2024 ZR 600 Catalyst: Conquering the Chic-Chocs

zr 600 catalyst 2024

To kick off my 2023–2024 season, I had the opportunity to ride the brand new 2024 ZR 600 snowmobile built on the Catalyst chassis equipped with the ATAC suspension system. I was one of the few to ride this model in Quebec. So, it’s important to me to share my experience with you in detail. I’ll talk about our adventure and then share my impressions of the vehicle.

We’re Heading Towards Marsoui

Our plan is to make our way to Marsoui, one of the bastions of off-trail snowmobiling. The village and its backcountry typically receive enormous amounts of snow each season. For several days now, the locals have been out on their sleds, so for us the choice was simple. We had to depart from there. It’s mid-November, and it’s been two weeks since winter seemed to settle in the highest accessible mountains on public lands.

Upon our arrival in the village of Marsoui, we were dismayed to find a snowless village. The warmth and rain of recent days had replaced the wintry landscape with a lush springtime scene.

Knowing the area well, I was aware that the snow cover was much more abundant at higher altitudes. Therefore, I suggested leaving a truck and trailer in the village for a quick exploration to find an ideal landing spot.

We set off along the river on the maple syrup route. The usual parking spot showed little to no snow … so we had to venture deeper towards the mountains. Fortunately, a kilometre or two further, we found the long-awaited white gold. Before us now stood a wintry landscape.

2024 zr 600 catalyst sled in the trunk of a pickup truck

We returned to gear up and loaded the snowmobiles into the beds of our trucks, as the terrain was too challenging for the trailer. After a few adventures, we finally unloaded the sleds and reconnected with our sport.

A sledder standing on his 2024 zr 600 Catalyst

Our exploration took us through the snowy trails of the forefront of the Chic-Chocs. We crossed the forest paths linking Marsoui and Tourelle. The snow cover was ideal for our trail machines, with 30 cm to 50 cm of packed snow and an additional 5 cm to 15 cm of fresh snow on top. In short, perfect conditions for our sleds. The peaks treated us to stunning landscapes throughout our ride.

We covered approximately 55 km during the afternoon, navigating through various forest trails, some wide, while others were narrow and technical. This allowed me to truly understand the machine I had in my hands.

2024 ZR 600 Catalyst with ATAC suspension

2024 zr 600 catalyst in the trunk of a pickup truck

In 2024, Arctic Cat introduces a new chassis: the Catalyst. This promises mass centralization, as well as significant weight reductions. Additionally, we see the introduction of new composite materials combining stiffness and weight loss. I must admit that, upon the announcement of the new platform, I was thrilled for the manufacturer. Fans and snowmobilers eagerly awaited the renewal of product lines offered by the American manufacturer.

However, the choice of engines left me perplexed at the time of the announcement. With the manufacturer only offering the 600 C-TEC2 engine for the introductory year, I had some concerns about possible lack of power. My on-field test proved me wrong.

Construction

The first thing I noticed when sitting behind the handlebars of this new beast is how much more compact it feels compared to previous models. As a result, it feels like the machine disappears beneath us, providing a wide view of the terrain ahead. The small windshield also enhances this effect. It’s an immersive cockpit, enhancing the sporting driving experience.

The machine moves with agility yet feels sturdy and rigid to me. I had fun testing the flexibility of the running boards by standing on them with both feet. They didn’t budge at all and seemed really solid to me. Overall, the construction of the vehicle appears to be robust.

The plastic panels covering the cabin seem as solid as those offered by any other manufacturer. While the initial experience of removing them may not be easy, I quickly learned to remove them with ease. I took the opportunity to check the belt, which replaces the drive chain. It has ample space to be accessed, even in the presence of the factory exhaust.

The seat provides comfort without being too soft. I appreciate a firm seat when driving in a sporty manner. That’s exactly what the seat of the 2024 ZR 600 Catalyst offers. In the past, I had criticized Arctic Cat for the seat used on the 2020 Riot because it was too spongy and moved with the rider during aggressive driving. I must say that it’s the opposite with the 2024 ZR 600 Catalyst. We have a firm seat that’s perfect for responsive driving.

In summary, the machine is lighter and seems solidly constructed.

