First Ride: 2009 Arctic Cat 550 H1

Yeah, it's got a Hemi

Sep. 24, 2008 By Ricky Sosebee

While in the Bad Lands of South Dakota this September, we were exposed to the latest innovations from the Arctic Cat ATV engineers. Most of this trip for us however was focused on the new 550 H1 utility adventure machine. Are you lucky enough to have one already? Want one? Share your comments or pix here.

Moving forward in the world of displacement, Arctic Cat has developed their very own engines for the 2009 line of utility ATV’s. This is a great step forward for the Thief River Falls, Minnesota-based company, that shows both growth and independence.


Check it out

Starting with the total look and feel of the 550 H1, it is inviting. The looks are very similar to all the larger displacement machines, so unless you look for the displacement signatures on the dash pod, you might not know which is which in stock form.

The bright colors and extra features offered with these machines put them into the classy ride arena. The Arctic Cat lime green was the first one I noticed and the red was a close second. There are other colors available on these quads such as Max 4 Camo, Green, and Cat black metallic which is only in the LE package.

Sitting on the 550 H1 was comfortable but slightly cramped. The seat was comfortable but a little added foot room would be nice. Also the rear brake pedal seemed really high, as my foot was right underneath it due to lack of space in the footboards. Larger riders or riders wearing full calf protecting riding boots will have trouble here.

The controls were manageable and very easy to reach. The start button is in its typical left hand bar mounted spot with light controls and engine stop switch close by. Using the 2wd to 4wd switch is just as simple as it is located on the right side of the bars just within reach. Both of these setups are very basic and there is room on the bars for additional winch controls or add-on light switches. Front braking is controlled by a left hand mounted lever. Both front and rear brakes are hydraulic disc and work good in most conditions.

Yeah, it's got a Hemi

The engine is Arctic Cat's new Hemi-spherical design that is exactly 545cc’s and carries a single overhead cam design. Stepping into the world of electronic fuel injection was a great move for Arctic Cat and it also made this Hemi wake up relatively easy.

It is kind of strange calling this ATV a Hemi but this name comes from what Arctic Cat calls the Hemi-Spherical shaped design of the head that creates more complete and more efficient power. The years of racing that Arctic Cat has put into its utility division has started to pay off it seems.

This new engine, which is produced in the St. Cloud Minnesota factory, is cooled by a larger radiator and has a more precise thermostatically controlled sensor to keep the operating temps at optimal range.

Greased-lightning Tranny

The transmission in the 550 H1 is called the Duramatic Automatic Transmission. (Sounds like something out of a John Travolta movie...) But none-the-less, it’s an auto transmission that has a long life maintenance free belt and is claimed to withstand harsh conditions of the roughest kind. The gate style shifter operates very smoothly and we had no problems with this transmission on our ride.

All of the power on the new 550 H1 is delivered through beefier half shafts. These half shafts or drive shafts, as you may know them, were taken from the Arctic Cat Thunder Cat's heavy duty line. The shafts are built to endure the rigors of tough obstacles and live through years of abuse.

The Thunder Cats very premise of being was developed on the tracks of the Quad Terrain challenge and being around at the end is what the engineers had in mind when developing these parts. Rest assured - if they are cared for these parts will last.

To Sway or not to Sway

The suspension on the Arctic Cat 550 H1 is fully independent and Arctic Cat offers it without a sway bar from the dealer. A sway bar can be purchased if desired and added to the chassis profile when conditions require it. The reasoning for not offering this on the basic machine is explained by Arctic Cat like this:

“Similar to any off-road 4x4, eliminating the sway bar lets the 10 inches of front or rear fully independent suspension articulate through the full range of suspension travel”.

“ The increased articulation provides full tire contact in all types of off camber terrain”.

The full articulation is very noticeable in cornering and if I were to choose I’d have to say the sway bar needs to be offered on the stock machine. The quad is difficult to turn under power and could be trouble if an inexperienced rider jumps on without understanding the premise of the articulation.

With 11 inches of ground clearance the Arctic Cat 550 H1 can cover most obstacles with little to no trouble. The adjustable shocks have 5 preloading adjustments for the front and for the rear as well on each shock. This will give riders the ride they desire.


The total package of the 550 H1 is going to fit most riders. I would have to make some changes for the ride to suit me but everyone’s different. For larger riders I see the foot space becoming a problem. Overall the Arctic Cat 550 is a good machine.

550 H1 Limited Edition

The top-level version of this 550 H1 is also available in an LE package. The extras for this version include a Warn winch, hand warmers, 12-inch aluminum wheels and cat black metallic painted bodywork. You will also get a digital instrument gauge that gives up all the important info needed to keep the ride on the trail and out of the garage. There are also upgraded tires on this LE version and they are the Quad-Max tires by Dunlop.


Arctic Cat has made riding two-up possible in the 550 class as well. The TRV 550 H1 has all the same features of the 550 H1 but with added passenger comforts.

These comforts include passenger seating with backrest and handles for the passenger to hang on to for a more secure feeling.

These handholds are optionally heated and have plenty of room to accommodate any size rider.

The new 5-degree angled backrest makes the passenger’s time on the 550 TRV more enjoyable as well.

The floorboards or feet area for the passenger is raised to provide a stable feel and again to add rider and passenger confidence.

The passenger seating can be removed however if you desire an accessory toolbox or speed rack add-on.

There are many accessories available for this unit and all of the 2009 utility line working and playing machines. Go out and try one on.


Go to page 2 for full specs...


2009 Arctic Cat 550 H1 Specifications

Displacement: 545cc
Engine Type: SOHC 4 stroke 4 valve
Cooling system: Liquid w/fan
Transmission: Auto CVT w/ebs Hi/Lo range and reverse
Drive system: 2/4WD w/Electric Differential lock
Overall height: 48 inches / 121.92 cm
Overall width: 47.5 inches / 121 cm
Overall Length: 84.8 inches / 215.4 cm
Wheel Base: 50 inches / 127 cm
Suspension travel and type front: 10 inches / 25.4 cm – Double a-arm
Suspension travel and type rear: 10 inches / 25.4 cm – Double a-arm
Ground Clearance: 11 inches / 27.9 cm
Brakes Front: Hydraulic Disc.
Brakes Rear: Hydraulic Disc
Tire size front: 25x8x12
Tire size rear: 25x10x12
Fuel capacity: 6.5 gallons
Dry weight: 692 lbs
Available colors: Green, Red, Lime or Camo

2009 Arctic Cat

550 H1, TRV 550 H1

Press Introduction

Rapid City, South Dakota

September 17– 19, 2008 Newsletter
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