Three Things Make Alpha #1

Rear suspension, C-TEC2 engine and Power Claw track

July 2021 Feature

The Arctic Cat Alpha One M8000 has captured our admiration as it has conquered deep snow terrain in just a short period of time. Although at first glance it resembles basically any other snowmobile on the market, there are three powerful features that have elevated the M8000 to new heights of excellence—its Alpha suspension, C-TEC2 engine and Power Claw track.

For 2021, although there are several complementary features that make the Alpha One M8000 better than last year’s model, it’s the subtle refinements in suspension and engine, plus the industry’s most aggressive track, which allow it to claim the moniker “new and improved.” 

When first introduced in 2019, the Alpha One rear suspension promised to change how snowmobile engineers looked at the rear skid. The single-beam concept, replacing the two slide rails, had been under development for several years. We got an “unofficial” quick glance at the system during the summer of 2015. A couple of years later we got a chance to ride it during its development stages.

Like all of you, we were elated when we saw the official release and got a chance to get significant seat time during the spring of 2018. And just like anything new, it took a little time to figure out the adjustments in riding style to take full advantage of this unique suspension.

Alpha Suspension

When you make a drastic change to the dynamics of a snowmobile, it’s bound to affect the performance of other features. The Alpha One single-beam rear suspension did just that. It affected how the chassis handled and it affected how the power reached the snow. Because of that, Cat engineers had to scramble to decide what changes were good, what changes were bad and what changes actually needed to be changed.

The biggest factor of the single-beam rail was that now the balance point (or pivot point) of the skid was placed inside in the middle rather than on the two outer edges as with a standard sliderail suspension. Naturally, when the pivot point is moved closer to center, there tends to be much more roll on the outer edges. This can be both good and bad.

The good is that it’s easier to initiate turn. The bad is that it’s harder to establish an edge.

But when it comes to handling the bumps on the trail, fully-adjustable Fox Float 3 QS3 shocks allowed the front suspension and the rear skid to perform smoothly in harmony to absorb the big bumps as well as the chatter bumps.

You can also get the Alpha One M8000 Mountain Cat with ATAC—an on-the-fly adjustable suspension that allows you to program the ride you want. ATAC replaces what was called iACT. It offers at the push of a button three programmable settings for soft, medium or hard riding styles.

In a nutshell, the Alpha One rear offers more maneuverability while reducing weight and basically eliminating snow buildup. It complements the Arctic Mountain Suspension that uses lightweight forged-aluminum spindles and features a geometry for optimal ski camber for off-trail cornering and greater predictability in counter-steering and sidehilling.

C-TEC2 Engine

Cat engineers have developed the next generation of clean-performing and power-producing engines with its 8000-Series C-TEC2.

Sporting 794ccs, the C-TEC2 features new cylinders, pistons, combustion chamber, flywheel and fuel rail. It has a new fuel calibration delivery matched with the Arctic Power Valve system with slide valve three-stage control of auxiliary exhaust ports. It has ECM-controlled electronic oil pump, batteryless EFI and an exhaust temperature sensor (EPTS).

As you crack the throttle you feel the power take hold in a smooth but forceful way. This thing will make you hold on tight. It’s responsive performance delivered through an ultra-clean system. Cat knows that in order for an 800 sled to compete with the 850s, the power has to be strong and instant. The C-TEC2 delivers all that.

Power Claw Track

Even before the Alpha One single-beam suspension, the Power Claw track was considered one of the best. But when you combine the benefits of the single-beam suspension to the performance of the track, you now have incredible hookup.

Tracks are well designed when they do two things—first, propel you through deep snow; and second, climb on top of the snow to allow you to right lighter. The Power Claw does both superbly. The track has a tendency to stay connected to the snow, regardless of the terrain. So it’s always delivering maximum traction to the sled.

Cat offers two track options for the Mountain Cat Alpha One M8000—154 and 165, both with 3-inch lugs. Power Claw Track is built lightweight, with a single-ply design and a 3.0-inch pitch, its stagger-set, curved-forward paddle towers won't fold over. 

Finishing Touches

Although there is a long list of refinements that make the Mountain Cat a winner for 2021, everything tends to be based on allowing you to ride harder, farther and longer in rugged terrain. Even the premium LED headlights make it easier and safer to extend your ride late into the already shortened winter days.

As with all mountain sleds, an adjustable ski stance (from 35.5 inches to 37.5 inches) allows you to fine-tune your needs and riding style. You can dial in more stability or create a narrower attack to mountainous terrain.

Since Cat did a great job of keeping this sled simple, we’ll try to follow suit with a simple review—from suspension to engine to track … this sled just works. As simple as one, two, three.

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