Is This The Year Of The Cat?
All of the Firecat models are gone. Yep. Replacing the Firecat platform is a new chassis called the Twin Spar Rigid Chassis. This is the platform for all of the Firecat and Sabercat replacement models, along with an all-new 4-stroke model, the Jaguar Z1, powered by a 2-cylinder 1056cc multi-port fuel injected 125 HP smoothie.
Also gone are the ZR 900 and King Cat. Replacing them, in an effort to regain their position at the top of the food chain, is an all-new laydown 1000 2-stroke, fitted into both the F-Series models and the M-Series mountain platform, along with the Crossfire.
Also gone is the famous F7 engine, the original laydown twin that set the world on fire with its lightweight and ability to kick the tail of most every other sled with more displacement. Donâ€™t despair, the 700 has been upgraded to an 800, but still fitted with throttle body fuel injection.
Throttle body? What about the EPA? Up to this point there has been no mention of EPA compliance from Arctic Cat, nor do we know if these two new twins have a knock sensor or pipe temperature sensor, so while they are likely cleaner than the engines they replace, they likely are not fully compliant on their own. But for 2007, EPA still allows each manufacturer to use credits (their own, or purchased) to balance out their entire line-up. Arctic Cat has accumulated credits with their 660 four-stroke models over the years, so they know exactly how many of each engine they can build and still meet the criteria. This also leads one to believe there will be additional engine enhancements for 2008â€¦.
Arctic Cat has 41 different models for 2007 (still too many). Panthers and T-660s handle the touring crowd, and aging fan-cooled Z-models fill out the line for the cheap sleds. Bearcat models thrive in utility applications. The brand spanking-new F-Series Standard replaces the base Firecat models. The Sabercat models are gone, too, replaced by the F-Series LXR. This is to avoid confusion and to make them all look the same, as the LXR models will have the taller windshields, mirrors, electric start, and the big one â€“ all of the F-Series, M-Series and Crossfire models (with ACT Diamond Drive) now have push-button reverse as STANDARD issue. About damn time.
Also gone is the 2-stroke 500cc twin with the exhaust pipe sensor. Instead, all 500cc models are now fitted with the 80 HP single-throttle body version, a price-point engine.
So, you have three different versions of the F-Series to choose from, standard, LXR and Sno Pro. Early-build versions were fitted with a 121â€ x 15â€ wide track, but 2007 production models will come with 128â€ track lengths and yes, theyâ€™re 15â€ wide for added traction and stability. Longer, wider tracks on this new platform mean these F-Series sleds will not be the super-lightweight flickable machines like their Firecat cousins. Instead, the F-Series seems to be aimed at an aging demographic that wants rider comfort and adjustability, and Arctic Cat has delivered with a full compliment of adjustable components on many of these models. Handlebars adjust and rotate, the windshields adjust, and the seat moves up and down and back and forth, allowing many of the F-Series models to fit most any rider size and style in a wide range of conditions.
Engine sizes include the 500, the 600 EFI II, the new 800 and the new 1000. These engines are also found in the Crossfire models, with the 800 and 1000 also available in Sno Pro trim. This also applies to the M-Series, with the exception of the M-5; it is gone (buyers of this model can get the new Crossfire 500 instead).
The big news perhaps is the all-new Jaguar Z1. This is the new super-clean 4-stroke that is intended to be the premier trail sled from Arctic Cat. The Infinite Rider Positioning system is the name for the adjustable handlebars and seat, so you can ride it in a forward position, in the middle, or all the way back in cruiser mode. You decide.
Itâ€™s kind of a 4-stroke Sabercat in that it has a generous rear storage compartment, something Cat knows trail riders value highly (and other sled makers completely ignore, at their expense). With an estimated dry weight of 575 pounds, itâ€™s no Firecat on the scale, but on the trail it feels lighter than many other 4-strokes (except the new Yamaha Phazer and Ski-Doo Legend) and has ride and handling manners that are unmistakably Arctic Cat.
