2012 Ski-Doo GSX LE 600 Review

The GSX LE E-TEC 600 feeds your MXZ ego with comfort and convenience.

Story by Jerry Bassett, Photography by Jerry Bassett & Ski-Doo, Jan 10, 2012
 
 

Ski-Doo’s E-TEC 600cc powers similar but decidedly different realms of trail riders. As the base engine for both the 2012 Ski-Doo GSX LE and MXZ TNT, the low emissions, high-tech liquid-cooled motor may bring the same level of power to each sled, but the rider interpretations of how to use it differs.

The 2012 GSX LE E-TEC 600 HO may be about as close as you’ll get to a luxury MXZ. In fact, the GSX LE is built on the same REV XP as the 2012 MXZ TNT E-TEC 600 HO. Very little separates the two sleds from a technical standpoint. To better accommodate the high mileage runner, the GSX comes with a slightly less aggressive shock package than the TNT, which offers HPG Plus shocks on both front and rear suspensions. The GSX uses HPG shocks for the front suspension and a combination of HPG and Motion Control shocks to control the rear suspension’s 15-inches of available travel.

2012 Ski-Doo GSX LE 600 action berm

And, of course, there is the styling package. The GSX uses a slightly more mellow white with black body coloration. The MXZ TNT gets the full “original” Ski-Doo TNT paint job of Bombardier’s keynote yellow with black. Bold yellow accents set off the TNT as the more aggressive ride.

2012 Ski-Doo GSX LE 600  e-tec twin engineLet’s not have ego get in the way here. A real Ski-Doo enthusiast knows that a well ridden 2012 GSX LE will virtually match a TNT rider on a groomed trail. That’s what makes the latest “narrow” chassis GSX 600 such a nifty ride. We admit, though, that a Ski-Doo buyer needs to be aware of the fact that Ski-Doo actually offers two very different E-TEC 600-powered GSX models. The more expensive “SE” version uses the 600cc twin, but on the wider REV-XR carriage, the same one that houses the three-cylinder 4-TEC 1200 motor. Being a special edition, that model offers more amenities for the truly serious cruiser. The narrow REV-XP GSX nicely blends in more sport without sacrificing long mile comfort.

As readers have noted, we’ve chastised Ski-Doo marketing folks a bit in the past because, while we like our on-trail comfort, we also like the handling and control of the MXZ series just as well. The GSX LE E-TEC 600 HO satisfies us. We’ll let Ski-Doo honchos off the hook.

The GSX LE 600 gives you the features you really want. Electric start is standard. It’ll be a US$400 option to upgrade a TNT E-TEC 600. We can live with the softer shocks and groomed trail ride programmed into the dual A-arm front end and SC-5 slide rail suspension. Chances are most riders will prefer the fuller stroking action of the GSX package, which we’d prefer for all day riding on groomed trails. The only place you might see a bit of tired action will be in a very long series of tight twists and turns. If you want to run throttle flipper to the bar, the HPG gas shocks likely will give up the fight a bit sooner than the TNT’s HPG Plus dampers.

2012 Ski-Doo GSX LE 600 front suspension

You’ll notice that this year’s full-dresser GSX LE weighs 450 pounds, a mere 25 pounds more than the non-electric start equipped TNT. At this weight, the GSX is really easy to enjoy on the trails. It will give you very good action in the corners as it feels very nimble. You can literally cock it sideways for a controlled toss into a sweeper. The skis may pop a bit, but you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable as the sled wants to work with you and stay flat. This is a very easy to ride snowmobile.

The handling prowess of the REV-XP chassis rates high on our “favorites” list. Polaris’ Rush model offers a seating and rider control position that initially felt like the REV-XP. But only now in its third season of evolution does it actually provide the confidence that we’ve felt when cornering an MXZ, or 2012 GSX LE E-TEC 600. Ski-Doo has this sporty lightweight-handling thing nailed.

Depending on your riding style, the GSX LE may be the perfect sled. If you are more luxury oriented and set on comfort, the wider SE version is for you. If you are an MXZ rider at heart, but spend more time making miles than seeking out rough trail sections, the GSX LE will suit you well.

