Test Ride: 2018 Ski-doo Summit 165" & 175"
Mountain Sledder | On 07, Apr 2017
It’s not every day that you are offered the opportunity to get seat time on a pre-production sled. So when Mountain Sledder had the chance to ride the 2018 Ski-Doo Summit 165″ and 175″ sleds (of which there are only a handful in existence), naturally we jumped at the opportunity.
Here’s our take on the new 175″ and 165″ Ski-Doo Summit X Gen4 Rev 850 sleds.
Ski-Doo Summit X 850 E-TEC 165″ & 175″
Before throwing a leg over the 2018 Summits, we went into the ride hoping to come out with two different answers. The first, being how much better—if at all—is the Gen4 REV chassis and 850 E-TEC motor compared to the venerable and much lauded REV XM chassis and bulletproof 800 E-TEC of the prior generation. And secondly, how does the completely new Summit 175″ compare to the Summit 165″ that was already released in 2017? We hoped to use the answers to these questions to help mountain riders—who haven’t had the opportunity to ride the two side-by-side—better understand the distinction between the two sleds. In short, we hoped to help riders on the fence make a hard decision about which sled would be better suited for them.
Gen4 REV chassis and 850 E-TEC
Having ridden each generation of Summit all the way back to the ZX model of the early 2000’s, I can tell you that the Summit has come a loooong way. Like the first REV chassis of 2003/2004, the XM that first came out in 2013 was a giant step forward from its prior iteration. It handled so much better that if felt like an entirely new thing, yet somehow still maintained the “Ski-Doo” feel.
The Summit Gen4 REV isn’t quite the light-year leap ahead that the XM and first REV were, but it’s still a vast improvement. And that’s staying something considering just how good the XM chassis is. It’s remarkable that it still feels similar to the XM, but just better in all ways.
In terms of the 850 powerplant, I would say that it does feel more powerful, but again, it feels like a step up rather than a leap ahead. Where it does really shine I feel is in the responsiveness of the engine, which may be due to the engine or the clutching… I’m not sure which. But in terms of experience, it feels like the full power of the engine is there at the touch of the throttle, and the power of the engine feels full with silky smooth engagement.
So for Summit XM riders that are wondering about the difference in ride between their 800cc powered sled and the current Gen4 REV 850, the answer is this. If you love your XM, you will love the performance of the 850 even more.
Now, there’s been a lot of talk on the Internet about issues with the 2017 Ski-Doo Summits, particularly hot clutches and weak bulkheads. Ski-Doo claims that the number of problematic 2017 Summits has been blown out of proportion by Internet hearsay. Regardless, the company has issued a statement about the issues and how they will be addressed in 2018 production models. It seems that 2017 models will likely be addressed at some point as well, although at this point it’s not entirely clear to what extent.
2018 Ski-Doo Summit X 850 E-TEC 165″
Anyone who’s spent time on a 2017 Summit 165″ can tell you that the thing is a beast. The flotation and climbing ability of this sled is remarkable. And during the course of our two days of test rides, we did spend most of our time on the 165″ in part, because there was only one 175″ to go around but also because it was hella fun to ride. We found that on the 165″ we could push up hills in one or two gos that would seriously take hours of leapfrog (if possible at all) to punch up on a 154″ sled of the previous generation. That is really something.
The sled handled superbly in the deep and, in some places, mixed conditions. It sidehills very nicely with less feedback from hard snow than prior generations. It’s easier to get on its side, and the “Ski-doo” sweet spot is still there. Having said that, it is easier to flop all the way over by accident, but that is just a simple matter of learning where the tipping point is and adapting.
Long track riders know that one of the key benefits of so much rubber beneath the tunnel is the ability to creep along without getting stuck. And this is certainly the case here. We found that the longer track allowed us to move more slowly through the trees and across hills, caring much less momentum than would be required on a 154″ or shorter track. In practice, that pays serious dividends in the ability to stay in control as you move through technical terrain.
A pleasant surprise of the 165″ is the ability to use reverse much more effectively to back out of sticky situations or “Austin Powers” the sled around in a tight spot. You might say, “If you need to use reverse you’re doing it wrong!”, but that’s a close-minded opinion. Reverse is incredibly useful when navigating tight areas or scouting dense trees. The 165″ and even more so 175″ sleds are excellent at staying atop the snow when backing up, where a shorter track will tend to auger down into the snow rather than keep moving backwards.
2018 Ski-Doo Summit X 850 E-TEC 175″
So what’s the difference really between the 165″ and 175″ sleds? Well, if you look at just the specs, its seems like not much. Ten more inches of track overall really only equates to five more inches on the snow, but that makes a huge difference. The suspension points are moved somewhat as well to accommodate the longer skid and track, but in practice we did not notice any difference in rear suspension performance between the two.
It stands to reason that the 175″ would climb better than all the other shorter-tracked sleds, and this is certainly true. But it’s not just the steeper hills where it outperforms. In soft snow, the 175″ really shines. Our test days were very deep indeed, with foot penetration of around 90cm when we hopped off the sleds. Those are the kind of days when you can easily get downhill stuck. Riding the 175″, we weren’t so worried about finding a good, downhill place to park. You could get going on a small uphill even in the fresh snow of the day, which is saying something.
