If looking good is more than half the battle than Cat is winning! We broke down all the sleds simply by looks as a fun new perspective one day this year while testing. The overall winner was Cat and that’s a fact. Best colors, lines, and above all they look like real snowmobiles! Unfortunately, there isn’t a ton of new metal and technology this year coming out of Thief River Falls, but you can bet that’s not going to be the case for long!
We had a chance to sit down with the brass at Arctic Cat / Textron on a couple occasions this year and the ripples that all the OEMs were dealing with were laid out. I think anyone who ordered a 2022 was elated when they finally got their sled this year, because for a while nobody knew what was going to happen with the supply chain. Makers like BRP were shuttered (or at least severely hamstringed) in Canada for long periods of time with stricter lockdowns than in the States. OEMs like Cat and Polaris struggled for parts, especially with items such as shocks, and dealt with the worldwide crisis of computer chips. Everything from the vinyl for the stickers to the resin in the skis was tough to get… let alone finding workers to build sleds to fill a much larger demand than we have seen in many snowmobiler’s lifetimes. To say the least, it has been a perfect storm.
Weathering that storm had consequences, and even as I write this there are still some that have not received their sleds… or if they did, they often did not get what they paid for as sleds from various OEMs were shipped with downgraded gauges, not shipped complete, or consumers dealt with an array of other stop-gap measures. Cat arguably got hit the hardest as they have been ramping up for a new chassis announcement (more on that later). But we felt it important to convey these sentiments in this article as there are many good reasons why there is not a ton of new things in the Cat line this year. But there are still plenty of awesome new 2023 sleds coming down the line very soon from Arctic, both for pre-season order (April 19 – May 3) and in-season models.
What’s new in 2023
Probably the biggest announcement for 2023 from Cat is the new Riot 9000. This is a crossover sled powered by the Yamaha-built C-TEC 4, 998cc, 4-stroke 9000 Series DOHC Turbo Triple fuel injected motor that has 200+ ponies. This has the more on/off trail oriented uncoupled Cross-Action rear suspension and standard ARS II front suspension.
The best part of this big crossover is that it comes with standard Electronic Power Steering (EPS) with variable assist. Like the Thundercat (as well as all Cat sleds with this motor in 2023), this same system cancels out additional rider fatigue by making inputs to the bars much easier in turns, bumps, and even off-trail maneuvers. When going slower and making quick movements the EPS ramps up, but as you go faster, and make less severe movements it tampers down.
In addition the new Riot 9000 has the ATAC easily manipulated suspension with Fox Zero IQS shocks. Compression damping can quickly be changed on-the-fly just like it was on several Cat sleds last year. Positions are soft, medium, and hard, as well as two rider configurable custom options. Power transmission comes through the Adapt primary and secondary clutching system and is transferred to the snow via your choice of 15 x 146 x 1.35 or 1.6 inch tracks. You get the adjustable 41.5 – 43.5 ski stance also on the new Riot 9000. Plush comforts include a heated seat, 12V outlet, goggle holder in front of the steering post, handguards, push-button start/reverse, and more!
Another very interesting new model for 2023 is the ZR 6000 R-XC. Available as a spring-buy only sled this is basically a cross-country race sled that anyone can buy. This 599cc C-TEC 2 twin cylinder powered sled with 125+ hp is made for the aggressive trail riders who just might moonlight as cross-country racers. The most obvious difference in this sled is the seat. It is cut down in front to make it almost feel like you are ‘saddled’ into the sled and has a race grip covering so there is no chance at sliding around or getting tossed back on the machine. It helps keep the rider low and fast for cornering and take-offs, plus decreases arm fatigue in constantly trying to pull yourself closer to the bars in hard acceleration events.
The ZR 6000 R-XC has 7-position rear coupling in the skid (this is a new-to-consumers rear suspension) so you can really fine tune your transfer. There is also a race brake caliper and pads which give you added stopping power and longevity and a lightweight brake disc. It comes with the ADAPT clutching system like all Cat trail sleds that affords longer and more even belt wear. In addition it has a wider 43.25 ski stance which comes from it using the ARS-RXC race suspension in the front end. Bump absorption comes from Fox 1.5-inch diameter Zero QS3R Kashima coated racing shocks and there is a 4-wheel rear axle, as opposed to the 3-wheel version on other trail sleds. Track is a 15 x 129 x 1.25 inch Ripsaw, there is a low 5.5 inch high race windshield, plus the option of manual or push-button electric start.
More new tweaks were made to the Blast ¾ sized sled segment at Arctic Cat too! Not to be left behind by the new Ski-Doo smaller sled announcements, Cat made changes to the ZR that include new twin tube shock calibration and a hi-low setting on the handlebar heaters. The Blast M 4000 LTD gets Fox Float 3 ski shocks and rear suspension shock as well. This upgrade is complimented by basically a 36-inch ski stance (35.5 – 37.5”) and it has the Alpha one 146-inch mono-rail rear suspension in it with 15 x 146 x 2.0 inch Challenger track.
That makes 6 Blast models in the lineup, 4 ZR full size trail models, 3 Riot crossover models (not including track options), 2 full size mountain sleds (not including track sizes), plus the Norseman X utility model, and the 120 and 200 youth sleds. That’s quite the line-up! Also, a quiet point, that we know is not new, is that the LED lights come on the vast majority of machines and is very much appreciated.