Driving the 2024 ZR 600 Catalyst

Driving is one of the most intriguing aspects of the 2024 ZR 600 Catalyst. I feel as if I’m part of the snowmobile, more centred within it. Especially when standing, it seems to disappear beneath me, giving me a sense of total control. I don’t feel as if I’m being guided by the snowmobile; rather, I feel in control with my gaze. It moves where I look.

2024 zr 600 catalyst 2024 on the snow

When driving seated, I feel confident. My handlebar grip was excellent, and despite slight initial lag, the steering response is precise and intuitive. The driving position is effective and comfortable.

The suspension elements of the 2024 ZR 600 Catalyst are well known to enthusiasts of the manufacturer and provide, as usual, a well-grounded ride on the trail. I didn’t observe any ski lift. This snowmobile follows the trail like it’s on rails.

The shocks with ATAC Technology adjust on the fly according to the driver’s needs. I tested the three factory modes: soft, mid, and firm. The majority of the ride was in soft mode to absorb as much impact as possible, as we were traversing rough and uneven terrain. I was impressed by the drastic comfort change between soft and firm modes. It’s highly likely that enthusiasts of sporty driving will find their preference with this fingertip adaptability.

Performance

I don’t know what Arctic Cat fed its engineers during the design of this engine, but I can tell you that this 600 cc engine is not lacking in power. It’s the most powerful engine in its category among those I’ve had the chance to try. The machine simply has a phenomenal power response. It’s quickly engaged and revs up just as fast. This translates into lightning-fast accelerations and impressive corner exits.

With a smile on my face, I took great pleasure in tackling the winding paths offered by the Chic-Chocs in every corner exit. The 2024 ZR 600 Catalyst is not only fast in straight lines, it also accelerates strongly coming out of turns. Furthermore, it handles curves admirably. At mid-turn, I would press the accelerator and instantly feel the vigorous push of this engine. The machine always had plenty of response, no matter what speed I was travelling.

The omens are good for Arctic Cat’s future, especially if the 858 is as robust as their 600 in its category. We’ll certainly see more cats on the trails.

Honestly, piloting the 2024 ZR 600 Catalyst isn’t cumbersome. Yes, it’s a 600 cc, but it offers a very interesting level of performance while remaining predictable and controlled. An experienced rider will find enjoyment in it, and a beginner will be able to learn on it.

Instrumentation

Here comes the saddest part of my review … the instrumentation. Although we have exciting promises for the 2025 models, with the introduction of the Garmin screen, which seems truly superb, the offerings for the 2024 models are much less “flashy.”

The screen is functional, but not very aesthetically pleasing. I must say that the division of the screen into four and its customizable organization are well done. I had relevant information such as RPM, speed, temperature, clock, and ATAC suspension. Personally, I don’t need more, but the competition has accustomed us to more.

Where I struggle are the controls on the handlebar of the 2024 ZR 600 Catalyst. They are not easily reachable, especially the reverse button. This has frustrated me several times because the frame around the button prevented me from easily reaching it with my gloves on. I’ve sometimes had to use my right hand to operate it. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s not ideal either. As an off-trail rider, the reverse command is essential for me. Let’s hope that the manufacturer pays particular attention to this in future editions.

Conclusion

In the end, I believe Arctic Cat has made a strong impact with its new chassis. The 2024 ZR 600 Catalyst was fast, agile, and extremely well planted on the trail. The sporty behaviour of the engine and its impressive accelerations convinced me to recommend this snowmobile to you. Although some details still need improvement in terms of instrumentation, the 2024 ZR 600 Catalyst with ATAC suspension impressed me, even charmed me!

I see a promising future ahead for Arctic Cat. The introduction of the 858 engine into this chassis will certainly be greatly appreciated by performance enthusiasts. The chassis compares very positively to the competition and puts the manufacturer in a strong position. It remains to be seen whether snowmobilers will respond favourably to the manufacturer. For my part, I am convinced that the 2024 ZR 600 Catalyst is one of the best snowmobiles I have ridden on trails.

I must also highlight the enchanting scenery offered by the backcountry of Haute-Gaspésie. These mountains are truly worth a visit. Will you dare to challenge the Chic-Chocs this winter?

I would like to thank the manufacturer Arctic Cat and Sledmagazine.com for allowing me to conduct this test. To you, dear readers, I wish a pleasant season with plenty of snow!

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