From hill climb racer to powder master
It’s been a couple seasons since we’ve throttled an Arctic Cat M8000 HCR – Hill Climb Racer – and it felt good to do so. The bold graphic “HCR” sweeping down the hood and side panels makes us feel a bit younger and bolder, and not so much older.
Engine Type:Horizontal In-line
Valve Configuration:Reed Valve
Displacement:794 / 48.4
Turbocharged:NoView Full Spec
Arctic Cat’s model year 2017 (MY17) HCR, like its new MY17 Mountain Cat, is a ProClimb M8000 that was a Spring order only, high-end mountain basher, that only the hardcore competitive hillclimber, drop master, and backcountry woodsman desire when the other high-end deep powder snowmobiles seem all too common.
HCR owners are not common. Are you?
The HCR evolves every year based on racer demand. But it never strays away from its intent.
Arctic Cat’s 2017 HCR, which is in Cat’s ProClimb M8000 line, is Arctic Cat’s premier hillclimb racer. There is no larger or smaller class HCR.
The Suzuki-powered 799cc twin cylinder two-stroke motor powers the HCR and it has proved itself reliable in stock form. When modified for improved-stock 800 or mod 800, the “soozook” 800 with a single-tuned pipe, or twin-tuned pipes, turbocharger or supercharger, holds RPM, builds horsepower and delivers consistent and predictable power.
Competitors to the HCR are the Polaris AXYS 800 RMK Assault and the Ski-Doo XM RS Freeride 800. Yamaha does not have a direct competitor to it.
The HCR does not receive much fan mail or a gazillion “Likes” due to its low sale numbers. It is overshadowed by its other ProClimb 8000-series siblings, the M8000 Sno Pro, M8000 Limited and the wickedly nimble Mountain Cat. This surprises us, for the HCR is a very capable powder player, when properly mapped for bottomless snow use. In deep powder, the HCR developed a minor negative reputation several years ago that it could not climb as well as its other M8000 family members, due to its stiff competition-designed PowerClaw track. But now Arctic Cat reminds us, to inform you, its 2.6-inch PowerClaw track is the same as used on the Sno Pro, Limited and Mountain Cat. Yes, its lug stiffness/hardness is the same, which makes the HCR a powder hound, we mean, Powder Cat. Track length is 153 only; no other lengths are available for the HCR. But, if you want a shorter HCR-like ACAT, then the 141-length XF 8000 High Country Limited with 2.25-inch PowerClaw track is it. Really, what separates these two ProClimb models is track length and color; the High Country Limited being white.
Honestly, we like these two so much as companion weekend warrior snowmobiles, we would be fantastically proud to have each in our shop.
Back to our short comparison to the XF 8000 High Country 141 Limited. The HCR somewhat sits between this and the first-class Mountain Cat 153, though the HCR is a 153 as well. All three are premium 800-class snowmobiles, and all three can take on the trails, whoops, junk snow, and deep-powder. But, the XF 8000 High Country Limited is a deep-powder crossover, which is just a shorter version of the HCR mentioned here.
Who is the HCR purchaser? One who competes in hillclimbs, such as the Rocky Mountain Snowmobile Hillclimb Association (RMSHA) and other midwest, eastern and Canadian hillclimbs. The HCR owner is one who bangs away in the fresh mountain air as a freestylist whose backcountry riding is brimming with huge drops, rainbows and whips over crevasses. These riders really are not much different than the Sno Pro, Limited or Mountain Cat pilot, in that they will hit the steep-and-deep honey holes, but this Cat rider is one who will take this hyper Cat to the hillclimbs to grab a trophy and some playing cash. The HCR is very adept at navigating the gates up an obstacle course.
HCR Tech Speak
The HCR has a fixed steering post like the Sno Pro, Limited, and Mountain Cat. Under and ahead of the post is the Arctic Mountain Suspension (AMS) with Fox 1.5 Zero QS3 shocks. Front suspension travel is seven inches. Ski width is an adjustable 38.5 to 42.5 inches. If this ACAT hillclimber came to us for winter use, we would cinch up the stance to its narrowest 38.5 inches and go powder surfing.
With the HCR having this adjustable ski-stance width, it makes it more in-line with Polaris’ 800 AXYS RMK Assault 155 and Ski-Doo’s 800 REV-XM RS Free Ride 154.
Giving the HCR directional control is the new (introduced for model year 2016) ProClimb-7 mountain ski. This ski is seven inches wide at the tip and tapers in a half-inch to 6.5 inches wide at center and to the ski’s tail.
Out back, the HCR rides on Cat’s Float-Action rear suspension, which uses, like the AMS, the pristine and non-wussy Fox 1.5 ZERO QS3 shock on the front and rear rails. Rear suspension travel is 15.5 inches. If you are keeping count, on all four impact points, Fox 1.5 Zero QS3 shocks are the Rocky Balboa sentinels absorbing the upper cuts, round outs and body jabs. The QS3 shocks have a three-position dial compression knob that gives the operator easy and quick shock tuning for terrain, snow conditions and body weight.
The hyfax rails, at tip, have track anti-stab caps on each respective nose. Ice-scratchers are mated to the hyfax rails; these, like the Mountain Cat and Limited, to keep weight down and give its owner what they need to keep the hyfax lubed with ice and snow.
