Another model year cycle is upon us, and while we can always expect a few new wrinkles, for 2021 electronic innovation is what’s making headlines. It seems traditional new model cycles are becoming anything but traditional. If you recall, Arctic Cat broke news of their lineup way back before the first hints of snow hit the ground, and have been offering discounted, online ordering through their Snowmageddon event on any 2021 snowmobile along with special early order only packages ever since. A few months later, Ski-Doo pulled the wraps of the industry’s first production turbo charged two-stroke in their Summit deep snow category. Not only did they create a buzz with the announcement, they followed it up with early build units to keep the turbo talk building throughout the remainder of winter. That bring us to spring, and the more typical launch of new iron for next winter. From an all-new trail performance chassis and mid-bore engine from Polaris, a proprietary trail map application and accompanying gauge from Ski-Doo, to Yamaha’s return to two-stroke power and the new rider focused Venom. Of course, we’ll be taking a deeper look along with some first ride impressions with our fall 2020 issues, but until then, here is a first look glimpse at what’s new for 2021.
Polaris looks to lead the new 2021 model hype with their all-new Matryx platform found in models like the spring order exclusive Switchback Assault 146 shown here.
The biggest shocker for model year 2021 has to be the new Polaris Matryx platform and the all-new Indy VR1, which members of the media received an early look and ride opportunity in Grand Marais this past January. We simply don’t have enough space in this issue to truly bring to light how dramatically better the Matryx platform is. With a rider area that is nearly 5-inches narrower, the Matryx delivers a rider-first experience that is incredibly easy and effortless to ride. The new chassis also incorporates an elevated level of fit, finish and style that should make it a showroom knockout. Available in three models for 2021 including spring-order only Indy VR1 and Switchback Assault 146, as well as an extremely limited in-season Indy Launch Edition.
Here is the new “working area” of the Matryx platform. Moving about the new cockpit is incredibly easy, resulting in dramatically improved ride and handling with less physical effort.
A new chassis and engine are usually more than enough to attract the attention of the entire industry, but the new Polaris 7S Touch Screen display found on the Indy VR1 and Switchback Assault 146 changes the game with such shocking results, it drowns out every other bit of new technology regardless of brand for 2021. Featuring unthinkable levels of customization and connectivity including SmartWarmer hand and thumb warmers, Group Ride tracking, intuitive glove friendly touch screen and much more, we’re calling it the most significant new technology for 2021.
Polaris has also launched an all-new 650 Patriot engine that we predict will give most 800 motors absolute fits. Based off the 850 Patriot with a new small-bore top end, the 650 revs with incredible quickness and response and should produce just shy of 140-horsepower. Spring order SnowCheck will be your best bet to guarantee you’ll be squeezing one of these sweethearts next winter.
While the 165-horsepower target of the industry’s first factory turbo-charged two-stroke has had the interweb buzzing since launch, perhaps the bigger news is found at the other end of the horsepower spectrum with the all-new Rotax 600 EFI two-stroke. Designed to be both incredibly efficient and easy to own, the engine will replace both the carbureted 600 liquid and the 550 fan options of old. The introduction of this engine marks the end of carbureted models from Ski-Doo.
Joining the new BRP Go app is this beautiful 7.8” panoramic LCD color display found on select models for 2021. The display will synch with the app and deliver additional coveted functionality such as GPS mapping with trail data, Bluetooth connectivity for music, helmet-to-helmet communication and a robust visual engine and vehicle diagnostics.
Model 2021 also will mark the year when the entire Ski-Doo lineup has made the switch to the Gen4 platform. Completing this transition is the move of Skandic, Expedition SWT and Tundra models to the narrowed, centralized mass and open cockpit design.
It was only a matter of time until someone developed a competitive offering to Polaris Ride Command, and not surprisingly it was BRP with what they are calling BRP Go. The free standalone application available for both iOS and Android mobile devices features mapping, turn-by-turn navigation, group ride tracking, social media interaction and connectivity, storage of favorite rides and more. The new app can also be paired with the new 7.8-inch wide digital display also introduced by Ski-Doo for 2021. How the new app and screen will stack-up against Polaris Ride Command and the 7S display is unknown at this point, but we hope to find out this spring and bring you a full report before next winter.
Affordable sleds geared towards new or returning riders is a hot-button topic these days across the sport. For 2021 Ski-Doo will aim for the bullseyes of this coveted target with a Gen4 based MXZ Sport with a new 600 EFI engine pumping out 85-horsepower. The MXZ Sport has always been known to deliver a tremendous performance/value combination. Now found in the advanced Gen4 platform with its open cockpit and active rider design it gets even better. Coupled with the new Rotax 600 EFI engine, 4.5-inch digital display and the comfort and control of the SC-5M rear suspension and RAS 3 front, you have an entry level trail performance snowmobile that delivers a level of performance that far exceeds expectations. Even more shocking is the suggested MSRP of just $8,649 (USD).
Despite the near identical makeup between Arctic Cat and Yamaha models as the partnership between the two companies has evolved, Yamaha has continued to make a concerted effort to differentiate. Two key areas this strategy has been employed is clutching and skis. Opting for a twin-keel design, Yamaha models often delivered less than ideal handling compared comparable Arctic Cat models. Next winter however, Yamaha is looking to regain cornering confidence with a new single keel Stryke trail ski. Not just new, the Stryke single keel ski also employs adjustability with different composite shims to add or detract fore or aft ski pressure. In addition, a unique carbide will optimize a balance between steering effort and understeer. The new ski will be found on virtually all trail and crossover models for 2021 and we hope to give you a ride report this coming fall.
The right-size formula is also found in the Yamaha utility segment in the Transporter LTE. Featuring the same 400cc fuel-injected, liquid-cooled, two-stroke powerplant from Arctic Cat, the LTE receives high-flotation skis, a rear rack and 1.6” lug track with an articulating rear skid.
By now, most have figured out the model mix between Arctic Cat and Yamaha has become somewhat predictable. Still, we were pumped to learn Yamaha will also be offering a right-sized entry version of the Arctic Cat Blast in the 2021 Venom. Frankly, the bold blue color and aggressive naming and decals has us giving the nod to Yamaha in terms of visual execution. But we also know pricing will be the ultimate judge in this category and Yamaha’s MSRP was not available at time of publication. Past history suggests the Venom could come in a smidge higher in terms of MSRP compared to its Blast brethren.
Of course, the Yamaha Sidewinder returns with the full force that only a turbo-charged four-stroke producing near 200-horsepower can. Dipped in some hot new colors including this blue and orange combo, the Sidewinder is one of those sleds you simply can’t judge until you ride one. Once you do, break out the checkbook because you’ll want one.
Last to show their 2021 offerings this spring was Yamaha and while they tried to fly this one under the radar, when Yamaha faithful who crave deep snow running learn the Mountain Max is back, things could get crazy. Not only is the nameplate back in the Yamaha line-up but so too is robust two-stroke power. Featuring the juggernaut Arctic Cat C-TEC2 800 and sporting the ground-breaking and deep snow ride changing Alpha monorail rear suspension, we suspect the Mountain Max will be atop the want list from many Yamaha faithful next winter.