October 5, 2007

Prowling The Mountains On The M1000



This Cat loves to climb

No matter how you look at it, there’s just no way around the argument that the Arctic Cat M1000 is the best in its class.

Never mind that it’s now the only snowmobile in its class.

The fact is the M1000 is the king of the mountain as far as stock sleds go. It has the biggest engine displacement and that alone gives it the title of king. And while the king title may have happened somewhat by default, we think the M1000 was more than up to the task of earning the title outright with no strings attached even before the demise of the other sled in this class.

There were two bits of information about the 1000 class that came out last winter and early spring that shaped this class going into the 2007-08 winter.

First, and probably the most noteworthy (at least in some camps), is that Ski-Doo was dropping the Summit 1000 from its mountain lineup. Ski-Doo also dropped the trail versions of its 1000—the Mach Z and Mach Z LT—weeks later.

MIA

The SnoWest SnowTest crew thought it was curious that Ski-Doo didn’t bring the Summit 1000 to the annual media photo shoot session in March. That’s the yearly event where we get to ride, test and photograph all of the new snowmobile models. Yet the Summit 1000 was MIA.

Now, it’s not unheard of that a snowmobile here or there is missing from the media event for whatever reason. But Ski-Doo has always prided itself on having the first of this or the biggest of that so to not have the Summit 1000 at such a big event raised some eyebrows.

Then it was confirmed that the Summit 1000 is out of the lineup—we presume because not enough units were being sold.

So that brings us to Arctic Cat, the lone contender in the 1000 class. And it brings us to our second bit of news.

Cat is back with a lighter M1000. Still the same power but in a lighter package. Now that’s good news sledders will appreciate.

We’ve ridden the M1000 several times since its creation a season ago. And we’ve ridden with sledders who own a M1000, including a couple different guys last winter. They couldn’t say enough good about their M1000. They like the balance, the power and the relative ease of swapping out parts to save even more weight. They had no complaints about the overall package offered in Cat’s biggest sled.   

Not For Everyone

Having said that, let’s get it down in black and white that the Arctic Cat M1000 is not for everyone. It has more power—it tops the horsepower charts at about 162 ponies—than most snowmobilers need or even want. It’s big, it’s bad and it takes some effort and skill to ride a sled of this caliber. This is a pure bred hillclimber that can also double as a decent boondocker when called upon. The bottom line is the M1000 can do most anything any other mountain machine can do, it’s just that if you take it trail riding or putting through the meadow barely cracking the throttle, you’re wasting a lot of good machine. Think of it as taking a Dodge 6.7L Cummins and driving it 25 or 35 mph on a paved road in the middle of suburbia. Yea, you can do it, but: a) Why? And b) What a waste of machine.

The M1000 is designed and built for big horsepower off-trail kind of riding and that includes the biggest mountains you can find to climb. Those bulging ponies also like the kinds of deep snow that stretches the limits of the sled’s power and ability.

In the horsepower department, there were no complaints from the SnowTest crew on the M1000’s power, just praises. This Suzuki 999 keeps giving and giving, stretching its 160 plus horsepower legs up and over most western mountains.

Last year we mistakenly labeled the Arctic Cat M1000 as having a Liberty twin engine. It’s most definitely a Suzuki. Comments like “strong off the bottom,” “keeps pulling on the top end” and “power to spare and then some” were just a few of the comments from the SnowTest crew. Several of us also commented about the torque, which is a handy feature to have, depending on your circumstances.

Say you’re riding the trees and you have a high horsepower sled but not a great torque curve. You come to a point where you need to blip the throttle to get around a tree in deep powder or up a small incline with trees all around. You blip the throttle, the track spins and you go down. Or if you blip the throttle and hit a slick spot or hard spot, you’re picking splinters out of your hood. A high horsepower, torquey motor like on the M1000 provides more useable power, meaning, in those same conditions, when you blip the throttle, it won’t cause the track to trench as you build power but will work it in the deep snow, helping you to inch along if needed or get up that incline without tail walking because the track is trying to auger in.

