Thunder for two and a 550 that thinks itÂ’s a 650
For 2009 Arctic Cat comes to market with updates of its powerful Thundercat in an innovative two-up touring concept. Cat’s new top of the line cruiser concept is an extension of its 951cc Thundercat, but filters into its other power levels as well. One of those power levels is an all-new 550cc single and an upgrade of the base 366 into the midsized TRV 400 4×4. You’ll also find more power in the sporty DVX line as Cat now offers a 300cc version. And, for your down and dirty ATVers, check out the 700 H1EFI Mud Pro.
With last year’s introduction of the biggest, most torque-laden all-terrain vehicle to tear up dirt, it’s no surprise that Arctic Cat uses tricks and power from its Thunder Cat 1000 as the basis for new 2009 models. This year Arctic Cat shares the substantial power of its made in the USA V-Twin in a two-up cruiser model, the TRV 1000 H2 EFI. If you can’t get comfy on this long-legged go everywhere ATV, then you just aren’t trying.
While bigger is better for many, Arctic Cat engineers put Thunder Cat ‘oomph’ into a single cylinder motor measuring 545cc. The all-new four-valve, fuel-injected, hemispherical headed engine will be found in a range of Arctic Cat models this coming season. Designed and built by Arctic Cat engineering in Minnesota, the 550 H1 motor makes Cat’s 650 single obsolete. The 550 feels stronger at low end and midrange than Cat’s 100cc larger single. This motor gives price-conscious buyers great value per cubic centimeter of displacement.
When we test rode the new Arctic Cat ATVs in the moonscape-like terrain of South Dakota’s badlands, we came away thoroughly impressed with Cat’s new smallish 550 engine. It has the soul of the Thundercat twin.
The real deal V-Twin powers both the lightly updated Thundercat and the new for 2009 fully dressed TRV 1000 H2 Cruiser. Measuring 951cc, the single overhead cam V-Twin has incredible torque for an ATV engine. Its 188-lbs-ft of torque is massive in a one-passenger ATV and extremely impressive in a two-passenger version. With power to spare at low end and rumbling through midrange up to top end, the Arctic Cat built twin is the perfect complement in this luxury cruiser model.
While everyday riders will find the base Thundercat plenty of ATV, the TRV 1000 cruiser instantly expands the world of two-up riding. For those of you familiar with Arctic Cat, the snowmobile company, you’ll see the cruiser as an extension of Arctic Cat’s luxury touring sled segment. The key difference, of course, is wheels versus a track and skis. But, as with its snowmobiles, Cat’s new cruiser ATV models pack luxury features galore.
“We expect the new cruiser to be a big hit,” says Craig Kennedy, Arctic Cat product team manager. “Canadians appreciate this touring innovation and we expect this to be a hit in the Quebec market.”
As the ultimate performance two-up cruising ATV, the 1000cc cruiser has it all — sans kitchen sink! There are heated handgrips for the driver and passenger. There’s a two-piece fairing with handlebar-mounted mirrors. And there’s a capacious rear-mounted, locking travel case similar to Harley-Davidson’s Tour-Pak.
As we discovered in our test riding, for pure slam-bang fun or jumping, it is best to remove the fairing as a precaution. It works great and is recommended for serious trail touring, though. It sits high and offers a protected view of the trail ahead, especially if traveling with a group. For aggressive, solo riding, take a couple of minutes and remove the fairing.
The Cargo Box
As for that huge cargo box, we are totally ambivalent. It looks great, as does the whole of the cruiser. Arctic Cat’s attention to fit and finish has evolved mightily since the days of its original Bearcat models. The cruiser features automotive-like gloss in its clear-coated Sunset Orange color. But, after using the stylish cargo box a few times, we determined that it wasn’t ready for primetime. Cat engineers assured us that the box was in prototype stage.
We found the opening and closing procedure about as simple and intuitive as working with Microsoft DOS 1.0. Once you learn the trick to opening and closing the two-stages of operation, we guess you’ll be okay. But the operation requires two hands; a push-pull motion, a key and you need to be certain that two hooks synchronize properly. Sounds simple enough!
