End of Season Review: 2020 Polaris 850 SKS 155 (2023)

  • Marc Thibeault
  • November 26, 2020
  • 12:00 am
  • Polaris, Reviews, Snowmobiles

End of Season Review: 2020 Polaris 850 SKS 155 (1)

After concentrating my testing at the beginning of the season mainly on the trails, it was now time to bring the SKS into an environment more conducive to its qualities. My goal was to wait for enough snow to be safe in the undergrowth and, thus, not be preoccupied with the obstacles sometimes hiding under the snow. By equipping the RMKs with a narrower front suspension (36-37-38) in 2019, Polaris had finally given meaning to the SKS series, the latter inheriting its niche with a wider ski gauge. Significantly modifying the RMK series this way, buyers now have a real choice with a noticeable difference between the two models.Unchanged for 2020, the SKSs are well adapted for the Quebec market. They offer a vehicle that is fundamentally designed for off-trail use, but that performs well on the trail too. This is a little truer with the 146-inch-long track model. In contrast, the 155-inch track model is likely to stand out in deep snow, benefiting from the main features of the pre-2019 RMKs.

End of Season Review: 2020 Polaris 850 SKS 155 (2)

In terms of technical specifications, my test model was equipped with the new Patriot850 engine. Introduced in 2019, it generates approximately 165 horsepower. Unlike the Pro-RMK, the SKS has a transmission system with a more traditional chaincase but shares the very efficient P-85/Team LWT pulleys. For a second year now, the 2020 Patriot850 was only available in spring models (Snowcheck). My test model was equipped with a 155-inch long by 15-inch wide Series6 track with a 2.6-inch profile. It had a digital colour gauge, but I don’t think you need this type of gauge with this type of vehicle. If you decide to go with the standard gauge, it will lower your purchase price. The distance between the skis can be adjusted in three positions, i.e. 39-40-41. This allows snowmobilers to change the vehicle’s behaviour significantly. The SKS offers Gripper mountain skis and the AXYS-RMK front suspension, the latter benefiting from lightweight aluminum A-arms. Featuring Walker-Evans shock absorbers for many years now, the front and rear suspensions are mountain-type. Polaris snowmobiles are fitted with an electric starter, but also offer a manual starter, which can be useful.

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Performance

In terms of performance, the 2020 Patriot850 is very efficient and benefits from the first year’s adjustments, making it an exceptionally reliable engine. The recoveries are amazingly fast, especially for a mountain snowmobile, where this quality is essential. After noticing that the engine warm-up period was longer than that of the Liberty800 in 2019, we now understand that this behaviour is inherent to this engine. When it comes to accelerations, the Patriot is nervous and performs well, thanks to a good calibration of the Team system. Combined with the 2.6-inch profile track, deep snow reactions are also very satisfying. With this configuration, one should expect good responses in deep snow, but less high speed, which is typical for this type of vehicle. I noticed that it’s important to take a few minutes to warm up the belt when you want to drive in deep snow. When cold, it can react badly when snow enters the air intakes and reaches the transmission.

End of Season Review: 2020 Polaris 850 SKS 155 (3)

Off-Trail Handling

By nature, the AXYS chassis is very efficient on this type of vehicle, and the SKS is no exception to the rule. Compared to other manufacturers’ models, the SKS155 version is most likely the easiest to handle in deep snow even though the front suspension is wider than the RMKs. In my opinion, it’s one of the easiest mountain vehicles to understand in terms of reaction, which makes it easy to drive, even for new enthusiasts. With a few hours of practice and more in-depth knowledge of your vehicle, you eventually reach a satisfactory level of comfort. The SKS is easy to tilt and to straighten. In the sidehill position, the vehicle remains easily balanced, even for less experienced snowmobilers. The almost perfect balance of the AXYS chassis and the mass centralization make the vehicle very manoeuvrable and gives it an enjoyable feeling of lightness. Naturally, the more snow there is, the easier it’s to drive because it’s not influenced by the more hardened snow layers underneath, which can cause unexpected reactions for all these types of vehicles.

End of Season Review: 2020 Polaris 850 SKS 155 (4)

Comfort

Personally speaking, I’ve always appreciated the driving position of the AXYS chassis because you always feel ready to react in most situations. The angle of the handlebar also makes direction changes fast and precise. As I mentioned earlier, trail riding comfort is not the end goal of this type of vehicle. However, one must look at this feature from the perspective of its use off the beaten track. The notion of comfort when standing for hours on a vehicle in deep snow is quite different. For this type of vehicle, it means standing for several hours without exerting too much effort to control the vehicle. This is probably one of the most remarkable qualities of the AXYS chassis from which the SKS benefits. Even if used much less than for a trail snowmobile, the seat offers good support when needed without being extremely comfortable, which is fine for this type of vehicle.

Most importantly, the geometry of the rear suspension provides excellent travel. The front suspension geometry does so too, which also offers outstanding control in deep snow, further enhancing comfort. Naturally, the Walker-Evans shocks remain rigid on harder surfaces. In deep snow conditions, they are highly effective. As already mentioned in previous articles, the arrival of the Fox-QS3 shock absorbers would be a good idea at Polaris. They would offer a comfortable option for the SKS and make it even more versatile.

End of Season Review: 2020 Polaris 850 SKS 155 (5)

End of Season Review: 2020 Polaris 850 SKS 155 (6)

Marc Thibeault

Marc Thibeault's passion for snowmobiling is not new. He drove his first snowmobile at the age of 5, on a frozen lake, to the great dismay of his parents. At 18, he already owned his own snowmobile. Two years later, he was practicing this sport more assiduously. For the past 19 years, he has been traveling thousands of kilometers each winter, but this has not prevented him from combining his knowledge of the Internet, his interest in business, his passion for snowmobiling and his family, and in 2002, he created Motoneigistes.com magazine, which is dedicated to this sport. Firmly believing in the need to unite the efforts of the various stakeholders in the field on the WEB, he merged the operations of the magazine with the Magazine motoneiges.ca (presided by Mr. Denis Lavoie) thus creating the largest French-speaking information portal dedicated to the sport of snowmobiling in America. It must be said that Mr. Thibeault has covered many different aspects of snowmobiling. In addition to his involvement in the snowmobile industry on the Web for over 20 years, he has previously worked as a volunteer, sector director and public relations officer for the Club de motoneigistes Saguenay. He was also a tourist guide for snowmobile trips organized for European groups. Finally, he has participated as a columnist and host in several radio and television programs devoted to snowmobiling. He is still the host of the AMS-Motoneiges program on Télémag. In terms of his professional career, Mr. Thibeault works as a senior executive in a major company in the Quebec City area.

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