Cat claims the M1000 has 120 ft. lbs. of torque at 7200 rpm. That’s 10 percent more peak torque than Cat’s ’05 ZR 900 engine. Okay, that’s a nice figure, but what’s more impressive is that the M1000 engine produces that torque while using less fuel than the 900 when operating at the same rpm.

Meeting The Regs

These days lots of talk is centered around fuel economy and emissions. Cat, along with the other snowmobile manufacturers, has to fall in line with EPA regs for emissions. One way Cat engineers accomplished this was to incorporate a twin spark plug design in the Suzuki 1000. More accurately, a set of twins—one set in each cylinder head. Cat’s 800 motor also features the twin spark plugs, but the configuration is a bit different in the 1000 vs. the 800.

Those who have followed Cat through the years know this isn’t a new concept for Arctic Cat. It first appeared more than 30 years ago but for different reasons (mostly to reduce plugs from fouling). Today, Cat’s aim was to improve fuel efficiency while lowering emissions. In big bores like the 800 and 1000, there is less turbulence of the air/fuel mixture at lower rpm. That’s means an incomplete burn in the mixture, which leads to higher emissions and not so hot fuel economy. With the twin spark plugs a couple of things are happening. First, the spark plugs fire simultaneously, achieving a more complete combustion at lower rpm and second, by incorporating sequential firing, all the ignition’s spark energy goes to the pair of plugs that needs it. Hence, better fuel economy and lower emissions.

Cat has continues to work on the mapping, trying to find the most power the engine has to give. From what we can tell, the M1000 is pretty darn close to spot on.

One SnowTester commented, “The engine is electric-smooth (I've heard it referred to as a Cummins before). There is plenty of power, though it's a low-revving power that doesn't have the typical two-stroke hit to it.”

A Balancing Act

One side note to the engine topic. There are no counterbalancers on this big 999cc motor. Counterbalancers are used to minimize vibration but they almost always come with a weight penalty, usually about 10 lbs. There is some vibration on the M1000—there’s just no way around it when you’re dealing with an engine that big. However, from our experience riding the bigger sleds which were equipped with counterbalancers, it didn’t seem to make much difference in the vibration department. So, we say save the weight and do as Cat did. The vibration is noticeable but it won’t shake your molars loose. And once you get on the throttle, much of that vibration is far less noticeable.

Now, on to other things. When you’ve got 162 hp roaring through your twin engine, you’ve got to pay some serious attention to your clutch system, not only to ensure that it’s up to the task of getting the power to the snow without losing much of that power but that it can hold up to those kinds of horsepower numbers.

In the M1000, that meant changing from a four-post to a three-post clutch, using a different belt that works better with the three-post drive clutch and changing to heavier weights. The 2007 M1000 sled came with 65 gram weights. Later, it was suggested that those be bumped up to 70 gram weights for a harder pull. Now, for the 2008 model, Cat has gone with 80 gram weights with a new drive belt (0627-060). Cat’s mountain sled guru Kevin Schindler said the new belt has a higher coefficient of friction and requires less cam arm weight than the previously used 0627-046 belt. (Previous four post times 65 or 70 equals 260 or 280 while new three post times 80 equals 240.) Also, by going to the 3-post clutch, that means it’s a little lighter and therefore will turn quicker and have a better bottom end.

As most anyone who follows this industry knows, Cat uses its exclusive ACT Diamond Drive planetary gearcase, now with six years under its belt. This drive replaces the jackshaft, chaincase, chain and gears and continues to be refined for better performance.

Weight Loss

Up to this point the changes made to the M1000 (all the Ms for that matter) are minor. It’s in the suspension where 8 of the approximately 10 lbs. in weight savings from the 2007 model to the 2008 model were saved.

The weight savings puts the M1000 back to its pre-reverse weight. Adding reverse to the Ms cost Cat 10 lbs. but all that is history with the new rear skid.

Cat is calling its new suspension the Float Skidframe, after the named of the shock that carries most of the weight in the rear, the Fox Float. The Fox Float replaces the Fox Zero Pro that used to be the rear shock (although a Zero Pro is still used for the center shock and on the front) as standard equipment (Sno Pro versions get the Fox Floats in front). That eliminates the need for steel coil over springs (and the resulting snow buildup). And there’s no doubt the Fox Floats are a premium shock. Its rising rate in the deep moguls helps minimize the jolt you feel with lesser shocks.

