My original plan was to post an image of each of the six engines that power 2013 Arctic Cat snowmobiles. So I’ll start with that.
The 120cc 4-stroke for the Sno Pro 120. This baby produces 125 hp, 95-ft.-lbs. of torque and… oops… wait a minute, I’m getting ahead of myself.
For adult-sized snowmobiles, the introductory/lowest-hp engine is the 570cc fan-cooled 2-stroke twin. Rated at 62-63 hp, it’s found in the F570, T570 touring and Bearcat utility machines.
Next up, the 500cc liquid 2-stroke twin, which produces something in the neighborhood of 80-85 hp. I’ve been a big fan of this non-APV-valve engine since it came in the Sabercat. Other than at elevation, it’s powerful enough for half of all Arctic Cat riders.
Half of all Arctic Cat riders???
Yep. Meaning most youth, most family-type riders and even hard-chargers who ride the Sno Pro 500. Granted, the Sno Pro-riding hard-charger is able to ride with the bigger iron due in large part to the capability of the chassis, but the fact that the 500 is light and decent in the mid-range means that it’ll go toe-to-toe with nearly anything when in the woods.
There’s a 40-hp jump from the 500 to this, the 1100 naturally-aspirated (NA) 4-stroke twin. As everyone here knows (and has an opinion about), this is the 120-hp option for Arctic Cat, going up against both 4-stroke and 2-stroke options from the other brands.
Thanks to improvement in nearly every category of performance from the ProCross chassis (compared to the Twin Spar), I’ve grown to enjoy this engine for its inherent strengths: quiet; good mpg; 120-class hp; wonderful reliability. As a 4-stroke its significantly heavier than a 600 2-stroke. And because of the 360-degree firing order, the sound quality isn’t inspiring.
It got something of a bad-rap when it debuted in the Z1 in part because that whole sled was too heavy, and a lot of people just dismissed it from that point onward. I think if it had debuted in the ProCross, a WHOLE BUNCH more riders would embrace it.
Like the 500 twin, I believe it’s a great engine for a huge portion of all Cat riders.
The 800 H.O. 2-stroke is truly a sweatheart, which is a conclusion that took me a couple years to arrive at. Its 160 ponies can be truly intoxicating, in part because they hit instantly. I ponder the future of snowmobile engines and wonder: will we really want/demand MORE performance than this? I know history would answer “yes,” but… really!?!
The reason I fell in love with this baby is because for all its outstanding thrill factor, it can be equally tame and easy to ride for non-hardcore riders. I know this because both my wife and son loved riding the 2011 F8.
As others have commented on this site, the 800 gets decent mileage, is light (nearly as light as 600 twins) and is seamless in operation. For the 125-hp rider who won’t ride anything but a 2-stroke, yet who worries about this having too much power, I can assure you that it’s manners will erase that fear.
Yet, as others have written, it does come with additional costs compared to a 600 twin, both in terms of up-front cost and insurance.
From the hp standpoint, this is the mac-daddy of the entire snowmobile industry. And as anyone who has experienced a 2012 Arctic Cat will attest, it’s amazingly-fast. Maybe even crazy-fast, at least at lower elevations and on hardpack.
The numbers 177 hp/121-ft.-lbs. torque sound impressive, but it isn’t until I actually felt them for the first time that I truly understood. And even after many days of experiencing this engine over the past few years, I’m still as impressed and WOWed as I felt the first time.
Is it the perfect engine? Not for me. As a 4-stroke that gets the extra heft of the inter-cooled turbo, it definitely weighs enough. The hit of power isn’t as instant as the 800 2-stroke. And, in the ProCross/ProClimb, the turbo waste-gate sound is too loud for my liking.
I was thinking about this and was reminded of the 900/1000 triple-triple 2-stroke that powered the old Thundercat. I had pretty much the same complaints about that engine that I do the 1100 Turbo. It’s true that I loved riding these engines for a day or two, but they weren’t the kind of engines that I wanted to spend my own money on.
Back in the late 1990s I always opted for the 500/600 twins. And that’s still the engine category I’m most attracted to. So while pondering this recently, I grabbed my 1998 Arctic Cat snowmobile brochure, just to look at the power choices available 15 years ago.
Here’s the list:
60 fan (Kitty Cat)
440 liquid twin
500 liquid twin
550 liquid twin
580 liquid twin
600 liquid twin
600 liquid triple
800 liquid triple
1000 liquid triple
That’s 11 engines, compared with the six we have for 2013.
Of course we can thank (or despise) the EPA for that, as the onset of emissions requirements has all but forced the consolidation of resources to produced fewer, cleaner engines.
Yes, economics plays a HUGE role in the reduced selection of engines. The snowmobile industry is currently selling about half as many snowmobiles as it did in 1998. It wouldn’t be financially viable to develop/certify/produce 11 different engines for the current market size.
Yet even if the market were back to 1998 numbers, it still wouldn’t make sense to have 11 different engines. There’s too much overlap (there were four engines in the 500-600 category alone… which I think we can agree is at least two too many).
Were I the Grand Wizard in charge of all things Arctic Cat back in 1998, I can see grabbing the red marker and cutting the engine options. Here’s probably what I would have been left with:
500 liquid twin
600 liquid twin
That’s six engines total, the same number we enjoy today. Yes, compared to the original list of 11 engines, there would be some slight gaps in the line-up, but nothing detrimental.
The same is true today. Were I again given the green light to be Grand Wizard, I’d add a 600 2-stroke twin to the current line and call it a day.
These are interesting times for Arctic Cat. It will be fascinating to see what unfolds in 2014 and 2015 in the wake of Cat divorcing themselves from Suzuki engine supply. And I think the effort that’s in place for that is why we haven’t seen more, new engines to date.
The days of whipping up hair-splitting engine displacements to satisfy niche categories are over, at least as far as I can see into the future. I’m okay with that.
Likewise, when I look around the entire snowmobile industry, it seems clear that both 2- and 4-stroke engines will be part of the model mix, at least in the mid-term.
I’m happy about that.