In 2003, Arctic Cat introduced the Arctic Cat 400 – aimed at the riding community segment that desired both a workhorse and a weekend warrior in a single four-wheeler. The quad charmed consumers with sleek styling, power output, and overall durability.
The Arctic Cat 400 is a mid-size recreational utility vehicle launched in the United States in 2003. Boasting an impact-resistant MultiRack Platform, Start-In-Gear capability, and a renowned name brand, this quad elicited high expectations from critiques, consumers, and enthusiasts.
Whether the Cat was able to meet the hopes of expectant consumers or not is up to those who have experienced the vehicle first-hand. For us who have not, we are left to wonder. Is the Arctic Cat 400 an underrated four-wheeler? Or is it a decent work machine that requires more than just the right pieces to perform efficiently in different conditions?
A High-Performance 4×4
The 2003 Arctic Cat 400 is a sporty all-terrain vehicle released in the market by then Arctic Cat (now a subsidiary of Textron Inc.). Its lineup fell under the mid-size ATV class, which appealed to riders who were after the power and handling of big-bore machines minus the bulky size. It was one of the best-looking quads during its time, both inside and out.
Riders can choose between the 2003 Arctic Cat 400 4×4 Duramatic automatic transmission with engine braking (also comes with fully independent rear suspension or FIS) and a five-speed, auto-clutch manual transmission with Hi-Lo range.
The Duramatic transmission variant has a full-lock front differential, floating brake calipers, a heavy-duty rear axle, and a remodeled hydraulic foot brake system, while the dual-range variant has standard features. All the Arctic Cat 400 machines came in TBX, TRV, VP, and LE trims.
Mid-sized but still delivering a hefty punch, the four-wheeler features long-travel suspensions, high ground clearance, powder-coated steel rims, and 2WD/4WD driveline modes. Likewise, it is equipped with front and rear high-quality steel SpeedRacks that enhance its practicality and overall function.
Initially built around a 376-cc 4-valve power plant, it eventually went through displacement changes for its succeeding models.
A Handsome Quad, But…
The Arctic Cat 400 looked good on paper but seemed to lose all its spectacle once it hit the road – starting with the uninspiring sound it produces, a bit of an upset for motorheads. The CVT gave a vague feeling of getting up to speed despite the transmission’s gated pattern. According to some riders, the 4WD/2WD lever, located on the left front fender, felt strange to use.
Front and rear double A-arms make the suspension a dream below 20 mph. But above that speed, the suspension geometry went awry – failing to absorb irregularities on the trail. The absence of a brake lever on the right handlebar (exclusive to operating front brakes) reduced rider confidence during quick trail rides and when going down steep hills.
Improvements Post 2003
As weaknesses remained present in 2004 and 2005 Arctic Cat 400 models, very few changes were done on the 2006 Arctic Cat 400, much to consumers’ dismay. Some of these unimpressive features include the awkward placement of the driveline lever, the absence of an hour meter, and the stiff handlebars, to name a few.
Fortunately, The launch of the 2007 Arctic Cat 400 and the Arctic Cat DVX 400 addressed most of these flaws. Below is a list of enhancements made to the vehicle:
- Stock tires went from Kenda Pathfinder to Carlisle Badlands to Goodyear Rawhide RS on all Arctic Cats for improved grip, durability, and handling.
- Wheel travel and ground clearance increased from 7/10 inches to 10/12 inches after 2006.
- Handlebars with improved bend provided increased ergonomic comfort in all-day riding scenarios.
- A clock/hour meter was included in the instrumentation displayed, and 13 other critical operation indicators.
- Low-end torque improved with the aid of 4.0 gears – front and rear.
- Restructured fenders not only improved splash protection but also increase the quad’s appearance.
- Seat latch improvements made installation and access to the integrated under-seat tool tray easier.
- The proximity of the integrated winch mount and winch solenoid allowed for quicker winch wiring installation.
