Trail Test: 2011 Arctic Cat Sno Pro 500

If the 2011 Arctic Cat Sno Pro 500 were a person, it would be a skinny, A.D.D.-stricken teenager after drinking one of those oil-can sized cans of Monster Energy drink: Light in weight, not terribly powerful, rather loud and a bit on the skittish size – but amped up and looking to have a good time!

Since its introduction for model year 2010, the Arctic Cat Sno Pro 500 has been the definition of lightweight fun. Its engine only makes about 85 horsepower, but when placed in Cat’s race chassis, engineers make it rev high and engage hard. Plus, the entire machine is so light (the 2010 model weighed 461 pound according to our scales) and agile feeling that it can easily be jumped over the smallest trail anomaly and corrected in mid-air or mid-corner with a shift in the driver’s weight.

Our 2010 staff demo unit was a very popular machine among our staff – it was a riot to ride, plus it has a certain “whip-me, beat-me” appeal. With its aggressive handlebars, seating position, running board trim and look, you could almost feel your personality change when you swung a let over it – the machine made you want to hold the flipper to the bars and attack anything that was in your way. Luckily the chassis and suspensions were up to the task.

The 2011 Arctic Cat Sno Pro 500 in action.

Sno Pro Evolves For 2011

When Arctic Cat first announced its 2011 lineup, the only planned changes for the Sno Pro 500 were new graphics. However, by the time company officials showed up for the 2011 Rode Reports testing event in West Yellowstone, Mont., the company adapted its plan – opting for a shorter lug, 1-inch HackSaw track rather than last year’s 1.25-inch Cobra, a move that Cat officials say will increase top speed by 3 to 5 mph. Also, the sway bar was removed in the front end, as Cat engineers instead opted for stiffer springs with a goal of reducing ski lift.

In our afternoon of field testing the 2011 model, we must admit to having mixed feelings about the changes. The pre-production unit we tested exhibited more corner push and drift than the 2010 model we had grown used to, possibly a result of the missing sway bar. Hopefully further suspension calibrations before production models are built can help return this model to its previous handling prowess.

Arctic Cat Sno Pro 500 Profile
Otherwise, this was the same machine we fell in love with last year. Its suspensions and brakes react expertly to aggressive rides – which isn’t surprising, considering the heavy crossover with the Sno Pro 600 race machine. One beef with the machine: If Cat is going to sell the Sno Pro 500 ($8,399 MSRP) to consumers for trail use, it can’t hide the dimmer switch high on top of the dash, partially blocked by the steering post.

Overall, the Sno Pro 500 is an aggressive, fun ride. What it lacks in refinement, it makes up for in raw enthusiasm.

2011 Arctic Cat Sno Pro Hits:

  • Lightweight chassis
  • Sporty nature
  • Open layout

2011 Arctic Cat Sno Pro Misses:

  • Down on power
  • Corner push or drift
  • Hidden dimmer switch

2011 Arctic Cat Sno Pro 500 specifications

  • $8,399
  • Engine: 499cc, liquid-cooled, two-stroke twin with batteryless fuel injection
  • Bore/Stroke: 71mm x 63mm
  • Claimed output: 85 hp
  • Front suspension: AWS VII double-wishbone A-arms; FOX Zero Pro shocks; 9.5 inches of travel
  • Rear Suspension: Slide-Action; Fox Zero Pro shocks; 13.5 inches of travel.
  • Track: 15x128x1-inch Hacksaw

For details on the full 2011 Cat lineup, visit 2011 Cats.

To view Sno Pro 500 details on the Artcic Cat site, click here.

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