The Jaguar Z1 also has push-button reverse. No, the motor doesnâ€™t rotate backwards, it electronically engages a mechanical reverse in the Diamond Drive, and it seems to work flawlessly, and the engine never stalls when you try to use it.
Lift the hood and it is difficult to actually see the motor. It, too, is a laydown design, and it fits neatly all the way down in the same real estate occupied by the Firecat engines for a low center of gravity and moment of inertia, helping give the Z1 the handling character; quick to respond with light steering effort, also due in part to some trick new plastic skis.
All of these Twin Spar Rigid Chassis models (Jaguar Z1 and F-Series) are fitted with a race-inspired Slide Action rear suspension. Best described as a coupler mechanism on the front arm, it allows uncanny anti-squat during acceleration that helps keep the skis on the ground and traction at its fullest. This thing rockets out of corners.
Engine? 125 HP, multi-port injection. It is smooth, seemingly refined and all-new. This is not an adaptation of some other off-the-shelf engine from Suzuki. Maybe a few parts and pieces existed, but weâ€™re led to believe this engine was built for this specific purpose. 4-valves per cylinder and fitted with pressure and O2 sensors, it does all the math so all you do is turn the key.
As with the engine placement, great efforts were made to give the Jaguar Z1 the â€œfeelâ€ of a 2-stroke, as much as possible. Z1 engineers went as far as to tailor the mill to give it a 2-stroke power feel. The Z1 delivers 125 horsepower through itâ€™s narrow, parallel twin, laydown 1100 (1056cc) motor. Instead of a super-flat torque curve, the torque increases throughout the RPM range more like a 2-stroke for acceleration youâ€™ve come to love from your 2-strokes. Kind of.
This new engine is full of techno trickery. The ignition coils, plug wires and caps have been combined into a single self-contained package called lightweight pencil ignition coils.
They also tried to get rid of the annoying compression braking, followed by annoying de-clutching typical of 4-strokes. The Z1 is fitted with an anti-engine braking control. Arctic Catâ€™s patented anti-engine braking system allows the Jaguar to have that coasting feel when releasing the throttle similar to a 2-stroke snowmobile.
Cold weather starting was addressed, as the Z1â€™s exhaust cam has a patented auto de-compressor, so turning over the big bore 1100 twin during cold weather is easier. Dry-sump lubrication also aids cold starts, along with lowering the center of gravity as an external oil tank keeps excess oil out of the crankcase while reducing friction for added power.
If the machine is tipped on its side, the breather system on the Z1 oil tank keeps oil in the tank and not the engine compartment. And, a low oil pressure shut down is designed to shut off the engine if oil pressure become too low, acting as a safeguard to prevent engine burn down.
One thing you will notice when riding the Z1 Jaguar is a lack of vibration, despite its huge parallel twin displacement. The Arctic Cat Noise Vibration Harshness (NVH) lab developed engine mounts that virtually eliminate any engine vibrations transmitted through the chassis. The motor mounts are focused at the center of gravity of the engine to create an effective dampening system.
The 2007 Arctic Cat line-up is truly different that what weâ€™ve come to know for the past few years since the 2003 introduction of the Firecat. The Firecat still lives in the Crossfire and M-Series mountain sleds, but the ride quality and handling attributes of the new F-Series and Jaguar Z1 indicates Arctic Cat was listening to their dealers and the majority of their riders (not just the vocal performamce nuts) to deliver sleds that were better suited for how most riders use their hardware; trail riding. These are stable, predictable sleds that are comfy to ride for very long distances. Nowhere do we see a racer-wannabe model, but the performance crowd still gets three new engines to tinker with, and the mountain guys get exactly what they wanted, times two. Arctic Cat, like their riders, are maybe getting smarter as they get older. About the only thing missing is the model(s) for the younger riders, those looking for the less expensive freestyle-type sled without such a wicked price tag (aka Phazer, Freestyle).