Sample article from SnowTech Magazines October/November 2013 print issue
Even though Arctic Cat introduced us to their new Procross platform last season, very few riders were able to get many miles on their new sled last winter. That means they didn’t really have the chance to find out just how good the new F 800 Sno Pro really is.
In some ways it might have been a blessing in disguise, as there were some initial production issues with the 2012s, so by not getting many miles on them it gave Arctic Cat some time and some breathing room to get all of the bugs out of the sleds. The 2013s should by all accounts have all of the assembly line detail issues figured out, and anyone who owns a 2012 should have their sled gone through by a dealer before the warranty expires to make sure all of the service issues have been addressed. There were tie rod ball joint inspections, retaining nuts behind the upper gear in the chaincase, blown drive belts, and other things that came up early on, but the dealers know what to look for and what to do to make the 2012s right.
Now for 2013 the Procross F 800 Sno Pro is ready to dominate the terrain, all the way from trails to ditchlines to lakes and most everything in-between. One of the most notable changes for 2013 is the change back to a flat top tunnel. The 2012s had a tapered tunnel where the rear heat exchanger wasn’t mounted flush with the top of the tunnel, but instead was hanging down below it slightly. While this provided more contact surface area for cooling it left the top of the tunnel without reinforcement so it was weaker than it could have been. Now for 2013 Arctic Cat has gone back to a flat top tunnel and the heat exchanger is mounted up against it, so we’re back to full strength.
Physically the F 800 Sno Pro is a fairly big chassis. Arctic Cat opted for the route of commonality with their new platform, designing one common platform that would let them use both 4-stroke and 2-stroke engines. To further the commonality, they share many common parts and designs with the deep-snow ProClimb sleds. That’s just plain efficient manufacturing. The sled sits fairly tall and has some width to it, so dimensionally it’s not the little machine like what a Sno Pro 500/600 is. This provides some surprisingly good wind protection for your lower body, but you might notice how tall the sled sits when you load it into an enclosed trailer.
The true attraction here is the agility, or flickability, of this new F4 platform compared to the older F-Series machines. Take a 2008-2011 F-Series sled and it was more of a solid, planted trail sled. Excellent left and right flat cornering and smooth ride quality. The problem was there were many Arctic Cat faithful who wanted the lightweight agility of the Firecat. They wanted that lake-racer rocket ship. They wanted that “blast through the ditches” bump sled. They wanted their new Arctic Cat to feel and act more like the Sno Pro 600 race sled.
When you sit on the F 800 you can tell the riding position is almost perfect. Hips are positioned above your knees so you can stand easily with your legs, no need to pull your body up with your arms. Your feet are not so far out in front of you, rather more underneath you. Ergonomically the rider is placed in more of a stand-up position. You feel more neutral and more centered. You also notice there isn’t as much machine in front of you, less bulk and less weight. For 2013 the handlebar riser block is one inch taller, up to 5.5” from 4.5” on the 2012s. This riding position puts you in complete control, able to take on whatever you might encounter, and the sled responds to your input with uncanny accuracy.
Our test riders all commented on how responsive the new ProCross sleds are. They respond quickly to the steering input, and they respond quickly to rider input. This is most noticeable when you ride the F 800 – it is very similar to the Sno Pro 600 race sled. You might even find the steering to be quicker to respond than most any other sled you’ve been on, it really is razor-sharp. Personally, we like more aggressive carbide runners and/or skis than what the sled comes with stock, but this is true of most riders. Try it stock, but be ready to bolt some more aggressive runners on there if it pushes more than you’d like.
The F4 platform uses a very tall spindle so the a-arms are widely spaced apart. Cat engineers tell us this was for added strength, but also allows them more room for packaging (remember, they had to be able to cram a 4-stroke turbo into this chassis). Just as important is the canted mounting to the bulkhead – the lower a-arm is mounted at a 30-degree angle, no longer perpendicular to the chassis. This forward-swept nature redirects the bump energy inputted into the chassis, allowing better control through the rough.
The new F 800 is incredibly fast and agile. Having over 160 HP and being so much lighter than the F 1100 Turbo it goes through the bumps with less effort, and this is where the weight difference shows up most. When you ride the new F 800 Sno Pro you will instantly be able to throw the sled around. You will know it is lighter. The sled feels more like a part of you, doing what you want it to with fewer surprises. Where the long track XF models went to a different rear arm geometry with FLOAT airshocks or coil-overs in the rear, the F 800 stays with the proven torsion spring rear suspension that provides far better ride quality than the XF models. This is a major difference, and if you spend most of your time on the trails you will really want to be on an F 800 instead of an XF. Remember, the F 800 has a 128” track length (now out to a 2.86” drive pitch for 2013) so while we still call it a short track it is longer than the traditional 121” sleds, and it shows up in tracking, traction, acceleration, flotation and all around stability. With 160 HP the sled should have at least this much track on the ground! The new 2.86” pitch track is also lighter, which should make it faster. We’re also told the inner idler wheels in the skid have been moved back for 2013 for improved hyfax wear.
The 2013 Arctic Cat F 800 Sno Pro comes in green or orange and retails for $12,149. There’s also the F 800 Sno Pro Limited that comes in white or black that sells for $12,849. The Limited models add to the potent Sno Pro package premium features; electric start, hand guards, goggle bag and rear storage bag.
Originally published in SnowTech Magazine’s print version. SnowTech is published 5 times a year and is available as a subscription here, or available on your local newsstand.