Perhaps lost in Arctic Cat’s launch of mid-sized Blast snowmobiles is big news for off-trail and mountain riders from Team Green for 2021.
For true steep-and-deep riders, Cat unveiled a dynamic new feature on one M 8000 Mountain Cat Alpha One machine; for the extreme crossover crowd it’s putting the single beam Alpha One skid frame in the Riot X 8000 for 2021; and the utility-crossover crowd can celebrate the return of the Norseman X 8000 after a one-year hiatus.
This is on top of details unveiled in October on the 2021 M, Riot and Norseman machines.
Let’s look most closely at each machine.
M 8000 Mountain Cat Alpha One ATAC
For 2019, Arctic Cat and its development partner Yamaha worked with Fox Shocks to create and implement the intelligent Quick Switch (iQS) shocks that allowed riders to electronically switch the damping setting between soft, medium and firm on the ski shocks and rear arm utilizing a handlebar mounted switch. For 2020, more technology was added – allowing riders to separate setting between front and rear.
For 2021, Arctic Cat renamed its suspension system that utilizes the iQS shocks – switching from interactive Arctic Cat Techology (iACT) to Arctic Technology Adjustable to Conditions (ATAC) – but now takes it yet another step further: By including it on a mountain sled.
There’s a twist, however: On the rear arm shock in the mountain version, instead of remotely switching between soft, medium and firm, it’s between soft, medium and “lockout” – a setting in the shock that gives an extremely firm setting to the rear arm, limiting weight transfer and thus keeping the front end of the snowmobile closer to the ground. We definitely see real-world applications for this technology on a mountain sled, especially when climbing chutes!
Riot X 8000
An addition to the four Riot models announced in October, the new Riot X 8000 will feature the single-beam Alpha One rear suspension, creating a bigger separation between the normal and X versions in Cat’s extreme crossover category.
In the Riot X, the somewhat shorter Alpha will be wrapped by a 146-inch Power Claw track with 2.6-inch lugs. Like last year, the X goes with the Arctic Mountain Suspension front end, with a stance on the 7-inch skis adjustable between 39.5 and 31.5 inches. Those interested will be able to order it with either Arctic Cat IFP and For 1.5 Zero QS3 shocks.
Norseman X 8000
Arctic Cat seemed to be making some ground with its Norseman snowmobiles in 2018-19, but then the models not only disappeared from Cat’s initial 2020 product lineup, it was actually found instead in Yamaha clothing as a Transport 6000.
For 2021, the Norseman returns, though confusion reigns. In October, Cat announced a Norseman 6000 model with the 600-class twin was coming back. In today’s announcement, the Norseman X 8000 powered by the 800 twin was unveiled, and the Norseman 6000 is nowhere to be found in the Cat brochure or the Cat price list.
Editor’s Note: This review was originally published in the October 2020 issue of Snow Goer. Every issue of Snow Goer magazine includes in-depth sled reports and comparisons, aftermarket gear and accessories reviews, riding destination articles, do-it-yourself repair information, snowmobile technology and more! Subscribe to Snow Goer now to receive issues delivered to your door or your computer for a low cost.