You’ll have quite the advantages with the LE that basic TNT riders won’t get. It’ll be easier for you to lead the group because the GSX LE’s standard rearview mirrors let you keep them in the fold. Even though the Rotax E-TEC twin starts right up with a short pull of the recoil start, its push button electric start is oh-so convenient. Plus, the added wattage allows the GSX to offer a standard issue 12-volt power outlet.

2012 Ski-Doo GSX LE 600 heater controls

The heated hand and thumb warmers integrate into the aluminum handlebar for on-trail warmth. The heater controls sit within easy-to-reach thumb length off the hooked bar ends. While we’ll still state that Arctic Cat and Yamaha have better grips, the Ski-Doo’s J-hook ends will get plenty of use when you push aggressively into a series of corners.

If you need full-on stopping power, be assured that the GSX can haul you down to scrub off top speed in a hurry. That’s why you’ll appreciate Ski-Doo engineers specifying the same brand of hydraulic brake as those found on Aston Martin, Porsche, Mercedes Benz and Ducati vehicles. Ski-Doo adds the protection of a braided stainless-steel brake line.

2012 Ski-Doo GSX LE 600 tunnel bagFor trail cruising the GSX will be a hard sled to beat. It is a very nimble performer. It rides very well. And, you’ve got to love Its technologically adept two-stroke engine that is said to give you up to 15 percent better fuel economy with fewer emissions while using about half the oil of the non-ETEC version.

As a trail cruiser, the GSX LE E-TEC 600 HO comes with a tunnel-mounted bag for extra storage. The windshield sweeps up and off to the sides to deflect the cold. Plus, the LE gets fitted with knee deflectors for even greater on-trail comfort.

Offered in just the white and black livery, the 2012 GSX LE E-TEC 600 has the look of a more sedate MXZ, but don’t let that fool you. On the trail this 2012 Ski-Doo will feed your MXZ ego with performance and handling while blending in a strong dose of convenience and comfort for that part of you that enjoys making lots of miles in day’s ride.

Specifications 2012 Ski-Doo GSX LE E-TEC 600 2012 Ski-Doo MXZ TNT E-TEC 600
Engine Rotax E-TEC 600, 594.4cc 2-stroke, liquid-cooled twin; Rotax electronic direct fuel injection ; two-into-one header with single tuned exhaust Rotax E-TEC 600, 594.4cc 2-stroke, liquid-cooled twin; Rotax electronic direct fuel injection ; two-into-one header with single tuned exhaust
Horsepower 120 120
Drive Ski-Doo TRA III primary drive with QRS secondary Ski-Doo TRA III primary drive with QRS secondary
Brake Brembo hydraulic Brembo hydraulic
Front Suspension Ski-Doo double A-arm suspension; HPG High Pressure Gas shocks; 9.0-in maximum travel Ski-Doo double A-arm suspension; HPG Plus High Pressure Gas shocks; 9.0-in maximum travel
Rear Suspension Ski-Doo SC-5 parallel rail slide with Motion Control shock on front and HPG-VR on rear arm; 15-in maximum travel Ski-Doo SC-5 parallel rail slide with HPG Plus shocks on front and rear arm; 15-in maximum travel
Length 114.4 114.0 in
Width 47.9 in 47.9 in
Height 47.2 in 47.2 in
Ski Stance 42.4 in 42.4 in
Track 15 x 120.0x 1.25 RipSaw 15 x 120.0x 1.25 RipSaw
Weight 450 lbs (claimed) 425 lbs (claimed for non-electric start models)
Fuel Capacity 10.6 US Gal 10.6 US Gal
Features Standard push button electronic reverse; J-hooks; 4.5-inch riser block height;12-volt outlet; analog/digital display; rearview mirrors; tunnel bag; Brembo disc brake Standard push button electronic reverse; J-hooks; 4.5-inch riser block height; analog/digital display; Brembo disc brake; Electric Start added optional (+US$400)
MSRP US$10,699 US$10,599