Dear Ralph: I tend to value the opinion your magazine has towards the manufacturers and the products they offer. I dropped all of my...

Dear Ralph:

I tend to value the opinion your magazine has towards the manufacturers and the products they offer. I dropped all of my other subscriptions to the other magazines because of their bias to one brand or the other instead of giving an open-minded opinion. I assume you have ridden the 2012 sleds. That is why I am asking for your comparison and opinion on two of the 2012 sleds that I am looking to purchase. One is the Ski-Doo Renegade Backcountry-X 800 E-TEC and the other is the Arctic Cat XF 800 Sno Pro High Country. I know both offer great technology. I have ridden a 2011 Renegade Backcountry-X 800 and it was not a big wow for me. It has nice even power, seemed to track pretty straight in the corners, great gauge cluster and a comfortable seat. The things I did not like were that in moderately deep snow we had this year it did not want to stay on edge when carving through the snow and It was not that great of a riding suspension (I have read posts that say these need proper set-up and then they are awesome).

As for the Arctic Cat High Country, did it even exist in March? I currently ride a standard 2007 Arctic Cat Crossfire 800 and love the way this sled rides. Yeah, it tends to bottom in the big whoops, but it is predictable. I cannot say enough about the off trail performance of the sled. I added the telescoping handlebars and 2010 mountain seat (for storage) and it has turned out to be one of the most fun to ride sleds I have ever owned. I like to ride off-trail whenever the chance presents itself and I love the Crossfire for its ease of transition to stand up riding and its almost immediate response to rider input. My concern is that this new chassis will take that away. I did get a glimpse of the new AC line-up in the Twin Cities and I also have some concerns about some of the finish details on the new models like the narrow neck on the gas tank, no storage areas for gear, the angle of the oil filling tube, and the rounded design of the rear hood cowling (it reminds me of when the REV chassis came out – I am afraid I am going to do the splits and hurt something), and the movement in the chain case that is created by the Torque Control Link. I would also like to know what your opinion is of the E-TEC 800 vs. AC 800 H.O.

Thanks for any input you can provide,

Mark Anderson
Hibbing, MN

You raise many valid concerns. Our staff has pretty much ridden all of the new sleds, but as you point out the Arctic Cat High Country was a late edition so we have to go off what we know about the new XF 800 Sno Pro. The two sleds you mention are both very good machines, but different. What follows is just an opinion.

The 2012 Arctic Cat High Country should be a superior off trail sled compared to the Backcountry X, all out how does it get through the snow. The Cat should have the better front end, should ride more comfortably, likely bottom easier, it will be louder, use more gas and oil, smokes and shakes more, about the same power, more linear power delivery. The E-TEC 800R is awesome; smoother, better fuel and oil economy, less smoke and smell, and it seems to hit a bit harder with the e-RAVE powervalve system. They’re both great engines, and they’re both more powerful and more reliable than the Polaris 800.

Then we get to the details. Things you noticed on the Cat. This is where the X is going to be superior. We all know that. I too noticed how the rear of the cowling split your legs while riding it much like the first REVs, so we will have to add some accessory items to catch our knees and stop them from moving out. It was an issue for us as well.

The Cat will be awesome to transition, and remains very responsive to rider input – even more so with this new platform. Compared to the old Crossfire the riding position is better, more like the Sno Pro 500/600, as it now gets your hips above your knees so you can pop up even easier. You have nothing to worry about there, this is a different beast than the more-planted F-chassis. The off trail performance should be exceptional. Cats always hold their edge better than a 16” wide track Doo. The tall lugs are going to be an issue if the snow isn’t fresh, so I’d run ice scratchers, and don’t expect to run it at high speeds for very long down hardpack. You know that.

It comes down to build quality. Can Arctic Cat build a bunch of these things and get the wiring routing right? Will the tie wraps be in the right place? How about heat shields, heat tape? Will fuel lines be routed next to sharp edges? Will the plastic fit right? Detail issues for the most part, but valid ones. In their defense, Arctic Cat used to build a single early production run of new sleds, work the bugs out as good as possible, and then go to full production. With this new platform, Arctic Cat has built up to as many as six smaller pilot runs of sleds, working out the bugs each time, so this has given them many more chances to get everything as good as possible before going to the actual full production build. And they had a super-long spring testing season out west so they were able to get some high miles and hours on their calibration units, so they have made every effort to do their best with the new sleds.

Movement in the chaincase – I assume you are talking about how the jackshaft moves around within the radial bearing at the top of the case, and how the top gear will move within the rotating chain. With the radius of the top gear and how the chain fits the gear, and how the bearing is designed, we have no immediate concerns here. I spoke at length with the engineer on this system and believe they have it under control. I am more actually more concerned about under hood heat and air management, especially at high engine rpm and low ground speeds.

From what you have shared with me, I really don’t think you could go wrong either way, but since you’re on a Cat now I believe the Cat will be the better sled for you, performance-wise. Long term I’d rather own the Ski-Doo, from a durability, reliability and fuel economy stand point, but for any given day with a foot of fresh snow I’d ride the Cat. Remember, it’s just an opinion based on our experience so far.

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