Arctic Cat surprised the snowmobile industry with the news of its completely new chassis earlier this year. Untraditional timing for sure but the result was conversations and chatter beyond measure breeding rumors and speculations about all kinds of weird things. The biggest of the bunch was if the chassis really is all new, or is it just new drapes on the old house?
Arctic Cat invited us to spend time on pre-production versions of the new Catalyst deep snow mountain sleds and let us take a deep dive look under the hood answering every single detailed question we could throw at them. While we won’t cover all of the details here, we will cover the high-level talking points and answer the most pertinent questions.
First off yes, this is truly an all-new machine sharing very few parts with the previous chassis. Arctic Cat developed an all-new welded one-piece Chromoly tubular bulkhead which is accompanied by a one-piece flat-top tunnel. Throughout the development process, Arctic Cat was able to reduce the total hardware count by 8 major chassis component pieces and 150 fasteners. Think about that for a second – imagine holding 150 nuts and bolts in your hand. How much would that weigh? How much flex does that eliminate from joints that can possibly move?
The motor is a heavily revised version of their 600 C-TEC with dual stage injection utilizing a new crankshaft, fuel system, V-Force Reeds, flywheel, stator, exhaust servo and engine mounting. Arctic Cat mentioned that the new crankshaft is more durable and combined with the other changes makes slightly better HP than the previous version.
Power will be transferred to the ground via the ADAPT clutches introduced in 2022 and a new belt drive system replacing the traditional chaincase. This belt drive will be offered in three different gear ratios which will correspond to the style of riding i.e. mountain, cross country or crossover.
The fuel tank is now shorter but taller. This pulls some of the fuel weight off the rear of the chassis and moves it closer to the center point of the chassis. With their laydown motor design Cat was able to turn the space typically used for an airbox on other machines into fuel tank area. The result is less fuel movement front-to-rear while helping keep the mass of the weight over the center point of the chassis. It contributes to better, more predictable handling while maintaining a Spartan 10.5-gallon fuel capacity.
Ease of service was high on the priority list for this machine. The hood, body panels and seat can all be removed with out the use of tools for easier access to things like battery, belt and maintenance tasks. The new seat is 2 pounds lighter than the previous version. The air intake is integrated into the hood and a new LED headlight has been utilized. Arctic Cat again reduced the number of components needed with the redesigned hood. They even redesigned and shortened the wiring harness to reduce weight. Add it all up and the final product means you get better centralized mass compared to the previous chassis and a much lighter vehicle weight.
Author Dustin Pancheri on the 2024 Arctic Cat Catalyst Mountain sled
The sled’s weight was very evident almost from the instant we threw a leg over the Catalyst. The sled feels light, possibly the lightest production performance sled on the snow. We won’t make that claim until we see the final production units but believe us when we say that the sled will be much lighter than the previous Pro Cross machines. The cockpit is roomy, more open than before. The seat is shorter and easy to move around on or swing a leg over. The vertical steering position is very neutral feeling and allows the rider to get forward when needed but it doesn’t make the rider feel like he/she has to stay forward.
The biggest takeaway is how predictable the new Catalyst is. It is much more predictable than the previous Cat chassis. This is a huge deal for us because we feel like we can ride it with way less effort. When a rider doesn’t know where the sled will go or how it will react, we tend to ride tighter and more tense. The Catalyst doesn’t seem to jump around or deflect anywhere near what the older chassis did. It has an almost hypocritical combination of stability and mobility. What we mean by that is the chassis stays planted when you need it to. Pick a line it will hold that line even in rougher snow or varying snow types. It responds well to foot and body input. Those situations where the rider only needs small changes in direction can be fine tuned with weight transfer and do not require major initiation efforts or pulling on the bars. Major direction changes don’t take a bunch of upper body effort.
The motor is good and is probably going to be fairly competitive with 650cc engines. We rode multiple calibrations and all seemed to run well. Throttle response was good and we never felt any bogs or flat spots. NO, it’s not anywhere close to 800 or 850 class power and in the uber high altitudes this will become apparent. We rode from about 6000 – 8000 feet and the motor had enough power to get us everywhere we wanted to go. Our test riders are both 220 pounds and the 600 was able to move us around better than we expected. We are sure this is a combination of the new motor making slightly better power and a significant reduction in overall chassis weight. Remember, power-to-weight ratio is a better indicator of overall performance than just plain horsepower. A 400 pound sled with 130 HP acts much like a 500 pound sled with 163 HP as both would be at 3.07 pounds per horsepower!
On the Catalyst mountain sleds we rode the ADAPT clutches were calibrated spot-on for the altitude and the belt drive seemed to get the power to the ground more efficiently than it would with a chaincase. Eliminating the chain and gear mass allows the power to spool up quicker and accelerate the track faster.
One significant takeaway was how well the new Catalyst works with the Alpha rear skid. While it doesn’t feel foreign to a traditional Cat feel, it is a more predictable combination than previous years. The Catalyst compliments the Alpha, and many riders didn’t feel that was the case on the previous chassis. It was easy to override the previous chassis and there was a point where the track would wash out in some conditions or terrains. The new chassis doesn’t seem to be nearly as sensitive to those types of inputs and will hold the line or carve a line when needed. One day of riding it didn’t allow us to experience all different conditions but it worked well in the 18” of fresh snow we rode that day. Some riders may be hesitant to ride the Alpha if they are used to a twin rail but they may be surprised how well the Alpha works in the Catalyst platform.
We were also impressed that Cat was able to incorporate a decent sized compartment near the dash for gloves or goggles. While this isn’t enough to store major components Cat did have a couple units with samples of their new accessory tunnel bags which are now modular and really easy to click on or off the machine.
The M6000 will be offered with the 146” and 154” x 2.6” PowerClaw as well as a 154” x 3” PowerClaw. The 146” Riot crossover models with their 39” front end width will be offered with a 146 x 1.6” Cobra or a 1.75” Hurricane track.
By Dustin Pancheri, SnowTech Mountain