The Float Skidframe also gets new rails, which have a more open, lightweight look. The center wheels also have knockout holes and the rear arms have been painted. A new front arm has three-position limiter straps.

A Welcome Change

The new skidframe is a welcome improvement in the ride department on the M1000, but we think there’s still room for improvement. One SnoWest SnowTester said, “A sled this fast should have a better suspension.” Is that too honest?

We do think the Fox Float in the rear has solved some of the problems of the old FasTrack Long Travel suspension from a year ago. “Still a bit happy but much better than before,” is how another SnowTest staffer rated it.

We’re anxious to ride the M1000 again—this time in powder. One specific area we’ll be looking at is the snow buildup—or lack thereof—on the new running boards. The old running boards just didn’t let enough powder fall through the holes. The new design has five times the open area compared to a season ago and that should really make a difference. The edge rolls were also redesigned to take out the 90-degree angle and put a slant from the edge to the running board so snow can’t wedge in the outside edge of the flat part of the running boards.

Another reason we’d like to get this M in powder is the Power Claw track. You won’t find it on any of the Ms for 2008 but we got the chance to try it in March in Grand Lake. The conditions were less than ideal for this track, which is why we’d like to try it again. Schindler told us the track has changed some since we rode it in March. With this new track, Cat took the Attak 20’s best features and added some stiffening, loosely resembling a finger kind of stiffener on the paddles. The Attak 20 was great in powder but left something to be desired on hard pack. For 2008, Cat will continue with the excellent Camoplast Challenger with length options of 153 or 162 inches (both have 2.25-inch deep lugs).

One change in the Ms the SnowTest crew was really happy about was the move to the race spindles, which increased the sled’s turning angle by 10 degrees. Generally speaking, Cats have the biggest turning radius out of all the mountain machines but this new change will help a bunch, especially in the trees.

You probably can’t have a discussion about the M1000 without talking about weight. In 2007 the M1000 was lighter than the Ski-Doo Summit 1000 by nearly 25 lbs. Now Cat has lopped 10 more lbs. off so it comes in around 521 lbs. dry (153-inch track). To get the absolute lightest versions of the M1000 you have to get the Sno Pro models (518 lbs. for 153 and 521 for 162). One SnowTester summed up our feelings about this model’s weight. “The M1000 has a heavy nose feel to it, but that is easily diminished by applying a little pressure with the right thumb.”

The M1000 should enjoy the limelight knowing it’s the best sled in its class, regardless of how many others may or may not be in this segment. The sled stands ready to defend itself as the biggest stocker on the planet.

 

Arctic Cat M1000/M1000 Sno Pro

 

Age of this model                               Second year

 

Powerplant/Powertrain

Engine                                     Suzuki

Displacement                                     999cc

Cylinders                                            2

Carburetion                                        50 mm throttle body batteryless EFI

Primary clutch                                    Arctic (rpm sensing)/Arctic (rpm sensing) with titanium spring

Secondary clutch                                Arctic (roller cam) ACT drive system

Drive sprocket                                   8-tooth drive

 

Chassis/Suspension

Chassis                                               M

Front suspension                                AWS VI double-wishbone A-arms

Front shocks                                       Fox Zero Pro gas/Fox Float air

Front travel                                        9.2 inches

Rear suspension                                M-Series slide rail

Rear shocks                                       Fox Float

Rear travel                                         18 (153), 19 (162)

Center shock                                      Fox Zero Pro IFP

Ski                                                       UHMW plastic saddleless

 

Dimensions/Capacities

Dry weight                                          521 lbs. (153), 523 lbs. (162)/518 lbs. (153), 521 lbs. (162)

Track                                                  Camoplast Challenger 15x153-162x2.25

Ski stance                                           39-41 inches

Fuel capacity                                      11 gallons

Price                                                    $11,499 (153), $11,899 (162)/$12,299 (153), $12,699 (162)








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