2006 Arctic Cat 400 DVX LE Tony Stewart
Despite enhancements, the first three model years of the Arctic Cat 400 still did not provide the ideal base machine that mechanics and riders can customize for racing. Arctic Cat’s response to this dilemma was the new-and-improved 2006 Arctic Cat 400 DVX LE Tony Stewart.
This quad sported smaller front and rear tires and changed its wheel composition from steel to machined aluminum. A one-piece front brush guard, rear accessory bumper, and a 2,500-lb Warn Winch (view on Amazon) were standard. Having a manual tranny, the 400 DVX also had an Analog Speedometer readout.
But the main improvements were in the engine – it sported a 398-cc power mill handled by a 37-mm Mikuni carburetor.
2006 Arctic Cat 400 4×4 Specs & Features
- Engine – Power comes from a four-stroke, air/oil-cooled, single-cylinder SOHC engine with a bore-stroke ratio of 82 × 71.2 millimeters (3.29 × 2.8 inches). Engine displacement is 376 cubic centimeters. A 34-mm Keihin CVK34 carburetor handles the air-fuel mixture. Fuel tank capacity is 17.98 Liters/4.75 US gallons (VP), 24.6 Liters/6.5 US gallons (FIS), and 20.8 Liters/5.5 US gallons (TBX/TRV), with a 2.46 Liters/0.65 US gallon reserve. Clever engine covers safeguard riders’ legs from engine heat dissipation while diffusing engine noise.
- Drivetrain – The vehicle offers 4WD and 2WD driveline modes. Power travels either via a Duramatic automatic CVT transmission (with EBS Hi/Lo Range, Neutral & Reverse) or a five-speed dual-range manual transmission with front locking differential that transfers engine torque to front wheels with push-button ease. The FIS or 4×4 models come with a front-drive selector switch located on the right-side handlebar.
- Ignition – It uses an electronic CDI ignition with an auxiliary pull-start system. An AC-Magneto alternator with a rated output of 220W @ 5000 RPM powers up electronic accessories. The wheeler requires a 12V 8Ah, 135- CCA (Cold Cranking Amps) battery with assembled dimensions of 5.90 x 3.38 x 4.25 (L x W x H) inches. A battery tender (view on Amazon) will help keep your 12V battery in tip-top shape.
- Tires – Stock tires consist of Kenda Pathfinder 25 x 8-12 front tires and Kenda Pathfinder 25 x 10-12 rear tires mounted on powder-coated steel wheels. Aluminum rims were available only for LE models. The recommended tire pressure is 5 psi/34.47 kPa (0.35 kg/cm²) for both front and back.
- Brakes – Hand-operated, four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes with lever lock and an auxiliary brake provide the quad stopping power.
- Suspension – The 2006 Arctic Cat 400 features independent double A-arms for front and rear suspension with five-way adjustable preload shocks that allow 7-inch wheel travel on all fours. Sway bars are optional if you require improved handling and cornering – a must for aggressive riders. Otherwise, the factory setup should suffice for increased articulation and tire contact, especially in off-camber terrain. Ten inches of ground clearance enhances handling over irregular or rough terrain.
- Dimensions – The quad’s overall dimensions are 83.3 x 44.5 x 46 inches (2,050 x 1,120 x 1,220 mm – L x W x H). The vehicle wheelbase is 48 inches. Dry weight is 266.7 Kg/588 lbs. The 2-inch automotive receiver hitch has a 1,050-lb towing capacity – complemented by a combined 75-lb front and 150-lb rear rack capacity. More recent models allow a higher cargo-carrying capacity of 100 lbs on the front rack and 200 lbs on the rear. Plus, mounted SpeedRacks enable quick installation and removal of Arctic Cat exclusive accessories without the hassle.