When we tried operating the cargo box, we figured it out after awhile, but we could see where an impatient person with marginal mechanical skills could really be in a bind. A few days after our test ride, we rode with a friend who had an early introduction 700cc version cruiser with the box. After our day’s ride in some rutted and challenging Midwestern terrain, the box was in two parts and bungie cords were keeping it together.
Part of the problem was Cat’s use of plastic brackets. We have to believe metal would work better. We are not believers in the use of ‘super’ plastic pieces where metal might prove stronger. We have a SciTech sailboat dolly with similar plastic construction and have replaced plastic parts twice now, even though we’ve carried what is deemed acceptable loads on the dolly. We understand that the black plastic cargo box parts look nice, but they weren’t strong enough. And, our friend is not an overly aggressive rider. The inner workings of the cargo box design needs work. So, we do hope that the box was, as indicated, a prototype.
That, however, is our only complaint about the cruiser. It has absolutely stunning power and is unbelievably controlled thanks to the precision-tuned electronic fuel injection and well-designed Duramatic drive system. Like the Thundercat, the 951cc cruiser is agile on the trail thanks to the fully independent suspension. Of course, Cat engineers reworked the ride to make it a bit more plush for two-up usage.
Fear not, however, if you want to be aggressive just lay into the throttle and let ‘er buck! The cruiser has durable, race-tested halfshafts designed to transfer the V-Twin’s ample power from engine to its new 12-inch machined aluminum wheels. And, of course, if the going gets tough, you keep going simply by kicking in the electric shifting 2-to-4 wheel drive system. There’s even a new electric front locking differential with an electronic rocker switch mounted on the gauge pod.
Smooth riding and proven powerful, the TRV 1000 H2 Cruiser is an extension of the base Thundercat, allowing you take a friend along to share in the experience that Cat’s torque monster twin has to offer. The cruiser concept is an innovative step for ATVing and Arctic Cat offers a complete line of cruiser models from the one-liter V-Twin down to a new 400 4×4 version, which is an upgrade of and based on last year’s popular 366 model.
The 550 H1 serves as the backbone of the cruiser version. For solo riding the TRV 550 has a passenger pillion that can be readily removed simply by pulling two pins and adding an optional Speedrack. The secret to 550 H1 performance is its ‘hemi’ head, which helps maximize internal combustion via its unique hemispherical design. Add in precise fuel metering you get with electronic fuel injection and the smooth drivability of Arctic Cat’s Duramatic continuously variable transmission, which shifts ratios seamlessly for maximum power. With more than 40 years of experience with CVT drives in both snowmobiles and ATVs, Arctic Cat knows a lot about getting power to the terrain.
At Arctic Cat’s 2008 introduction of the Thundercat, we found ourselves on the company’s lesser displacement models like the 700 and 650. We had a difficult time understanding why a company would offer two engine series with only 50cc difference. Frankly, we were under-impressed with the 650. After enjoying our romps on Cats powered by the new 550cc single, we are even more unimpressed with the 650 this season. The “feel” of the 550 is as impressive in its way as the V-Twin Thundercat motor.
The 550 may be a bit down in top end compared to the 650, but it’s every bit its equal — if not more — from low end to upper midrange. Whether you ride the 550-powered TRV cruiser version or the non-dresser 550, you’ll come away impressed. It has the seat-of-the-pants kick of Yamaha’s old 660 single. Having test-ridden both, we’d be hard-pressed to pick a winner between the new Cat 550 and Polaris’ redesigned 550. Our sense is that the Cat 550 has the edge, but we’ll just have to do a side-by-side test to be certain. Either way, the 550 category is alive and kicking with ample foot-pounds of torque.
The new 550 H1 is claimed to have 10 percent more power at low end with a 25% increase in torque versus the previous 500cc single used in previous Cat ATVs.
Product team manager Craig Kennedy said simply, “The 550 is substantially stronger than the 500 single.”