GPS for Cat Provided by Garmin
Cat is partnering with Garmin to offer a new Base Tread GPS unit. It is water and shock resistant, glove friendly, has satellite imagery, trail nav, and connectivity. This accessory will mount just below the standard gauge and gives Cat similar competitiveness with the offerings in the gauges on the Polaris and Ski-Doo sleds. Albeit, not integrated… yet.
Not much changes here to the lineup, but both the M8000 Hardcore and the M800 Mountain Cat Alpha One are still in the Ascender platform and have the same optional track lengths. We are especially excited to have 146-inch lengths in both these sleds as options. Many enthusiasts ride both trail and mountains and the 146 with a 2.6 inch lug track is a great sled to be able to do both low elevation off-trail in the Midwest/East, be somewhat more trailable, and be competent in the mountains. Track lengths include a 146, 154, and 165 in all the mountain sleds. Lug length is either a 2.6 or 3.0.
The two main differences between the Hardcore and the Mountain Cat continue to be the ATAC, and some reinforcements on the tougher Hardcore. Both have the Alpha One rear skid and the Hardcore has the standard Fox 1.5 Zero QS3 coil-over shocks, whereas the Mountain cat has the ATAC with Fox Float 3 IQSL shocks.
The Blast M 4000 and Blast M4000 LTD are both available as well and both have 146-inch skids with a 2.0 inch lug Challenger track. Differences were mentioned earlier, but these are pretty awesome little rippers for kids learning how to do their first side-hills and to be able to follow mom and dad and their friends into the backcountry.
Simplified trail line-up is appreciated
In a world where everything seems to be harder to make sense of, Cat made it easier in their trail line-up to make your decision. You will notice that the ZR RR and Limited are no longer in the lineup. The R-XC discussed earlier basically replaced the RR, and the Limited basically is now an option on the ZR 8000 to be able to order it with the ATAC adjustable on the fly suspension. The ZR 6000 is only available with standard Fox Zero QS3 shock up front and a 2.0 diameter one in the rear of the skid. No ATAC is available on this machine.
One of the best trail sleds on the snow is available again this year from Cat, that would be the Thundercat 9000. This sled has power steering, the ATAC adjustable on the fly shocks, and the ADAPT clutching. It is basically unchanged for 2023, other than the colors.
The Blast ZR trail and XR touring models return this year also with BNG (bold new graphics) and the aforementioned bar warmers and shock. The XR has a wider 39.5 – 40.5 ski stance to make is more suitable and stable for the 2-up touring segment it really falls in.
Crossovers and Utility sleds with claws
We have seen a really big sharing of technology between both the crossover and utility segments in recent years. It is on display at Cat as well as the other OEMs. What used to be just a utility sled, is no longer looked at that way, and vice-versa.
The Riot 8000, Riot X 8000, and new Riot 9000 are the flagships as far as crossovers go for Arctic, and the first two are unchanged for 2023… save new color-ways, and the 8000 X is still in the Ascender mountain platform. You also get an array of shock choices on the Riot 8000 machines from IFP, to Zero QS3, to ATAC. We really enjoyed the new Riot X 9000, which is really just the Yamaha XTX-LE but which also has the added electronic power steering this year. We have spent a lot of time on the similar Yamaha sleds and it is true that this sled works extremely well on trail, and in some off-trail forays as well. The cross-action rear suspension in the Riot is also a true over-achiever and the best all-around skid in Cat’s line.
The Norseman X is truly the utility/crossover we discussed that many people could use for both a crossover, and a utility sled. With a big 15 x 153 x 2.25 lug track on it, and power from the 800 C-TEC 2 motor you have a machine that can ‘haul the mail’ or haul actual lumber. Plus a big 13.7 gallon gas tank gives you lots of range. It would be a perfect sled for someone who lives where we often ride in the Algoma region of northern Ontario. It is also the same as the 2022 model.
I am a little confused as to why there is both a Blast LT (supposed to be utility) and a Blast XR (supposed to be crossover) because other than the rack in back and larger shield on the LT there is no difference other than colours. It seems to me this could just be one sled with options. Both have the same 15 x 146 x 1.6 track, and same adjustable ski stance, clutching, etc. I will say that both are very good little crossovers for a myriad of conditions, and more desirable to me as a parent.
When’s the new chassis coming?
No doubt this is what everyone is asking, and the green-machine faithful are begging for it! Short answer is, don’t worry something is coming. Unfortunately our journalistic powers do not include time travel or we could answer that question more definitively. We can tell you that we’ve been privy to high level discussions, but we aren’t allowed to leak to much otherwise we could lose our first born.
I think it bears highlighting several of the most pertinent questions we get on a daily basis with what Arctic Cat is going to bring to market.
Will it have a new engine? Well, considering how long it has been since Cat has had a new engine, you can do the math.
Will it be an 850? My question back would be, do you see a bunch of other 850’s out there?
How much will it weigh? Ah, the proverbial ‘lightweight’ question… again, if you look at what other OEMs are doing then I think you can be assured it won’t weigh ‘more’.
Will just the mountain segment folks get it first or all segments? If we were betting, knowing again how long it has been since a totally new chassis has come from Cat, that most of the line-up will get the new chassis when it does come to market.
Can I see photos? No, and stop asking.