- Exterior – It has a tubular steel frame and plastic body material. All models feature racy bodywork, integrated footrests, and 100-lb under-seat storage. The fuel tank’s location is at the back, with the gas cap next to the saddle’s rear right, helping even out weight distribution. A side panel conceals the pull-start system, which is easy to take off should you need to use the pull starter in place of your electronic ignition. In the middle console between the handlebars is where you will find the digital display. 37-watt Halogen headlights provide the vehicle superior light distribution. The available colors were red and green.
- MultiRack Platform (MRP) – This refers to the SpeedRacks attached to the front and rear fenders of the quad. It is a unique receiver-rack design that quickly accepts several of the Arctic Cat exclusive accessory attachments to haul and hold gear securely.
The Arctic Cat Alterra 400
Debuting in 2016, the Arctic Cat Alterra 400 borrowed its styling and capabilities from its full-sized name-bearer and fitted these into a more compact mid-sized model. This resulted in a more agile, lightweight, and versatile wheeler than the competition.
Since then, the Alterra remained in the 400- and 450-cc class, while Arctic Cat 400 and Arctic Cat 400 4×4 models were made available in 500- to 700-cc versions in recent years. These included Special Edition trims featuring a 3,000-lb winch, body-matching aluminum wheels, and a choice of True Timber Camo, Orange Metallic, or Black Metallic finish.
Cost of an Arctic Cat 400
The list price of an Arctic Cat 400 falls within the $4,500-$7,000 range, depending on the year, trim, transmission type, and package inclusions. Specific models come standard with either a mini dump bed (TBX) instead of rear SpeedRacks or a two-person seating capacity (TRV), making them the priciest out of the lot. I did the liberty of consolidating data from Nada Guides for your reference (please note that these values only cover until 2009):
|Arctic Cat 400 Prices|
|Model Year||Transmission – Trim
ACT – Straight-axle
MRP – MultiRack Platform
|2003 – 2004||2WD Manual||MSRP: $4,599 – $4,649
Average Retail: $1,210 – $1,275
|2003 – 2004||2WD Automatic||MSRP: $4,849
Average Retail: $1,210 – $1,280
|2003 – 2004||4WD Manual ACT||MSRP: $5,249
Average Retail: $1,375 – $1,435
|2003 – 2004||4WD Automatic ACT||MSRP: $5,449
Average Retail: $1,305 – $1,470
|2003 – 2004||4WD Automatic MRP||MSRP: $5,649 – $5,749
Average Retail: $1,290 – $1,555
|2003 – 2004||4WD Manual ACT MRP||MSRP: $5,399
Average Retail: $1,455
|2003 – 2004||4WD Manual MRP||MSRP: $5,549
Average Retail: $1,500
|2003 – 2008||4WD Manual||MSRP: $5,349 – $5,749
Average Retail: $1,375 – $2,080
|2003 – 2008||4WD Automatic||MSRP: $5,549 – $5,999
Average Retail: $1,375 – $2,190
|2004 – 2006||4WD Automatic – TBX||MSRP: $6,499
Average Retail: 1,475
|2004 – 2008||2WD Manual – DVX/DVX TS||MSRP: $5,799 – $5,899
Average Retail: $975 – $1,475
|2005 – 2006||4WD Automatic – VP||MSRP: $5,149 – $5,299
Average Retail: $1,350 – $1,615
|2005 – 2006||4WD Manual – VP||MSRP: $4,949 – $5,099
Average Retail: $1,195 – $1,325
|2005 – 2007||4WD Automatic – Limited Edition||MSRP: $6,549 – $6,599
Average Retail: $1,555 – $2,040
|2006||4WD Automatic – M4||MSRP: $6,499
Average Retail: $1,665
|2006 – 2007; 2009||4WD Automatic – TRV||MSRP: $6,849 – $6,999
Average Retail: $1,715 – $2,560
What You Should Expect
The Arctic Cat 400 is one reliable ATV, but it does have a few snags under its belt. While these have all been resolved, especially with recent-year releases, you will likely encounter them with secondhand purchases of earlier models. As such, you should know what might potentially go wrong beforehand and prepare the corresponding fix:
Shoddy Flywheel Magnets
Issues with the flywheel are among the most common across 2003 to 2007 Arctic Cat 400 models. The reason behind it is that the stock magnets are only glued on and can break down by oil and overheating over time. Tell-tale signs pointing to this cause include the engine dying abruptly after running for a few minutes and intermittent sparking, which can be easily confused with an electrical problem (wiring, coil, CDI box, stator).
