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Cool Cats

Published in the September 2009 Issue Published online: Sep 23, 2009 Feature Mark Bourbeau
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Sno Pro 500Something old, something new, something cool just for you. With the Arctic Cat M-Series sleds being six years old now, along with the rapid pace of advancing technology, a person would think that this platform would be antiquated.

But like a fine wine, the M-Series Cats only get better by the year and with that in mind... don't fix it if it ain't broke.

The 2010 Arctic Cat mountain pounders will arrive for another year built on the M-Series platform, but not without several improvements justifying its continued existence.

You can't begin a discussion about what Cat has going for it in 2010 without starting with power.

POWER TO THE PEOPLE

The plea of the Cat faithful requesting more hump out of the 800 has been addressed for 2010. And we were fortunate enough to experience that boost at the annual photo shoots as we busted powder on the Ms with Cat's new motor dubbed the 800 H.O. This powerplant is basically new from the ground up, with approximately eight more horsepower and weighing 4.5 lbs. less than the old Suzuki 800 it replaces.

The weight reduction and power increase go hand in hand and start at the bottom end, read: improved crankshaft. This lower inertia, lighter crank allows the engine to wick up quicker due to less rotating mass. We also experienced a higher rpm range of 8100-8250 compared to the 7900 of its predecessor. Attached to this crankshaft are new connecting rods, pins and pistons.

The 800 H.O.'s core is built with redesigned cylinders, cylinder head, new exhaust valve reed petals and fuel injectors. Completing the package is a new Y pipe and the use of the M1000's resonator, which improves the exhaust trapping efficiency. Last, but not least, is new ECU mapping which adds the finishing touch to the increased output and makes it all work.

The new 800 H.O. still retains the venerable batteryless EFI system, APV electronic exhaust valves, Exhaust Pipe Temperature System, knock sensor, twin spark plugs per cylinder and a wide power band for this 2-stroke. But there is a price to be paid for the increased power and that would be the 91 octane go-juice that's required to feed this new claimed 150-horsepower twin. Cat's official line is that the H.O. version pumps out 10 percent more horsepower compared to the older 800s but we'll admit we feel like the 150 number is on the conservative side.

SITTING PRETTY

M8 engineWith the introduction of the spring order, only Sno Pro/Boss seats for select 2009 Ms, you are probably thinking that the new standard M Series seats for '10 are simply a continuation of that coordinated effort. Not hardly.

Cat decided to do its own seat thing and this new saddle bodes well with the SnoWest test crew with its all-new design that replaces the antiquated, low rider style. Not only is it comfortably three inches taller, but its length has been shortened and the overall weight has dropped between 3 and 4 lbs. compared to the previous seat.

One feature that scored well with us and one that is a definite advantage over the other manufacturers is that in its new design, this seat still offers a trunk or underseat storage of substantial size. The inside of the seat is like a large blow-molded milk jug that waterproofs the storage compartment. Complementing the waterproof encasement are two small drain holes that allow any moisture or liquid accumulation that might happen to drain out.

Finally there is a plastic barrier between the foam and the seat frame, preventing water from soaking into the foam. This new creature comfort item can be retro fitted to previous model year Ms as well.

OTHER IMPROVED AMENITIES

There are a handful of other significant improvements to the 2010 Ms that deserve a mention. First is the Frogzskin hood vent screen that is 400 micron material and hydrophobically treated for water resistance. This trick nylon mesh allows air flow without any moisture ingestion and is basically the same material that is used for pre-filters on airboxes.

Waterproof yes, but puncture proof no. So, if you are a tree basher you may have to replace your Frogzskin on occasion, but they are easy to replace as they are designed with an adhesive edge. Simply peel and stick. They are also fairly inexpensive at around $20 for a three-piece kit.

Second, the outer roll edge on the running boards has a modified design with the traction teeth being spaced wider for improved traction.

Third, the driven or secondary clutch for the M8 and M1000 has been fitted with new hi-temp rollers that are resistant to 450 degrees F, whereas the old material was maxed out at 200 degrees F.

We also want to again clarify something you might have read in the March, 2009, issue of SnoWest Magazine ("Pumping Up The M Series," page 65). We had talked about a new ski Arctic Cat was working on for the M Series but Cat told us in early March at the photo shoots that the company was not going to use the new skis on the M Series for 2010. We made the correction in the news section of www.snowest.com on March 24, but wanted to state it again.

That ski we talked about will, however, be on the Crossfire and Turbo EXT models.

If you are looking at the HCR, its ski is different than the Ms with the back of the ski being more radiussed and kicked-up for better steering characteristics. This ski is also more aggressive for sharp cornering with a deeper keel designed for competitive riding.

That about sums up the M-Series upgrades for 2010. Here's a brief look at what else caught our eye.

Even though it's not available on the M Series sleds, we want to give a shout for the new metallic apple green color that looks really as sweet as it sounds... good enough to eat.

ALL NEW MOGUL MASHER

4-stroke turbo mountain sled?Aimed at the entry level racer, the all new Sno Pro 500 has been vastly improved since the proto, with this ditch banger now sitting on the Sno Pro 600 Slide Action skid frame, Cat's ultimate rear suspension for performance and durability in extreme conditions.

This upgrade makes the Sno Pro 500 much more viable for those performance-minded jockeys wanting to snocross or cross country race in the 500 class.

This heavy-duty rear skid uses all the same components as the 600 racer, sans the shocks and springs. These "pieces-parts" are all durably designed to perform under the grueling demands of snocross and cross country racing. The front arm shock is a Fox IFP and the rear is a 2-inch diameter body Fox. The production target for ride calibration here is to satisfy the aggressive trail and cross country type of riders. If you buy a Sno Pro 500 and want a snocross calibration with compression and rebound adjustability, you will want to acquire the shocks and springs used on the 600 racer.

Other notable components of this brand new, tricked out 85 horsepower "boy racer" are: laterally sliding skis that help with what little bump steer this pony has; a two-position steering post to accommodate different sized riders and styles; and an adjustable steering response mechanism in the linkage which also accommodates the different disciplines of competitive riding.

The Sno Pro 500 comes in at around 450 lbs.

Z-1 GOES LONG

Other new news in the Hi-Po department is that the 4-stroke Z-1 Turbo has been extended (literally and figuratively) to the crossover class with a 144x1.25-inch track and is known as the EXT, bringing back an old namesake. This move may be an indicator that Arctic Cat is stalking in the direction of a turbocharged mountain sled.

This horsepower hog (177 at all elevations) will show up with all the 2010 improvements for the short track Z1, including a sway bar mounting bracket for those who so desire, a new ECU, pipe and resonator and a more visually appealing/condensed construction with less parts, which, all totaled up, shaves approximately 15 lbs. off compared to '09 short track version of the Z1.