The introduction of the first ProCross based M-Series Arctic Cat mountain sleds was an important one. Those first new mountain models definitely did outperform their older counterparts, but they were still a long way behind their competition.
Since then, Arctic Cat has continued to tweak its ProClimb chassis, making both small and large changes that have culminated in a very competitive mountain sled capable of climbing and carving with the best of them.
This year the last big gripe we had with the M8000 was finally addressed with the addition of Cat’s much anticipated, C-TEC2 800 twin. This single change alone completely transforms the M8000 into a more capable, easier-to-ride mountain sled.
Every one of the things we didn’t like about the old Suzuki 800 had been addressed: Bottom end is stout, the engine runs smooth and clean, throttle tip-in is crisp and immediate, it starts easily and power is easy to modulate smoothly. We had always liked how the former 800 pulled up top and the new one performs very much the same in its upper RPM range.
So, under the hood the 2018 M8000 Sno Pro is all roses and sunshine – but what about the rest of the sled? Yes, the 2017 model was better than the 2016, which was better than the 2015 and so on. But, was a new engine all the news for 2018? No… definitely not. Arctic Cat has incorporated a number of additional changes to the 2018 M8000, labelled the “Ascender platform”.
The first and most obvious change is new bodywork. Very similar to the body panels on the turbo models, this new bodywork is 10-percent narrower. The side panels are shaped in a way that positions the rider’s feet 2 inches farther forward on the running boards, which are one-inch narrower than last year. When the narrower running boards are combined with the new body panels, you get a sled that sidehills easier and doesn’t panel out on steep sidehills.
Another big change is the driveshaft location. It’s been dropped 1.125 inches which results in a nearly 10-degree drop in the approach angle of the track. Approach angle is something manufacturers have starting talking more about the past few seasons and, according to the experts, it plays a far greater role in how the sled climbs up on top of the snow than anyone had previously believed it did.
The new approach angle on the M8000 does, absolutely, make a noticeable difference, especially when the snow is deep and light. The sled wants to climb up on top, as it’s supposed to, instead of trenching downward.
These are really the biggest changes to Cat’s 2018 M8000 Sno Pro. The rest of the sled remains very similar with excellent ergonomics, a decent list of features and a light, but otherwise disappointing set of Fox Float shocks all the way around.
Last season, we liked this sled. But there was no way we could keep up with the others line for line. This season, the new Ascender platform with the 800 C-TEC2 under the hood has taken a good mountain sled and transformed it into a great one and it’s a strong competitor in any track length!