Polaris Dragon 800 Named "Snowmobile of the Year"
Best all-around mountain package at Snowshoot
Polaris Dragon 800 Named Off-Road.com's Snowmobile of the Year
Leading up to Snowshoot 2008 there were some rumors going around the industry that Polaris was planning on pulling out of the snowmobile market. After hearing this speculation for months, we honestly weren’t expecting much in the way of new models and exciting technology from Polaris. But how wrong we were.
Factory Polaris marketing reps quickly cleaned up the nasty rumor situation in their technical presentation by showing how and what Polaris was doing to strengthen their position in the snowmobile market. Polaris put on a lengthy but interesting presentation of market research, and how their 2008 model line meets the needs that they identified in that research.
Polaris is understandably sensitive to the large overproduction of snowmobiles, and the problems that face the manufacturers and dealers because of this. So for 2008 most models will be produced in limited numbers in an effort to help dealers move their surplus inventories.
You may ask well why does this concern me - the snowmobiler who just wants to know which machine performs best? Well, without going into a long and drawn out explanation of how business and the economy affects the consumer [Editor's Note - Jerry Bassett's Rant this month adresses exactly that, in fact], simply put the dealer is the vital link between the consumer and the manufacturer, so if the dealer is not supported and profitable, the supply chain of machines to the consumer will not function correctly. And if the supply chain fails, things like machine shortages/overages and price fluctuations will end up affecting the consumer.
Polaris’ marketing department has obviously put some pressure on the engineering staff to design machines snowmobilers want to buy, because in our opinion Polaris has the most diverse 2008 line-up of machines appealing to all disciplines of snowmobilers.
Building on the success of the Dragon line from last year, Polaris has added a new Liberty 800 engine, along with 700 and 600 engines.
Despite being judged by a wide range of skill levels and riding styles, the 800 Dragon RMK was rated by all our test riders as the best mountain sled at Snowshoot 2008.
The power from the new 800 twin was incredible - very responsive with good top-end. Standard to the 600, 700 and 800 Liberty engines is a Cleanfire injection system that automatically calibrates in response to changes in temperature, elevation, engine and exhaust temperatures. Dyno tests have shown the 800 liberty to produce 154 hp and when bolted into the lightweight Dragon RMK chassis, produces a sled weighing only 487 lbs.
Polaris’s IQ chassis in renowned for being one of the best-handling chassis on the snow and our test crew would definitely agree. For 2008, Polaris made a few subtle updates to the chassis but for the most part it remains the same as last year's Dragon.
A new RAW freestyle seat is narrower and positions to the rider so that transitions from sitting to standing are easier and in keeping with the RAW lightweight theme it weighs about 2 pounds less than previous seats. The funky adjustable handlebars from previous IQ chassis are gone and replaced with an aluminum riser and hooked handlebars.
The suspension on the Dragon models receive new Polaris-exclusive Walker Evans Air shocks. These new shocks are used for front and rear track shocks as well as front suspension. On our test ride all our riders agreed that the suspension performed well and did a good job of soaking up large impacts without sacrificing ride quality.
The deep snow RMK models are available with the new Series 5.1 155” or 163” tracks. This new track design has aggressive 2.4” lugs and is 15” wide. We very impressed with 153” on our 800 Dragon test sled, the track did an excellent job climbing in the deep snow and still had good handling on the trail. Some tracks on other machines we tested would work fantastic in the deep snow but the trail handling suffered a lot. Obviously there are sacrifices to be made when picking a track for either deep snow or trail performance but the Series 5.1 155” was the best all-round track we tested on a mountain machine.
So what does it take for a machine to be named Off-Road.com's Mountain Snowmobile of the Year?
We were looking for a machine that handles a variety of terrain and snow conditions and is user-friendly for a wide variety of rider size and skill levels. It needs lots of power, must be reasonably lightweight, a good value for the price, deliver some great visual design and ergonomics, give a buyer lots of options, and above all, it has to be fun and exciting to ride. While it's not built on ground-breaking technology, our test riders came to unanimous agreement that the Dragon 800 was the best all-around mountain package at Snowshoot 2008.
After a couple of rough years, Polaris is definitely back in the game with their mountain machines. But don’t hang around too long if you want to buy one - Polaris will only be producing limited numbers for 2008.