A powerful impression of Arctic Cat 2017 new models
It was freezing, February 2 and 3, in West Yellowstone, MT and Island Park, ID.
But the 2017 Arctic Cats were hot as we got our first chance to nibble on some new cat nip at Arctic Cat’s Island Park, ID test facility where some early-build 2017s were on hand for us to slog and flog.
Let’s get to the big-easy question. Is there a new 800 from Arctic Cat? Nope. Arctic Cat assured us media attendees the Suzuki-built and supplied 800 High Output is staying in place as Cat’s do-all and can-do twin-cylinder electronic fuel injected two-stroke 800 engine. Arctic Cat did strongly hint a new 800 will be on its way, but only when they, Arctic Cat, are confident the motor meets their quality standards, and their motor-partners (suppliers) understand that too; Cat has elevated its quality standards. We’re good with that. The current 800 motor is stout, reliable and gives no hissy fits.
Next big question, is there a new motor at all from Arctic Cat? Yes. If you are familiar with the new Yamaha side-by-side, the 2016 Yamaha YXZ 1000R, then know and understand, that a new three cylinder four stroke 998 is in Cat’s XF Cross Country 9000 and its new Thundercat.
Arctic Cat has brought back, in retro-fashion, some traditional nameplates for its Spring-buy program. One is, “Thundercat.” This is the ultimate turbocharged, trail-burning, lake-blasting, mind-bending and eye-watering Hellcat Challenger-like snowmobile from Arctic Cat. You want one for next year? Then early next Spring, camp outside your local Cat dealer like a Black Friday shopper to secure the rights and privileges to one.
Is there more?
Arctic Cat is bringing back the stamp “Mountain Cat,” for its tricked-out and narrowed-in M8000.
Mountain Cat and M8000s
There is an M8000 SE ES; SE for Standard Edition, ES for Electric Start. All SEs will have ES. Got that? The M8000 SE ES comes dressed as a 153 or 162 with 2.25-inch PowerClaw track. Its shock package, at all corners is the Arctic Cat Internal Floating Position (IFP) 1.5 shocks. It’s a well-equipped beginner’s M8000.
Then there is the M8000 Sno Pro which can be built with ES – electric start – if wanted. The Sno Pro comes hooked to a 2.6-inch PowerClaw track in lengths 141, 153 and 162. Its shock package includes Fox Float 3 ski shocks, Arctic Cat IFP 1.5 front track shock, and Fox Float 3 rear track shock.
The 2017 M8000 Limited, Cat’s top-o-line M8000 from model year 2016, receives a 2.6-inch PowerClaw track, replacing the three-inch track from last year. Like the Sno Pro, it can be equipped with ES and comes in as a 153 and 162. Shock package is Fox Float 3 EVOL ski shocks, Fox Float 3 EVOL front track shock, and Fox Float 3 EVOL R rear track shock. It has the ProClimb front bumper and rear tunnel bag with cam-lock.
And now….Mountain Cat (MC), which is a much refined and lightened up 2016 M8000 Limited. Here are the specifics.
- The driveshaft is lower by 1.125 inches which gives the three-inch PowerClaw track more, and allows an eight-tooth drive sprocket to spin the track; the 2016 M8000 Limited with three-inch PowerClaw used a seven-tooth drive sprocket. The dropped driveshaft gives the Mountain Cat a flatter track-to-snow approach angle. Very nice.
- The MC’s runningboards were cinched in on each side by one inch, resulting in an overall runningboard tightening by two inches. This improves sidehill performance and ease when laying the MC onto its side in deep snow.
- A narrowed-in belly pan and shape, which allows the rider’s feet to move two inches further forward for increased options for foot placement. T belly pan at the lower side panels is rolled and pulled in to match the narrowed-in runningboards. All to prevent the MC from paneling out or having the runningboards push the track out from a mountain side when in a steep roll-into-the-mountainside cut.
