Arctic Cat fans, the wait is over, and there are new models coming! While the last several years have been concerning for ‘Cat enthusiasts, (count us in) our latest visit to the Arctic Cat factory and test rides of several new models have us excited about what’s coming from one of the premier powersports manufacturers.
ONE OF THE ORIGINALS
Arctic Cat is one of the original powersports companies, with a long history of innovation and class leading performance. The green machines won at every level and in the process built an extremely loyal following. Still, there were occasional financial ruts in the trail as the snowmobile business is highly dependent on what most consider inclement weather. The release of ATVs in 1996 gave ‘Cat a year-round product line, followed by UTVs in 2005, and the lineup continued to evolve. In 2017 Textron bought Arctic Cat and added it to their stable which includes several aircraft brands, turf and golf equipment, and military contracts. The enormous financial and engineering resources of Textron promised a bright future for Arctic Cat. Oddly enough, one of the first moves was to drop the Arctic Cat name, at least for the off-road division, instead relaunching the brand as Textron. It was a decision that confused loyal ‘Cat enthusiasts with a few remarking that the Textron name sounded more like an oil company than an off-road manufacturer. To make matters worse, models were cut along with staff, and engineers with little to do sought different options. The off-road division appeared to be adrift. The direction of Arctic Cat is again changing though.
We recently met with two executives who can definitely alter the course of Arctic Cat’s off-road division, and they intend to do exactly that. Peter Keppler (VP of Powersports Sales) and Trenton Munsell (Director of Off-Road Product Strategy) were forthright, honest, and eager to share what they’ve got planned. They understand the market, the company’s strengths, and where improvements can be made. We have to say, their plans for additional models, expanded engine production, and growing both ATV and Side x Side lineups has us excited about Arctic Cats future. It’s finally the direction so many loyal-to-the-bone Arctic Cat fans have been hoping for. They’re active, passionate leaders and exactly what Arctic Cat needs. Even the test tracks next to the factory have been updated for new model testing. The 2023 lineup is a great start!
THE 2023 ALTERRA ATV LINEUP
There are 9 full-sized models in the 2023 ATV lineup and one youth model. While it many not be the largest ATV lineup in the sport, it is very well rounded and there is a model for everybody. They are:
- ALL-NEW ALTERRA 600 BLACK HILLS EDITION. The very sharp looking Black Hills Edition Alterra 600 comes with high-clearance A-arms, 28” tires on cast aluminum wheels, lower transaxle gearing, a winch, extended steel racks, adjustable height handlebars, and a great graphics package. MSRP: $11,599
- ALL-NEW ALTERRA 600 MUD PRO. Arctic Cat invented the mud machine category and the Alterra 600 Mud Pro is ready to dive in deep. Besides enormous tires, vital to every serious mud machine is a relocated radiator and higher air intake routing. The Mud Pro 600 comes standard with both, along with aggressive 28” mud tires on cast aluminum wheels, lower transaxle gearing and locking differential, a warn winch, and a beefy steel front bumper. MSRP: $11,599
- ALL-NEW ALTERRA 600 TRV EPS. In another category Arctic Cat pioneered, the Alterra 600 TRV EPS offers seating for two and a great ride for both. The rear seat is sculpted to hold the passenger firmly in place while providing all-day comfort. Steel racks at the front and rear can handle a heavy load, and 25” tires provide a good mix of both traction and a smooth ride. MSRP: $10,499
- ALTERRA 600 – 4 MODEL OPTIONS. You can’t go wrong with any of the four 600 sub-models. They share many base features including electronic power steering, but there are differences as well. The four models are:
- ALTERRA 600 EPS – The base model. Color is Arctic Cat Medium Green and Black, with sturdy steel racks and front bumper, steel wheels and 25-inch tires. – MSRP: $ 9,199
- ALTERRA 600 XT - Aluminum wheels, 25-inch tires, and 11.5 inches of ground clearance, protected by a premium bumper. Color is a new Phantom Grey. MSRP: $ 9,899
- ALTERRA 600 LTD - 14-inch Al. wheels with 26-inch tires and 12.25 inches of ground clearance. Composite racks, premium bumper and warn winch. Available in a new Fossil color. MSRP: $ 10,499
- ALTERRA 600 SE – The best of the everything. 14-inch Al. wheels with 26-inch tires and 12.25 inches of ground clearance. Composite racks, steel rack extensions, premium bumper and a 3500 lb. WARN winch. Available in Phantom Grey. MSRP: $ 10,999
- ALTERRA 450. An easy riding, capable, and nimble ATV that’s budget friendly. Available in two great color schemes; Coyote Tan or Smoke Screen. MSRP $ 6,999
- ALTERRA 300. The perfect machine to learn on. The 300 is light and nimble, but we’ve found it to be very capable and a lot of fun! Color is Coyote Tan. MSRP $ 4,799
- ALTERRA 90. Kids love to ride and the Alterra 90 is a great platform for youth riders to explore with. It comes with the same great styling as full-sized models but features a reliable 90cc 4-stroke engine, adjustable shocks, a CVT transmission to make riding easy, electric start, and even a speed limiting device for parents. The kids will LOVE it! MSRP $3,399
NEW ALTERRA 600 FEATURES
We’ll get right to the point. The new Alterra 600 class ATVs are the best yet for ‘Cat. As with every new Arctic Cat, a premium was placed on performance and the 600 models feature an all-new chassis designed for comfort, nimble handling, reliability, and a smooth ride. There are two tire size choices (25 or 26”) with adjustable, fully independent suspension at both ends. Arctic Cat’s proprietary 600cc, 45 hp engine powers all models and it is mated to a CVT transmission, and 60 years of building CVT systems definitely helped ‘Cat get this part dialed in. The CVT system features ‘Cats CVTech Trailbloc drive and Invance driven clutches for increased performance, smooth low-speed engagement, and longer belt life. Handling and rider comfort usually go hand-in-hand, and bodywork was sculpted to allow the rider to change position easily for trail obstacles, provide good protection, and allow full trail visibility all from a comfy seat. Front end spindle geometry was designed to be light and quick, and electronic power steering works to both eliminate arm fatigue while absorbing any harsh kickback from the trail. Overall, all the new 600 models present a very well equipped, GREAT looking package. We were stoked for a day of testing.
