Yes, 4-stroke snowmobiles are here to stay.
Since their intro at the turn of the 2000's, they have made an indelible impression on the market and continue to deliver magnetic loyalty from owners - many of whom are on their fourth or fifth copy.
These riders would swear their 4-strokes are so far above and beyond the 2-strokes they've owned, they'd never go back - ever!
So, what does the 4-stroke future look like?
Yamaha originally led the fray with its longterm vow to concentrate solely on building 4-stroke sleds. This has only recently changed so that Yamaha could be more competitive in certain off-trail markets.
This year its 4-stroke line-up has been invaded with one very serious 2-stroke mountain sled, the new 400cc Venom series and a very versatile utility model, the Transporter, powered by a semi-direct-injected 800 2-stroke twin.
The result is a much more balanced model line-up with at least six 2-strokes offered and a very real possibility Yamaha can capture some of its competitors' clientele. Where does this leave the Yamaha 4-strokes?
So far, Yamaha has limited its 4-stroke line-up to two 3-cylinder engines: The tried and true 1049cc naturally aspirated triple found originally in the Viper - and used throughout the model line in utility based and 2-passenger models - and the incredibly powerful 998cc turbocharged triple in the Sidewinder.
Yamaha has been able to throw a blanket over most categories using the above pair of 4-strokes but the question looms: What about the future – and can these two engine variations bridge developing categories in the next decade?
Certainly, the turbo gets the job done as far as providing ultimate power and acceleration. However, Yamaha has pretty much been ignoring the 90-100-hp category currently filled by Ski-Doo's ACE 900. Some would argue this isn't a big enough class to support a completely new model. We would strongly disagree!
The 95-hp ACE 900 has become a stalwart in Ski-Doo's model mix and sells in significant numbers as both a 120 and 137-incher.
With an extra 100ccs and the potential to deliver a very relaxed 100-plus ponies, a 998cc naturally aspirated Yamaha triple could take the category by storm.
If Yamaha chooses to not expand its 4-stroke engine selection - maybe because of pricing and the higher costs of 4-stroke production, it would have to compete by bringing more 2-strokes.
This would certainly alter the company's fingerprint and give lots of Yamaha customers fodder for the argument the company is simply re-marketing Arctic Cats. Honestly - that's not a bad idea.
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