BAM! Arctic Cat unveiled its 2017 line of snowmobiles, comprised of 82 machines that include 19 new models and a long list of new technology, engines and components.
Here’s the lowdown on the 16 essential things we need to know about the 2017 models.
One (with a bullet): 180-hp Thunder Cat/9000 Series
Military jet! That’s the closest description I can think of for the new 9000-series snowmobiles from Arctic Cat, each featuring the 998cc turbocharged triple from Yamaha.
The companies are saying 180 hp.
I’m saying it’s lag-free, smooth-as-silk, ultra-quiet (no burping waste gate) and utterly intoxicating to experience. The sensation is pure thrust until you’re WAY into the triple digits (I saw 118 mph indicated). The rush of acceleration is awe- and laughter-inducing, whether it’s from a dead-stop or while cruising along at 50 mph.
Compared to the Suzuki turbo twin, the new 998 triple turbo delivers noticeably quicker throttle response; is 10 lbs. lighter; doesn’t exhale the horse-like sound from the turbo waste gate; and is both quicker and faster (this last point has been made to me by several engineers who have spent a couple years on the new engine).
Drag racing against the Arctic Cat 8000 ZR (which by all accounts has been the quickest/fastest of the 800/850 models at Snow Shoot), it’s not even close. The Turbo smokes it.
This kind of horsepower isn’t for everyone. But for those who want that kind of power, this sled delivers like no production musclesled I’ve ridden in the past 25 years (and I’ve ridden them all).
New 2017 snowmobiles available with the 9000 Series Turbo engine: all ZR models, including the new ZR Thundercat; and the XF Cross Trek, XF Cross Country and XF High Country.
TWO: Next Generation Bodywork
All 2017 9000 models also feature the next generation bodywork for ProCross and ProClimb platforms. Similar to the original bodywork at a quick glance, the new plastic keeps the lineage intact but adds more airflow under the hood AND offers the truly quick and simple tool-free removal of both the side panels and the hood.
Each side panel has two quarter-turn plastic levers that enable quick detach/attach, with no fighting to get tabs into the bellypan.
With the side-panels off, simply unplug the instrument gauge wiring and quarter-turn a couple more fasteners, then slide the hood off.
Total time is less than 30 seconds.
THREE: SVX Snow Vehicle Evolves
A team of Arctic Cat and Camso engineers have been BUSY with the rapidly evolving SVX snow bike, as evidenced by the difference in what we see here compared to what Arctic Cat unveiled at Hay Days last September.
At this point in time Arctic Cat is still quite limited in what it’s saying about the machine, but there are a few key details they’ve shared:
“Arctic Cat launched a variety of firsts for the snowmobile industry and enters a new product category with the introduction of the SVX 450 purpose-built snow bike.”
“Arctic Cat’s patented SVX 450 is designed to provide an exciting new experience for riders who want the lightest, most affordable vehicle for mountain riding.”
“The development of the SVX 450’s revolutionary single-beam skid frame was a collaborative effort between Arctic Cat and Camso – the industry leader in track designs – to be lightweight and agile, and provide traction on the steepest hills and backcountry adventures.”
“The front precision-engineered ski complements the rear suspension, providing the maximum amount of flotation in deep snow and accurate handling and control on the trail.”
“The powerful 450cc, 4-stroke engine with electronic fuel injection propels the SVX through unchartered snow terrain.”
FOUR: Aggressive M 8000 Mountain Cat
Arctic Cat offers an even more aggressive back-country package on the 8000 M line for 2017. Called the Mountain Cat, it features several key changes for improved deep snow performance as well as rider maneuverability and foot placement.
First, the driveshaft has been lowered by 1.125 in. for increased clearance of the 3-in. lug track while enabling the use of 8-tooth drive sprockets (vs. 7-tooth) compared to the previous design. This results in a flatter track-to-snow approach angle for improved floatability, quicker climbing on top of the snow while accelerating as well as improved overall handling.