- Thinner gauge aluminum on the rear tunnel section, plus strategic new cut-outs on the front tunnel section both to reduce weight by more than two pounds. The new design keeps the motor cool and keeps the tunnel clear from thawing and freezing snow (snow and ice buildup).
- A new composite air intake plenum for a 1.25-pound weight reduction.
- New ceramic-coated muffler (no heat-blanket wrap) for a 1.45-pound weight reduction.
- A New Torque Control Link (TCL) engine plate that 0.75 pounds lighter and stronger than the previous TCL, and incorporates revised mounting to the bearing hub on the driven-shaft.
Here is the best part, items four through seven are also part of the whole M8000 line, not just the MC. So, depending on model and track length, the 2017 M8000s enjoy a 4.0- to 6.5-pound weight reduction as compared to last year.
What is it like to spend a day on the MC? If you thought the M8000 Limited from last year was sweet handling (our test riders’ favorite mountain snowmobile for 2016, as far as ease in rollover and light-through-the-bars), the MC amps up that simple-handling by several notches.
We’ve ridden the new Gen-4 REV Summit 850 X and learned for ourselves, it’s fast-reacting, effortless and agile. Well the MC, as compared to the M8000 Limited from 2016, is fast-reacting, agile, simple, effortless to maneuver, and a climbing beast. For a mountain snowmobile that is heavier than the AXYS RMK Pro and Gen-4 REV Summit, it sure-as-heck does not feel like it is.
Here are some thoughts on the MC from Sr. Test Rider, Kevin Allred:
“Arctic Cat’s mountain team, now under the direction of Andy Beavis, continues to enhance the ProClimb chassis. For 2017, the Mountain Cat name returns, with a host of mountain-specific changes. One is narrower foot rests or runningboards. This combined with expanded foot/toe openings allow the operator’s feet to be farther forward. This accomplishes two things. First, better positions for backcountry riding, and with narrower panels behind the bulkhead, the effect known as paneling-out on steep sidehills is greatly cut down.
“The other big change is a new lengthened and rolled back chaincase. This allows better clearance to accommodate the tall three-inch PowerClaw track. Also this provides the room for the eight-tooth drivers (oversized), which provides gear ratio efficiency. In other words, more power to the track – as a bonus. The oversized drivers also decrease the track’s approach angle to snow which in turn creates better chassis-lift in deep snow when power is applied.
“The Mountain Cat chassis is a bit lighter as well. New handlebars with smaller diameter tubes and super-grippy material may seem small, but for us, it didn’t go unnoticed.
“My impression is – no doubt – this is a new Cat on the mountain. When stabbing the throttle, the MC immediately lifts and hastily gets on top of the snow; and surprisingly without too much transfer. It was very manageable. I found myself in a bit more of a progressive sidehilling situation – taking different lines to the top of the hill. Once committed, the Mountain Cat seems to bare its claws and hang onto a mountainside unlike its predecessors. Nice job, Arctic Cat. Take a serious look at this mountain snowmobile, it’s a dandy.”
When I think of Thundercat, I immediately drift to AC/DC and… “Thunder (boom boom), thunder (bang bang)….” It’s fitting. Cue it up.
The turbocharged 9000-series Cats of yesteryear were sneaky fast and quiet. The turbo’d Suzuki-built two-cylinder four-stroke was a stud. Now, that goes away with the lighting fast Yamaha three-cylinder 998 turbocharged four-stroke scat-cat motor. Again, think about Yamaha’s new terror side-by-side, the YXZ1000R.
First, the motor. It is dubbed C-TEC4 that delivers (conservatively) 180 horsepower, which makes it the highest horsepower-output motor from any OEM. It delivers this 180 horses at all temperatures and altitudes, with instant throttle response and no turbo lag. Yes, this is true. (Unnamed sources quip the pony output closer to 190, but until dyno results come to fruition, we’ll report the 180).