The HCR’s 153-inch length track is a 15-inch wide PowerClaw track with a 3.0-inch pitch and 2.6-inch high lugs. The HCR can’t be ordered with the PowerClaw that has three-inch tall paddles, like that on the Mountain Cat 153. We surmise someone, somewhere, will stuff one into the HCR.
Powering the HCR 8000 is the 8000-series twin cylinder Suzuki motor with a displacement of 794cc. This motor uses a battery-less electronic fuel-injection (EFI) system with 46mm dual throttle bodies that helps the two-stroke mill knock out approximately 163 horsepower. Officially Cat claims 160 hp. The motor has a lightweight crankshaft, electronic exhaust valves known as APV for Arctic Power Valves, exhaust pipe temperature system, and lightweight non-mechanical reverse system – that’s Cat’s electronic push button reverse. Electric start is not in the HCR’s build sheet as this is a trimmed down race sled where a high power-to-weight ratio is needed. Motor cooling is via the famous HCR-cooling configuration, which migrated to the M8000s several years ago.
Its drive system is known as the Arctic Drive System (ADS), which employs a lightweight magnesium chaincase cover and body. The drive clutch is the robust TEAM, which then is paired with a TEAM driven clutch. These clutches, with the crossover jackshaft, chaincase and the radial master hydraulic brake with drilled-out lightweight disc brake, make the ADS run cool; belt fade and failure due to heat are greatly reduced from years gone by. In addition to their incredible strength, these clutches are known for their easy and precise tuning.
The Arctic Cat HCR’s fixed handlebar post has a standard 4.5-inch high riser block. Cat offers differing height riser blocks as an option through its parts and accessory catalog. Wired to the handlebars is a tether switch, which is an engine kill system race circuits require for all race sleds.
Seat and cockpit is identical to the M8000 Mountain Cat, Limited and Sno Pro, which includes aggressive and wide-open runningboards. The HCR’s tunnel is painted, which prevents snow from flash freezing to the tunnel. A front-mounted heat exchanger (mounted on the tunnel’s underside, near the track drivers) is standard fare, which is a single unit. This is important as the HCR cooling system reduces snow and ice buildup on the tunnel, and along with the painted tunnel, the HCR remains fairly clean on powder days. We testify this system works as engineered.
A short, lightweight racing seat is right-sized for leg swings. Its instrument gauge is both digital and analog with an altimeter. This tell-all pod also has an odometer, engine hour meter, reverse indicator, engine warning lights and two trip meters.
The M8000 HCR for 2017 is an aggressive snowmobile. However, its on-demand adjustable shocks, adjustable ski-stance and fixed handlebar make it a competitive hillclimber and boondocker; the HCR’s fixed handlebar post to be set at a height that’s perfect for most riders.
While the normally stiff front and rear shocks can be softened, giving the HCR rights and passages to careen into a sidehill, around trees and up and over ravines, we advise you work with the Fox shocks’ dial adjust to acquire the correct setting.
The HCR has some drawbacks. Its blunt nose and hard edge side panels, in correct deep-powder conditions, will keep it from sailing smooth and clean through the powder. Be it known, though, the new front Arctic Mountain Suspension is much better than the front suspension on early ProClimb HCRs, giving the 2017 HCR better sidehilling control.
Why would you, or any devoted hill runner, want an HCR? The top five reasons are:
- “HCR” is a bold signature statement
- You like Suzuki reliability
- You dream of competing
- Riding a different mountain snowmobile is important to you
- You don’t want to be just another Arctic Cat M8000 rider
Arctic Cat has a history of tinkering with its Hill Climb Racer and the 2017 model year is no exception. The HCR is a mountain snowmobile that likes to be pushed around in a rough and tough manner. Can you follow a 153 Sno Pro, Limited or Mountain Cat with same length lugs? Absolutely, thanks in part to the narrow ski stance and soft 2.6-inch PowerClaw track. If you choose an HCR 8000, which is a good choice, set your sights beyond tree running and powder snorkeling and think about competing in a hillclimb circuit or taking your cornice drops to a longer flight down the thin air.
2017 Arctic Cat M8000 HCR Specs
|Engine||Suzuki 794cc, two-stroke, liquid-cooled, twin; electronic fuel injection; power valve exhaust with tuned pipe and sensor|
|Drive||TEAM Rapid Response rpm-sensing drive with TEAM Rapid Reaction BOSS driven; push button electronic reverse|
|Front Suspension||Arctic Mountain Suspension (AMS) twin A-arm suspension; Fox 1.5 Zero QS3 shocks; 9.0-inches of travel; ProClimb 7-inch tapered mountain ski|
|Rear Suspension||Arctic Float-Action parallel rail slide; Fox 1.5 Zero QS3 shocks; up to 15.5-inches of travel|
|Width||45.5 to 49.5 in|
|Ski Stance||Adjustable 38.5 to 42.5 in|
|Track||15 x 153 x 2.6 PowerClaw|
|Brake||Race radial master cylinder hydraulic|
|Fuel Capacity||11.7 US Gal (91 octane)|
|Features||Standard: deluxe digital gauge with tach & speedometer; push button reverse; 12-volt outlet; dual halogen headlight; 4.5-inch riser; visor plug in; ice scratchers; front bumper; lightweight mountain seat Optional: key start; storage bags; rack; tank pads; optional windshield sizes; goggle holder|