It was 5 PM on September 9th, a Friday night at Haydays. A small group of snowmobile journalists had been invited to a private showing of Arctic Cat’s long-awaited NEW platform before the official introduction to the public the next day at 2 PM.
It had been a long wait to get to this point. While Polaris and Ski-Doo had been surging ahead the past several years with new technology Arctic Cat had been quiet – too quiet – and had been building revised versions of their 2012-era ProCross platform. It still performed quite well, but in this business you have to keep up or you get left behind. Their brand faithful were getting very anxious.
Catalyst – “An event or object that is the cause of an important change”
It was highly unusual for a manufacturer to introduce a new consumer sled or platform at Haydays, but this year it was deemed necessary. The time had finally come. There was no significant amount of inventory sitting on dealer’s showroom floors, so showing a new platform was not going to stall sales or depreciate units by any means. Far more important was to get the word out and show the world that Arctic Cat was making a HUGE investment in their snow division and was, in fact, coming with a new platform. Getting this message out at the world’s biggest snowmobile event was far more important than waiting until the traditional February introduction just before the March-April pre-order period. They wanted the world to know they were still in the game, and in a BIG way.
This was a risky decision to take this path. Showing the competition what you were coming with this early (by about six months) gives them valuable time to analyze and react. With that in mind, it was decided the introduction of the new platform was going to be phased – meaning details would be provided in phases, not showing everyone everything all at once.
And that is exactly what we got – limited exposure and limited information – on what Arctic Cat has been working towards for so long now. It was a mad dash for them to get three machines ready in the state they were presented for the event. Many parts and pieces were rare prototype parts, 3-D printed or custom made for the purpose. Testing prototypes is one thing, showing a representative of what the production machine will look like is totally different.
What we knew going into this was there would be a new platform, shared across three segments – trail, crossover and mountain. We also knew it would first be offered in a single engine size for the first year, with larger displacement to follow. What we didn’t know was if coming with only a 600 was a decision driven by engineering or marketing. Turns out the chassis was ready but the “new” engine was not.
So there we were, all gathered in what appeared to be a permanent structure, a garage-like facility on the grounds of Haydays. The Arctic Cat marketing and engineering staff was ready to go with a small group of snowmobile journalists on hand. It was dark and loud with all of the Haydays set-up activity going on outside, but we could all sense the anticipation and excitement of those gathered together in that space.
After brief introductions and the like, the proud engineering staff unveiled what they had been working on for so many years. They weren’t fully prepared to be showing us completed machines because they simply do not exist yet. Not in production form, not in pre-production form. All they had up to this point was prototype sleds for engineering, development and testing. When marketing told them they were going to show the world their new platform at Haydays it was a mad scramble to get some units together in a presentable form to show. Granted, not all details would be revealed and no machines would be totally complete, but the world would be shown, without a doubt, that Arctic Cat was still serious about building snowmobiles. Here we saw the new platform called the Catalyst. A naming contest had been completed and the new platform name seemed very fitting as a catalyst is an event or object that is the cause of an important change. This was going to be the future of Arctic Cat, and it really looked good.
The Catalyst platform takes the heritage from all of the previous Arctic Cat platforms and makes it even better. The front and rear suspensions appear to be enhanced and revised versions of what we all know and love. Nothing was shown in terms of new electronics or dash gauge wizardry. The whole focus for now was the fact we had a completely re-engineered platform that took every single item on the chassis and analyzed its function, position and construction. Many parts and pieces have been eliminated or combined into multi-function pieces. The total part count to build the sled should be down by something like 30% which should result in an overall weight reduction of something like 10%, by our best guess. This alone is huge.
The crux of development was to further mass centralization and weight reduction, allowing the rider to be in complete control of the machine. Further lower the center of gravity, keep the mass in the middle, allow the rider to perform at their very best. Make an Arctic Cat even better at what it is already good at and famous for.
The new platform, while new and different, is clearly an Arctic Cat. Visually when you look at it you know right away it is an Arctic Cat. It looks streamlined, maybe even shrink-wrapped. Sleek and narrow, tall in the nose, with a shorter and smaller seat, giving the rider more capability to move around with less restriction. A new cargo mounting system on the tunnel was most welcome. All very logical.