To fix, all you need is a replacement part with magnets that are mechanically connected to the flywheel, making it impervious to oil. The only downside is the price – over $400 for the part alone, exclusive of labor.
Difficulty in starting the vehicle, especially during winter, is another common complaint about the Cat. But perhaps, half of these are not actual issues at all. For 4×4 models, the automatic choke runs on a timer rather than temperature settings and may not work correctly if the quad is not sufficiently warmed up yet.
A quick fix is to let the vehicle sit for 2-4 minutes to get it up to temperature. Likewise, hitting the primer (lever on the right side of the motor on the carb) three to five times helps get your engine running and resolve cold-starting issues.
Another hiccup of the Arctic Cat is with the actuator. While it can puzzle inexperienced Cat owners, the correct diagnosis of the issue (actuator versus electrical) will tremendously help make it less overwhelming. Bring out your owner’s manual and do the necessary tests for the fuse, power, ignition, and switch. If all these check out, then the actuator could potentially be at fault.
Other issues shared by riders in forums and online videos are stator trouble, breaking frames (for 2004 Arctic Cat 400 4x4s), and an overflowing carburetor. One indication that the stator is in bad shape is if the winch is not working, but you can hear a clicking noise when trying to turn the engine. However, note that these seldom happen and have more to do with the upkeep or abuse of the quad instead of design or functional defects.
- What kind of oil does the Arctic Cat 400 take? The Arctic Cat 400 requires 3.59 quarts/3.4 liters of engine oil. The recommended engine oil is an SAE 5W-30, 10W-40, or 20W-50 lube meeting at least an API service classification of SG or higher and JASO MA standard. Liqui Moly Anti-Friction 10W-40 Motor Oil – 1 Liter (view on Amazon) is fine to use on your quad. For differential and final gear oil recommendations, use 275 mL of SAE approved 80W-90 hypoid.
- What fuel should I use for the Arctic Cat 400? Recommended fuel is unleaded gasoline with a pump Octane number of 87+ and a research Octane number of 91 or higher. 17.98 Liters/4.75 US gallons (VP), 24.6 Liters/6.5 US gallons (FIS), or 20.8 Liters/5.5 US gallons (TBX/TRV) of fuel should be enough to fill your tank. Stay away from fuel variants with more than 10% ethanol or 5% methanol as using these fuel types can damage valves, piston rings, and exhaust systems.
Textron Inc. is an industrial corporation from Rhode Island that has acquired Arctic Cat Inc., widely known for its snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles. This American firm is the parent company of Cushman industrial vehicles, Cessna aircraft, Bell helicopters, E-Z-GO, TUG, McDonald Douglas, Bad Boy Buggies, and Greenlee tools, and is also the maker of Arctic Cat 400.
Now one of the Fortune 500 companies, Textron continues to strengthen its product line that includes gas-, electric-, and hybrid-powered off-road vehicles – among these are the Prowler, Stampede, Havoc, Wildcat, and Alterra lines of SxS and ATVs.
Conclusion – Arctic Cat 400 4×4
For its size, the Arctic Cat 400 is a mighty four-wheeler. Sure, the first few model years weren’t perfect, but the vehicle dramatically developed as the years went on. The Cat may no longer be offered in 400- and 450-classes (except for the Alterra). But Textron learned from its past mistakes and has ensured that similar setbacks do not resurface with succeeding and current models.
This four-wheeler is nothing less than a reliable, versatile off-road vehicle built for rigorous work and hard play. Undoubtedly, the Arctic Cat 400 is more than meets the eye.