2009 Polaris 600 IQ Shift 136 Review

Polaris’ value line of snowmobiles is plenty versatile

Story by Jerry Bassett, Photography by Jerry Bassett, Jul 01, 2008
 
 

Last season Polaris introduced us all to its value sled concept, the basic Shift. A singular basic model built around the newer componentry of the popular IQ models, the 600 IQ Shift was designed to accessorize.

Polaris’ idea of providing an entry vehicle with a tempting price point was savvy. Especially when you realized that the Minnesota-based snowmobile pioneer made Shift-specific accessories available through its Pure Polaris parts catalog. You could transform the basic Shift into your own personal sled with graphics packages, touring add-ons, or sport rider necessities like handlebar risers. The basic Shift comes with the right ingredients, like the base IQ chassis and the popular 600cc Liberty twin.

The 600 IQ Shift was the beginning. For model year 2009, there is a fleet of Shift models, including the original 600 IQ Shift. We’ve already told you about the fan-cooled 2009 550 IQ Shift, now let us give you the dope on the 2009 600 IQ Shift 136.

Budget Switchback

The 600 IQ Shift 136 comes in this basic black.In reality you can think of this sled in one of two ways: either as an extended track 600 IQ Shift or as an unofficial budget Switchback. The 136-inch Hacksaw track adds 15-inches of overall off-trail capability to the base Shift sports version. This extended track effectively makes the 2009 600 IQ Shift 136 a true crossover sled in the Polaris tradition of Switchback models.

Of course, there is a premium to pay for that ‘official’ Switchback nomenclature. Where the basic Shift 136 carries a price tag of US$7,999, you’ll be asked to pony up an additional US$1,200 for the 600 Switchback and close to two grand more if you want the Dragon Switchback.

Let’s be real and understand that for the added money you get the full-blown 125-hp Polaris engineered and built Liberty Cleanfire with four injectors that gives crisper response than the base dual injector version on the Shift 136. The Shift 136 may seem a titch underpowered at 120-hp and you might notice a less immediate response when you hit the throttle. But it’s not $1,200 dollars worth! Keep in mind that the Shift’s engine is the solid and very popular 600cc Liberty that made people forget the Fusion and start loving the 600 IQ. This is a very strong performing motor and extremely competent on or off trail.

Power Packaging

There are two versions of the Liberty 600 twin; the 125-hp version in the Switchback and Dragon models and a 120-hp version in the Shift 136.The engine is tied to the final drive via the same basic clutch package as the more expensive 600 Switchback. There’s Polaris’ ol’ reliable P85 drive clutch and the newest P2 driven. Both units have been tuned specifically for the 120-hp Cleanfire 2 engine and the 136-inch track combination that the powertrain must control. So, you aren’t giving up much under the hood with the 600 IQ Shift 136.

You will give up a bit of traction as the 136-inch HackSaw track under the value-priced model features a 1-inch profile versus the 1.25-inch profile on the more aggressive Ripsaw track that is standard on ‘official’ Switchback models. This compromise will only be truly noticeable to really aggressive off-trail riders. Many 600 IQ Shift 136 owners may actually find the shallow profile track an advantage as it gives a bit smoother ride on groomed and fresh snow trails.

Putting that 136-inch track’s profile on the snow is essentially the same rear suspension as you’ll find on the more expensive Switchback versions. This is Polaris’ fully coupled IQ 136 twin rail design. It is designed to react in concert with the dual A-arm IQ front suspension to maintain maximum ride comfort on or off trail. The rear unit provides up to 14-inches of travel while the front suspension absorbs 10-inches.

Shock Packaging

Of course, to keep pricing affordable and competitive with other base models, the 600 IQ Shift 136 comes with the more basic RydeFX MPV shocks all around. The 600 Switchback has high-pressure gas shocks and the 600 Dragon Switchback features a combination of RydeFX Air 2.0 and high-pressure gas shocks. You can bet that the Pure Polaris catalog carries all the shock combinations you could want for a shock package upgrade.

You can opt for pink graphics, but this extended track Polaris is no ‘girly-girl’ sled.

