Let’s face it, Arctic Cat is the least well off of the Big 4 snowmobile manufacturers. Despite its acquisition by Textron in 2017, its resources don’t compare with those of its competitors. Regardless, the Minnesota-based manufacturer continues to hold its own in this highly competitive world. Its small team knows how to work its magic with its more restricted budget. This magic gave me the chance to ride the RIOT 600 146 on the new Catalyst chassis.
The Announcement of a New Chassis:
Under embargo, a few of my journalist colleagues and I took part in an exclusive preliminary presentation of the basics of a new chassis. We were sworn to secrecy until its official unveiling in the summer of 2022.
A contest was held for the public to name this new addition to the Arctic Cat catalogue. At its presentation at Minnesota’s Hay Days last September, the winning entry was picked, and the chassis was named: Catalyst. The positive response was instantaneous, and we were all eager to try it out.
Finally, “D” Day!
At the last SnowShoot in Montana, I was one of the privileged few to try out the first editions of this new platform. In my opinion, this was THE big announcement for 2024, all manufacturers combined.
My first observation was the reduced dimensions of the front section of Arctic Cat snowmobiles equipped with this new chassis. I wondered if there really was an engine under those panels, since the proportions seemed so much smaller than those of the Procross platform.
My Favourite Snowmobile: the Arctic Cat RIOT 600 146
Despite the wide range of versions available from Arctic Cat, the one that caught my eye the most was the RIOT 600 146. Its 50/50 crossover credentials are just what one might need when looking for a snowmobile to tackle any situation or conditions.
It was an instant favourite. It fully won me over when I tested it on trails and in heavy snow. You can quickly feel the designers’ efforts to lower the centre of gravity. In fact, the engine is 25 mm further back and 25 mm lower than its predecessor. Including the rider and fuel tank, the masses have been centralized to provide a ride that goes beyond anything known from this manufacturer.
Weight has also been greatly reduced in the completely redesigned steering system. There are now far fewer nuts, bolts, brackets and shafts. It also turns more easily and within a tighter radius. Ergonomics have also been greatly improved by shifting the position of the rider forward and higher up.
To be honest, riding an Arctic Cat Catalyst snowmobile felt like riding a go-kart, thanks to how precise its handling is.
The reduced dimensions of the front panels give us a visibility that is almost unheard of until now. Now we understand where Arctic Cat’s efforts have been concentrated in recent years. Remember the introduction of the ADAPT clutch? With its lighter weight and narrower shape, it provides constant tension to maximize performance, minimize wear and extend belt life. This ADAPT clutch offers lower inertia, meaning more instantaneous response for consistent performance.
We’ve noticed that the dimensions of the ADAPT allow for a narrower side panel. In fact, the designers have worked it in to the millimetre. We could barely fit our fingers into the left-hand compartment!
The weight of just about every component of the snowmobile was decimated by optimizing parts and operating systems, and paying attention to detail. They had to make decisions like:
- opting for a belt drive system instead of a chain case
- integrating composite running boards
- eliminating every inch of potential excess wiring
An Arctic Cat engineer accompanied us during our SnowShoot tests, and we took advantage of his expertise to demonstrate how to remove the front parts. To date, this is probably the snowmobile that allows you to remove the side panels and hood in the most efficient way possible. No tools are required, and it’s done in seconds.
The hood is removed by disconnecting a quick-connect plug. It was while performing this action that I realized that the hood also acts as an air intake for the engine. Much to my surprise, the replacement belt is attached to the hood. It’s a testament to the Arctic Cat team’s attention to detail and space efficiency.
A 600cc Engine
Arctic Cat snowmobiles equipped with the Catalyst chassis are currently exclusively powered by the 599 cc C-TEC2 2-stroke twin-cylinder engine with semi-direct fuel injection. Compared to previous years, the 600 now has a new fuel management system, a more durable crankshaft, a new stator and more. It’s worth mentioning that I noticed a lot of vibration when this engine was idling and found it a little annoying.
We’d be surprised if Arctic Cat stopped there when it comes to engines for its Catalyst snowmobiles. Could a 4-stroke engine see the light of day? Very likely!
The Riot 600 can be ordered with a 15 x 146-inch track, which can be either a 1.6-inch Cobra or a 1.75-inch Hurricane design. Buyers can also choose between basic IFP shocks or Fox iQS shocks as part of Cat’s ATAC system. The Riot 600 comes with 39-inch skis.
The Digital Gauge: Not for Me!
Arctic Cat mainly uses 2 types of digital gauge for its snowmobiles. This first edition of the RIOT 600 146 is equipped with my least favourite of the two. It’s hard to read because the information is so small, in my opinion. This is simply an aspect to be corrected in the future.
Editor’s note: Arctic Cat announced in September 2023 a new set of dials that will be available on 2025 Catalyst snowmobile models.
In conclusion, my first contact with the Catalyst chassis was a pleasant surprise. I can confidently say that the Arctic Cat RIOT 600 146 2024 is among my favourite snowmobiles for the foreseeable future. I can’t wait to see what this American manufacturer has in store for the future.
More about the new Catalyst chassis
- Arctic Cat unveils new and improved Catalyst chassis
- Arctic Cat’s Catalyst Chassis is unanimously approved by the SledMagazine.ca Team!
- New Arctic Cat 858 Engine: Everything You Need to Know
- Mathieu’s Arctic Cat Snowmobile pick for 2024
- Denis’ Arctic Cat 2024 favorite: The ZR 600 137 Snowmobile
- Arctic Cat Catalyst M600 Mountain Test Ride & Review
- Why is the Arctic Catalyst 600 MTN so popular in the mountains?
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- Arctic Cat 2024 trail models