Time for the truth. Will the new 2021 Arctic Cat BLAST models be a huge hit, lukewarm performers or a total flop?
Several have tried similar approaches. Sleds like the Ski-Doo Freestyle, Yamaha Phazer, Yamaha Sno-Scoot and Polaris Indy Lite are some of the first that come to mind. Actually, a single cylinder 2-stroke 400 with a 3-stage power valve is pretty gutsy in this day and age. Where the others have failed this one could succeed simply due to the power to weight ratio. It has to be FUN or else it is dead in the water. New sleds that are BORING don’t last long, nobody wants to buy boring.
But if a new sled is truly a BLAST to ride and isn’t priced at an insulting price for what you’re getting, then we might have a complete and total winner. Depending on the model, pricing is $7,699 to $8,199 on pre-order. Roughly twice that of a ZR 200 and half that of a full-powered 8000-Series machine. In this context, the current pricing appears to be close to where it should be.
For comparison, a 2020 Ski-Doo MX Z Sport with the 2-stroke carbureted 600 with over 100 HP on the XP platform retails for $8,499 – admittedly more sled for more money – where a 2020 Polaris Indy EVO with the 550 fan-cooled engine, Pro-Ride (old RUSH) platform and similar power (but no electric start) retails for only $5,499 – perhaps our closest rival. In that sense, perhaps the BLAST should be under $7,000. They’d sell a whole lot more of them at $6,999. Either way, you’d want to see one before buying it, right? You’d want to ride one before buying it, right?
When Arctic Cat tells us “midsized” they are referring to both the engine power and the entire machine. They say it is a lighter weight, mid-sized chassis with easy handling and maneuverability, with a size that lets more riders capture more thrills. If it truly is a 3/4 sized machine it should logically be perfect for the rider needing something bigger than a ZR 200, but just how big of a rider (size and weight) can one of these machines accommodate? We’re told it is far more than just a big kid sled, and is truly adult-capable as well. How about a big-guy over 200 pounds? We’re told it is surprisingly capable and truly a blast to ride, thus the name.
We don’t yet know exactly how big this sled is. Arctic Cat says, “The compact size is less intimidating for novice or smaller riders.” The tracks and tunnels have to be normal sized if we are using 121” and 146” track lengths. The front end widths are narrower. The dimensions listed in the specs show a smaller sled – slightly – possibly more of a 7/8 than a 3/4 of full-size. The image here seems to give us the best idea of how it compares in size. Not quite full-size, but pretty close. It’s not a kid sled by any means.
Point is, not everyone wants or needs to go over 100 mph. Not everyone needs to go straight up a steep hill at blistering speeds, either. Think back to how much fun we used to have on a 1989-92 Polaris Indy 500, or a 1990-91 Arctic Cat Prowler 440. That might be our closest comparison, the original Prowler. Power to weight should be close? Actual physical size might be surprisingly close as well. Not exactly a kid’s sled at the time, but easily a “big kid” sled by today’s standards. Today’s teenagers would be far better off on a sled like this than a full-sized 600cc. Big sleds intimidate, where smaller sleds can be easier to be the boss of.
One other consideration is going to be how user friendly the machines are. How much do they vibrate – a big single is going to vibrate, so let’s see how well the counter balancer works. How comfortable are the seats – one way to make sleds cheaper is to use a cheap seat. How smooth is the suspension – hydraulic twin tube shocks are standard issue, so being adequate might not be good enough. It does have electric start and push-button reverse, which in turn raises the cost. So many decisions to make along the path of development.
The sleds have to exceed our expectations, but we also need to be realists as well. At over 400 pounds and under 70 HP how much performance can we truly expect? If properly geared and set-up it should deliver fun all-around performance with the trade-off being at the top end.
How much sled will we get for the money – something called “value”? The use of hydraulic twin tube shocks all around should be an indicator an initial low cost, low price strategy. Other than that we don’t immediately see where other obvious corners have been cut to lower the cost. You know full well there will very quickly be high-pressure gas shocks and all kind of add-on accessories – so the escalation begins all over, yet again. Brilliant.
Arctic Cat could have something huge here, but by limiting availability to pre-orders only, they will truly limit the numbers of first year riders. Only then, when people get to see how they really work next winter, will the wick get lit and we will see how big this might become. The potential is great, as is the risk – but so is the reward.
Links to all five feature articles on the 2021 Arctic Cat Blast:
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