In Part I of our 2017 Mountain Snowmobile Shootout we gave some data on ready-to-ride weights for the Polaris AXYS RMK Pro 163, the Ski-Doo REV Gen-4 Summit X 165 and the Arctic Cat Mountain Cat 162. We gave speed run data, with this being subjective based on many variables such as snow depth and snow condition.

Here in Part II we report rider impressions from each rider’s scorecard; points are awarded (1 through 5) to various categories. Additionally, the guest-test riders also gave their opinions; from each scorecard, the riders were free to document which of the Elite 3 800- and 850-class 160-something length deep-powder snowmobiles they would purchase today, regardless of score outcome. Meaning, just because a mountain snowmobile scored the highest in the listed categories, does not mean – automatically – it would be the mountain snowmobile they would purchase.

Glancing forward, in Part III, we’ll report the same on the M8000 Limited 162, M6000 Sno Pro 153, King Cat 162 and Pro-RMK 174 LE with some sibling rivalry views between the M8000 Limited versus Mountain Cat; Pro-RMK 163 LE versus Pro-RMK 174 LE. We will also share some “what if” assessments between Cat’s biggest mountain masher, the King Cat, and its smallest mountain snowmobile, the M6000 Sno Pro.

By now you’ve come to know about Arctic Cat’s new early release 2018 M8000 Sno Pro 153 and 162 with a new Arctic Cat-designed and built 800 motor; gone is the Suzuki built twin and the ProClimb chassis which is replaced by an all-new Ascender platform with “Next-Gen” body panels. With news of a skinnier chassis and a new domestic-built twin cylinder motor, the 2017 Mountain Cat and M8000, in all its variants, makes this “M” line “so yesterday.” However, the 2017 Mountain Cat and the 2017 M8000 Limited are still on the mountains, and this February 2017, we are still in model year 2017.

Last year for our 2016 Shootout, the new Polaris AXYS Pro-RMK 800 163 came in as our victor with the XM Summit X 163 as second and Artic Cat M8000 Limited 162 as third.

Rider Scores

Roger Raymond (RR) Gen-4 REV Summit X 850 165 AXYS Pro-RMK Pro LE 163 800 800 Mountain Cat 162
1-5 1-5 1-5
Weight (less) 5 5 4
Horsepower 5 3 4
Front Suspension 3 4 3
Rear Suspension 5 4 4
Track 5 5 5
Deep Snow Maneuverability 5 5 4
Sidehilling capabilities 4 4 4
Handlebars 4 4 4
Skis 4 4 3
Style and looks 4 5 4
Fit and Finish 4 4 4
Clutching 5 5 5
Fun factor 5 5 5
Total 58: First 57: Second 53: Third

Driver’s Bio

Roger Raymond. 6’1” tall 190 lbs. I live in Rigby, Idaho and have 30+ years in the motorsports industry. I prefer many feet of bottomless powder. I love boondocking through the trees and gullies as well as testing my metal on a tall steep hill. I also spend a considerable amount of time on technical single track motorcycle trails. I have ZERO brand loyalty and am willing to switch “colors” at the blink of an eye. I have seen each of the major manufacturers be number one, and know that they will each fight their way to the top again.

Of the three 800 deep-powder mountain snowmobiles, which would you purchase?

Ski-Doo Summit T3

I always try very hard to prevent any preconceived ideas to affect my evaluations. The Gen-4 Ski-Doo Summit X 165 came with so much hype and anticipation that it was difficult not to develop unrealistic expectations. Based on the outstanding performance of Ski-Doo’s Summits the last few years, and the relatively unchanged platforms from the other groups, I thought this year would result in an 850 Gen-4 blowout with no contest.

2017 Ski-Doo Summit X Silky Smooth

Silk smooth. The Gen-4 Summit X allows drivers to confidently roll-right and roll-left in a neutral-standing position, where both feet are planted on each runningboard.

What I ended up picking for my number one sled was actually the 850 Gen-4 by the smallest of margins. To say the Gen-4 is not a huge upgrade would likely cost me all my street creed, but for me the final versions of the XM fit me so perfect that even with such radical advancements it was hard to gain much. I prefer to ride with my feet planted in the toe pockets using only slight body English and countersteer to initiate turns and sidehills. While others who prefer to hang off the sled, “wrong foot forward,” they began overriding the Summit – it was just right for me. I think the majority of traditional riders will prefer the Gen-4.

