We believe that the most improved mountain snowmobile for model year 2014 is Arctic Cat’s M8000 (formerly the M8) Sno Pro and Sno Pro LE.

For your deep powder enjoyment, Arctic Cat ripped about 18 pounds of weight off the M8000. Furthermore, Cat gave the M8000 a new seat with some storage, changed the sprocket sizes on the chain drive, and relocated the rear suspension rearward to give the sled a flatter approach to its launch.

The 2013 M8 Sno Pro and Sno Pro LE had three bad habits: 1 – trenching in deep snow; 2 – tail walking when running WOT (wide open throttle) while ascending a hill crammed with sticky deep powder; and 3 – diving right or left when descending off-camber from said slope. These less-than-desirable MY2013 characteristics came to be when Arctic Cat set out to correct some foibles from its launch model, the 2012 ProClimb M8.

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For the 2013 M8 Sno Pro, we wrote: “The rear suspension’s front mounting holes – where the bolt holes reside on the tunnel – were dropped 0.75 of an inch. This drop allows the rear suspension’s approach angle to be below the ski’s plane. This gives the M8 the ability to flatten out when launching in deep snow, thus not trenching out as the 2012 M8 encountered.” This proved not the case and we’ll discuss later in the feature.

For the 2013 season, we enjoyed the M8’s power and its tall-lugged 2.6-inch Power Claw track. But, we became frustrated with the M8’s independent, and at times, spiteful attitude at how it believed a mountain should be climbed and descended.

The MY2014 M8000 Sno Pro and Sno Pro LE are not cranky Ms of 2013, but are more disciplined and happy creatures. In addition, Arctic Cat pulled 18 pounds off the two M8000 Sno Pro chassis, which for the mountain rider is a good thing as it improves power-to-weight.

Where did the weight loss come from? New seat, fasteners and front-mounted heat exchanger.
The new seat has a lower height and reduced length that makes transitioning from right to left easy. The seat has a built-in storage compartment, which is nice. The compartment is not spacious, but better than nothing at all.

Shock and bogey wheel fasteners were replaced with smaller-diameter fasteners.

The 2014 M8000 Sno Pro and Sno Pro LE utilize a front-mounted heat exchanger system, which is a single unit that, according to Cat, is nearly four pounds lighter than the full-length heat exchanger the Sno Pro used (the 2013 LE and HCR used this system, however). The front-mount system also reduces snow buildup.

In early February 2013, Cat released a MY2013 M8 Sno Pro LE promo piece about snow build-up and flash freeze on a chassis. The promo piece compared the M8 Sno Pro LE against Polaris’ RMK Pro 800 155 and Ski-Doo’s XM Summit X 154. After a day of hard riding, with fuel and oil topped off (ready to ride), Cat’s M8 field test team lifted and weighed the sleds from a big old Doug Fir pine tree. From the weigh-in, the Sno Pro LE weighed the least due to the smallest amount of snow and ice-build up. This is probably verifiably true, but had the M8 been a Sno Pro – a non-LE Sno Pro – I believe the Sno Pro would have carried the most snow. Why? The 2013 Sno Pro had a full-length tunnel heat exchanger and a raw tunnel – not painted – whereas the LE had a painted tunnel and HCR cooling. For season 2012, the ProClimb’s first year, we had a Sno Pro M8 and it was a flatbed truck hauling ice and snow.

For 2014, this all changes as the complete M8000 Sno Pro line is constructed with a painted tunnel which helps prohibit snow flash freeze and build-up, and has the front heat exchanger with quarter tunnel-length heat exchanger. We expect the 2014 M8000 Sno Pro and Sno Pro LE should not carry the burden of holding weighty snow and ice – it will track clean.

Part of ensuring a mountain snowmobile remains light is to limit the amount of rear suspension bogey (idler wheels) being mounted to the hyfax and in its place use ice-scratchers; the M8000 Sno Pro and LE use these as a means to cut weight. For you the M8000 rider, become ice-scratcher smart; know when to drop and know when to lift. Track lengths for the M8000 Sno Pro and Sno Pro LE are 153 and 162; track width is 15 inches.

Since the ProClimb chassis came to be, it has relied on a narrow ski that is adept to the trail-specific XF and ZR, but not the M. This ProCross ski does not provide the flotation a mountain snowmobile requires.  Given the technology-transfer relationship Arctic Cat and Yamaha now employ, it would benefit Cat and its M line to mount Yamaha’s mountain ski to the M8000. This would keep R&D and production costs down for Arctic Cat, and will give the M8000 the mountain and deep-powder ski it needs.

