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2004 Arctic Cat revealed
More engines and more F platform fill in the segment gaps. 2/25/2003
by Wade West


Arctic Cat has been listening to consumer comments. While most Cat buyers have indicated that EFI is the way to go, there has been a very vocal minority who still prefer carburetors. This season, there will be a carbed and fuel injected version of all the two stroke engine packages except the 500 class. There is also demand for a higher-performing four stroke. That’s available now, too. Finally, the Renegade and SKS market segment has seen a major resurgence. Cat’s in that segment as well.

High Performance
The Firecat line will see a 500, 600 and 700cc engine option. Cat released the F6 in mid-January. Both 600 and 700 engines will be available in EFI or carb versions.

All Firecats will have three color options during the regular season. You can have your F in green, red or black again this year.

The final option that consumers have to choose is suspension. The standard package returns with the addition of coupling blocks on the rear of the rails. This should help the sled’s corner handling and keep the nose down a bit off the line.


The Sno Pro suspension package will be a spring only option again this year.

But the bigger news is the introduction of the EXT setup. The 600 and 700 class Firecats will have the option of getting a 144x1.25-inch track this year. As a direct answer to the SKS/Renegade hybrid market, Cat will offer this EXT as a full model during the regular season. The EXT will use ACT gas shocks at all four points. Up front, the skis will be set at the standard 43 inches, from carbide to carbide. The tunnel extension will have a small cargo rack for carrying gas or a small bag.

All Firecats will have traction grippers on the runningboards this year as a standard feature.


The ZR family has also had some big changes. There isn’t an 800 anymore. That has been replaced by a 900 EFI or carb option. Under the hood on the ZR, consumers will find the first installation of the new Diamond Direct Drive system. The system uses a new primary and secondary clutch combo with a planetary gear system that runs directly to the drive axle. The brake remains inside the belly pan on the right hand side, attached to the drive shaft. However, it has been completely redesigned to perform under the new strain of spinning at half the speed is used to. “The brake on the Diamond Drive was the hardest thing to get worked out,” explained Cat’s Product Manager Joel Hallstrom. “With it spinning so much slower than the conventional brake disc, we had to find a combination of materials that would provide the right amount of friction while still staying cool enough during heavy operation.” The answer to that problem was to go to an automotive-style cast iron rotor and dual caliper.

Engineering reps said that the Diamond Drive did not necessarily improve on horsepower delivery as much as it was a weight savings. The new system shaves 11 pounds off the conventional jackshaft and chaincase drivetrain.

The ZR 900 will be available in black with red or green for the regular season.


Trail Performance
More big news from Cat is the introduction of the Sabercat line. The new family will replace the ZL sleds and migrate to the F chassis. The Sabercat will be available in 500, 600, 600 EFI and 700 EFI power packages. There will be an EXT long track version of the 600 and 700 EFI setups as well.

The 500 engine in the Sabercat is new this year. It does not have the Arctic Power Valves on the cylinders. Hallstrom explained that this is the replacement for the 550 liquid engine to be used in the F chassis.


Cat will offer an LX package for both the EFI models and the 500, too. The LX will feature Cat’s remote starter— EFI only, mechanical reverse and mirrors.

The suspension package for all Sabercats will have the coupling blocks on the rail, like the Firecats. It will also have a new ACT position sensitive shock on the rear torque arm and RydeFX shocks on the other three points.


The seat on the Sabercat will be slightly different from the Firecat. Expect it to be a little softer in material with a wider base and smaller wedge pad in the crotch area. Off the back of the seat is a new removable hard trunk piece. Once that is pulled off, the seat will release via a pair of pins, revealing the belt and sparkplug storage area.

The Sabercats will be available in red or green.

Another of Cat’s big stories is the T660 Turbo. The 660 four stroke motor uses a turbo with 21 pounds of boost to hit a reported 110 horsepower. Cat feels so good about its turbo sled that it got moved from the solo touring segment to the trail performance family. See the test report for more information.

Mountain
Cat has big news in the mountain class with the reintroduction of the King Cat 900. The new mountain master spins a 15x162x2.25-inch track. By Cat’s information the new track is lighter than last year’s 159-inch rugs. The King Cat will use titanium springs on all four points, as well as in the primary and secondary clutches. Cat lists the total weight of the King at 500 factory pounds.

The King Cat will be available in limited quantities this year. It will come in either orange and chrome or green and chrome color schemes.

There aren’t a lot of other changes in the 1M lineup. There will be 800 EFI, 900 and 900 EFI engine options with a 159-inch track. The 600 EFI will come with a 144-inch rug and the 570 fan-cooled 1M will feature a 136-incher.

The mountain sleds have gone on another general diet and have lost six more factory pounds for 2004. Also, the rear suspension will have an eight-inch rear idler for improved track spinning efficiency.

All liquid-cooled 1Ms will be available in either red or green.


Touring
The Pantera and Panther families have been slightly tweaked, but return in more or less the same setup as last year. There will be new set material on all the touring sleds. Additionally, the passenger footrests are larger and will better support the runningboards.

The rear suspension will still have the fiberglass overload springs, but the torsion springs will use the square wire like the Firecats. The skids will also be coupled this year.


The 600 EFI and 800 EFI models will use the remote electric start. The rest will have the standard key operated version. Also, all will have mechanical reverse and side mirrors.

The T660 Touring will come in the turbo and naturally aspirated packages. Like the short tracked version, the tandem sled will have a new hood design to accommodate the needs of the turbo system. It will also have a new digital and analog gauge pod. The T660s all come in platinum.




Spring Specials
Like last year, Arctic Cat has four custom graphic options for the spring buyer. “We like to let the design team have some fun with the spring packages,” said Cat’s Sales and Marketing VP, Robert Bonev.

This year consumers can pick from the Team Arctic, Tiger, Fighter Pilot and Nightfire scemes on their Firecats. There will also be a Sno Pro suspension package upgrade available for the Firecats and ZR.

Final Analysis
Cat has done a lot over the offseason to distribute its strengths to more product groups. There will be EFI and carb options in almost all platforms. In addition, Cat has brought the first turbo-charged sled to production with the T660. Finally, the Diamond Direct drive system has been eagerly anticipated for the past two years. If it works well in the ZR, we anticipate seeing it in almost every Cat within two years.

While there were more than a handful of bugs in the F chassis’ debut season, engineering officials are confident that they have been resolved for 2004. They are so confident, they shifted an entire model family to the chassis this year.

Overall, we’d say Cat is headed in the right direction. There’s some fat left in the lineup that could be trimmed. But in the battle for market leadership, Cat, like Polaris, seems reluctant to leave any dollars on the table.

©2003 Copyright American Snowmobiler Magazine / www.amsnow.com
 
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