Looking at the 2016 Arctic Cat XF High Country it might not look much different from the 2015 version, but looks are only skin deep. This is a different beast from just one year ago.
The whole concept of a 141” track length and 2.25” deep lug Power Claw track pushes the boundaries of crossover sleds. This would have qualified as an all-out mountain sled just ten years ago, but now that the mountain sled track lengths and lug heights have went crazy wild it left a whole lot of room for crossover sleds to fill that gap. Some riders prefer the agility of the shorter track lengths but still want the deeper lugs for fresh snow. There is no right or wrong, but more a matter of what kind of snow you ride in and what kind of capability you like to have.
New this year on the XF High Country is the all-new Arctic Mountain Suspension (AMS) up front with new spindles and A-arms, delivering new geometry for easier steering effort, reduced surface area for improved deep snow performance. It is also 2.4 lbs. lighter than the previous design. The key benefits here are going to be the ability to tip the sled into a sidehill without having the spindles dragging, but also with the caster and camber change it is easier to ride. Much less steering correction will be required with the camber pulled back, making it far easier to hold a sidehill. Rider confidence is greatly improved with this new front end. The adjustable ski stance is now from 38.5-42.5”, allowing s greater stance adjustment and versatility. Some riders like it wider for stability, some like it narrower for agility. You decide, and yes, a swaybar is standard issue.
We also get the new ProClimb-7 tapered mountain ski for 2016. It is 7” wide at the tip and 6.5” wide in the middle, which keeps the ski tips up while going through deep snow for improved performance and handling. A wider saddle and ski dampener allows for the 4” of ski stance adjustability.
A new FLOAT-ACTION rear suspension incorporates changes to the rails and geometry for increased travel, improved ride quality in all conditions and consistent track tension for optimal performance. There is actually about one more inch of suspension travel with a longer rear shock and different timing rods. The front arm mount is now more like what was found on the 4-stroke mountain sleds, so it has the same basic rail as the M 7000s. This helps to prevent high-speed curb-type bump bottoming.
The 2016 XF High Country also gets the new clutching package. A new TEAM Rapid Response drive clutch delivers smoother shifting, optimal performance and maximum durability in a lighter package. A TEAM Rapid Reaction BOSS driven clutch provides maximum durability and performance, with less rotating weight and optimized cooling. We also find a new Borg Warner chain and sprocket assembly is more durable, with 20 percent less stretch. A new tensioner pad is made of Vespal for greater durability.
Now for the hard part – how much power, and will it be 2-stroke or 4-stroke. As always, this comes down to engine durability/longevity vs. weight. The 4-stroke engines are going to be more durable over the long haul, but they are heavier. The 2-strokes are lighter, more agile and easier to maneuver as well as easier to dig out when you get stuck, but they just simply do not last for as many miles or hours of operation. 2-strokes have a narrower powerband, 4-strokes have a wider powerband. And for some, the 9000-Series turbo engine offers the ultimate in convenience as it produces the same power at all elevations so you do not need to change the clutching or gearing set-up for riding at different elevations.
From a peak power perspective, the 6000 Series 600cc 2-stroke is rated at about 125 HP, but this is at low elevation. As is the 135 HP from the 7000 Series Yamaha-built engine (1049cc triple 4-stroke) and of course the 8000 Series 800cc 2-stroke, good for right about 160 HP. These numbers are all at low elevation. Generally we figure a power loss of about 3% per 1,000 foot elevation change, which figures out to about 24% power loss at 8,000 foot riding elevation. Your 600 is only making something like 95 HP; the Yamaha triple is making more like 103 HP; and the big 800 2-stroke is good for about 122 HP. And the Turbo 9000? It is cranking out right about 180 HP, everywhere. High, low, and everything in between. Remember these are generalizations, but you should get the idea of how power numbers are really dependent on what elevation you are riding at.
Unless you are riding in crazy deep fresh snow on a regular basis, a sled like the XF High Country will work better across a wider range of conditions. That is the essence of a crossover, able to work well in a wider set of conditions. Longer tracks are great for when the snow is bottomless, but for the rest of the time the shorter track High Country is going to be more versatile, more agile, able to maintain a higher track speed, and far better when the snow isn’t fresh and deep. AND it will be more fun running forest roads and yes, down the trail – if that matters. For some of us it does. Having a sled that works good almost every day instead of being the best on a single day makes sense. The XF High Country has the right blend of mountain capability with suspension and handling that give it such broad appeal. If you are a crossover rider who goes deep when the powder falls and demands the deeper lug track of a mountain sled, the XF High Country is ideal for you. There’s also the XF High Country Limited which comes with premium FOX FLOAT 3 EVOL shocks, a goggle holder, rear storage bag, ProClimb front bumper and electric start.
From the September 2015 issue of SnowTech Magazine.
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