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Long Term Test: 2017 Arctic Cat Mountain Cat 153

A full season out west with the ’17 Arctic Cat Mountain Cat
2017 Arctic Cat Mountain Cat 153
When this article hits the stands, the new 2019 model year sleds will be close to being announced. In the business of marketing and deadlines it is easy to get years ahead of the current date. One of the perks of this job is I get to travel into the future every year and ride the new sleds almost a year before they are released. So when I catch myself complaining that I am writing a big review on a sled that is the same year I’m actually in, I remind myself that it’s OK. Man, time travel can really spoil you and mess you up!

■ In-fighting ensued

This past season we long-term demo tested the 2017 Arctic Cat Mountain Cat 153. The verdict was split on this sled. While it wasn’t everyone’s favorite in our fleet, most riders really liked it. For me personally it had great power and was one of the easiest to ride. With the sled’s stability and improved floatation I found myself appreciating Artic Cat’s improvements.

I was extremely impressed with its ability to hold a steep side hill without washing out. On a ride in the Wyoming backcountry specifically, it was on of those days where you have a perma-grin frozen to your face because all day long you are getting face shots of deep cold unicorn powder.

In this instance, we had worked our way up a drainage and had one last stretch to go. I figured I had nothing to lose so I went up one side came down across the bottom and up the steep opposing side. My intention was to bank back and forth up the drainage. However, once I got up on the side I realized that this cat wanted to plant its claws and side hill. Feeling inspired by the sled’s grip, I decided, let’s see how long this lasts! Fully anticipating to be stuck, the Cat surprised me with its tenacity, and I came out the top of the drainage across a very deep steep side hill. I vividly remember looking at my line and commenting out loud: “No way!”
2017 Arctic Cat Mountain Cat 153
The best part was it felt effortless. I won’t forget it. I was flabbergasted I actually pulled it off. I could not believe the 153 Mountain Cat just accomplished what other long-tracked sleds weren’t doing. In fact, I watched a great rider in our group on a longer-tracked sled turn out of the same line. Satisfaction.

If there has been one thing that has impressed me over the years, it has been the clutch engagement on the Cats. The clutching always seems spot-on right out of the box. Lower and mid clutch engagement is important for mountain riders as we spend a lot of time in these ranges going through the trees and steep side hills. And, while this sled was great in those conditions, the top-end also had plenty of pull at higher RPM.

One big improvement on this sled was the driveshaft being lowered 1.125 inches to give added clearance for the three-inch lugs. Cat also went with an eight-tooth driver on this model compared to the previous seven-tooth driver. This effectively created a flatter approach angle to the snow, which in turn gave better floatation on deep powder days. The improvement helped the Cat crawl up on top of the snow quicker, making it more manageable and stable to ride.

The chassis also got a facelift with one-inch narrower running boards and a two-inch more forward stance. The more forward stance makes a difference, allowing the rider to give greater input with less effort. So, more control and less fatigue at day’s end.

I was happy to see this sled did not have the tendency to dive as much as previous versions of the M8000. With many sleds, if you let off the throttle during acceleration on a deep powder day the sled will submarine on you … but not the 153; it preferred to stay on top.

■ Improvements we like
In a previous article (Oct. 2016) we discussed the sled’s improvements. Specifically we talked about the low profile handgrips, which were 3.7mm smaller in diameter and how it was designed to have a big impact on comfort and ergos. After a full season of riding, there was a noticeable difference between the other OEMs and Cat. I had less hand fatigue after riding the Cat. While that may be because I was paying close attention to the changes, I still believe it.
2017 Arctic Cat Mountain Cat 153
Some of the test riders did not like the vertical steering post. Personally, I didn’t mind it. I was happy with the way it felt and never had any issues with it. Although I wouldn’t mind the addition of power steering. It was easy to bring the sled up on edge and hold a line with the vertical post. This Cat had a large sweet spot range, meaning there was never one specific foot position you had to stay in for a certain maneuver, there was plenty of “sweet-spot wiggle-room.”

■ Final thoughts

At the end of the season, I came away impressed with the Mountain Cat’s ability to do things I never expected. And, I liked it much more than I had anticipated. It was one of the easier sleds to handle, and climbed everything we threw at it. The 153, three-inch Power Claw track worked in unison with the new eight-tooth driver and created a great balance of traction and control.

The Fox Evol shocks helped my old man joints stay pain free while riding. The shocks were so good even AmSnow’s editor Mark Boncher was launching this thing with impunity and smiling from ear to ear, right up until he tagged a pine tree.

The new 2018 improves on a great sled, but don’t pass up taking the 2017 for a rip. You’ll be happy riding with any other length sleds in any snow condition, and in any terrain you find.
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