New model introductions usually amount to the announcement that a manufacturer has one-upped the competition (and sometimes themselves) with a new ATV, and high horsepower premium machines have become the norm. When we arrived at the 2011 Arctic Cat media release event, we weren't really sure what to expect. With over-the-top products like the 1000cc Thundercat and Mud Pro 4x4 ATVs and the lightning fast, versatile Prowler HDX and XTZ line, what would Arctic Cat have under the covers to surprise us? As it turned out, they had a plethora (Jefe... can you tell me what it means to have a plethora?) of surprises for us. Instead of one new monster machine aimed at securing bragging rights for the year, they had three new machines aimed squarely at the meat of sales in the ATV market. And just for icing on the cake, they formally announced a new partnership with a “big box” store to become dealers of Arctic Cat ATVs and UTVs.
Arctic Cat 350 4x4
The first addition to the AC family is the all-new 2011 350 4x4. The 350 is a mid-sized ATV that has been packed with features rivaling other full-sized ATVs. At the heart of the 350 4x4 is the same 366cc air/oil cooled, 4-stroke engine found in the 2010 266 SE. Supplying the fuel to the fire is a 34mm Keihin carburetor with an automatic electronic choke to keep starting nice and easy. Putting the 366's power to the ground is Arctic Cat's Duramatic automatic transmission and sealed CVT system with dynamic engine braking. Speaking of braking, the 350 4x4 features front and rear self-cleaning, hydraulic disc brakes controlled by a single hand lever. The foot brake controls only the rear hydraulic disc.
The mid-sized, lightweight chassis is 60lbs lighter than the competition and features dual a-arm, fully independent front and rear suspension, giving the 350 4x4 a healthy 10 inches of ground clearance and 7 inches of suspension travel. 24 inch Kenda tires on 12 inch steel wheels keep you planted and clawing your way over or through pretty much anything that gets in your way. A versatile, 2” receiver hitch makes trailering and towing options almost unlimited. The front rack has plenty of space to carry 75lbs of supplies and the rear SpeedRack system offers an impressive number of accessory options and a 150lb capacity.
The 350 4x4 is definitely a serious competitor in its class as far as performance, but it is pushed over the top by high-end features that are not available on any of its competition, or even many larger, more expensive ATVs. A digital instrument cluster with odometer, trip, gear indicator, fuel gauge, high temp/low battery light, and a DC outlet graces the center of the 350's handlebars. Also, a feature we really like is the dual rear backup lights! We wish every utility ATV came with them! A 4.3 gallon fuel tank keeps you riding or working rather than constantly searching for gas!
Arctic Cat 425 4x4
One step up from the new 350 4x4 is its bigger, stronger brother: the 425 4x4. It shares all of the same chassis and bodywork features of the 350, but steps it up with a 443cc liquid cooled, fuel injected SOHC four stroke engine. Shift-on-the-fly, electronic 4wd replaces the 350's full-time AWD system, and 25” Kenda tires reside on the 12” steel wheels. As with the 350 4x4, the 425 4x4 comes with the laundry list of top-end features such as full digital instrumentation, Start-in-Gear capability, engine braking, full-length skid plates, and dual taillights with backup lamps. At only $500 more than the 350 4x4, the 425 4x4's price tag of $5999 makes it a great buy.
Arctic Cat XC 450 4x4
For 2011, Arctic Cat has thrown their hat into the ring of the Crossover class of ATVs with a model they call the XC 450 4x4. The XC reaches out to the consumer who wants 4wd capability combined with a sporty chassis. The XC 450 4x4 shares the same 443cc fuel injected, liquid cooled SOHC four stroke single as the 425 4x4.
The Duramatic CVT transmission with high, low, and reverse gears puts the power down to 23” Maxxis front and rear tires on sweet aluminum wheels that will dig two or four at a time with the flick of the electronic switch. A rear swaybar helps to keep the XC level as you rail around corners, and the dual a-arm suspension with 5-way preload adjustable shocks gives 7” of wheel travel on each end. Heavier spring rates and shock damping give the XC a much sportier feel than its utility counterparts, and they manage to do a good job at absorbing impacts if you want to get some air. Rounding out the “sporty” features are separate front and rear hydraulic disc brakes with dual hand levers. Dynamic engine braking helps to keep your downhill charge under control.
The XC's digital instrumentation gives you insight on every aspect of what's going on with your ATV, including engine RPM, temp, and oil pressure. Like the 350 and 425 4x4 models, the XC comes standard with the awesome dual tail and backup lights, and the standard 2” receiver hitch is unmatched by competitors. A standard, full-length, plastic skid plate keeps anything nasty from making a mess of expensive engine and driveline parts. $6699 will put you on the seat of a 2011 Arctic Cat XC 450 4x4 in either black with orange or lime green with black graphics.
New Partnership for 2011
In a move that was previously considered taboo, Arctic Cat also announced a new partnership with Bass Pro Shops to become a licensed dealer of Arctic Cat vehicles, parts, accessories, and service. With the release of these three new models aimed squarely at the value-minded outdoorsman, the relationship between them makes more sense than ever. Until now, off-road power sports were always somewhat separated from our other fun hobbies, like hunting, fishing, boating, golfing, etc. Now you can do it all under one roof! We hope there's a good place to eat, too... because we can see this as being a place we'd love to spend a lot of time!
Arctic Cats three new models aimed squarely at the center of the market should be a hit. They’ve got plenty of the features most riders look for in a package that offers value to the consumer. We enjoyed our first ride and we can’t wait to get them on our turf for some extended testing.