What, did you really expect Arctic Cat to leave the M8 alone
for another year?
Honestly, you should be ashamed. While you were sitting on
your couch eyeing a center spread of a Summit XP, thinking of selling your hot
pink Team Arctic collector’s hat on eBay and wondering if a yellow sled would
clash with the fluorescent green tool box in the garage, the engineering
squadron at Arctic Cat’s mountain company, currently stationed in Island Park,
ID, was secretly testing the highly classified changes to the 2009 M-Series
Yes, we’ll spare you further military cliché’s if you
promise to finish reading this. Which is too bad, really. We had a good line
about Lockheed Martin, but we’ll move on.
The point is that Arctic Cat didn’t sit on its hands this
year. The 2009 M8 and other M-Series sleds have undergone enough major changes
to make Joan Rivers jealous (an expression she’d have difficulty showing,
though). But the M8’s changes aren’t just skin deep. Everything that the Cat
boys did was purely for functional reasons.
First off, the mountain tunnel got busy with a Milwaukee
Sawzall. The full-length running boards got chopped so that the edge rail meets
the tunnel where the seat ends. The tail of the tunnel has a more aggressive
taper to it now and the whole rear bumper and taillight assembly has been
The idea behind the tunnel upgrade is to remove any material
that would prevent the track from digging down. The 2008 and prior M sleds had
a problem with the running boards hanging up in the snow, taking weight off of
the track and hampering deep snow climbing ability. The new running board cut
also improves how well the sleds can sidehill.
The rear suspension has a bunch of changes made to it, too.
It’s still the Float skid with Fox Float air shocks, but the overall weight of
the skid was cut by 3.5 lbs. How’d they cut nearly 4 lbs. out of a suspension
that’s already one of the lightest on the market? One ounce at a time. Cross
shafts were eliminated where tabs could be used. The width of the material used
for the limiter straps was decreased. Bolt diameter went from 3/8-inch to
5/16-inch. And the new slide rails were machined by someone who’s a big Spider Man
The adjustable telescoping steering post is a very trick
component, especially for freeriders. Thanks to the steering post, the
handlebar height can be adjusted by more than four inches. You can put them
lower than a stock ’08 M8, you can put them 3.75 inches higher or anywhere in
between. What’s interesting is that a lot of riders will opt for a taller
setting, mostly to make stand-up riding more comfortable and to increase
leverage in off-camber maneuvers. But we rode with Chris Burandt last spring,
and to our surprise, he kept them at a low height, close to the stock 08
setting. Therein lies the genius behind the telescoping setup—it’s everything
The sweetest addition to the ‘09 M8 has to be the Power Claw
track, designed to also be everything to everyone, anywhere, anytime. The Power
Claw has wide negative-angle lugs that handle powder like the Attack 20 track,
but also has firm tower lugs on the outer edges that take care of everything
from hard pack to spring slush. The track doesn’t have any of the negative
characteristics of the Attack 20. Every test rider we talked to who rode the ‘09
M8 was impressed most by the Power Claw track. It’s that good.
There are other changes to the M8 that are noteworthy. It has electronic engine reverse (yes, just like
a Polaris and Ski-Doo), so the drive system is about eight pounds lighter this
Overall, the 2009 M8 is 22 lbs. lighter than the ‘08 and the
‘08 was no Star Jones. The new geometry, improved rider ergos, refined engine
mapping and significant weight reduction make the M8 a top choice for
backcountry freeriding. Don’t compare it to the ‘08, because the gap between
the two is huge. We’d say, based on several rides and head-to-head testing, the
‘09 M8 goes through snow better than the ‘08 M1000 and with better handling
than the ‘08 M6. Is it a five-star sled? Roger that.