2008 Arctic Cat Prowler 650 XT Review

ATV.com Staff
by ATV.com Staff
A handsome and versatile rider-friendly UTV

Arctic Cat’s series of Prowler UTVs have been a hit since they were first introduced. At first buyers sought them for their pickup truck utility. The small dump box could be loaded with spools of barbed wire and tools to repair fence lines and the four-wheeled vehicles were nimble and could readily cover terrain that punished a farm truck.

More recently, the Prowler has become a favorite for motorized recreationists, especially those who like to travel with company. These side-by-side vehicles are a more comfortable and companion-friendly alternative to the ‘king-queen seat’ two-up ATVs, like Arctic Cat’s own TRV 650 H1 4×4. The Prowler features a more familiar cockpit that emulates a truck or Jeep. There is a steering wheel, floor pedals and a stick shift for the fully automatic transmission.

Arctic Cat’s constantly variable transmission is smooth and effective, showing the benefits of the company’s nearly half-century of building CVT-equipped snowmobiles. Unlike a snowmobile’s drive, the Prowler setup allows engine braking, which was very nice to have when coming down twisty trails in those low-lying Arizona desert mountains.

Cat’s Prowler headrest is functional.

Cat’s Prowler headrest is functional.

Power is provided by Arctic Cat’s own 641cc single overhead cam engine. It has plentiful grunt for climbing and ample torque to power uphill over rutted and rock-strewn sections of trail. It’s a setup that lets you focus on the trail and not be distracted by shifting. Simply put your foot on the gas pedal and look where you’re going.

The Arctic Cat features a comfy pair of bucket seats and rear headrest. A lap belt keeps you located in the vehicle over the roughest terrain.

While we have ridden Arctic Cat ATVs in the past, we never noticed them being especially noisy. When we first pealed away from the trailhead, the engine noise seemed almost excessive. We quickly realized it was because the engine sits between the passengers. On an ATV, the engine is centered about the same place in the vehicle, but you sit above it by the length of your torso. On the Prowler you sit alongside the engine. You do get used to it, but it did catch our attention.

We were also surprised at how much drag there is in these vehicles. It seems like they are much slower off the mark than even a 400cc ‘stretch’ ATV. Once they get rolling they are fast enough. But when the Prowler 650 was paired against a 500cc two-passenger ATV, it was deemed a draw. The gearing and overall setup on the Prowler 650 XT is for low end torque and the capability to haul up to 1500 pounds of hay, trophy elk or camping gear. Let there be no doubt, the Prowler 650 will get you into the wilderness in relative comfort and permit you to set up an extravagant camp.

The ‘XT’ version features stylish wheels and more features than Arctic Cat’s base Prowler.

The ‘XT’ version features stylish wheels and more features than Arctic Cat’s base Prowler.

Although the Prowler comes standard with a dual range, high-low drive and locking differential, we only used it to see how it worked. The vehicle with its protective roll cage stands nearly six and a half feet high. We found the rounded bars were great for sweeping back overhanging branches and protecting us from overgrown organ cacti, which can really prick a hole in you day’s ride.

The Arctic Cat Prowler comes standard with a front storage area that could accommodate ice and beverages. Of course, we didn’t discover that until too late to matter. This extra storage makes a great place to pack picnic goodies or retrieval tools like ropes and blocks to pull you out of a mismanaged route deviation.

About the only odd thing with the Prowler was the funky parking brake. Positioned to the left of the brake and gas pedal, the emergency brake pedal looks really cheap. It’s a simple metal pedal with no abrasive cover of rubber or plastic. And it sits higher than the other pedals; this might be so you have more leverage to engage it. But in rainy conditions we expect a wet-soled boot might easily slip off when engaging the pedal. Also, that brake-release mechanism just doesn’t seem as though it will last. You have to pull out on a T-shaped handle that seems to really stretch the wire used to release the pedal. It’s effective when new, but we wonder how it will hold up under hard usage. When on the flats you don’t really need to engage the parking brake. But when we were riding up the trail, we used the brake frequently to stay in place and really gave the brake and release a work out. That would be something that Arctic Cat might look at for future products.

The Prowler cockpit has the familiar feel of an off-road truck.

The Prowler cockpit has the familiar feel of an off-road truck.

The Arctic Cat designers might want to look at adding more tie-down locations for the box as well. Having a capacity for bulk storage is nice, but securing gear on the Prowler could be enhanced.

Overall, the Arctic Cat Prowler 650 XT is a really nifty vehicle. The XT stood out with its red bodywork and handsome 14 inch cast aluminum wheels. The Prowler comes with either a 500cc or 641cc 4-stroke single-cylinder engine, CVT transmission, dual bucket seats, dual 12 volt plug-ins, 12.5 inches of ground clearance, 10 inches of suspension travel, disc brakes, 600 pound rated cargo box, 25-pound under hood storage area, and rugged 1,500-pound towing capacity.

Given the choice for desert adventures, we would take Arctic Cat’s Prowler over a more traditional TRV ‘stretch’ ATV any time. We like the familiar truck-like cockpit, the side-by-side seating, ample gear storage of the rear box and overall ride confidence you get with this UTV.

Arctic Cat Prowler 650 XT Specs
EngineLiquid cooled SOHC 4-stroke 4-valve
Displacement641 cc
Bore x Stroke98 x 85 (mm)
TransmissionAutomatic CVT with EBS
Drive System2/4 WD with Diff Lock
Width61.3 in.
Height77.5 in.
Length115.0 in.
Suspension Travel10 inches front, 10 inches rear
Ground Clearance12.5 in.
Suspension TypeDouble A-Arm front and fear
BrakesHydraulic discs front and fear
Fuel Capacity8.2 gal.
Cargo Bed Capacity600 lbs
Towing Capacity8.2 gal.
Dry Weight1,160 lbs
ATV.com Staff
ATV.com Staff

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