On the snowy day of our photo shoot, the Arctic Cat ProCross F 1100 Sno Pro LTD tried its best to disappear. With its white hood, side panels, A-arms, ski tips and tunnel accented by subtle touches of black and muted grays, the Limited model really pops on showroom floors, and can even be quite stunning on a blue-sky day.
Out in a snowstorm? It’s just shy of being winter camo.
The bigger question, however, was whether it would disappear in the snowdust during our test when it had to compete against other sleds in this class. Put it on the dyno, and the 1056cc four-stroke twin spools up a class-competitive 123 ponies. It’s a different kind of powerband, however — it’s got a notably less aggressive power curve than either of the two-strokes in this class as well as the four-stroke Yamaha. It’s softer in the low and mid ranges but eventually ends up near the same place. There’s no surprising burst at the bottom or pick-up-the-skis feel when planting the throttle to the bars to bound over an obstacle. Depending on one’s perspective, that makes it either easy-to-control and smooth, or slower-to-react and, arguably, somewhat dull.
The F 1100 was tweaked for 2013 for its sophomore season in the ProCross chassis. This lighter and more aggressive chassis was met with much fanfare when introduced last year, but its first year on the snow was marred by a handful of gremlins. With a year on the snow, Cat officials took the time to tighten up some of the problem areas and address some concerns. For instance, Cat engineers promised the reverse system now works flawlessly, new material will make the buttons in the secondary clutch more durable and parts availability issues have been solved.
Those changes are all important, yet hidden. The only visual change, other than color and graphics, is a new heated goggle bag that fits nicely into what was a big gap between the handlebars and the gauges in front of the driver.
How It Fits
Arctic Cat has long done a good job of building roomy sleds that fit big guys well, and the F 1100 Sno Pro LTD is a fine example. Compared to the other sleds in this class, the seat is long and wide, the hooked handlebars have a wide berth, rotate on a nice plane and are highly adjustable, and there’s plenty of room for the driver to have his legs in a number of positions.
Creature comforts abound on this model — a heated seat, bags front and rear, an accessory outlet, hand guards, electric start, push-button-activated reverse and more. She’s a cruising machine right out of the box.
As with just about anything in life, there are tradeoffs, however. While weights for the prototype sleds weren’t released, we can guarantee you that this is at least the third heaviest sled in this test, and it feels the most weighty. It also feels wide on the trail. The surface of the heated seat is rather tacky — quite a contrast to the slippery surface found on two-stroke Cats, and that makes it more work to scoot your body around when leaning through turns. The hand guards are desperately needed, because the tiny windshield does next to nothing to divert the cold blasts coming over the cowl.
As long as we’re being picky, two other ergonomic complaints were flagged by our test team. The seat was too cushy — when leaning off hard in bumpy corners, one’s derriere pounded through the seat foam in a hurry, resulting in an uncomfortable encounter with the square edge of the tunnel. Also, the huge brake handle is a long reach from the handlebars, a problem exacerbated by the placement of the hand guard. Even when riding with thin gloves, the driver really had to wedge his fingers between the guard and the handle to engage the brake.
How It Performs
The F 1100 Sno Pro LTD rolls down the trail nicely, providing a ride void of surprises yet sometimes lacking in excitement. How this fits your riding style is up to you.
Rolling on the throttle at clutch engagement or otherwise at slow speeds, the power comes on gently, the rear suspension providing just a bit of squat as the 1.25-inch lugs on the RipSaw track grab the trail below and move the sled forward. The engine lets out an industrial groan rather than a performance-oriented bark when the throttle is pinned, but once above about 50 mph it feels at home.
That is reflected by where this sled performs best — on wide trails with sweeping turns. In the tight-and-twisties, where the throttle must be released and brake pressure applied, the F 1100 loses its momentum, steers heavy and isn’t as fun as competitive models. When the driver can keep the engine higher in RPM and roll through corners, however, it can keep up with anything in this class, and this helps ease steering effort as well. Truly, it’s best ridden like the fan-cooled sled you may have once owned, or bought for your kid — steer it through turns, tap the brake if you must but don’t completely drop the throttle if you don’t need to, or you’ll be starting over again in the slow-building powerband.
The Arctic Race Suspension (ARS) dual A-arm front corners flat — aided perhaps by the engine not overwhelming the chassis. Fox FLOAT air shocks are found up front, while Fox Zero Pro shocks are used in the FasTrack rear. The test machine was calibrated for a cushy ride, perhaps too soft for snowmobilers expecting something to live up to the Sno Pro name. We found ourselves using every bit of the suspension when the trails got rough. The skis and front suspension did a good job of cancelling out the input through bumpy sections and kept the sled tracking straight, but the sled also felt heavy in these conditions and thus was more tiring than the Ski-Doo, Polaris or Yamaha.
Overall, the sled felt better finished than both the 2012 pre-production machines we tested a year earlier at Rode Reports, and the production 2012 Cats we rode last winter. The brake offered less pulsation, the reverse gear worked better, odd gaps in the bodywork disappeared and formerly ill-fitting components seemed to better mesh.
It’s been said often that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Well, if you’re an aggressive trail rider who be-holdin’ the throttle to the bars and actively seeks out bumpy trails to test your skills and the sled’s capabilities, this particular Sno Pro may not be for you. The powerband, subtle suspension settings and overall fun factor of this sled don’t match that rider well. If that’s you and you’re a Cat guy, find an extra $800 and consider the F 800 Sno Pro — it’ll provide the ride you want.
If comfort, the long-term durability and ease of operation of a four-stroke and amenities like on-board storage and heated seats are your thing, this really is a nice snowmobile. The buyer can still have something that says “Sno Pro” on the side, so you’re not labeling yourself a solo-touring rider, which is important to some riders. Get yourself a taller windshield, and let the miles count up.
Arctic Cat ProCross F 1100 Sno Pro LTD / $11,549
ENGINE: 1056cc, liquid-cooled, four-stroke twin with EFI SUSPENSION: Arctic Race Suspension dual A-arm front with Fox FLOAT shocks, 10 inches of travel; FasTrack Slide-Action rear with Fox Zero Pro shocks, 13.5 inches of travel DIMENSIONS: 118 inches long by 48 inches wide; 15x128x1.25 RipSaw track STANDARD FEATURES: Push-button reverse, electric start, heated storage bag, adjustable handlebars, low windshield, hand guards, heated seat NEW FOR 2013: Heated storage bag