Long Term Test: 2017 Arctic Cat XF 8000 Cross Country

One capable cat!
2017 Arctic Cat XF 8000 Cross Country
The majority of our snowmobile season in the Midwest is spent on the trails, but every once in a while we get the urge to test our off-trail riding abilities. In that case, we need a sled to do both, a crossover if you will. And if that sled can actually improve our off-trail riding abilities, all the better! Our long-term demo 2017 XF 8000 Cross Country from Arctic Cat was just that.

What impressed us?

There was much about this sled that impressed us starting with the ergonomics. The seat was soft and comfortable. The smaller diameter of the handle bars – new for 2017 – was a very welcome change for most of our riders.

Those new bars sat perched atop a 5.5-inch riser that made the transition from sitting to standing very easy for all sized riders. They also came with an adjustable mountain handlebar to aid in those off-trail excursions that might require some additional leverage.
As you probably well know by now, 2017 marked the last model year of the Suzuki 800cc engine in Arctic Cat’s lineup. Model year 2018 sees the newly released Arctic-made 800, built in its factory in St. Cloud, Minn. The engine change ends a 10-year run for the Suzuki engine. There have been updates along the way, but any engine with a decade worth of service has done its time.

This last go-round with this particular 800 engine did not disappoint. There was plenty of power to grab your attention from the first throttle movement, just as this engine has always had. The gearing here was slightly different (22/48 ) than on the strictly trail oriented ZR lineup (21/41) which resulted in even more low-end to help pop the sled up out of the snow when you were in the bush.

Team clutches deliver that power to a 15x137x1.75-inch Backcountry X track. That’s spun around a Slide-Action rear suspension equipped with an Arctic 1.5 IFP center track shock and beefy FOX 2.0 ZERO QS3 rear track shock.

The front is Cat’s ARS trail suspension with FOX 1.5 ZERO QS3 shocks over their ProCross-6 trail skis. We were really impressed with the rough terrain capabilities of this suspension setup. As the bumps got bigger in the ditches and on the trail, you wanted to ride this sled harder and faster.

With such a unique combination of trail and boondocker-type amenities, we weren’t sure which riding scenario would be our preference aboard this sled, but the XF 8000 Crosscountry Limited turned out to be a very well-rounded machine. It’s a nice middle ground between Arctic Cat’s Crosstour and more mountain-oriented High Country sleds.
In its first year, the Cross Country Limited really delivered a very smooth trail ride, yet features like a 1.75-inch lug, gearing with more grunt and suspension setup capable of handling well beyond your average trail terrain make it a blast to boondock with.
What it’s not
If your season is about trail performance, you might consider going with one of Arctic Cat’s ZR models. While the trail ride is great, and anything up to around 90 mph is achieved on the Cross Country Limited, the speed on the top end just isn’t there thanks to the previously mentioned gearing change. But that is a bigger benefit off-trail.

If you find you’re spending more time on the trail with this sled, you’ll want to upgrade to a bigger windshield. We swapped the 5.5-inch race height stock shield for a mid-height shield from Cat’s accessories catalog. It turned this sled into an even nicer trail ride.

The 1.75-inch track lug is a little much on the trail. Those behind you best not mind being constantly pelted with snow grenades. This sled throws some pretty good size bombs in its roost! The lugs are stiff, too. Make a habit of inspecting your track if you’re on the trails a lot, as we wore off more lugs than we’ve seen in a while.
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