2018 Arctic Cat M8000: Measured Innovation Pays Off
Sometimes product innovation comes to market in leaps and bounds. Completely overhauled snowmobile platforms are sexy and can drive sales, but they can also be fraught with complications. In other cases, a manufacturer will make the decision to fine-tune existing technology at a more measured pace. This approach is safer, but is certainly received with less fanfare. It’s a delicate dance between marketing and engineering, and such decisions are not made lightly. With the release of its 2018 lineup of mountain sleds, the company has taken a more aggressive line on the latter approach with the Arctic Cat M8000. The result is a win for riders.
Arctic Cat M8000: Gaining Ground
Although it’s now been six years since the last major platform overhaul of Arctic Cat’s mountain sleds, it would be a lie to suggest that the manufacturer has been resting on its laurels. Since the first ProClimb model replaced the M-Series back in MY2012, the company has made sometimes big and sometimes small refinements each year, without all the glitz and glamour of producing a completely fresh build.
Regardless, like clockwork each spring, the Arctic Cat following religiously proclaims: “This is the best Arctic Cat ever!” This time at least, they’re damn right. Anyone who has thrown a leg over the 2018 M8000 sled will tell you that it is a completely new beast. It’s not vastly different in appearance from its predecessors, but the sled is leaps and bounds ahead of even last year’s models, in large part due to a brand-new powerplant and some complementary clutching innovation.
Engine and Drivetrain Innovation
At the forefront of new Arctic Cat technology is the longawaited 8000 C-TEC2 engine. Gone now is the Suzuki-built 800 twin that’s been powering Arctic Cat mountain sleds for years. The 8000 C-TEC2 is a fresh dual-stage injection 794cc engine built in-house at the Arctic Cat factory in St. Cloud, Minnesota.
Arctic Cat isn’t making any output claims, other than to say that the 8000 C-TEC2 falls into the 160-hp class. However, on snow it shows an impressive amount of grunt. Low-end and mid-range torque are markedly improved, and Arctic Cat does go so far as to report increases of 36% and 18% here respectively. Oil consumption is lowered by a claimed 30%. But above all other characteristics, it is incredibly fast throttle response and acceleration that define the C-TEC2 engine.
The new TEAM Rapid Response II driven clutch—first made available on 9000 trail models in MY2017—implements a roller bearing on the shaft, which allows the drive belt tension to auto-adjust. The result is a belt that is properly tensioned at all times, reducing slippage and providing instant engagement. The starting ratio has also been lowered by 12.5 percent. These factors work together to deliver buttery-smooth engagement—a characteristic sorely lacking in the past.
Ultimately, it’s the combination of clutching improvements paired with crisp throttle response and the increased low-end torque of the C-TEC2 that makes such a vast improvement in drivability of the Arctic Cat mountain sleds for MY2018. The uptick in the ability of the Arctic Cat M8000 to get up on top of the snow and get moving—especially in tricky situations—really can’t be overstated. It’s a game changer for the brand.
Another touted refinement for 2018 is a more streamlined body profile. New easy-on/off body panels have been narrowed by 10%, allowing for better control when sidehilling in the steepest terrain. And make no mistake, the 2018 M8000 performs very well in on its side through the trees.
A handful of other upgrades to the 2018 M8000 aren’t new at all—in fact they were already available for MY2017, but only in the Mountain Cat model. But Arctic Cat riders will be happy to see those improvements applied across the entire lineup of mountain sleds. Some of those include narrowed running boards and footwells cut out 2 inches farther forward.
But the change that works best with the M8000’s new engine and clutching is a dropped and rolled chaincase. The driveshaft is dropped by 1.125 inches, which effectively lowers the approach angle of the track by almost 10%. It doesn’t sound like much, but that makes a big difference in how well the M8000 floats and pops up out of the snow from takeoff. And it makes room for either a 2.6” or 3” lugged track in a 153” or 162” length.
Riders Take Notice
Big technology overhauls are a marketer’s dream, but big changes can mean trouble for an engineering department. As we’ve seen over the past half dozen years, measured innovation has been the name of the game for Arctic Cat, and it has paid off. The approach has allowed the company to produce an effective, mountain-slaying machine without sacrificing reliability. And for that reason, mountain riders are taking notice.
2018 Arctic Cat M8000 Key Features
New 8000 C-TEC2 Dual-Stage Injection Engine
Ascender Platform with narrower body panels for improved sidehilling capability
Drop Rolled Chaincase and Tunnel with 8 tooth drivers
3” and 2.6” Power Claw Tracks available in 162” and 153” lengths
FOX FLOAT 3 & FLOAT QS3 front shocks options
FOX FLOAT 3 & FLOAT QSDL W/Climb Lockout rear shock options
TEAM Rapid Response II and Rapid Reaction clutches
Ice Scratchers and Deluxe Digital Gauge standard
More technical information on the Arctic Cat M8000 and other mountain sleds can be found on the Arctic Cat website.