Next, revised running boards are 1.0 in. narrower than previous designs for improved side-hill performance and ease of laying the sled over in deep snow.
Likewise, a revised bellypan shape allows the rider’s feet to move 2 in. further forward for even greater ergonomic options for riding.
And finally, thinner gauge aluminum on the rear tunnel section work in concert with new cut-outs on the front tunnel section to reduce machine weight by more than 2 lbs. (on top of the 6 lbs. of weight reduction I’ll talk about in a moment).
The Mountain Cat comes in 153- and 162-in. track lengths, and is the top choice for pure powder playing. It joins the other M 8000 packages including the SE (think of it as the base model); Sno Pro, Limited and HCR.
FIVE: 4-6 lb weight reduction on M Series and High Country
Arctic Cat engineers continue to pull weight out of the M Series and High Country models without sacrificing their class-leading durability. For 2017 they pulled a couple pounds out of the FLOAT-ACTION skidframe thanks to lighter rails; 0.75 lbs. via a new Torque Control Link on the engine; 0.5 lbs. courtesy of lighter handlebars; 1.45 lbs. from the ceramic coated muffler (instead of the heat fabric wrap); and 1.25 lbs. from new intake plenum material.
SIX: Return of XF Cross Country
Yep, Arctic Cat brought back the Cross Country crossover models for 2017 after a XX-years of having gone fishin’. Take a ZR 137-in. platform with the SLIDE-ACTION skidframe and 42-43-in. ski stance, then add: the new 1.75-in. lug Backcountry X track; mountain seat; mountain handlebars; a rear storage bag and rack; and, because they’re “Limited” models, the coolest graphic package of the year (yes, that’s my opinion). The result is a cross-over sled that absolutely lights up the trails and deep snow.
I put a couple hundred miles on these machines, primarily on trail but with some good Idaho mountain tree riding for good measure, and I’m here to tell you it’s a hit. Flatland riders are going to love it for trails, bush-wacking and boon-docking.
I’m going to write a dedicated story on these born-again models, because they are superbly executed machines that are going to make a lot of riders very, very happy.
SEVEN: New Low-Profiel Grips (Seriously)
New low-profile grip design is 3.7mm smaller diameter for improved comfort and ergonomics. The material is now made primarily of rubber instead of plastic, resulting in a softer grip with enhanced tactile feel.
When I first felt these grips with bare hands, I worried the material and new pattern might be too rough and hard. But that’s definitely NOT the case when you ride with gloves. It might seem crazy, but these grips make a significant impact on the comfort and ergonomics of a sled. They are going on all my previous year Arctic Cat sleds.
Oh, one more thing: they transmit noticeably more heat to your hands via the handlebar heaters. Bonus!
Oh, Part II: The new handlebar design is made from a new alloy steel, weighing 0.5 lbs. less than the previous bars while maintaining strength.
EIGHT: Improved Halogen Headlight (Can I Get a Halleluiah!?)
I say “halleluiah on this one: After wrestling with either an unusable low- or high-beam (depending upon how you aimed your lights) for several years, Arctic Cat has improved the headlights on all ProCross, ProClimb, ProTour and ProUte machines so that both low and high beam halogen light patterns aim where they’re supposed to. Specifically, the high beam pattern has been moved downward by 5 degrees, improving the light pattern and coverage for much improved nighttime riding.
NINE: TEAM Rapid Response II Drive Clutch
On the heels of all-new TEAM clutching across most of the 2016 line comes yet another all-new TEAM Rapid Response II drive clutch on the 9000 models for 2017, and it’s going to rewrite the rules for maintaining consistent performance thanks to its auto-adjusting belt tension design (working in conjunction with the Rapid Reaction driven) that delivers consistent performance without manual adjustments. Yep, an auto/self adjusting system… a bit of the Holy Grail of drivetrain performance.
It also features a 12.5 percent lower effective starting ratio (while maintaining the top ratio) for smoother engagement and reduced belt wear at drive-away speed, with more evenly distributed force for lower belt pressure.
