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Comparing an Arctic Cat F to and XF


(3/16/2012)

2013 Arctic Cat F vs. XF Snowmobile Comparison

“Should I get an F or and XF?”

It’s a common question, one I debated myself for a few days before opting for the ’12 F1100.

So a few weeks ago, while riding and evaluating the 2013 model year Arctic Cats near West Yellowstone, I spent several days riding Fs and XFs with this very question in mind, in addition to spending an entire day comparing an F800 Sno Pro to an XF800 Sno Pro with my cohort, Kale Wainer.

Here’s what I learned:

2013 Arctic Cat F vs. XF Snowmobile Comparison

2013 Arctic Cat F vs. XF Snowmobile Comparison

The most significant difference between the two machines occurs at the tail end, with the track length often getting most of the attention. The F (top) has the 129-in. Ripsaw track (now with a 2.86-in. pitch for 2013), while the XF (bottom) gets a 141-in. Cobra.

No doubt the track length contributes to the inherent strengths/weaknesses of both machines, but it's not the only factor.

2013 Arctic Cat F vs. XF Snowmobile Comparison

2013 Arctic Cat F vs. XF Snowmobile Comparison

The skidframes are also significantly different. In the F (top), the skidframe utilizes rear coupling (which produces a significant difference in handling characterstics), the Slide-Action front arm and the Torque Sensing Link, none off which are used on the XF's skidframe (bottom).

Instead of rear torsion springs, the XF skidframe uses either a coil-over unit on the rear arm (as pictured here) or a Fox Float 2. There are geometry and arm-length differences as well, all of which reflect the fact that the XF skid is adopted from the M's rear suspension, which emphasises traction, weight transfer and drivability in deep snow, rather than hardpack handling and bumps.

There are other differences as well. On the 2012 models, the XFs were geared lower than the F models (this has changed for 2013, which I'll report on in the coming days). And the XF gets the taller mountain handlebar.

 

2013 Arctic Cat F vs. XF Snowmobile Comparison

2013 Arctic Cat F vs. XF Snowmobile Comparison

If like me, you're predominantly a trail rider, cornering is where you'll experience the biggest differences between the two machines. In short, the F turns sharper, with greater precision, whether it's carving long sweepers or especially pivoting through tight 90-degree stuff.

The added track length of the XF is definitely noticable and, if you want to ride fast on hardpack, requires more rider input (hanging off, using the brake to reduce inside ski lift and/or break the track loose).

Likewise, when you get on the gas the non-coupled/non-Slide-Action XF skidframe definitely transfers weight off the skis compared to the coupled Slide-Action F skid. Do this exiting a corner, and it's another factor why the F keeps its skis planted and carving while the XF gets light in the front while conversely losing ski bite.

I think the F feels better in the bumps, whether it's trail chop or Bobby Flame-like-ditch-banging. There's a theory that says a longer track "bridges" trail chop better than short tracks, but I've never been able to detect it. For me, the F skid seems to feel more comfortable than the XF over a wider range of bumps/chop.

It's definitely easier for me to control the sled's attitude (the height of the front end in relationship to the back end) when launching off jumps like you would do on ditch approaches. When I jump the XF, I'm doing lots of tail landings instead of flat landings. As a result, for me there's more fun-factor with the F.

Is the XF bad in the corners? No way. The same is true for riding in the bumps.

 

2013 Arctic Cat F vs. XF Snowmobile Comparison

Conversely... all those differences in skidframe and track length definitely play to the XF's favor when you're riding off-trail. Of course the XF goes through deep snow better.

In fact, the Sno Pro XF with the 141 x 1.5-in. lug Cobra track goes through the deep snow so well, it's an excellent mountain sled for A LOT of part-time mountain riders. I've been a once-a-year mountain rider for the past 22 years, and when I get to pick a track length, I'm looking for something in the 144-in. range (like the recent Arctic Cat High Country) rather than the really long stuff. Heck, rather than even the 153-in. tracks.

2013 Arctic Cat F vs. XF Snowmobile Comparison

I find a 141 or 144 is easier to maneuver and lay over, which not only makes it more fun in the trees, it just plain gives me more confidence when riding.