General comments

AXYS Pro-RMK LE 163

This is a tried and tested platform. Pretty much everyone has spent enough time on this excellent machine to know it is a force to be reckoned with. I love to ride it and have great confidence in it. My favorite thing about the Pro-RMK is how light it is and how well it gets on top of the snow. The suspension is predictable and stable. The three-inch track hooks up and climbs well. The slender chassis is easy to maneuver.

One item (characteristic/feature), you would change, and why: I would add more power. Even with its weight advantage, it could still use a bit more punch.

One item (characteristic/feature), you like, and why:  Lightweight and gets on top of the snow.

Gen-4 REV Summit X 165

For those who liked the XM, but felt it was a little too slippery. If you have a tendency to reef hard on the bars, this is not the machine for you. But, if you are a small input rider, then this is the machine for you. The Gen-4 850 felt slightly less planted than a Pro, but more stable than the 2016 XM. The old XM motor had plenty of power, but this 850 has more. I would definitely add toe holds (Ski-Doo accessory) as they were not on our test unit, but this sled is a true winner.

One item (characteristic/feature), you would change, and why: I feel it wheelies (tailwalks) more than previous years (XM chassis), and it seems its tendency to “turn up hill” also increased over that of the XM.

One item (characteristic/feature), you like, and why: The power, particularly low-end torque, which both are second to none.  I also feel the T-Motion and flex-edge track make the balance sweet-spot better than the other three. I think a few perpendicular side lugs in the track window would stop the slide out problem. What’s not to love about a 16-inch wide 165-inch long track with three-inch paddles?

Mountain Cat 162

2017 Arctic Cat Mountain Cat Rolled Chaincase

With its skinny panels, dropped and rolled chaincase, giving the Mountain Cat a gentle track approach angle, it is a climber.

This sled was a great surprise. I honestly was not aware of all the changes made to the M8000 (to create the Mountain Cat), and as a result, I was caught off guard. The rolled chain case was the biggest improvement which allows the Mountain Cat to get on top of the snow much better. The narrower chassis doesn’t drag nearly as much (as the other M8000s) during a sidehill rip, which greatly increases its ability to keep working its way up the steep and deep.

One item (characteristic/feature), you would change, and why: Although it is better than last year’s Limited (and this year’s), the Mountain Cat still needs to go on a diet. Even with the great power I can still feel the weight.

One item (characteristic/feature), you like, and why: The Power Claw track is still one of the best tracks ever made.

Brent Burton (BB) AXYS Pro-RMK Pro LE 163 800 Gen-4 REV Summit X 850 165 800 Mountain Cat 162
1-5 1-5 1-5
Weight (less) 5 4 3
Horsepower 4 5 4
Front Suspension 5 4 5
Rear Suspension 4 4 4
Track 4 5 5
Deep Snow Maneuverability 5 5 5
Sidehilling capabilities 5 4 4
Handlebars 4 4 4
Skis 5 4 4
Style and looks 5 4 3
Fit and Finish 5 5 3
Clutching 5 4 5
Fun factor 4 5 4
Total 60: First 57: Second 53: Third

Driver’s Bio

I’ve been riding snowmobiles in Southeast Idaho since 1973; for 43 years. My favorite riding style is boondocking in untracked snow and prefer a sled that sidehills with ease and stability. I live in Rigby, Idaho.

Of the three 800 deep-powder mountain snowmobiles, which would you purchase?

Polaris AXYS Pro-RMK 163 LE

I prefer the AXYS chassis due to its overall handling characteristics; I have a strong preference for a snowmobile that sidehills well and is predictable in a wide variety of snow conditions including spring snow. The Gen-4 Summit is an extremely impressive snowmobile, so the personal choice is a very tough one for me of the 2017 Elite 3 models. The Mountain Cat is also very strong in most riding situations and the truth is, with some seat time I’m very comfortable on each of the 800s. The Cat was my choice in the past, due to its predictability. However, additional seat time on the AXYS changed my opinion.  The deciding factor for me relates to the question: “Which sled gives the most confidence sidehilling across very steep, sometimes timbered slopes?” For me the Pro-RMK wins by a nose.