One of the first differences you see is the use of composites. Replacing metals with composites can be a very good thing for weight, strength and serviceability. The running boards are now composite instead of aluminum, furthering the Arctic Cat theme of less weight retention of snow and ice. Garage weight is one thing, running weight is another. Having a sled that carries less snow and ice weight has always been a key item for Arctic Cat. Weight reduction is like adding power, but with even more benefits.
We were told that for now, we wouldn’t have total access to all of the technical details of the Catalyst platform, that the information would be released in phases. We can’t even tell you all we know right now. We’d love to, as we have so much more to share. Right now we haven’t even ridden one yet, but hope to early this winter. You can order one next February or March and have it for the 2023-24 season as a 2024 model in the 600 class, an enhanced and revised version of the current 600. Larger displacement is coming, expected for 2025 and in your hands over two years from right now.
The Catalyst platform itself is very exciting. Nobody wants Arctic Cat to go away so this should put an end to such speculation. Is the Catalyst game changing? The potential is there. At a minimum it puts Arctic Cat back into the chase in a very big way. Hopefully they get some into legal racing classes this winter to further their heritage and development. As we are allowed to share more of what we know, we will. We are very excited to finally see what they have been working on and stoked to see the details hidden inside. Like the final belt drive to replace the heavy gears and chain. Yes, Polaris has been doing something similar for years on mountain sleds but Arctic Cat would be the first to do so on trail and crossover units.
Some might say this is nothing more than an Arctic Cat version of a Ski-Doo REV, as there are clearly similarities – at least visually. To that we respond by reminding you only Arctic Cat has the laydown engine design with the intake and exhaust on the same side of the cylinders so nobody can get the engine as far down and back as Arctic Cat. The widely-spaced a-arm front suspension remains a key advantage as well, now graced with advanced steering geometry that was previously impossible to achieve. It is still a gas-powered machine with two skis and a track, but the refinement continues. And remember, none of the details really matter when you throw your leg over the machine and take it out and ride it and find out how responsive it is, how light it feels, how confident you become as a rider.
As soon as we get to actually ride it we can tell you if it is truly going to raise the bar or simply be another brick in the wall. Those who have ridden prototype versions are very excited, to the point of them stating it makes their current equipment obsolete. If true then we really do have something to get stoked about. Stay tuned!
— 2024 Arctic Cat Catalyst —
Centralized Design for More Responsive Handling
The centralized design makes the operator the active force and requires less rider effort to corner and carve, giving riders even more control than ever before.
The unique laydown engine design allows for further centralization of mass not possible by other OEMs.
Lightweight for Maximum Maneuverability
The optimized design with fewer parts utilizes different composite materials, providing a drastic weight reduction for Trail, Crossover, and Mountain, making it one of the lightest platforms available.
Durable and Easy to Service
The new final drive system is belt-driven, unlike the current chain drive, resulting in fewer parts. This allows more power transfer to the track even quicker with increased durability and a significant reduction in rotating mass in the driveline.
The plastic panels’ tool-less design allows for easy removal and greater access to key components such as the belt, oil reservoir and coolant.
The new seat is easily removable with a quarter turn for easy battery access.
Improved Ergonomics for a More Comfortable Ride
The ergonomics, coupled with a narrower and centralized design, provides an agile, easily maneuverable sled that minimizes rider fatigue and makes the operator a more confident rider. A more ergonomic design allows the rider to become one with the sled.
All-New High-End Styling
The platform’s aggressive exterior continues Arctic Cat’s heritage of creating state-of-the-art, cutting-edge snowmobiles. Its sleek, aerodynamic, and agile look with a unique LED headlight complements the innovation found inside.
Sliding lap joints provide seamless transitions in plastic for better fit and finish.
Optimized Suspension and Steering for Different Riding Styles and Segments
Optimized suspension and steering provide use-specific systems based on segment.
The suspension and steering systems are differentiated based on Mountain, Trail and Crossover segments where needed to provide better performance in varying conditions, but commonality was kept where it made sense, so the platform works for all segments.
The geometry changes, paired with the revised suspension, give the rider a more position-reactive sled and improved cornering for a more confidence-inspiring, agile ride experience. The sled works in tandem with the rider instead of the rider having to muscle the sled mass.
First Integrated Accessory Mounting System for Added Security
Available for the platform is the new ATACH the first integrated accessory mounting system that allows for a quick and easy lockdown. To prevent theft, the system comes with a set of keys that will allow you to physically lock your accessories to your sled.