EDITORS NOTE: This spring, we’ll be posting concise “First Impressions” stories on 2021 machines from Arctic Cat, Polaris, Ski-Doo and Yamaha to help spring buyers make informed decisions. Look for full evaluations in future issues of Snow Goer. Enjoy.
No snowmobiles at our 2021 Rode Reports testing event generated as much discussion – or, more directly, and many varied opinions – as the new Blast 4000s from Arctic Cat (and related SXVenoms from Yamaha). Even when test riding other snowmobiles with no Blasts in sight, if a trailside break lasted more than 10 minutes it seems the conversation would lead back to the Blasts and Venoms.
Some members of our team test deemed the low-powered, 7/8th size sleds a grand slam home run – meaning a sure-fire hit with a sizeable customer based that was sure to gobble them up. “These guys are going to sell a ton of these machines!” one test team member said confidently about a dozen times over the course of the week.
Sticking with the baseball analogy, other testers considered them a solid single that could possibly be legged out to a double, with “I can envision the market” and “for the right customer they seem pretty good” sort of comments. And still others were less sold. “The price is going to be the problem – it would be a great $5,000 or even $6,000 sled, but their MSRP is way too high to be practical.”
And, it wasn’t just our team doing the speculating or sharing the varied opinions: Officials from the Ski-Doo and Polaris were regularly either sharing their thoughts about the package – and those thoughts were all over the board – or asking for our’s.
So how does a Blast ZR ride, and how well does it fit it’s intended market?
There was strong agreement on one key factor, though: The performance enabled by the single-cylinder 397cc liquid-cooled two-stroke engine was shockingly good, bordering on great!
Riding at a high altitude that – by pure science – should rob 25 to 30 percent of its available horsepower, the little oil burner was stout, carrying riders of 200 pounds into the mid-60 mph range and allowing the Blast rider to stay surprisingly close to riders on sleds with three times as much horsepower on twisting trails. Sure, when we’d reach straightaways or laketops the 850s and 800s would disappear in a cloud of snowdust, but a good rider on a Blast was able to hang close on most rides on trails that twist through the forest.
“Really, really, really impressed with the engine performance,” one test rider said in his notes. “To get this kind of performance – without predominant vibration – out of a single is incredible, and then to get fuel injection and variable exhaust as a part of the package? It’s exquisite.”
The sleds’ ergonomics also impressed. Sitting on the narrow seat behind the small handlebar, the rider felt like they were on a modern sled – not one that was sucked down close to the ground or like an up-sized youth sled. There was real suspension beneath the rider – sure, the cheap, simple shocks could be overtaxed if thrust through a mogul field, but in general terms the sleds did well on most trails.
“People shouldn’t knock it until they try it,” one test rider said. “It was wicked fun and [designers] knocked it out of the park.”
“A guy that wants to hang with his buddies riding trail burners may be disappointed, but if that happens he should have done his research,” one tester said bluntly. “I enjoyed it when I rode it for what it was built for – cruising trails at a moderate speed.”
Test riders thought the handling was good but not great – wearing the front end from Cat’s mountain sleds, it comes without a sway bar and will occasionally lift an inside ski or cause the rider to make mid-corner corrections on occasion.
Ultimately, the Blast ZR and its sister machine the SXVenom are interesting, fun sleds that are slightly downsized – both in term of size and performance – from regular snowmobiles. The most curious question from most folks at the test riding event – again, our test riders and other factories’ officials – is whether the price was downsized enough to match the features and benefits of these fun little snowmobiles. “I loved it, it truly offered smiles for miles, but I wouldn’t buy it for myself – then again I’m not the target market for it,” one tester said. “I know my kids, my wife and even my father would really enjoy it and each could be a perfect customer – but maybe not for $8k. I guess time will tell whether they sell at this price.”
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.