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The all-new-for-2011 Polaris Switchback Assault brought with it a completely new chassis and re-invented engine. What’s under the hood promised to be the best and most potent 800 twin the company has ever produced.

In the prior two years the 800 Liberty Cleanfires had not produced power and reliability in line with Polaris customers’ expectations.

Thankfully, Polaris took a load of new 800’s right off the production line in the summer of 2010 and flew them to the Chilean Andes for two weeks of testing. The results were verified not only by top engineers and product management but by Snowmobile Division VP Scott Swenson.

Polaris knew much was at stake and put its reputation on the line with the new 2-injector 800 Liberty CFI. We too can attest to the performance of the re-invented 2-injector Cleanfire.

The new Assault Switchback has lost over 40 pounds compared to last year’s IQ based 144-inch 800. The use of the new Pro-Ride architecture featuring a cast bulkhead and glue-together construction provides two important benefits: First, improved chassis stiffness and secondly, dramatically reduced weight.

The new front bulkhead has been designed to provide incredible strength in the event of a front end hit, allowing A-arms to absorb impact and then break away while preserving the integrity of the bulkhead.

The result is lower cost, simpler repairs. A new digital cluster is easy to control while Switchback variants remove all handlebar switchgear save the kill switch, moving heaters, beams and PERC controls to the dash panel.

Pro Taper aluminum handlebars are stock and they point to an ergo package that is completely perfect for freeriding and boondocking.

Consider the Assault’s 144 non-bent rail 1.375 inch track and you can see Polaris has come to the fight with a crossover directly aimed at the hardcore freerider.

Polaris chose not to employ a bent rail here with the intention of getting everything this formidable 800 rocket has to the powder.

Polaris even uses a mountain-sled-derived CNC’d lightweight rear bumper and a new ultra light snowflap on the Assault in an effort to shed a few more ounces.

Look closely at the 5-piece tunnel and you’ll see that where aluminum overlaps at the running boards it’s been relieved for lightness as are the running boards and the rail extrusions.

With these credentials you can well imagine the Switchback Assault rules this X-Over quartet when it comes to the purist side of the X-Over “thing”.

Simply put, the others here cannot keep this ride in sight when it comes to shredding deep, bottomless, untramped powder and boondocking through tight woods and steep slopes. Truth is, the Assault 144 can handle itself very capably in full-on mountain terrain.

The Assault’s ergonomics could not be completely perfect for freeriding and completely perfect for trail riding. Those lines simply will not intersect.

The ride quality of the Assault is not trail oriented. In fact you’ll probably find it a little unrepentant and stiff. That’s because it’s biased heavily to deep snow activity.

Yes, the 144-inch shoe will bridge moguls and the easy stand-up ergos make running ditches a dream, but the sled is not happy railing tight trails with a bunch of 120s.

Clearly, if you lean toward freeriding and boondocking and not so much toward trail riding and corner carving, the Switchback Assault is the purist freerider’s most desirable ride among these players. No argument.

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