The true value of the 175″ platform becomes obvious when pulling a turn at the bottom of a downhill and heading back uphill. The 175″ can turn up into a next level grade of steep and deep snow that you just plain and simply cannot do on a smaller track. On a couple of occasions, I could not believe having successfully turned and pulled back uphill when the deep snow was piling up well over the hood. It’s almost shocking what the 175″ is capable of when you’re used to riding a shorter track.
Having said that, the 175″ is not quite unstoppable, even though it feels that way. I did manage to get it stuck, and my only surprise was that it didn’t happen sooner. I made the mistake of thinking the sled could climb anything, carving all the while on the way up, when it reality there was just too much snow on too much slope.
If “The Roll” is your go-to unstuck method, then I think the 175″ won’t cause much more grief than any other sled. But I could see how yarding the long track out of a hole in the snow would be more of an effort for the riders that like to go that route. Shelley from CKMP showed us a neat trick to deal with the extra snow that gets caught up in the skid of the 175″. You simply tip the sled on its side and let the track rip for a bit. The turning of the track is enough to dump most of the snow out of the skid, which makes maneuvering the sled by hand that much easier.
That SHOT Starter sure comes in handy when you park your 175" big boy in a funny spot…
Posted by Mountain Sledder Snowmobile Magazine on Wednesday, March 29, 2017
The Summit 175″ sticks to a sidehill like you wouldn’t believe. Once you get it on its edge, it stays there, and wants to cut a level track across the hill with only easy input required to alter course either up or down. The difference in this ability from our own Summit 154″ is night and day. Where our 154″ wants to naturally turn up and down as it winds its way across a slope—requiring careful throttle and brake control to maintain a line—the 175″ holds a much truer line almost automatically. You don’t have to be “on it” nearly as much. Some might argue that that takes the fun out of it, but if you’re trying to hold a slope above an open creek or a fence of trees below, you’ll be glad for the extra confidence.
It’s not so much the “manoeuvrability” of the Summit 175″ as the “playfulness” that is the real only perceived drawback when compared to the 165″. For all the reasons that make it climb and sidehill so well, the 175″ does not care much for lifting its skis and wheelie-ing. A lot of riders will see that as a deal breaker. But it shouldn’t be. The advantages gained by the long track far outweigh the drawbacks in this case, especially so for most mountain riders who aren’t necessarily riding freestyle. And any rider who spends more time poking around in the trees than practicing re-entries on wind features should give the 175″ proper consideration.
Manoeuvrability is not an issue—at least not in the conditions we had in our test ride. The 175″ could crank a tight 180º turn no problem, in just as tight space as the 165″. And for downhill turns, carving and riding in general, if you didn’t know all that track was back there you’d never guess.
In terms of riding, the 175″ is incredibly easy to ride. I’ve read some reviews that say it is harder to ride than the 165″, but I have to disagree. Everything is easier on this sled, from climbing to sidehilling to poking your way through trees and technical stuff. You can move slower, with less momentum and more control. And it will get you farther if exploring is your thing. Turning up in deep snow is more easily accomplished, and the amount of traction it can generate is absurd.
Although having said that, the longer tracks do have a tendency to push the sleds straight on trail corners. That means that cornering performance is reduced compared to a shorter track. But not once in the history of Mountain Sledder have we been willing to compromise mountain riding performance for trail performance, and we’re about to start now. So it’s a moot point.
Worth mentioning as part of our test of the 2018 Summits is the SHOT Starter. Opinions on the technology range from “best ever” to “total gimmick”. Sure, it sounds good in theory, but how does it really work in the field? The answer is: exactly like you’d want it to.
In real mountain riding conditions, not once did the SHOT Starter fail to start the sled during the day when we wanted it to. It worked every time. It worked after sitting and talking for awhile, it worked multiple times in a row, it worked when the sled was upside down, it worked when the sled was hot. After pull starting the sled in the morning to load it up in the trailer, it worked to start every time after.
There’s not much else to say about it in a practical sense. If you want electric start but don’t want the extra weight that comes with a starter motor, battery and ring gear, then this is the answer. Otherwise, save some money and stick with a pull start.
The new 2018 Summit X E-TEC 850 165″ and 175″ are impressive machines. Choosing between the two is a difficult choice to make. The Summit 165″ is a tremendously capable machine and a good choice for year-round riding in moderate to deep snow. The Summit 175″ takes it even further (or farther!). It is easier to ride. It’s better all-round with the possible exception of its overall playfulness. And by no means do you need to be a super skilled rider to take benefit from the handling of the 175″.
Sledders who generally ride the deep snow conditions of Sicamous, Revelstoke and the Coast Range should seriously consider the advantages of the Summit 175″. I’m sure we’ll see a lot of them out in those areas next year.
For riders who spend most of their days in shallower snowpack regions or don’t like to do a ton of exploring, the Summit 165″ or shorter might be the ticket.
Although we didn’t get the chance to try out the 2018 Freeride, that is also a spring-check option worth consideration for riders who prefer freestyle or ride a little more aggressively where improved suspension would be beneficial.
Ski-Doo’s Spring Fever Sales Event ends April 12, 2017, after which the Freeride, X package and SHOT Starter options will no longer be available.