ALTERRA 600 TRAIL REPORT
We really like the bodywork on the Alterra 600. Everything feels natural and the seat is firm enough to let you shift body position but soft enough for all-day comfort. All controls are placed exactly where you need them, although we would like a second handlebar mounted brake lever for the rear brakes. The foot pedal works fine, but a lever is great for aggressive riding. Large floorboards with integrated foot pegs keep your feet securely planted, but also protected from anything kicked up by the front tires. One great feature built into the bodywork is how it is ducted to disperse heat. Arctic Cat’s thumb throttle is also extremely comfortable, and it’s easy to flip the drivetrain into 4wd thanks to a button above the throttle. Between your knees is a handy storage bin which is the perfect place for anything you don’t want to get wet. Just ahead of the steering column is Cat’s digital display, the key, and a 12v power source. Accessory integration is easy and it’s ready to accept a “plug and play” Garmin GPS which is now a great accessory right from the factory!
The Alterra 600 accelerates quickly thanks to ‘Cats Invance clutch, and there is no perceivable lag when the CVT system backshifts. We also like how the transmission shifts firmly into gear with no mystery spaces between gears or any tendency to jump out under power. On the trail the engine runs smoothly with good throttle response, and handling is very predictable at any speed. Whether blasting down an open trail or picking your way between trees, it doesn’t do anything crazy. We like the electronic power steering as well, and it’s light enough to make steering easy, but does not take away feel from the trail. Overall, the Alterra 600 is comfortable, confidence inspiring, and a blast to play on!
So why a 600 and not an 800 or even a 1000cc Alterra? Because 600cc’s is in the heart of the market, and when you’re building out a lineup you start where your strengths are first. The reality is, a potent 600 engine can do all the hauling, towing, snow pushing, and trail riding an 800cc or 1000cc machine can do anyway. With ‘Cats legacy for performance, a larger displacement machine is never out of the question though.
MAINTENANCE and A NEW BAR BEND
Maintenance is major part of ownership and we always check for how difficult those tasks will be. Thankfully, Arctic Cat engineers made it easy on the new Alterra 600. An oversized air filter and high intake mounts create excellent flow and more miles between servicing, and snap-fit body panels do not require tools for removal. It lets you get at the air and oil filters easily. The oil filter is conveniently on the right side of the engine, with a dip stick below, and the drain hole is found over a large slot in the skid plate.
There is one feature we haven’t quite been able to come to grips with on some of the new 600 models, and ironically, it’s the handlebars. The handlebars on the Black Hills and Mud Pro models are straight from the snowmobile lineup, specifically, Sno-Pro models. That means they are wide, very flat, and have little reach back toward the rider, with a turndown at the ends. Sled riders find this setup useful when positioning their body completely to one side as they traverse a slope. ATV riders also shift their weight, but it’s more by leaning into the turn than by hanging off one side. This means that it will likely be a difficult reach to keep your grip on the far side handlebar, especially since it is very wide and flat. Mud riders are generally the only ATV riders that shift their body position like mountain sled riders do. The Sno-Pro bar makes a bit of sense on that model, but we would change the Black Hills model for a different bend that was only slightly more aggressive than the standard Alterra 600 handlebar.
MORE TO COME – A PROMISING FUTURE
Kermit the Frog once lamented, “It’s not easy being Green”, and no doubt a few diehard Arctic Cat enthusiasts have felt that twinge of pain a time or two also. Lament no longer! The cure is here, there is renewed promise, a passionate, involved staff with real world experience and a clear direction, and great things coming from Arctic Cat. The future looks green!