If you ride off-trail more than fifty percent of the time, we would recommend looking into changing the base handlebar setup, either with an optional riser block or even look at getting a Dragon bar set with its curved ends. We’d say that about the base Switchback models, too. But try the base setup first, and then check the options. It might not be an issue for you, but we’re spoiled and really like the Dragon setup and would consider making that change to the Shift 136.

On Trail

The base handlebar comes with straight bar ends.On the trail the 600 IQ Shift 136 handles similarly to the short tracked base model. Of course, with its extra track length the Shift 136 smoothes out stutter bumps and bridges some moguls more effectively than the basic Shift. Power wise we advocate for the 600cc twin. Polaris has done a great job over the years in making its 600cc models among the best performers in the category. The Shift 136 is no laggard, though you will notice the Switchback with the Cleanfire 4 twin feels more intense at virtually all throttle positions. When rated head-to-head against the base 600cc Rotax we would give the slight edge to the Polaris-built twin. There’s not a huge difference in performance, but seat-of-the-pants feel has us give Polaris the advantage.

Weight Savings

Not only do you save more than a thousand dollars by opting in on the 600 IQ Shift 136 versus the standard 600 Switchback, you save nearly 40-pounds in weight differential. The manufacturer’s claimed weight for the Shift 136 is 495 lbs versus 534 for the 600 Switchback.

Style-wise, the Shift 136 shares the same profile as the Switchbacks, but it is only available in basic black and comes unadorned. You add your style via the parts catalog. The Shift 136 and Switchback models share the same Freestyle seat with metal hoop support at the rear. The fuel tanks are the same and all extended track Switchback models feature an 11.5 US gallon capacity.

Basic Options

Overall, the major differences between the 600 IQ Shift 136 and the Switchback versions lie under the hood, in the track, in suspension shock packages and in style. You have to decide if the lower initial cost is where you want to save or not. Remember, depending on what you choose for the add-ons, the base Shift 136 could price out more than moving up to the 600 Switchback or even the 600 Dragon Switchback. All we know is that the basic 600 IQ Shift 136 is a really good starting point for an off-trail rider. How basic you keep it is totally up to you.

You can pick a tunnel-mounted bag from a catalog of accessories.

Specifications:

  Polaris 600 IQ Shift 136 Polaris 600 Switchback Polaris 600 Dragon Switchback
Engine Polaris Liberty; 599cc twin; liquid-cooled; Cleanfire 2 injection Polaris Liberty; 599cc twin; liquid-cooled; Cleanfire 4 injection Polaris Liberty; 599cc twin; liquid-cooled; Cleanfire 4 injection
Horsepower Approx 120 125 125
Drive Polaris P85 with P2 secondary Polaris P85 with P2 secondary Polaris P85 with P2 secondary
Front Suspension Polaris IQ Dual A-arm — 10 in travel; RydeFX MPV Polaris IQ Dual A-arm — 10 in travel; RydeFX high pressure gas Polaris IQ Dual A-arm — 10 in travel; RydeFX Air 2.0
Rear Suspension Polaris IQ 136 coupled — 14 in maximum travel; Front Arm: RydeFX MPV Rear Arm: RydeFX MPV Polaris IQ 136 coupled — 14 in maximum travel; Front Arm: RydeFX HPG Rear Arm: Fox PS5 Polaris IQ 136 coupled — 14 in maximum travel; Front Arm: RydeFX HPG Rear Arm: RydeFX Comp. Adj.
Length 120.0 in 120.0 in 120.0 in
Height 48.5 51.0 48.5
Width 48.0 48.0 48.0
Ski Stance 42.5 42.5 42.5
Track 15 x 136 x1.0 HackSaw 15 x 136 x1.25 Ripsaw 15 x 136 x1.25 Ripsaw
Weight 495 lb. 534 lb. 526 lb.
Fuel Tank 11.5 US Gal 11.5 US Gal 11.5 US Gal
MSRP $7,999 $9,199 $9,899

Related Reading:
2009 Polaris 550 IQ Shift Review