This means no more having to adjust for belt wear; consistent performance and ultra-smooth engagement. It’s only on the 9000 models for now, but I would not be surprised to see it expanded to other models in the coming years. Look for a detailed story on this in the next couple of months.
TEN: More FOX QS3 Shocks
You could see the writing on the wall for this one: Arctic Cat has included the quick-adjust FOX QS3 shocks on many more models for 2017, including M Series (HCR), ZR RR models; and Cross Country. That’s in addition to the ZR El Tigre and Limited models.
ELEVEN: Floating Towards Coil Springs
Speaking of shock spec on the 2017 models, it’s interesting to note that for the first time in many years, there are no FOX FLOAT shocks on Arctic Cat trail and (most) crossover sleds. It’s all coil-over shocks for ZRs, Cross Country and CrossTrek. When asked why, Cat engineers talked about the ability of coil-over shocks to deliver more supple performance in light chop/stutter bumps.
Depending upon the model and package, there are Arctic Cat IFP, FOX ZERO, FOX ZERO QS3 and FOX ZERO QS3R with Kashima.
TWELVE: ZR 3000 LXR with 700 C-TEC4
The sweet 700cc C-TEC4 4-stroke twin that debuted in Pantera and Bearcat models last season will now also be available as a ZR LXR model in 2017. Smooth, quiet, torquey and ultra-miserly on fuel, this engine makes for a great light performance cruising machine. There will be no speed records set (I saw 60 mph max in ideal conditions), but that’s not the point for anyone interested in this sled.
THIRTEEN: Camo Orange Limited Models
For riders who love themselves some camo, the Orange Camo livery on the ZR and M 8000 Limited Models is as bold as it is desirable. Yes it’s camo, but there will be no blending into the background with these machines. They will capture attention!
FOURTEEN: LED Headlight
Along with the new bodywork on the 9000 models comes a new LED headlight that looks sweet and, I’m told, delivers significantly greater performance than the halogen system. When the high beam is activated, the low beam also stays on to deliver a light pattern with great range and width. And the stylish LED accent lighting comes on when the key is turned on.
FIFTEEN: No New 800 2-Stroke
It’s safe to say that most of us were expecting a new 800 C-TEC2 engine. When Arctic Cat unveiled the new sleds to journalists last month, Snowmobile GM Brad Darling shared with the crew info that a change in vendor for a certain engine component last spring (one year ago), meant that Arctic Cat needed to go through another full season of validation testing of the new-vendor-supplied part.
As it turns out, testing of that part this winter has shown that it meets all validation protocols. But given the timing of when companies have to order production parts to build engines, Cat would have had to commit to the new engine before testing commenced this winter. Which is a gamble company leadership (smartly) didn’t take.
That means one final year with a tried, true and entirely competitive Suzuki 800 engine that will run with anything in its class and is satisfyingly bulletproof.
I fully acknowledge peoples’ disappointment. Hell, I’m disappointed. But I far prefer another year with the Suzuki engine rather than Cat having gone all-in on the new engine without confirming the newly supplied part.
It was a safe, smart decision on the part of the company.
SIXTEEN: Roger Skime-Edition ZR 6000
For the first time that I’m aware of in the history of snowmobiling, a company will produce a model commemorating one of its employees.
But the fact is, Roger Skime is more than an employee of Arctic Cat: he’s been its heart and soul. For 55 years, Skime has innovated, pioneered and inspired the company to reach deeper and drive further. It’s why he’s a living legend.
And it’s why Arctic Cat will produce a very limited number of RS Edition ZR 6000 models featuring special graphic livery on the new body plastic (that’s also on the 9000 models), as well as an array of premium components.
There will be a very limited number of these produced, and all orders will be taken as you read this at the Arctic Cat dealer show that’s happening this week in Las Vegas. I have a feeling this will be a prized collector sled for many.
Roger isn’t going anywhere, he’s still at Arctic Cat. But for a very few lucky individuals, there will be a sled to honor the truly exceptional man.
Thanks for reading, more to come!