If you pay attention to the ArcticInsider social pages, then many of you know I recently had the opportunity to give the new 2024 pre-production CATALYST models a shakedown in Thief River at a special snow media event. I joined others like SnowTech, SnowGoer, OSM, SnowTrax TV and SledHead 24/7 Television. During my drive home last night, I played some mental tennis trying to figure out how to share my thoughts…I have many, and all of them positive, but yet, there is soooo much new on CATALYST platform to share. Ill get to it all, but I think I’ll share my initial impressions randomly and follow up with more of that tech insight after.
If you have THOUGHTFUL questions, leave them in the comments section and Ill try to answer them. – Kale
To set the scene, we rode from the front yard of the Arctic Cat Factory on a roughly 160 mile loop consisting of groomed, and often times drifted ditchlines, twisting wooded sections and even got to play in a little deep snow. As if riding a brand new snowmobile platform wasn’t thrill enough, we even got the opportunity to stop at Roger Skime’s ranch for lunch!
The departure to Rogers was relatively cold with temps hovering in high teens and low 20s with blustery winds and snow.
Ill set minds at ease right away for those wondering…You’ve probably only seen studio shots of new CATALYST models with low windshields, but rest easy, Arctic Cat will be offering multiple heights. Im tall (6’4) and windshields typically don’t help me one way or another as most wind hits me from the shoulders, up. I can tell you, the tall windshields attached to several of our CATALYST models did a great job of deflecting air higher, and up and over my helmet, and also provided great hand protection.
ONE of my favorite parts of the new CATALYST platform is the interface the rider has between seat, footwells and handlebars. The rider cockpit is narrow, and the footwells give ample space (forward and aft) to move. (Your feet aren’t locked in). I love being able to have room to move during active riding with sitting/standing quickly, or sliding from one side of seat to the other for corners.
PLATFORM AND REDUCED WEIGHT
Upon your first good throttle pull, you’ll notice the significant weight reduction and the platform’s free-wheeling nature. Skis can lift at will and paired to the perfect balance of rider placement, this platform responds quickly to rider input…I got to experience this flying down the ditchline and hitting the first road approach…you can stand up quick or lean forward/back or side-to-side and the CATALYST responds. I hate the term, but if you like “Flick-ability” this platform does it really well.
600 ENGINE / ADAPT CLUTCHES / NEW BELT DRIVE SYSTEM
I’ve always been a fan of the 600 C-TEC2 – it’s been a sweetheart of an engine in the 125hp-class. (For 2024 it gets a new performance crankshaft, optimized fuel management system and exhaust servo) The performance magic and smile-making happens when this engine is paired to the ADAPT drive and driven clutches and all-new belt drive system. The new belt drive system eliminates the rotating mass and weight of a traditional chaincase and allows the C-TEC2 engine to spool up quicker providing better throttle response, instantaneous acceleration and frees up horsepower. On our ride, I personally enjoyed speeds around 60mph, then hitting the throttle and feeling the quick-acceleration to 75mph. Drivetrain is quiet and feels seamless and I didn’t feel any vibration in footwells. It stands out to me, that Arctic Cat is so confident in this belt drive system, it makes a statement that they are running it in ALL models, not just the mountains.
FRONT & REAR SUSPENSIONS
There was a time the snowmobile industry thought the Trailing Arm front suspension was the ticket, but Arctic Cat went a different direction and introduced the world to an A-arm front suspension – Then eventually, every other OEM transitioned to it. The Arctic Wishbone Suspension (AWS) name is back in 36-, 39- and 42-inch widths for M, RIOT and ZR models respectively, and the adjustable ski stances on all remain. In the rear, the names ALPHA ONE, CROSS-ACTION and SLIDE-ACTION remain for those models, but many of the components, geometries and locations have changed. The end result are suspensions that work through the rough stuff, flatten out trail chatter and corner much, much flatter inspiring far more rider confidence.
RACK STEERING SYSTEM
Arctic Cat designed and launched a rack steering system years ago on their ZR snocross sleds and have incorporated a version of it on the ZR and RIOT. The rack steering provides the same great attributes of Electronic Power Steering without the added weight – Light and precise steering with flat cornering greets you on every trail while bump steer and tiresome feedback through the handlebars are eliminated on every ride. It’s important to note, the rack steering effort allows you to run my favorite, more aggressive, dual off-set 4 bolt runners up front without the penalty of heavy-steering. The rack steering also provides a tighter ski turning radius which is noticeable in tight corners.
BODYWORK AND STYLING
My personal opinion, I love the new styling of the CATALYST models. As we should expect, the fit and finish is great. Side panels go on/off quickly with quarter-turn knob fasteners much like the GENII bodywork on Procross models and Im loving how easily the top pod removes/fastens with what Ill call an automotive-style handle/latch in front. Access to the front end is easier than ever for serviceability. Ive seen plenty of comments asking about the LEDII headlight, and more specifically, its design. Arctic Cat wanted a signature look, plain and simple. That’s it. We didn’t have a night ride opportunity to see focal beams, but I do like the fact it is easily adjustable. Other styling things I like…there is an area underneath the top pod to attach a spare belt, and I like the addition of a storage compartment on the front dash for goggles, phones etc. Standard equipment on all models includes a 12V plug-in as well as my new favorite, a helmet shield plug-in.
All the CATALYST models come equipped with quick-attach/detach mechanisms on the rear tunnels and Arctic Cat is calling it ATACH. (Clever) Our models were equipped with varying rear storage bags including three size offerings: Lite, Mid, Large or High Country. Saddlebags and Fuel Caddy will also be available.
ODDS N ENDS
From what we’re told, the 2024 model launch will happen on February 28th, which will also begin the order period for CATALYST models. I don’t say this as a sales ploy, but if you are interested in a CATALYST model, don’t wait til last day of order period…These will sell out fast.
Also, there will be demo rides from Factory Arctic Cat, and Ill share those dates as soon as they become available. Don’t forget to visit the other media outlets for their reviews as well. (SnowTech, SnowGoer, OSM, SnowTrax TV and SledHead 24/7 Television)