2017 Polaris Pro-RMK Slow Speeds

Creeping along at slow speeds, the Pro-RMK will stay stuck to side like Velcro to a nylon stocking.

General comments

AXYS Pro-RMK LE 163

The Pro-RMK LE 163 is a great all around chassis. The Pro has the widest sweet spot for sidehilling, and is very stable and predictable on edge. The Polaris motor is very responsive on the bottom end and the Pro-RMK has an excellent power-to-weight ratio.

One item (characteristic/feature), you would change, and why: The running boards are too sharp and tend to gather ice.

One item (characteristic/feature), you like, and why: The sled holds the steepest of sidehills with little effort.

Gen-4 REV Summit X 165

The Gen-4 Rev is somewhat of a revolutionary snowmobile. It is highly-responsive to very little rider input; the powerplant is possibly the most impressive characteristic about the Gen-4 Summit. The 850’s bottom-end responsiveness and power is noticeably stronger than prior XMs and the other manufacturers’ 800 two stroke models.

One item (characteristic/feature), you would change, and why: The Summit’s handling is responsive, but I personally don’t find it as stable and predictable on edge as the Cat or Polaris. This can pose problems in highly technical – somewhat dangerous – terrain or in rutted/windblown/spring snow conditions. The G4 chassis is improved over the XM in this aspect and it likely would just take a bit more time on the sled to adapt to its more unique handling characteristics (i.e., you get used to what you ride).

One item (characteristic/feature), you like, and why: The motor is surprisingly responsive and keeps pulling all the way up the line. The power definitely stands above the rest.

Mountain Cat 162

The Mountain Cat is a great all-around snowmobile. The power is comparable to the Polaris Pro-RMK.  Handling is good in all snow conditions and the sled holds a sidehill in an easy and predictable manner. In side-by-side comparisons it was clear the modified chassis would outclimb the Limited model and just seems to keep digging in climbing situations.

One item (characteristic/feature), you would change, and why: The ProClimb chassis needs to shed a few pounds compared to the other brands. Many riders do this through aftermarket exhaust changes, but Cat could easily lose some easy pounds with changes to the plastics/hood, and by following the belt drive trend.

One item (characteristic/feature), you like, and why: I like the overall handling of the Cat ProClimb and its predictability when in sidehilling situations – in varying snow conditions.

Alan Myler (AM) Gen-4 REV Summit X 850 165 AXYS Pro-RMK LE 163 800 800 Mountain Cat 162
1-5 1-5 1-5
Weight (less) 4 4 3
Horsepower 4 3 4
Front Suspension 5 4 3
Rear Suspension 5 4 3
Track 4 4 4
Deep Snow Maneuverability 5 4 3
Sidehilling capabilities 5 4 3
Handlebars 4 4 4
Skis 4 4 3
Style and looks 4 4 4
Fit and Finish 5 5 3
Clutching 5 5 5
Fun factor 5 4 3
Total 59: First 53: Second 45: Third

Driver’s Bio

I have been riding snow mobiles for 47 years .My riding includes boondocking & mountain riding. Born and raised in Ririe, Idaho, live one mile from where I grew up.

Of the three 800 deep-powder mountain snowmobiles, which would you purchase?

Gen-4 REV Summit X 165 850

Quick, responsive and torque-filled power. It had a very light feel to it and got up on the snow quickly. It took the least amount of effort to maneuver in the deep snow, sidehills and on hard pack. The comment was made more than once that: “This sled could make anyone a better mountain rider.”

General comments

AXYS Pro-RMK Pro LE 163

Its power is smooth and predictable; great all-around mountain sled.

One item (characteristic/feature), you would change, and why: More power, to be competitive with the Cat and Ski-Doo.

One item (characteristic/feature), you like, and why: Ergonomics. I immediately felt at home on the 163 due to the position of the handlebars, runningboard design (and toe holds), and its narrow gas tank.

Gen-4 REV Summit X 165

2017 Ski-Doo Summit X Newcomers

The Gen-4 Summit is a mountain snowmobile that many newcomers, as well as older riders and experienced backcountry can make work — with little effort.