So, I'm a fan of the XF in the mountains, as it's just as capable as I am.

I think it's also worth mentioning that you can ride an F in the deep snow too, as the photo above illustrates. The shot was captured on a ride we did to a cool place called Elk Lake Lodge, to which we boondocked from Island Park riding a mostly M and XF machines, yet with a couple F800s thrown in for good measure.

Here's the thing: I went almost everywhere the mountain sleds went. Granted, I had to ride with my head and frequenly use existing tracks during challenging situations, but I also did plenty of playing in the powder. So if you think that you can't ride an F in the deep stuff, I'm here to say otherwise. And for the off-trail stuff I so in the midwest, an F800 works just fine.

For the kind of riding that I primarily do -- 90% trail with 10% midwestern back-country -- the F is absolutely the better option. I'd still opt for an F if the percentage was 70/30, without a doubt. After that, it gets trickier.

If half my riding were midwestern boondocking, I'd have a dilemma. Because I also own a Sno Pro 500, I'd probably opt for the XF.

If I spent a week in the mountains every year and I wanted to ride my own sled (instead of renting), I'd have an XF800.

Here are a couple random thoughts:

-For people who ride 2-up with a kid who's in front of you, the XF mountain bars offer the sweet grab bar for the kid.

-If I were looking for a crossover and I knew that deep-snow riding was a significant percentage of my ride time, I would opt for the 800 instead of the 4-stroke options, simply because the weight difference makes the 800 a more playful sled in powder.

That's all I've got... thanks for reading.

And if you have specific questions, fire away and I'll answer.



Comments (27):

Linda says:
3/16/2012 7:54:00 PM

I really enjoyed this article, since my husband and I have been debating which machine I would get. Yesterday we ordered the F800 and your review re-inforces exactly what we thought. I have been riding a Sno Pro 500 which I love, and I am thinking that the F800 will be a nice upgrade with similar ergonomics etc. and in my case, electric start. I always look forward to your next column, and can't wait until next winter!
Kevin Hooper says:
3/16/2012 8:32:00 PM

I too was able to drive both the same day for enough miles to confirm that for me the XF 11 was the better choice. I'd add that for trail riding, I have found the XF to be a better sled on the longer - straighter grades such as trail 8 up here. The F series sled is much better in the tighter twisties because you can throw the back end around so much easier. I will also say the XF 11 Sno Pro rides like a brick compared to my 2006 Crossfire 7. I attribute that both to the skid and even more so to the Fox Floats.
DANIEL says:
3/16/2012 8:57:00 PM

Nice arcticle ,now that you rode some 2013 how do you compare an f1100t
SNO PRO and an f1100t SNO PRO RR on stutters hard pack trail?Better quality of shocks of course,enough ajustements to tone it down like a SNO PRO or RR like Racing Rock ...??? Just sold my 2012 f100t SNO PRO and i just want to make te best choice and to try something different.THANKS !
spareparts says:
3/17/2012 12:17:00 PM

Better yet how does the crosstour handle with the xf length and the slide action rear skid?
Rob says:
3/17/2012 6:56:00 PM

Did you notice or hear of any different valving in the XF shocks for 2013?
LazyEyeRacer says:
3/18/2012 7:57:00 AM

Nice article! I'm still on the fence between a 800f sno pro and a 800xf sno pro. I'm coming off a 2009 crossfire 800 sno pro. I had to do alot to the floats to get her to be somewhat trail friendly, revalved the rear and put float 2s on the front. How is the XF 800 sno pro trail performance compare to a 09 crossfire 800 sno pro? Mostly ride in the midwest too, a lot of choppy trails, ditches and wind blown corn fields. But i do find myself looking for the deeper drifts to play in.
Paul Hein says:
3/18/2012 2:52:00 PM

Great write up John ! I'd heard somewhere that the XF is getting the slide action skid next year but I guess not. I've come to the same conclusion about the F being the better fit for our style of riding. I am intrigued by the XF touring and might be swayed if it came in the limited edition all black. Too bad they didn't do a F similar to it. Something like a high performance/ high mileage 1 up touring sled. Did you get any info from the engineers on the ice/tunnel issues ? Thanks.
BHoss says:
3/18/2012 8:14:00 PM

