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Long-Term Test: 2016 Arctic Cat M 8000 SE

Cat makes huge gains with the new front end we've been waiting for
2016 Arctic Cat M 8000 SE mountain snowmobile
Many are hoping for a new 800cc engine from Cat. If 2016 is the last go for the Suzuki-built twin, it might be the best yet.
The Arctic Cat ProClimb chassis has been around for several years now. When it first launched in 2012, this radical new chassis was a huge change from the old M-Series chassis. With wild styling and unique tall spindles, the ProClimb got everyone’s attention.

Once on the snow, however, it became apparent that the front end wasn’t yet perfect for sidehilling. The chassis could be inconsistent, where the spindle would dig into the snow and bring forward motion to a halt. In many cases, this also caused the track to wash out.

Cat worked hard to fix this handling trait, making steps of progress every year, but it wasn’t until 2016 that it really became a totally different machine. With a redesigned spindle and narrower front end, Cat finally overcame the early issues. It was immediately noticeable when we rode the 2016 prototype machines in the winter of 2015, so we were really excited to spend a full winter on a demo unit to see how it worked day in and day out.
2016 Arctic Cat M 8000 SE mountain snowmobile spindle design
Cat’s new single post spindle design helps the sled better cut through snow on a sidehill.
More updates to like
We ordered an M 8000 SE equipped with a 153-inch-long, 2.25-inch lug track. We opted for this over the popular 3-inch lug, as we felt it would make for a more versatile machine in a range of snow conditions. While the 3-inch works great in deep fluffy powder, it has its drawbacks when the snow isn’t perfect. We weren’t willing to give up performance in average snow for a slight increase in performance on a couple of deep days per season.

Another welcome change on the 2016 model is the fixed riser block that replaces the old telescoping adjustable height riser. The adjustable riser seemed like a great idea, but the reality is we always found ourselves finding a preferred height and never changing the height again. And the adjustability came at the cost of more slop in the steering system and the occasional risk of the bars unexpectedly moving when riding.

One thing that never changed on the M 8000 was the engine, and for that, we are thankful. The 794cc liquid-cooled twin Suzuki engine continues to lead in performance. Producing a claimed 160hp, this engine revs quickly with a very fun powerband that just begs you to keep the throttle to the bar. We hear this engine is approaching the end of its tenure. It may soon be replaced by an 800 version of the Cat-produced CTEC 2 DSI 600 engine. While a new engine would be cool, it’s going to have to be one hell of a performer to best the Suzuki.

As stated earlier, the biggest change to the 2016 model came in the form of a new front end. The spindle is now a single post and angled back. Not only does this new spindle cut through the snow with less resistance, but there is less of it in the snow due to a narrower ski stance – an incredible 34.5 inches wide in its narrowest setting.
2016 Arctic Cat M 8000 SE mountain snowmobile
Ryan Thompson – RLT Photos
Adding to the improvement in sidehill handling is the new ProClimb 7-inch ski featuring a tapered width and deeper keel. With the skis set in the narrowest setting, you do have to be a little careful turning on the trail, but overall the machine is surprisingly stable.

Cat has always offered a solid suspension package, and the M 8000 is no different with Arctic’s IFP shocks all around. The suspension isn’t necessarily plush, but it will handle pretty much anything you throw at it. Like the engine, the suspension begs you to ride it fast, and it works best when you hit the bumps aggressively. Riders who like to jump and pound rough terrain love Arctic Cat, It’s no surprise these machines are popular with Slednecks-style freeriders.

Cat made it right
We said it when we first rode the prototype 2016 M sleds, but we’ll say it again: This is the biggest step forward Cat has made in the mountains since around 2008. They have done an amazing job of transforming a quirky handling machine into something really fun to ride.

Incredibly, they’ve done this while staying with the same chassis and engine. It’s taken a few years, but we’re impressed and glad it’s finally here!
SPECS
Engine: 794cc liquid twin 2-stroke HP: 151.0* Exhaust: APV with tuned pipe, pipe sensor and stainless steel muffler Drive: TEAM Rapid Response primary, TEAM Rapid Reaction BOSS secondary Ski Stance: 34.5-38.5 in. adj. Front Susp.: AMS w/ Arctic Cat IFP (7-in. travel) Rear Susp.: Float Action w/ Arctic Cat Gas IFP Track: 15x153x2.25 in. Power Claw Fuel Tank: 11.7 gal. Rec. Fuel: 91 octane Skis: ProClimb - 7 Dry Weight: NA Price: $12,399 US / 13,799 CA (ES +$400) PLUSES: Great power from the 800cc engine, very capable suspension, much improved sidehilling.
*AmSnow Tested
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