Polaris focuses on improved quality for 2004
March 31, 2003
Filed under Features
The 39 sleds in the Polaris snowmobile line-up for 2004 were designed with an increased emphasis on quality, with refinements made where necessary according to the Medina, Minn.-based company. Nevertheless, while the line-up features many returning models with new add-ons, there also are some entirely new machines.
Quality improvement was a focus for the engineers this year — something the company admitted has been a problem in the past. It pointed to the 1995 and 1996 model year, a time period when warranty claims doubled, prior 7-point marketshare drop in 1998.
“Quality is a huge sales driver,” stated a presentation slide. “We will not introduce a new product until it’s right.”
The quality focus includes adding the Polaris Electronic Reverse Control (PERC) on all domestic engines; the use of Detonation Elimination Technology (DET); additional electronic controls; improved cylinder decompression; an upgraded 550 fan engine; and additional testing, such as wind tunnel, under-hood air flow and computer-aided engineering. A Minneapolis-based company, Multi Body Dynamics, was hired to test the suspensions.
The 500, 600, 700 and 800 Liberty engines all feature PERC and improved cooling, thanks to improved coolant flow design and a new 909 gear in the water pump. The gear spins in a near 1:1 ratio that moves 40% more coolant. The big-displacement engines all get Detonation Elimination Technology (DET) and automatic decompression standard for easier pulls when starting. Anything with a Liberty engine under the hood also gets a TEAM roller secondary clutch.
The only non-Liberty engines remaining in Polaris’ line are the Fuji 500 liquid, 340 and 550 fans and the 4-stroke Frontier. For 2004, these engines have an array of features. The 340 and 550 get PERC and the TEAM clutch, no matter which sled they power. The 500 liquid and Frontier four-stroke engines stay as is. The 550 also gets upgrades including a new pipe and digital ignition. The changes add a couple horsepower and improve fuel economy.
Long Tracks Get Longer
In the long-track division, Polaris bills seven machines as new models, with a new top dog, the 800 RMK 159 sporting a 159-inch track.
The biggest changes come to the former SKS ‘tweener machine, now known as the Switchback. The Switchback is available with 600, 700 or 800 mills. Ryde FX shocks all around handle the bumps and the track is a 15 x 144 x 1.25 unit. The sled comes standard with handlebar hooks and a mountain grab bar.
The RMK lineup got some major changes, too. They all get a new chaincase design that saves weight and offers more gear ratios. Along with the chaincase, all models get the liquid-cooled Phantom brake. Colors for 2004 are black with red or black with yellow.
The biggest change is the move into the EDGE chassis for the Trail RMK, which effectively puts all RMKs on the same ground. The Trail RMK, powered by the 550 fan, gets the Altitude Compensating Carburetion System (ACCS) to keep the it’s jetting right on at altitude. The sled also get the dual-purpose rail and spins a 136-inch track. Other mountain features include a mountain grab bar, rack, boot grippers and a sock over the air intake to prevent snow ingestion.
Liquid-cooled RMKs now use a new Parallel Cooling System that moves coolant more efficiently and reduces coolant volume by nearly two pounds. Also new is a 144-inch Series 4 track to spin on the 600 RMK. Finally, a new “low pin” clutch on the 700 and 800 machines smooths takeoff, preventing track spin and therefore, burying the track.
Two-Up riders get several variations in engines, suspensions and names in its seven-model lineup.
The EDGE Touring models include the sleds with the 340 fan, 600, 700 and 800 Liberty engines. The Sport Touring and Trail Touring models both will have the 550 fan. The Frontier Touring uses the 4-stroke engine. Finally, the Widetrack LX gets wedged into this category.
Liquid EDGEs get a new rear skid that combines an M-10 and XTRA-12 into one skid called the EDGE Touring . The skid offers easy transition from 1-Up to 2-Up riding, without any mechanical adjustments. On the 800, the skid gets ACE control, with a thumb button for the driver to stiffen or soften the ride. EDGE Touring models also have a new pillow top seat that looks a whole lot more comfortable than the previous model.
The Sport Touring and Trail Touring are similar, but the Trail Touring gets a few more goodies, like Indy Select shocks rather than Nitrex up front and Ryde FX in the skid. It also gets electric start and mirrors standard along with adjustable passenger grips and gauntlets.
Short Track Goes Pro X>
In the Ultimate Performance segment, Polaris offers eight models, with the Pro X lineup as the flagship. The Pro X was introduced as one model in 2002. It now comes in eight models.
The 550 Pro X Fan replaces the 440 of last year. Race rules allow fans up to 600cc, and the 550 engine is a much improved unit. For riders who like a traditional seat and riding position, the Pro X lineup includes three liquid cooled engines: the 600, 700 and 800. Ergos are otherwise unchanged.
The new Pro X2 uses the Pro X chassis, but gets a seat that is similar to the Polaris race machine. The shortened seat is 2 inches higher and 2 inches farther forward than the standard Pro X seat. X2s also get Walker Evans shocks, lightweight components, handguards and a 1.25 inch track. According to Polaris, the upgraded package is worth $2,300-$2,400 dollars, but will cost only $900 more than standard Pro X sleds.
The XC SPs are available with the Liberty 500 engine, as well as the 600, 700 and 800. XC SPs ride on Ryde FX shocks at the skis and front arm, and a Fox PPS on the rear arm.
The solo-touring Classic line features seven models. Riders have a choice between two fans (340 and 550) and five liquids (500, 600, 700, 800 and 4 stroke), depending on their needs. The fans get Nitrex shocks on the skis and front arm, but differ on the rear arm — the 340 gets an Indy Select and the 550 gets a Fox PPS. Liquid cooled models all get the M-10 rear skid standard. Plus, on the 800, an M-10 ACE is standard. All two-stroke liquids have Indy Select shocks up front, while the Frontier gets Nitrex units. The 600 and 800 models get a new seat, which has an adjustable bun and increased storage. Dubbed the Polaris Adjustable Seat System (PASS), this seat also features improved lights that are far more visible in snowdust or night riding conditions.