed”, so to speak.
When Ski-Doo (BRP) purchased the OMC engine line and took over the manufacture of Evinrude outboards, they went to work and brought the world E-TEC, their own version of voice-coil injectors that quickly injected the fuel directly into the combustion chamber after the exhaust port was closed. This was the key to bringing the emissions of a two-stroke engine down to 4-stroke levels.
E-TEC has proven its capability in the marine world, and allows users to keep their two-stroke weight advantage over 4-strokes. So even though we expected to see an E-TEC snowmobile, it wasn’t until last year at the Clean Snowmobile Challenge that the writing was on the wall. The team from the University of Idaho won the CSC last March, using a (base) Ski-Doo 600 SDI engine that had been modified with a new cylinder head and E-TEC injectors. We were almost there.
Even so, it was still a shocker to get an e-mail in January, announcing the 2009 MX Z TNT fitted with a 600 H.O. E-TEC engine. It was even more of a shocker when one was dropped off at our shop only a couple of days later.
Instead of repeating all of the specs and stats, suffice it to say that you will never think of a two-stroke snowmobile engine in the same way after you experience one of these. It starts first pull, every time. The E-TEC engine is fitted with all new electronics, and it pulls over very easily and starts with as much ease. Most any 10 year old should be able to fire one of these up. When it starts, it sounds like a 4-stroke. With E-TEC, the engine runs using a “stratified” charge at idle (and all the way up to about 3500 RPM). A very small amount of fuel is injected into the cylinder right before the spark, so it combusts before it has a chance to disperse. This means it runs using 1/3 of the fuel of normal, or put another way, it idles using the fuel of a 200cc engine. It idles at about 1100 RPM, and you’d swear it was a 4-stroke by the way it sounds.
Then as the engine RPM comes to (about) 3500 RPM, it switches over to the “homogeneous” mode, or power charge. Here, fuel is injected into the cylinder where it mixes with air for a split second before combustion. The mixing with air is where the “homogeneous” term comes from.
Bottom line, there is almost zero smoke from this engine. Almost zero smell. Depending on how you ride, you will get 20 miles per gallon. Seriously. And the oil tank will last at least twice as long, and even longer, depending on how you ride. Since no fuel is going through the crankcase, the oil isn’t being washed away. An electric oil pump controls oil flow, to the crankcase and the E-RAVE.
E-RAVE? This feature is almost as important as the direct injection. Like the 800 R engine, the 600 E-TEC is now fitted with a three-dimensional RAVE valve. Instead of being open or closed, the E-RAVE has three levels of opening, with a main center guillotine valve and two additional “finger” valves on each side for precise exhaust port control. So instead of open or closed, there is open, mid, and closed. You really have to get into the throttle to get it to open all the way and have the power really come on, and this is part of why the E-TEC engine also gets such outstanding fuel economy.
We pretty much thought E-TEC was going to be the story from Ski-Doo for 2009, but it’s only half of the story. We had heard rumors of some XP-looking sleds with wider body work and four digits on the hood. Seemed like they were going to bring back the 1000 SDI in an XP chassis, at least that made sense. Or, did it?
Ski-Doo does their research, and their number crunchers told the marketing types that the 4-stroke market was continuing to grow. It had grown from only 19% of the market in 2006 to 27% of the market in 2008, and was projected to be almost 36% of the market for 2009. Ski-Doo also learned that the number one reason a snowmobiler didn’t buy a Ski-Doo was because they preferred a 4-stroke. So what were they to do, just sit back and watch one-third of the market buy something else?
BRP and engine manufacturer Rotax have seen this one coming, and have been getting ready for this day. Last year they gave us a 399 pound 2-stroke TNT, and for 2009 they give us a 499-pound 4-stroke; the 2009 MX Z TNT 1200 4-TEC.
Rotax has built us a snowmobile-specific 4-stroke engine with 1170cc, an in-line triple, with chain-driven dual over head cams. Power is right about 130 HP, and the torque is very wide and broad, thanks to the extra displacement. The sound of this engine is unique and refined, yet very performance oriented. Kind of like a European sports car more than a sport bike. Like you’d expect, it is clean, quiet, smooth, and with handling that will really open your eyes. Yes, you can tell it is a 4-stroke, as there is more weight in front of you than a 2-stroke, even ones that weigh more than the 1200, but you have to be impressed that Ski-Doo came to the table with E-TEC and a serious 4-stroke, all in the same year.
We’re not even close to being done yet. With the release of the XP platform last year, there were still a number of REV-based sleds in the line up. Now we’re told the XP platform is simply a variation of the REV-X platform, and that there are two more variations of the REV-X platform; the REV-XR and the REV-XU. The REV-XR designation is pretty much the muscular variation that was designed to house the new 1200 4-stroke, and the REV-XU is a new lighter utility variant of the REV-X found on their Expedition sport utility models.
This is where the all-new GTX models come from. A REV-XR chassis, which is a wider version of the XP, designed to handle the 1200 4-stroke and the extra rider. With the extra eight inches of legroom, there is plenty of room for driver and passenger and plenty of cargo; 70% more storage capacity than on the REV. The styling of the GTX models takes the stealthy-appearance of the XP to new heights, and new levels of luxury.
So for 2009, Ski-Doo offers a full compliment of EPA-compliant engines and technologies, and a host of carbureted models in the form of the 500SS and 550 fan-cooled variants. Suspension packages range from the lower cost gas-cell shock models to the spring-only X-packages, with more engine options than ever before. That’s the trick; it’s your choice, 2-stroke or 4-stroke. Now they have it all, and so can you.