THE NEW POLARIS 4-STROKE ENGINE
It's interesting how the Side x Side biz is playing right into the hands of the sno-mo-biz - or maybe it's the other way around?
In any case, the emergence of amazingly powerful, tightly packaged, CVT friendly engines being used in high performance SxSs have "snowmobile friendly" written all over them.
Polaris is the SxS leader with over a 50-percent share of the market and a stranglehold on the hero-building Pure Sport segment with the company's RZR performance vehicles. Polaris' snowmobile division is locked in the snowmobile business’s number two market share position but has remarkably achieved this without a serious 4-stroke powered offering.
The Pro Star series of SxS 4-stroke twins include at least two and possibly three variants we suspect will fit into the current AXYS chassis. Pro Star 4-strokes are all DOHC twins - most displacing just under 1000ccs and fully CVT compatible. In fact, Polaris off-road vehicles use what is a virtual copy of the legendary P-90 Polaris snowmobile-derived primary clutch.
Throw in this reality: Polaris doesn't want to be a "me-too" entrant into the 4-stroke snowmobile market. Using the lightweight Pro Star engine platform would likely put the company in the enviable position of "lightest 4-stroke snowmobiles" category.
The 100-hp normally-aspirated Pro Star would be a shoe-in to compete with Ski-Doo's MX-Z and Renegade ACE 900 models claiming 90 ponies. The second Pro Star we think makes sense in an AXYS chassis is the latest 168-hp turbocharged variant of the RZR 1000. With Arctic Cat and Yamaha stealing the top performance spotlight with their new Yamaha-built 180-horse turbo triples, the acceptance of 4-stroke engines in sleds just got a huge shot in the (swing) arm.
While on the topic let's talk about Ski-Doo's obvious opportunity to participate in the turbo 4-stroke game. The new Maverick X3 Turbo - a dead-on competitor for Polaris' RZR Turbo, is powered by a tight, lithe 3-cylinder 900cc ACE mill kicking out 153-hp.
This engine is CVT ready and maybe more importantly, the power-pack looks so compact those of us in the snowmobile media strongly suspect what's going on. They (Rotax) could easily have spread out the components in the X3 engine package and saved jing on tooling. We suspect Can-Am intends to spread the cost of development of this all-new ACE turbo over more platforms - including snowmobiles and PWC.
This time around it looks to us like the snowmobile industry is going to benefit from the exploding popularity of ultra-high-performance SxSs. Ski-Doo is already in a good spot in the 4-stroke market with three popular engine offerings (1170cc triple, ACE 600 and ACE 900). However, the company needs to behave like the leader they are and not let Yamaha and Arctic Cat steal the high profile, brand-building cache that comes from offering the highest performance snowmobile available.
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