Let’s get to the business of discussing motor, powertrain and suspensions. The M8000’s Suzuki-built motor is a laydown twin cylinder two stroke (exhaust and intake ports on same side – front). The motor, known as the 800 High Output (H.O.), is a brute. The battery-less fuel-injected twin is reliable and has a history of minimal mechanical problems.

The rear suspension’s front mounting holes – where the bolt holes reside on the tunnel – were dropped 0.75 of an inch for MY2013 (which created the trenching and tail walking in certain conditions only – usually deep sticky snow). For MY2014, the rear skid was moved back toward the tail an additional 0.75 of inch. Now, and we proved this at West Yellowstone, MT, these changes allow the rear suspension to flatten out when launching in deep snow. We heralded this for MY2013, and were wrong, and now believe the 2014 M to be what the MY2013 M8 Sno Pro should have been.

Arctic Cat also changed the M’s gearing for the 8000 by dropping two teeth from the top sprocket and adding one to the bottom sprocket; hence for MY2014 19/50 whereas the MY2013 used 21/49.

These gear changes decrease belt temperature and give better throttle response at the bottom-end; this cools down the M8000’s launch by taking the slam out from clutch engagement. This also improved the M8000’s boondocking abilities in that we found it to be smooth when delivering power to the drivers. The gear ratio changes better match the tall 2.6-inch lugs on the Power Claw track.

One thing we are glad for, and only for the LE, is Arctic Cat’s nixing of the handlebar hand guards/wind protectors. These gaudy things were always in the way when a rider was taking control of the situation – mountain boondocking.

Other mountain rider gadgets the M8000 has are telescopic handlebars, goggle/glove warmer behind the bars, minimal and protected handlebar controls that are hidden from an unsuspecting body bump, and an instrument pod that rotates – thus allowing full pod display when the rider stretches up on his or her legs. Also, its two-piece tunnel allows a repair shop to swap out tunnel portions that are bent, rather than the whole tunnel, and its runningboards are built with strength and ample openings for snow dump.

We look at the M8000’s aggressive swept lines, its color schemes and how its eye-appeal spells fast and nasty. The M8000 gets our vote for looking tough.

The M8000 continues to evolve. It’s been a challenge for Cat to make a common chassis niche specific. History tells us stretched trail chassis do not convert well to being a mountain snowmobile. However, in its third year, the M8000 is regaining its heritage and is the angry mountain cat we’ve come to know.

We judge the M8000 Sno Pro and Sno Pro LE to be MY2014’s Most Improved mountain snowmobile. The quarrel is which MY2014 mountain sled will be Snowmobile.com’s Mountain Snowmobile of Choice. Stay tuned.

2014 Arctic Cat M8000 Sno Pro & Limited Specs
Engine Arctic/Suzuki 794cc, two-stroke, liquid-cooled, twin; 46mm throttle body injector electronic fuel injection
Horsepower 155 (estimated)
Drive Arctic 6 post rpm-sensing drive with 10.75-in Arctic roller cam driven
Front Suspension Arctic Race Suspension (ARS) twin A-arm suspension; Fox Float 3 shocks; 9.0-inches of travel
Rear Suspension Arctic “M” parallel rail slide with Tri-Hub rear axle assembly; Arctic internal floating piston shock on front arm and Fox Float 2 shock; up to 15.5-inches of travel
Length 125.0 in
Width 44.0 in
Ski Stance Adjustable from 38-39 in
Track 15 x 153 x 2.6 PowerClaw (162 length available)
Weight NA
Fuel Capacity 12.0 US Gal
Features Standard: digital/analog tach & speedometer; Electric gas gauge; clock; reverse; push button reverse; dual halogen headlight
Optional: key start; storage bags; rack; tank pads; optional windshield sizes
MSRP US $12,749 (M8000 Limited 153)

Related Reading
2013 Arctic Cat M800 Sno Pro Review – Video
2013 Arctic Cat M800 HCR vs. 2013 Polaris RMK 800 Assault
2013 Mountain Snowmobile Shootout: Part I
2013 Mountain Snowmobile Shootout: Part II
2013 Polaris 800 Pro-RMK 155 Review – Video
2013 Ski-Doo Summit X Review – Video