In the world of recreational vehicles, snowmobile engines stand apart as some of the most powerful by weight of anything short of those used in aircraft. While some manufacturers like Polaris and Yamaha produce many of their own engines entirely in house, Austrian manufacturer Rotax remains far and away the most prolific snowmobile engine maker.
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This is the smallest displacement engine offered for snowmobiles, and will typically vary between 260 to 300cc. Like those used for many other engine classes, the "300" appellate can be a bit of a misnomer; Rotax's Type 277 engine is typically referred to as a 300 in sales literature, but is actually only 268cc in displacement. Horsepower levels can vary between 16 for older four stroke offerings, to 22 horsepower (2011 Premier Enforcer) to 27 horsepower for the 2-stroke Rotax Type 277. Some specially prepared racing 2-stroke 300s can have upward of 60 horsepower.
301cc to 600cc
This range is typically the base engine offered for most snowmobiles, especially those larger and heavier unit designed for cross-country riding. Polaris, Ski Doo and Yamaha have all produced engines in the 400cc range, which generally produce between 60 and 65 horsepower. The Rotax 552 (two-stroke, 57 horsepower) and Type 593 fall into this range, and are two of the most common engines used in snowmobiles today. The 593 (actually 597cc, typically referred to as a 600) comes in four different configurations ranging from 115 horsepower to 126. Liquid cooling is common for the larger engines in this range.
601cc to 800cc
At the bottom of this range you'll find the Arctic Cat 660, which comes with a turbocharger and makes around 115 horsepower depending on trim level. The Rotax Type 797 sets the gold standard for the larger engines of this class, and is the unit typically found under the cowl of any snowmobile with "800" in the name. The Rotax 797 is a liquid-cooled two-stroke making between 147 and 151 horsepower in stock form with much more potential in store; a turbocharger can be worth another 80 to 90 horsepower on a well-prepared 800. Ski Doo and Polaris also make a version of the 800, both of which make about the same amount of power as the Rotax.
801cc to 1,200cc
Rotax offers a 912cc version of the 797, but you can build your own with a specially-made re-sleeving kit and "stroker" crankshaft. (Fun Fact: the Rotax 912 is the largest engine ever installed on a commercially available chainsaw.) The largest engines offered in this class are also, unsurprisingly, produced by Rotax for sale to other manufacturers. The Type 1203 (actually 1,171cc) four-stroke produces but 125 horsepower in stock form, but its stout block, liquid cooling system and three-cylinder design make it capable of well over 400 horsepower with a turbocharger, nitrous oxide and nitromethane.
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