As with all of the new 2009 Arctic Cat ATVs you’ll find great attention was paid to steering effort. Faced with competition offering electric power steering, Cat’s engineers feel strongly that the changes they made to the 2009 models works better and saves on complexity as well as weight. The engineers increased wheel offset, changed the caster, and developed a new tire specification. Moving the kingpin mount a mere 6 millimeters changed the inward angle of the tire. Taken as a whole, the result is easier steering with positive feedback without wrist-battering kick back.
Sport riders get more power from Arctic Cat’s new 300 DVX. Fitted with a 270cc, single overhead cam, 4-stroke, the 300 DVX features a wider track and adjustable five-position shocks with 6.1-inches of travel up front and 6.5-inches in the rear.
The 300 DVX is ‘the’ sport ride for aggressive trail riders who seek adventure but still want a reliable and durable ATV. The DVX comes with Cat’s Duramatic CVT, electric start with a recoil backup, large 3.4-gallon fuel tank, lightweight aluminum wheels and hydraulic disc brakes front and rear.
The 300 DVX provides a strong fun quotient that begins with its aggressive, racer-like styling. Not designed as a racer, the 300 DVX features removable fenders and can be customized for competition.
Young riders looking to move beyond a 50cc or 90cc model can opt for the all-new Arctic Cat 150 4×2. Referred to as a ‘transitional model,’ the 150 comes with an air-cooled 149cc engine and larger frame than the kids’ ATVs. It is designed to give 14+-year-old riders an experience option as they work their way to adult-sized models. To allow parents to control their young rider’s ATV adventures as they progress in skills, the CVT clutch features adjustable control settings. The basic setting relegates top speed to 20 miles per hour. Through the use of spacers, the clutch can be adjusted to allow a maximum speed of 30 mph for more skilled riders.
One new Arctic Cat ATV that we were allowed to see, but not ride, was the 700 H1 EFI Mud Pro. You’ll know this model when you see it. It has a large front snorkel protruding out of the front rack area. A unique ATV, the 2009 Mud Pro is designed for bogs and bayous, but on a recent Midwestern mud run of our own, we discovered a large water hole where it would have been great fun to test Cat’s latest innovation.
Cat’s Kennedy explained that some of our Arctic Cat’s sales people came to engineering wondering if they couldn’t build a factory version of what they see compete in some ATV mud races. Those customized mud racers use sewer pipe as intake breathers and look all cobbled up. What would it take to build a factory mud racer, Cat’s engineers were asked.
“We could do something a little better and when we were done, the owner got a full factory warranty to boot,” says Kennedy.
Be aware, though, that factory warranty is limited to keeping the vehicle production stock and not doing totally silly things with it, like sinking it above the handlebars.
Kennedy suggests that while a consumer could take a standard Arctic Cat 700 EFI ATV and modify it for bog running, it would cost upwards of $5,000 in customization. And, even then, it wouldn’t have the key features of the Mud Pro. The Arctic Cat Mud Pro comes with a special snorkel, 28-inch diameter tires, 14-inches of ground clearance, a 3000-lb capacity winch, 4.0 gears and a CVT custom tuned for the low ratio gear set, front and rear bumpers, and totally reworked suspension settings.
None of that includes the special programming that went into mapping the electronic fuel injection especially for the Mud Pro. Even with gear changes and engine program changes, the Mud Pro has torque for the muck and an estimated top end of 50 mph.
Outfitted in Arctic Cat’s Competition Green, the Mud Pro will stand out in the muckiest competition.
Cat For 2009
Arctic Cat’s new for 2009 ATV models feature innovation, more models with Thundercat brute strength, creation of an ultimate performance touring category and the introduction of a wonderful new 550 engine. All things considered, our brief interlude with Arctic Cat in South Dakota provided quite a peek inside one of the sport’s more innovative ATV makers. We think you’ll like what Arctic Cat’s been up to.
Related Reading: 2008 Arctic Cat Thundercat 1000 Review