ARCTIC CAT XC 450

Our XC450 press unit arrived with the suspension set on its very firmest preload settings.

Our test riders returned complaining about its unrepentantly stiff ride and how it was flat-out beating them up on the trails.

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In the shop, after winding the shock preload down to its softest settings on the snail cam adjusters, there was a transformation and it was significant.

We had ridden this same model in Texas about six months ago and with that particular calibration, we had found the ride to be fine. It’s a pretty strong indication that unless the new owner is a 300-pounder, they’ll need to adjust these settings before riding their squeaky new XC450.

With shock set-up out of the way, it left us free to evaluate the finer points of the XC. Our first big impression was the power output of this SOHC 443cc EFI engine. This is the same powerplant used in Cat’s hot, full-sized 450 4-wheel drive Sport-Ute and we’ve often marveled at its ample torque and so-close-to-a-500 power output.

Throttle tip-in is EFI-sharp and the power rolls on smoothly, as linear as a Boeing 737 flight path. This is a quick and ready engine and it handles its 4WD system with eagerness.

Handling, from a relatively short wheelbase, is very good and steering effort is minimal. The wheelbase issue does evidence itself at higher speeds.

The XC can be a bit twitchy up there, feeling like it wants to swap ends sometimes, but the counter to this is its excellent ground clearance combined with the wheels being closer together. It allows an extraordinary ability to plonk over rock beds and gnarl at low speeds without bottoming or scraping.

We found this Cat likes its throttle and will break the rear wheels loose easily, especially in 2WD allowing it to bring its tail around and oversteer predictably in tight situations. The overall feeling is one of nimbleness and agility.

Likewise, this is not the ATV you’d be executing a 70-foot double on. Although happy to be airborne on short lofts, unlike Pure Sport ATVs, no crossover is really designed for big air – or more precisely, big-air landings.

The sport capacity of a crossover and this one in particular, is in slogging through deep quags and slick mud, challenging its 4-wheel drive system.

Here, the XC is perfectly happy and its electrically engaged low range and selectable 4WD performs more than adequately when panic sets in.

Arctic Cat has tailored the XC to its own specifications, built it off-shore and has come up with a very good Crossover. It is truly value priced and gives you tremendous bang-for-the-bucks. Tough to ask for more.

To watch this TEST RIDE video, click below:

2011 ARCTIC CAT XC 450i TEST RIDE

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