Took very little effort to ride in the nasty stuff and on the trail.

One item (characteristic/feature), you would change, and why: Transfers a little too much on a steep climb; it wanted to trench.

One item (characteristic/feature), you like, and why: Very balanced over-all package. It took the least amount of effort to ride in the technical stuff.

Mountain Cat 162

I liked the modified Mountain Cat ProClimb chassis and its power.

One item (characteristic/feature), you would change, and why: Needs to lose some weight. Has a heavy feel to it especially when riding in the trees and sidehill.

One item (characteristic/feature), you like, and why: Compared to the M8000 Limited, the Mountain Cat chassis was a better package in the deep snow and in the trees.

Mark Radford (MR) Gen-4 REV Summit X 850 165 800 AXYS Pro-RMK Pro LE 163 800 Mountain Cat 162
1-5 1-5 1-5
Weight (less) 5 5 4
Horsepower 5 2 5
Front Suspension 4 4 4
Rear Suspension 5 3 3
Track 5 5 5
Deep Snow Maneuverability 5 5 4
Sidehilling capabilities 3.5 4 5
Handlebars 4 4 3
Skis 4 4 2
Style and looks 4 4 5
Fit and Finish 4 4 2
Clutching 4 4 4
Fun factor 5 4 4
Total 57.5: First 52: Second 50: Third

Driver’s Bio

I’ve been riding snowmobiles for the past 15 years. My riding style is what I call ‘Kolby Off-Road,’ which is a mashup among, Rasmussen, Burandt, Kincaid and McClure; not fancy, just ‘sideways.’ I’m from Idaho Falls, Idaho.

Of the three 800 deep-powder mountain snowmobiles, which would you purchase?

Gen-4 REV Summit X 165 850

This snowmobile is the easiest to ride on the trail, especially on the way home after a hard day’s ride. Of the Elite 3, it was easiest to initiate a sidehill run. It has great bottom-end power. It is a blast to ride in every way.

General comments

AXYS Pro-RMK LE 163

I absolutely love how this snowmobile sidehills on steep terrain; it is super easy to lay into a hill side and begin a sidehill run. I am frustrated to its lack of power.

One item (characteristic/feature), you would change, and why: Power. It needs more power from its motor.

2017 Polaris Pro-RMK Controversial

The 2017 Pro-RMK was controversial. It was honored for its simplicity in handling tough terrain.

One item (characteristic/feature), you like, and why: Its ‘trackability’ or ‘snowmoability.’ The Pro-RMK gets atop the snow easily and quickly.

Gen-4 REV Summit X 165

I love this snowmobile. I love its power and how easy it is ride. The only complaint I have is that it still rides/handles like the XM Summit. Its back end washes out when standing, or loading it up on a steep sidehill maneuver.

One item (characteristic/feature), you would change, and why: The 16-inch wide track and T-motion; I think these are the reasons for its – at times – ill-handling on a sidehill.

One item (characteristic/feature), you like, and why: The motor’s power; its bottom-end grunt. It has the strongest motor of the Elite 3.

Mountain Cat 162

I love the top-end power of this Cat. It felt every bit as strong on the top end of its power curve as the 850 Ski-Doo Summit. The snowmobile is one easy Cat to sidehill.

One item (characteristic/feature), you would change, and why: It needs a one-inch to two-inch lower handlebar post. Additionally, the handlebar post needs be pushed forward one-inch.

One item (characteristic/feature), you like, and why: Its track is the boss, as well as the power its motor builds.

Troy Johnson (TJ) Gen-4 REV Summit X 850 165 800 AXYS Pro-RMK Pro LE 163 800 Mountain Cat 162
1-5 1-5 1-5
Weight (less) 5 4 3
Horsepower 5 3 4
Front Suspension 5 4 4
Rear Suspension 5 3 4
Track 5 4 4
Deep Snow Maneuverability 5 4 4
Sidehilling capabilities 4 5 4
Handlebars 4 4 4
Skis 5 4 4
Style and looks 3 5 4
Fit and Finish 3 4 3
Clutching 4 4 3
Fun factor 5 4 3
Total 58: First 52: Second 48: Third

Driver’s Bio

Owner, Lincoln County Customs, Alpine, Wyo., an independent speed shop. I’ve been riding for over 40 years. I also have a backcountry guiding business. I love backcountry riding – boondocking, tree riding, chute climbing and step-ups. I currently live in Alpine, Wyo.