This horsepower is greater than the MPI turbo-equipped Viper M-TX that, depending on boost level, was between 165 and 175 horsepower. The Genesis motor was a 1049 where this new C-TEC4 from Yamaha is 50cc. smaller. Why smaller? The good ol’ USA has a governmental regulatory agency called EPA – Environmental Protection Agency – where it codified that the biggest four-stroke motor any UTV/SxS builder can stuff into the vehicle is 1000cc. This forced Yamaha to overhaul and reengineer the Genesis to be a 998. And with that came that product created on the eighth-day, a turbocharger.
Here, pulled straight from Cat’s tech guide is this: “The all-new 9000-Series C-TEC4 Turbocharged three-cylinder engine produces 180 hp at 8750 RPM. A joint project between Arctic Cat and Yamaha, this new 998cc 4-stroke engine features an intercooled turbo for maximum horsepower in all conditions. To achieve maximum performance and durability in the lightest configuration, the DOHC design is matched with new 4-hole fuel injectors; engine braking control via an idle speed circuit and engine mapping; lightweight aluminum cylinders; and a press forged crankshaft. It…is 10 lbs. lighter than the 1100 Turbo Suzuki twin that powered previous 9000-Series Arctic Cat snowmobiles.”
The Thundercat, being retro-unique, received its own body cladding to wear around the C-TEC4. It has its own hood, side panels, nose piece, lower panels and bumper. This is important to know. The T-Cat’s hood and panels are meant to highly-manage air flow – intake and outtake – and to manage underhood heat. With a turbo, an intercooler, and an exhaust to manage the high-temp flow, standard air management is not standard if the muscle sled you are buying is a Challenger Hellcat on a track and skis. Arctic Cat took this turbo’d motor from Yamaha with uncompromising excitement – wanting to do it right. Cat is very, very proud of this motor and the Thundercat in whole.
Other 9000s For You
In the ZR family, there is the:
- ZR 9000 LXR 137
- ZR 9000 Sno Pro 137
- ZR 9000 Limited 129 and 137
- ZR 9000 RR (Race Replica) 129 and 137
- ZR 9000 Thundercat 137
The 129s come equipped with the Ripsaw track, where the 137s are assembled with the Ripsaw-II track with 1.25-inch lugs. The ZR 9000 Limited and Thundercat are similarly equipped with Fox 1.5 Zero QS3 ski shocks, Arctic Cat IFP 1.5 as the front track shock, and a Fox 2.0 Zero QS3 as the rear skidframe shock.
The C-TEC4 motor also falls into the:
- XF 9000 Cross Country Limited 137
- XF 9000 CrossTrek 137
- XF 9000 High Country Limited 141 and 153
The Cross Country Limited 137 comes equipped, in short, with the Backcountry X 1.75-inch track. It is in the ProCross chassis, modified to receive the turbo’d Yamaha 998.
The CrossTrek too is in the ProCross chassis, has rear mounted saddlebags, heated seat and a 1.60-inch Cobra track.
The two High Country models are ProClimb models and can be purchased (ordered) with the Backcountry X 1.75 or Power Claw 2.25. However, the shorter-lugged Backcountry X track with 1.75-inch lugs is reserved for the 153, not the 141. But, Arctic Cat has a track exchange program (there is some dealer and owner costs), provided the track has never been used on snow, gravel, or the neighbor’s dog. This is true for any mountain, crossover or trail model.
Here is a sweet deal; all 9000 C-TEC4-equipped vehicles receive a heated seat.
OK, we’ve talked C-TEC4, the boost-in-your-face motor which, as we just inked-out, is in the ZR and XF line, be it a ProCross or ProClimb chassis. What is not present is a M9000 Sno Pro or Limited. So for now, at press time, there is no mountain-specific 9000. However, the ProClimb High Country 153 with optional 2.25-inch PowerClaw is as close as one can get. And this is a crossover snowmobile that is built for more than a squishy blast across a meadow with pussy willows and deep snow; it wants mountains. Just saying.
Here are some words from Sr. Test Rider, Kevin Allred, on a ProClimb High Country with turbo’d C-TEC4.
