If you thought the Firecat models were “really different”, then you’d better hang on for the ride of your life, because the new F-series models from Arctic Cat are even more radical and different than the Firecats.
The all-new “F3” platform is based on the Twin-Spar chassis, a new rigid platform with rider-forward seating. This is by far the most ergonomically correct, best handling chassis that Arctic Cat has designed. The rider-forward seating position places the rider with a 90-degree bend in the knees for mass centralization and ride quality benefits, as well as making the transition from seated to standing easy.
(Republished from the December 2006 issue of SnowTech Magazine)
This new chassis is very rigid (46.4% stiffer than a Firecat) due to its lack of aluminum welds, as an advanced robotic-assisted manufacturing process uses self-piercing rivets for increased consistency and repeatability. This results in a chassis that is said to be just as strong after 8,000 miles of riding as it was the day it left the factory.
Up front we find the seventh-generation AWS front suspension. A CNC-machined front sub-frame provides a strong mount, a key piece to making the Twin Spar chassis very rigid due to the lack of welds. Forged spindles and shock towers also increase the strength and rigidity of the front end and reduce the weight. The upper a-arm returns to a more traditional design with the shock inside the “A”, unlike the Firecat’s AWS-6. The steering effort is light due to a progressive steering ratio that uses a solid roller bearing on the steering post.
In the rear of the sled we find the “Slide Action Rear Suspension”. This feature comes from the 440 Sno Pro race sleds. Rather than a solid mount for the upper mount of the front torque arm, a U-shaped slot allows some movement within a slot at this location. This allows you to maintain full front arm travel while controlling weight transfer under acceleration to help keep the skis on the ground for improved cornering and acceleration. The Slide Action reduces harshness by allowing a softer transition during coupling, instead of a definite crossover point from uncoupled to fully coupled. The slot allows the whole suspension to shift rearward when coupling, which provides an added anti-squat feature as well during acceleration.
Bottom line, your skis stay on the ground more often which means better steering response and handling across the board. Big-bump G-outs are less frequent, yet small chatter ride quality remains intact. The sled squats less when you gun it, and track tension is more consistent through the range of suspension travel. Getting the skid frame in and out of the sled is also easier. And finally, changes in rider weight are not as big of a deal with this arrangement, the suspension is more forgiving.
One long awaited feature is push-button electronic reverse. All F-Series sleds are now fitted with the ACT Diamond Drive gearcase, and for 2007 the system has been enhanced with an electronically actuated mechanical reverse. The rider pushes a button under the throttle on the right-hand block and the system pops an actuator that locks a planetary gear for fast and positive reverse engagement. It is quick, smooth and always works; no engine stalling like is common with the reverse-rotation systems found on some 2-strokes. Yes, it weighs a bit more, but it works well.
Four engine sizes are available on the F-Series; the 80 HP 500 EFI (a single throttle body for fuel economy), the 120 HP 600 EFI, plus the all-new (145 HP) 800 EFI and the wicked bad-ass 165 HP 1000 EFI. All are laydown-style engines, fitting as far down and back into the belly of the chassis for a shorter moment of inertia (quicker responsiveness) and lower center of gravity. All are throttle-body electronic fuel injected, and except for the 500 they all also feature Exhaust Pipe Temperature Sensor (EPTS) input to the ignition for stable running quality and consistency, along with electronic Arctic Power Valves (APV).
The new 800 produces slightly more power than the 700 twin of the Firecat, but with a broader torque band and thicker midrange acceleration. It hits harder on both the bottom end and top end, but does so using less fuel. Arctic Cat tells us the 800 consumes nine percent less fuel than the 700 at wide-open throttle, a feat to accomplish while making more power!
The new 1000 engine is the one to be scared of. Sure, it weighs a few more pounds than the 800, but it isn’t so massive that you can’t throw it around. It is easily the lightest of all the 1000s, 2-stroke and 4-stroke, and it makes a stunning 120 foot-pounds of torque when bone-stock. Yikes! This is a huge step-up in performance from the mighty 900 twin, while getting cleaner and more efficient in the process.
These new machines are the best riding, best handling and most comfortable Arctic Cats to date. This is excellent news for trail riders, but what about the point-and-shoot F7 riders of the past? The dry weight spec of a 2006 F7 SnoPro was only 468 pounds, where the new F8 SnoPro weight spec is 500 pounds. Is the new F-series a suitable replacement for the Firecat faithful?
We sure think so. The new F-series sleds are better by design, and they definitely have the best fit and finish in Arctic Cat history. The switch to the new Twin Spar chassis should prove to greatly enhance the overall chassis durability, and the difference afforded by the added structural rigidity to the ride and handling is what will blow away the Firecat riders.
We have a better trail sled with flatter cornering and easy steering. The agile Firecats demanded a more active rider input for their point-and-shoot style. The new F-Series machines corner much more like the ZRs, but with an even stiffer chassis for flat cornering. The tracks are 128” long and 15” wide to provide added stability, but what most impressed us is the ride and handling of the new rigid chassis. Not as “flickable” as a Firecat, but a better trail sled for the masses. They’re quieter, smoother, easier to steer, more forgiving, stable and predictable.
The F-Series models are segmented into three model categories, and four different engine variations. There is the “standard” F-series, the luxury-laden “LXR” models and the SnoPros. The Sabercat models are all gone; instead, we have the F-Series LXR models with more features (like electric start and adjustable seat, handlebars and footrests). All have ACT Diamond Drive with push-button reverse (yeah!) making them fully-loaded. Still intact is the copious rear storage compartment.
For the extreme “hardcore” performance riders, Arctic Cat offers the legendary Sno Pro package (which feature Fox Float ski shocks, 2-in. diameter IFP rear arm shocks, more aggressive suspension calibration and taller 1.375-in. track lugs). Choose between F6, F8 and F1000 engines with standard features like Infinite Rider Positioning System (IRP), a low racy windshield to enhance the sexy curves of the snowmobile and standard ACT direct drive with push button reverse.
Here’s the pricing on all of these screamers; all are offered in your choice of black, green or orange. The 2007 Arctic Cat F5 retails for $7,299; the F5 LXR, $7,599; the F6, $8,599; the F6 LXR, $9,199; and the F6 Sno Pro $9,399. The F8, $9,499; the F8 LXR, $10,099; and the F8 Sno Pro $10,299 (includes the Tony Stewart graphics package option). The F1000 retails for $11.099; the F1000 LXR, $11,699; and the ultimate F1000 Sno Pro, $11,899.
(Republished from the December 2006 issue of SnowTech Magazine)