Of the three 800 deep-powder mountain snowmobiles, which would you purchase?

Gen-4 REV Summit X 165 850

Before I rode the Elite 3, I figured beforehand my choice would the AXYS Pro-RMK; I have ridden them often and really like how they handle. But after spending time on the three, I have to say my choice is the Gen-4 Summit as it requires so little effort to initiate a turn into a hillside. It climbs really well and has excellent torque. I would like the front end to stay down more when grinding through the trees on a climb, but I’m sure I can work this out with some rear suspension adjustments. We evaluate these snowmobiles in stock form; we are not allowed to modify them.

The Pro-RMK 163 came close, but its handlebars are too tall and the front shocks kicked back when sidehilling and they did not absorb mogul impacts to my liking; the shocks were unsettling and made me work harder to maintain control, more than my liking.

The Mountain Cat was a good snowmobile, but its clutching was off, it was not pulling enough RPM on the tall end. The Cat’s front end tending to tuck under, wanting to highside me and kick me off the sled.

General comments

AXYS Pro-RMK LE 163

Very fun snowmobile. It does everything very well and is predictable. It works very well all conditions.

One item (characteristic/feature), you would change, and why: Bars first. I’m 6’2” and I’ve ridden with one- to two-inch shorter bars, and shorter bars make a world of difference.

One item (characteristic/feature), you like, and why: I love how all the side panels come off. (The Summit is a nightmare to pull off all the panels).

Gen-4 REV Summit X 165

This snowmobile made me smile whenever I rode it. I could initiate sidehills with ease, power through trees, and dive downhill and turn back up with little effort. On the bumpy trails it was smooth and felt as though it had power steering.

One item (characteristic/feature), you would change, and why: I would like the steering post be more vertical; there were times I would bump my legs when rotating the bars.

One item (characteristic/feature), you like, and why: Its power is excellent. I love the torque way down low and how it would carry its speed when climbing.

Mountain Cat 162

2017 Arctic Cat Mountain Cat Tall Bars

Riders found the 2017 Mountain Cat’s tall bars to be problematic.

Coming off the Yamaha Viper, I was very comfortable on this snowmobile. However, compared to the other two within the Elite 3, it required more effort to initiate turns in technical terrain. I love its power and how the suspension works when jumping and hitting the bumps. The front suspension’s shocks could use some different or better shock valving.

One item (characteristic/feature), you would change, and why: The runningboards built up the most snow, I would change these first.

I like the power. (Its clutch setup was off though.)  It carried and held its speed in the deep snow better than the Pro-RMK.

Kevin Allred (KA) Gen-4 REV Summit X 850 165 800 AXYS Pro-RMK Pro LE 163 800 Mountain Cat 162
1-5 1-5 1-5
Weight (less) 4.5 5 4
Horsepower 5 4 4.5
Front Suspension 4 4 4
Rear Suspension 4 4 4
Track 4 4 4
Deep Snow Maneuverability 5 4 4
Sidehilling capabilities 4 4 4
Handlebars 4 4 4
Skis 4 4 3
Style and looks 3 4 3
Fit and Finish 4 4 3
Clutching 4.5 4 4
Fun factor 4.5 4 4
Total 54.5: First 53: Second 49.5: Third

Driver’s Bio

Sr. Mountain Snowmobile Test Driver for Snowmobile.com.

Of the three 800 deep-powder mountain snowmobiles, which would you purchase?

Gen-4 REV Summit X 165 850

It’s the Summit, easy sled to ride! Great power, predicable, handles deep and steep with minimal rider effort Again, an easy sled to ride.

General comments

AXYS Pro-RMK LE 163

2017 Polaris Pro-RMK Strong Sales

Polaris has strong sales in the mountain market, credit the Pro-RMK 163 for making this a reality for this hard-working company.

The Pro-RMK is always a welcome sled for me; great handling gets on top of the snow, always predictable on a sidehill, lightweight and efficient power.