@Paul - The Procross chassis gets a flat top tunnel for 2013 similar to the ProClimb chassis and a new heat exchanger. Supposed to cure ice build-up issues.
John Sandberg says:
3/18/2012 9:42:00 PM

DANIEL: The RR is too stiff for me. The Sno Pro is the perfect calibration for me 70% of the time. The other 30%, I'd be happier with LXR. If I were still in my 20s and riding only with friends, maybe I'd be happy with the RR for some rides/conditions. But not all.

spareparts: The CrossTour doesn't have the Slide-Action. It has the same skid as all XF models.

I don't believe that shock valving will change for 2013... it will be the same as 2012.
John Sandberg says:
3/18/2012 9:49:00 PM

LazeEyeRacer: You bring up a good question, and something I should have mentioned in the story: the difference between a ProCross XF versus previous generation. In a nutshell, I think the ProCross XF works WAY better on the trails. It has the laid-back steering post angle, which is far better for trail riding. Rider position is also WAY better, at least for my back.

Paul: XF isn't getting Slide-Action for 2013. And as BHOSS noted, the new flat-top rear tunnel will be standard on all 2013 models... which will significantly reduce ice build-up. Story to come on that change soon!

Also, as a follow-up to what I wrote to DANIEL about the RR: Of course you can adjust the air in the ski shocks on the RR, as well as valving in all the shocks. Doing so, in conjunction with softer springs in the skidframe, could make an RR ride like the Sno Pro.
Michman 1 says:
3/19/2012 4:06:00 AM

John: Did you have a chance to ride the F1100T and the XF1100T back to back? My question is this; will the F1100T put the power to the trail coming out of corners as well as the XF1100T? Once through the corner, can the XF1100T stay with the F1100T. Finally, can the 1.25" Ripsaw hook as well as the 1.5" Cobra on a hard pack trail?


Steve A says:
3/19/2012 9:56:00 AM

i have a 12 xf800sp. I loved the sled for everything except the studder bumps. It's WAAAAAAAYYY to harsh to the point of almost being unridable. I'll be going aftermarket skid shocks next year to try and help. I really wish AC offered an xf with the slide action skid. Then put the current skid in the xf HC only. Most of the xf buyers are riding these things on trail in the east and UP. I love my cat but that is why if i had it to do again i'd be looking at a gade.
Greg W says:
3/19/2012 11:05:00 AM

John - Superb article. Nearly everyone asks this very question. I toiled over it last spring until the very last minute (went with the F). I went a step further and swapped the the Ripsaw track for the 1.352 Cobra. IMHO it is way better off trail than the Ripsaw. I also would like to see a sled somewhere in the middle - more akin to the original Crossfire sleds (136" coupled) with slide-action.

You mentioned talking about the tunnel change on the 13's... can you address what (if anything) those of use with the 12's can do?? IMHO this is a very serious issue with the 12's
Ryan Teach says:
3/19/2012 3:12:00 PM

Great write up! Did I dream this up or can we expect a review on the RR in the near future? Questions for you or others to touch on. In 2007 I went from an '03.5 F6 to a F8... a move I still look back on a weight if it was a good or a bad decision. At that time I had looked back'n'forth between the F and the XF. My '07 F8, besides countless issues with the rear shock, was a bullet proof sled! I loved it. BUT... on rail grades, or UP long trails it had a down right scarry darting/ tracking problem. Dual runners, C&A skis, Powder Pros... nothing would cure this. I tried air countless air levels in the floats - settled between 45 - 50. 2010 I opted for the Ho Crossfire... problem gone. Could you comment on the hardpack/ loose... straight trail performance of the F Vs. XF... I know this seems "simple", but the darting on the 128 still sticks in my mind!
Greg Hallstrom says:
3/19/2012 10:10:00 PM

Being on my third crossover machine I would never go back to a short track. The longer track rides SO much better in the rough. Sure it is harder to get around the corners if you are on a trail (not that we do much trail riding anyway in northwestern Minnesota-about as boring as driving down I-94 which I do every weekend commuting between the Twin Cities and Thief River Falls) but you make up for it on the straight away because of the better traction. Off trail it is obvious that a crossover is much better. We do a lot of riding in swamps and CRP in northwestern Minnesota along with some lake riding up on the Big Pond (aka Lake of the Woods). Nice to have that longer track and taller lugs when the powder is coming up over the hood. Last but not least, a crossover gives you more tunnel length for gear bags, spare gas cans, and racks for those long rides. Try carrying everything but the kitchen sink on a short track machine during a three day trail ride. No wonder crossovers are becoming so popular amongst trail riders too!

