Number 1 and holding strong
* 1996 XCR-600
Q: What if 440cc just isn’t enough? A: Add more
Which is exactly what Polaris did. By taking the super smooth, if not powerful, monoblock Xtra Lite
Triple out of the hugely successful Indy XLT-SP, adding 38mm carbs and boosting displacement to
a full 597cc, the first XCR-600 was born.
This responsive engine package combined with the light and nimble XCR
chassis formed what is arguably
the best handling sled ever made. With the ZR-580 and MXz-583 added to the mix, the 600 class
had become THE class to ride in 1995.
Pictured above is the standard 1996 XCR-600, which was visually the same as the 1995 model.
These were the first Polaris sleds to wear the now familiar two piece race seat with side pads and
featured the all new XC-101 rear skid with quick adjust front limiters.
When people mention the white XCR-600, this is usually the sled they are referring too. The early
prototype release in 1994 caused enough preseason sales for 1995 to sell out this sled basically before
it ever hit the showroom. Like no other sled before it, the ’95 XCR-600 was a race sled for the masses.
The 1995 XCR-440 production sled was basically the previous seasons SP engine package wrapped
around the revised chassis found on the XCR-600. But this was only a glimpse of what was coming next.
Enter the long travel revolution
* 1996 XCR-440
Polaris didn’t invent long travel, but they did bring it to the major
production line first and
showed just what the future held for suspension technology and innovation.
Along with the XCR-600, Polaris had a second prototype sled in 1994
which set the stage for
what is now considered standard in todays sled suspesnions. The XLT Xtra with its 14 inches of
rear suspension travel ushered in the long travel era and proved that bumpy trails and rough
rides were a thing of the past. While the production 1995 XLT-SP used a slightly revised Xtra-12
rear skid, the outright handling of the sled was a bit compromised when compared to the nimble XCRs.
The answer to this puzzle came with yet another mid-season XCR-SP release from the Roseau factory.
1995 XCR-440 SP
Long travel was definitely needed, but handling and cornering were also a big factor in a snowmobiles
use too, especially on the race circuits. With their latest SP, Polaris gave the best of both worlds to
the sled buying public. Xtra-10 handled more like the nimble XC-101 of the old XCR, yet allowed the
big bumps to be swallowed with ease. A massive engine overhaul [including Nicasil lined cylinders and
34mm carbs] also made this the fastest XCR-440 yet.
Competition changes the rules
* 1996 XCR-600 SP
Formula 3 Racing heats up the snow and brings a new term, 3x3 or baby
Late in the 1995 season, Skidoo and Arctic Cat launched all new sleds aimed directly at the then important Formula 3
race class at Eagle River. The ZRT-600 and Formula III-600 were all new three cylinder case reed engines with triple
pipes sitting inside race bred chassis that promised big bore power with nimble manners of trail sleds.
Polaris was caught with no competitive sled on the drawing board and
realized the existing XCR-600 was never designed
to handle the stress of triple pipes and high rpms. However, they did have an all new Storm chassis in the works for ’96
and an all new three cylinder power plant coming to replace the aging Xtra Lite Triple. So some quick work by the R&D
team produced the hybrid now known as the XCR-600 SP. By taking the case reed Ultra engine, adding smaller cylinders,
and the triple pipes from the Storm, Polaris hoped to keep the XCR name out front once again.
1996 XCR-600 SP
The first XCR-SP that was not a mid season release. Featuring the all new ‘Aggressive’ chassis and hood combination,
Xtra-10 rear suspension w/standard front suspension, case reed engine, and triple pipes all standard. Peak power was
competitive to the ZRT and Formula III, but a host of tuning issues and other factors kept this sled from living up to
the success of its competitors. [Read about these problems in the FAQ section].
Status Quo for the ‘standard’ XCR lineup, with the new triple triple getting all the headlines, the good old wedge chassis
1996 XCR-600 receieved the new Xtra-10 rear suspension and lost the adjustable swaybar up front but was otherwise
basically unchanged. The 440 was essentially a carry over of the prior seasons SP model and was facing heavily
revised competition in the ZR-440 and MXz-440. Fortunately for the 440 crowd, help was on the way.
Polaris releases the ‘Domestic’ engine program
* 1997 XCR-440
Fuji no longer the engine of choice in the Polaris lineup. By
the mid 1990s, Skidoo and Arctic Cat had both
made drastic changes to their sled lineups and were finally producing highly capable, good looking, and reliable
sleds that any consumer would by, not just those that were brand loyal. Even Yamaha was set to make
revolutionary changes to their sled lineup that hadn’t been seen since the early 1980s.
Polaris needed more direct control of their engine program and believed
the answer could be found by manufacturing
their own engines. So in late 1996 the first of the ‘Domestic Polaris’ engines was produced for the XCR-440 race sled.
Using parts sourced from the best manufacturers around the world, these all new case reed inducted engines featured
the latest in two stroke designs with Nicasil cylinders, dyke ring pistons, 'fatty' tuned exhaust systems, and advanced
CDI systems as well. Using the best of the best approach, Polaris was clearly not giving in to the competition.
However the biggest news had to be the addition of the Polaris VES system.
Skidoo had pioneered the exhaust
valve or RAVE in the late 1980s and Skidoo riders had enjoyed the benefits of the broad powerband as a result.
With this new engine, Polaris gave XCR riders the added power of high exhaust ports with the low end grunt of low
exhaust ports with this spring activated valve system.
The first XCR to feature the Polaris built engine, it offered class leading horsepower, an all new CRC front end,
and heavily revised Xtra-10 rear skid as well.
Subtle updates and new names highlight the standard models. For the non racing crowd, the production XC-440
[the ‘R’ model was only for the racer] offered a refinement of the ’96 version with new graphics. Those still wanting
a lightweight trail weapon and didn’t find the new Aggressive chassis appealing could choose the revised XC-600
that featured all new Xtra-10 front suspension, High Output –04 XLT engine package, and other detail changes that
made it the best monoblock XC(r) to date.
The new name scheme also left many wondering what sled you meant when
you said XCR. For 1997 Polaris
dropped the ‘SP’ from the previous XCR-600 SP and also added an ‘SE’ option for Snow Check® customers as
well. So we had the XC-600 [monoblock triple, single pipe, Wedge chassis], the XCR-600 [case reed triple,
triple pipes, Aggressive chassis] and the XCR-600 SE [plastic skis and low profile track added to the XCR
package]. For further clarification, take a look in the FAQ section.
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