“One big ‘Wow’ factor for me at the 2017 Arctic Cat Sneak Peak was Cat’s introduction of its new XF High Country 9000 153. This good looking black machine with high-visibility green accents, a refreshed new look, and very-functional easy-to-remove side panels caught my eye. To double the wow factor was an all-new Yamaha-built four-stroke triple 998cc turbo boosted powerplant.
“Arctic Cat told us this new engine was a joint venture between it and Yamaha. At first I thought this was a smaller bore version of Yamaha’s 1049cc triple that was widely used for some time; the Genesis. But in reality, this is an all-new purpose-built engine for boosted application.
“Everything from the crankshaft, rods, pistons, crank bearings, valve train, even the compression ratio was all engineered to survive the rigorous ‘boost.’ This is a well thought-out package everything from air intake flow, to exhaust flow, and how the turbo is mounted to the chassis and not the engine – all expertly designed.
“Arctic Cat showed a photo taken in Yamaha’s dyno facility where the stainless steel exhaust components glowed red hot; no doubt thoroughly tested.
“How does this translate to the impressive XF High Country 9000 153 equipped with a 1.75 lug track? It packs its skis up and hauls the driver up a hill, any hill. Down the trail it builds boost while shifting; what a fun snowmobile.
“Arctic Cat said this package comes in ten pounds lighter that the 1100cc turbo twin. Three years ago when I learned of the joint venture between Arctic Cat and Yamaha, I hoped the best of their two worlds would come together. This is evidence what I hoped for; I’m sure there’s more to come, but for now, the 9000 turbo High Country is a stellar machine!”
Returning to a Stage Near You
For those of you who fell in love with Cat’s 6000 series snowmobiles, be it trail, mountain or crossover (ProCross and ProClimb) and 7000 series with the Yamaha three cylinder four stroke 1049cc Genesis motor, these are back for another year (ProCross and ProClimb). The 600 two stroke motor is pure fun, and in the mountain chassis, for example, and is a snowmobile that begs for steep-n-deep.
Remember that Kymco-built, Cat-specified four-stroke 700cc win that appeared in select Bearcat and Pantera models? This year it gets dropped into a sport chassis ZR-type sleds, which we guess will be aimed at entry and rental users. Still, it should work well in competing with Yamaha Phazers and Ski-Doo 600 ACE MXZ models. The Pantera and Bearcat lines continue with some updated graphics and minor mechanical tweaks for durability and such. All in all, the big news in small Cats will be the expansion of the 700cc four-stroke twin and Cat’s management of status quo trail, crossover and touring/utility sleds. The big news is more power for you and a return to yesteryear heritage naming of select sleds.
Arctic Cat has checked off several sweet must-haves.
One, a skinny and lighter Mountain Cat that rivals the lightest and most powerful mountain snowmobiles from Ski-Doo and Polaris. It is a much needed “need.” But, Ski-Doo’s 850 has set the debate-challenge toward Polaris and Arctic Cat owners.
Second, Arctic Cat offers a track swap-out program that is appreciated. Counsel with your dealer.
Third, its Spring-buy program gives some killer color combinations. It has one theme that is winter-mountain based with barren trees and snowscapes. It disappears in the backcountry, blending with the scenery. For some, it may take some getting use too; it’s similar to black-and-white mountain forage camo on a pickup or ATV.
Fourth, partnering with Yamaha on quality and engine use brings to market a beastly turbocharged-motor that is mild-and-wild for a 180-horser. Dislocated shoulders and knocked out rotator cuffs may happen when the 998 eats boost. Don’t be scared though, it can make any XF, ZR or ProClimb a tame Cat; it’s as mellow as you need it to be.
Fifth, Arctic Cat continues to make good use of Team Industries’ drive and driven clutches, which harnesses the crankshaft twists from all its motors.
There is much to know about Cat’s new Mountain Cat, updates/improvements to existing models, and its rise to horsepower majesty with the boosted C-TEC4 998 from Yamaha. We’ve given you an early glimpse and will give much more detail in the coming months as we ride these throughout the Spring. Just know, we are all over it for you.