Arctic Cat is still riding high on the wave of success from its 2010 M8 Sno Pro and it's not ready to come down or even make any waves.
The Thief River Falls, MN, snowmobile manufacturer has got a good thing going with a great machine and the company has high hopes it can keep the momentum going for the 2011 season.
There are some minor changes to the M8, as well as some other M Series sleds for the upcoming season. The Limited Edition M has some sweet things going for it for 2011.
With the success of the M8-rumored to be the No. 1 seller in the West for this past winter-who can blame Cat for staying with its winner?
The success Arctic Cat is reveling in can be traced to one big improvement made to the M8 for 2010-the new 800 H.O. The company had the chassis-the M-for a couple of years but needed an engine to complement the nimble platform and show what the machine was really capable of in deep powder and steep terrain.
Cat's increase in horsepower with its new-for-2010 800 H.O. engine put the M8 right back in the fight in the extremely competitive mountain 800 class. It's now up to one of the other sled manufacturers to knock the M8 Sno Pro off its perch.
Horsepower numbers being thrown around for the 800 H.O. ranged between 155-160, pretty impressive for a two-stroke EFI. We checked with Minnesota-based Speedwerx, which knows a thing or two about Arctic Cat sleds as it is a major aftermarket supplier and mod shop for the green machines. According to Speedwerx, Cat's numbers are solid. The Speedwerx dyno (remember, this is at 800 feet in elevation) put the 2009 Cat 800 engine at 144-145 hp. The 2010 800 H.O. was anywhere between 157-163 hp. You only need to hop on an M8 and flick the throttle and you can probably verify that through seat-of-the-pants testing.
And there's no reason to believe those numbers won't carry over to the 2011 M8. In fact, those numbers are one reason to look forward to the 2011 models, because from the sounds of what we're hearing, the 2010 models are pretty scarce. If you didn't snatch one up early last buying season, chances are you didn't get one.
In addition to the 800 H.O., other engine sizes available in the M Series for the upcoming season include the 1000-still the biggest stock engine on snow-and the 600. The lineup for 2011 includes the M6, M8, M8 Sno Pro, M8 Limited, M8 HCR and M1000 Sno Pro.
Cat officials stressed during the sneak peaks in January that current plans for its engines have them being compliant for the stiff EPA regulations coming down the trail for 2012.
To say that nothing has changed for 2011 in the M Series would be a little misleading. The M6 and M8 each will now use Fox Zero Pro shocks with coil over springs in the rear suspension, replacing the previously used Fox Float. The M8 Sno Pro and M1000 Sno Pro still use the Fox Floats.
The M8 HCR got spruced up a bit, too, with Cat adding some race-specific features. For instance, the rear tunnel has been stretched out to give some added clearance for racers who want to use studs. The track (15x153x2.25 inches) stays the same, just the tunnel has been lengthened. Cat also added some protection to the rear coolant hoses and, for added strength, a rear wheel stiffener spacer and rail braces were integrated into the rear skid. Finally, a tether cord will now be used instead of key, which is very racer-specific.
The M8 Limited comes with some pretty cool features for 2011. Right off you'll notice the Sublime green coloring, which you have to see in person to appreciate. It really sets the sled apart from other Cats. We saw Cat's 2011 sleds all lined up in a row and the Sublime really jumps out. We can only imagine that it will really jump out on snow.
Other standard features include a BCA backpack, handguards, ice scratchers, goggle holder (it's next to the firewall in the engine compartment), rear storage bag and Cat's premium gauge.
As was the case on the 2010 models, to get the telescopic steering system, a feature we think really sets the sled apart and makes it so rideable off trail, you have to go with the premium sleds, i.e., Sno Pro, Limited or HCR.
All of the Ms come with the very impressive Power Claw track with 2.25-inch deep lugs in lengths of 153 or 162 inches. The HCR sled uses a stiffer track (90 durometer) to help tackle any nasty snow conditions a hillclimber might face on the mountain.