2011 Polaris 550 IQ LXT Review

Fan-cooled reliability combined with on-trail comfort

story by Jerry Bassett, Photography by Polaris, Created Jun 08, 2010
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Typically snowmobile manufacturers evolve their snowmobile models from the top down, flowing premium features into the more basic models. This allows the sled maker to amortize and simplify the cost of manufacturing by dropping older chassis models and replacing them with the newer design. Of course, while offering the newer technology, the budget sleds must themselves reflect budgeting so they tend to get more basic pieces.

The new for 2011 Polaris 550 IQ LXT benefits from this model. It features the modern and proven stretch track IQ chassis, but retains the cost effective fan-cooled power plant and mid-level shock package while dropping some of the standard features of the top line two-up trail touring models. All in all, though, the 2011 Polaris 550 IQ LXT offers a value-laden package for the trail touring set.

While we snowmobile journalist types tend to ignore these fan-cooled trail-touring models as being too mundane for our tastes, the truth is that we see a goodly number of these sleds on the trails. While Polaris, as well as its competition, keeps this type of model in its line to appeal to rental operators, knowledgeable trail touring types recognize the value of sleds like the 550 IQ LXT for the same reasons as a rental operator. The power train is about as reliable and bulletproof as its gets.

2011 Polaris 550 IQ LXT

Reliable Drive System

You’ll find ample ride and comfort for two aboard Polaris’ fan-cooled trail cruiser.

The P85 clutching is legendary for its efficiency and durability, especially in conjunction with the P2 secondary when handling the modest power of the 544cc air-cooled Twin. Equipped with NiCaSil coated cylinders, the Fuji-built twin can be expected to provide very long term service with a minimum of servicing. That’s important to rental operations as well as to those snowmobilers who look to make serious trail mileage.

While we aren’t privy to Polaris’ long term marketing plans, we have to believe that the 544 Twin is near its end as a snowmobile power source. Ski-Doo already introduced its 600cc 4-stroke as the eventual replacement for its own 550 fan-cooled two-stroke. Polaris will most likely replace this two-stroke Twin in a year or two as a concession to meeting environmental engine standards for emissions. The base fan-cooled Twin has had a great run in Polaris snowmobiles over the decades.

For now you can buy a very nice two-up touring sled and a piece of history at the same time. The 550 IQ LXT at a claimed 544 pounds is the lightest of Polaris’ luxury touring models. That is owed to the fan-cooled Twin and its simple needs. There is no plumbing needed for liquid cooling. No radiator. No water pump. Simply an adequate under hood airflow is pretty much all the 550 fan requires.

Comfort IQ

From a rider’s viewpoint, the 550 IQ LXT benefits from the consolidation of this model series. Each comes with the IQ front end of dual A-arms that offer up to 10-inches of travel. The 550 utilizes the same basic shocks as the more powerful — and more costly — 600 and Turbo IQ LXT versions. Of course, the RydeFX MPV shocks common to all three will reflect final specs suited to the weight and performance character of each model. Like the 550 IQ LXT the shock package is reliable and durable. The Polaris rear suspension offers more than a foot — 14-inches to be exact — of rear comfort for solo or two-up riding. A combination of shocks is fitted to Polaris’ IQ 136 Comfort Rear Suspension with a RydeFX on the front arm and a RydeFX MPV shock on the rear arm.

Polaris engineered the 2011 550 IQ LXT to provide sporty solo action and cruiser comfort for two in the same package.

This suspension design fits under the 15x136x1 inch dimensions of the standard Hacksaw track and benefits the touring rider with a “bridging” effect over certain trail bumps.

The 550 IQ LXT has a fixed handlebar position while the two liquid-cooled models feature the Polaris Select Steering and a choice of five handlebar positions. Polaris engineers provided the 550 model with a handlebar setting that works easily with the 550’s Dual-Trak Skis that utilize a double runner approach combined with a bottom shape that is said to minimize ski darting for a more comfortable effect.

Basic Features

Dual runner skis give the 550 IQ LXT easier steering while minimizing on-trail darting.

As you would expect the 550 IQ LXT comes with nice-to-have features designed to make life on the trail easy and comfortable. The windshield sits 16-inches tall to deflect wind and snow. There’s the ease of starting gained from standard key start and the advantages of push button reverse from the standard Polaris Electronic Reverse Control (PERC). Hood mounted mirrors let you watch for riders in your group. The passenger will appreciate the standard backrest and rear cargo area to hold various gear.

Unlike the “old” days when the budget models looked like econo-price busters, the 550 IQ LXT belies its price tag of US$8,299. Polaris fitted this modestly powered cruiser with style. It sits in a showroom outfitted in an iridescent pearl white with black and maroon trim. The front shock’s white coil springs accent the aluminum gray of the ski spindles and tunnel. Dual headlights sit tall on the IQ cowling to hit the trail with strong night lighting.

The 550 IQ LXT may be the new kid in the Polaris luxury cruiser arsenal for 2011, but its price-to-feature quotient makes this a sled to seriously consider if you place reliable and comfortable trail touring above speed and flash.

2011 Polaris 550 IQ LXT
Engine Polaris 550N 544cc, two-stroke, fan-cooled twin with dual Mikuni VM34 carburetors
Horsepower 55-plus
Drive Polaris P85 drive clutch with P2 driven
Front Suspension Polaris IQ A-arm with RydeFX MPV shocks and up to 10-in of travel
Rear Suspension Polaris IQ parallel slide rail with RydeFX shock on front arm and RydeFX MPV shock on rear arm; up to 14 inches of travel
Length 120.0 in
Width 48.0 in
Height 48.5 in
Ski Stance 42.5 in
Track 15 x 136 x 1 Hacksaw
Weight 544 (claimed)
Fuel Capacity 11.5 US Gal (regular fuel) with mechanical fuel gauge
MSRP US$8,299.00

Related Reading
2010 Polaris 550 IQ Shift Review
2010 Polaris Trail Touring Review
2010 Polaris 600 LX Review
2009 Polaris FST IQ Touring Review
2009 Polaris Trail Touring DLX Review
All Things Polaris on Snowmobile.com


Jerry Bassett
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