Install a mountain seat on a crossover. The taller seat height makes for a much better ride and it is easier to transition between sitting and standing. Also, install ice scratchers just in case you have to run any distance on some hardpack.

My XF800 Sno Pro with the air shocks actually rides softer than my '09 Crossfire 600 did. I have the air pressures set at the minimums.

P.S. The mountain strap on an XF makes for a handy place to mount a GPS. Also makes a good place for the grandkids to hang on to when giving them rides.
Greg Hallstrom says:
3/19/2012 10:17:00 PM

I seem to recall many years ago Joey raced in the Goodridge 100 cross country race. Prior to the race we had 6-8" of fresh snow that did not blow away (for once). He won his class riding a long track of some kind (EXT or something). Proved that even for cross country racing a longer track was better.
LazyEyeRacer says:
3/20/2012 8:49:00 AM

So, did Arctic Cat do something different with the valving in the Sno Pro skid shocks for 2013? Most guys with the 2012 XF's are complaining that they are way too harsh on the stutter bumps.
John Sandberg says:
3/20/2012 9:14:00 AM

Michman: While I did indeed ride both the F1100 Turbo and XF Turbo, I didn't do so back-to-back. But I can answer one of your questions... the XF will put the power to the snow better than the F. I'd have to do a specific comparison to adequately answer your track question.

Greg W: I don't know what Arctic Cat might do for those who had problems with the '12 tunnel. But for sure you should start by expressing your concern to your dealer.

Ryan: Regarding darting with your '07 F... for starters, quit riding old Polaris TXLs at the Vintage Challenge. But beyond that, there are truly so dang many factors that affect darting, from ski alignment to carbide choice to trail conditions to R. suspension set-up... it's pretty tough for me to give an informed solution. I rode versions of every Twin Spar from '07 through '11, and I never experienced darting in the way that you must have. For sure every sled can/will dart depending upon conditions. And for sure the XF will be less prone to darting because of its added length. But I truly never experienced such profound darting with any 128-in. Cat that I would consider an XF simply for that reason.
John Sandberg says:
3/20/2012 9:19:00 AM

Greg Hallstrom: For sure if I did the same kind of riding that you do, I would own an F. Exactly what it's made for. Good points you made!

LazyEyeRacer: shocks/spring calibration is unchanged for 2013.
Dan Titterud says:
3/24/2012 11:08:00 AM

Hello, I like the looks of the green RR best this year but I think an lxr is the way to go for ride quality. Are you able to tune down the RR's shocks so they calibrate more to an lxr?

thanks
Dan
Bob M says:
3/25/2012 9:46:00 PM

Great write up John!

I see you made it to Elk Lake Lodge. That is a little known ride that few people have made. The last time I was there on a sled the riding was unreal, more deep snow than we new what to do with.
bartman says:
3/27/2012 3:36:00 PM

How much longer is the 141 vs the 129 in suspension lengh? I have a 2006 crossfire sno pro, are u telling me the new one will not ride the same cause its not slide action?? what does all this mean? need to know ordering new one next week, thanks.
Frank Belanger says:
4/1/2012 8:58:00 PM

Did all the sleds have a flat tunnel or the old tunnel, in the top pictures it shows the 2012 tunnel?
Kyle says:
10/30/2012 4:04:00 PM

I'm currently looking to buy a new Arctic Cat snowmobile. I am looking at a 2012 F800 ProCross and a 2012 XF800 ProCross. I am from New York and mostly trail ride around home and up in the Tug Hill Area. Which snowmobile would you prefer? I am some what new to snowmobiling so I really don't know which one would suit me best. Thank you
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