One item (characteristic/feature), you would change, and why: It needs more ponies under the hood, and I would like to see lower-height handle bars.

One item (characteristic/feature), you like, and why: It is a good looking snowmobile, great handling, proven, lightweight, and is a good snow-going chassis.

Gen-4 REV Summit X 165

I was surprised at how little effort it takes to maneuver; less effort always translates into more fun – longer fun. I feel it gets on top of the snow better than its predecessor, the XM. The 850 power is great I, love the bottom end feel of the motor and its powerband all the way through its throttle curve is impressive.

One item (characteristic/feature), you would change, and why: Less transfer when climbing. I feel it is a bit much for my liking. It needs a lower riser below the handlebars.

One item (characteristic/feature), you like, and why: I love the motor’s power and the chassis’ easy handling.

Mountain Cat 162

2017 Arctic Cat Mountain Cat PowerClaw

The Mountain Cat’s 162-inch long PowerClaw track is one of best powder tracks on the market; it is a track that digs deep.

The new the Mountain Cat ProClimb chassis was an improvement to the ProClimb in general. The Mountain Cat is a serious deep snow goer. The three-inch PowerClaw track is a great track. With the suspension changes and rolled chain case, it found new heights; literally, what a great climber. I was also very impressed with its sidehilling capabilities, it just keeps going

One item (characteristic/feature), you would change, and why: I would like to see a weight loss, especially at the front end and a lower riser on steering post.

One item (characteristic/feature), you like, and why: The way this snowmobile climbs and sidehills, it is for real.

Overall Averages/Score, and Personal Buy-it Today Choice

Gen-4 REV Summit X 850 165 800 AXYS Pro-RMK Pro LE 163 Mountain Cat 162
RR — 58: Buy-it Today Choice RR — 57 RR — 53
BB — 57 BB — 60: Buy-it Today Choice BB — 53
AM — 59: Buy-it Today Choice AM — 53 AM — 45
MR — 57.50: Buy-it Today Choice MR — 52 MR — 50
TJ — 58: Buy-it Today Choice TJ — 52 TJ — 48
KA — 54.50: Buy-it Today Choice KA — 53 KA — 49.50
57.33: First by averages. 54.5: Second by averages. 49.75: Third by averages.

Summation

2017 Ski-Doo Summit X Monster Torque

Monster torque and power. The Gen-4 Summit collected all praise from our riders for its power, which it has plenty of; it is the largest motor in this class.

Five of six chose the Gen-4 Summit as their buy-it-now snowmobile, with Burton defying the other five with the Pro-RMK as his go to snowmobile. Allred scored the Pro-RMK above the Gen-4 Summit, but settled on the Gen-4 as his buy-it-now snowmobile. What’s up with that?

For me, the Western Editor, I feel the Mountain Cat is much better than how it was scored, but we needed these independent riders to do their job, and they did it well and without prejudice.

After three hard weekends, these guest-test riders made their conclusions. Study the results and work your conclusions.

The Gen-4 Summit had two constant themes: 1) Easy to initiate turns into a sidehill and 2) It over transfers when climbing.

The Pro-RMK was praised for its easy sidehill initiations, like the Gen-4 Summit, but was marked down for its lack of power, the same criticism as last year. Though the Pro is the lightest in the Elite 3, it felt underpowered by the six riders. Think about that for a moment or two.

2017 Arctic Cat Mountain Cat Scorned

The 2017 162 Mountain Cat was scorned as much as it was loved. Truly, this is a superb mountain snowmobile.

The Mountain Cat was praised for its power, but was busted for its clutching and weight. Again, if I weighed in, the Mountain Cat would have had scored high points from me, and would have been my buy-it-now choice. But, Cat needs to know from several riders, representative of most western riders, it needs to work on its mountain line; the ProClimb is dated. (We’ll report on the early release Ascender-chassis M8000 Sno Pro 153 and 162 in short order.)

With the Ready-to-Ride weights and speed run data, both written in Part I, and rider scores (this feature, Part II), two of the three Elite 3 were scored as same versus same, with the Mountain Cat falling behind, all realities in the mountain snowmobile world at Snowmobile.Com.

Part III will flow similar data on the King Cat, M6000 Sno Pro, M8000 Limited and Pro-RMK LE 174.

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