The Arctic Cat F-Series machines demonstrate what happens when a sled is given a strong chassis for the suspensions to work under, and how the handling and ride character of a snowmobile can be influenced by placing the rider in a centered position. The Twin Spar chassis found on all F-Series models demonstrated this in 2007, and for 2008 there are really only detail changes that improve upon the 2007’s stellar performance as trail sleds.
There are a large number of Arctic Cat riders who haven’t even tried an F-Series sled, and they really don’t know what they’re missing. Instead of going for a smaller, sleeker appearance like what the Ski-Doos and Yamahas have been chasing, Cat stuck to their guns and reminds us that snowmobiles are ridden in extreme conditions where rider protection remains an important benefit. Where many of the competitive sleds may â€œlookâ€ sleek, that appearance costs you protection from the elements, and are thus very cold to ride at temps much below zero.
Last year, both the standard and Sno Pro models came with the same track (1.0â€) and dual-runners on the skis. This didn’t seem right, and Arctic Cat realized this so they’re going back to a 1.25â€ track on the Sno Pro models. It’s a new pattern from Camoplast called the â€œCobraâ€, which is said to improve loose snow performance off-trail and provide a less positive tail lock than the Ripsaw (the Cobra will be a tad looser on the hardpack). The lightweight Cobra’s new design features rigid fingers connected by cupped sections that scoop the looser surface snow. The aggressive 1.25-inch lug features an additional 0.102-inch cutting edge and â€œsteppedâ€ fingers for improved traction in hard pack snow conditions, bringing the total lug height to 1.352 inches.
We’re not sure if the Sno Pros will also be fitted with a single carbide runner to go with the new track. If they don’t, they should. We’ll be putting them on immediately if they’re not that way out of the box.
In an effort to make the sleds handle more aggressively, the calibration of the front arm has been changed through a progressive front arm coil spring. This adds more ski pressure for more positive handling and less pushing, while retaining a light steering effort. This subtle change is very welcome. It also seems to deliver a plusher ride in the stutter bumps, yet retains composure and control in harsher terrain, something these sleds excel at, despite their added weight.
The Slide Action Rear Suspension is really a work of art for Arctic Cat, as the F-Series sleds will surprise and amaze most trail riders with the ride quality and bump isolation they provide. We would have to declare the 2007 F-Series sleds we logged thousands of miles on as being the best riding sleds of the year when it came to ride comfort. Our test riders would fight over who would get to ride our F6 Sno Pro and F8 when the trails or forest roads were going to be rough that day. We fully expect Arctic Cat to once again have the best riding trail sleds for 2008, as well.
A new sway bar is smaller and lighter, with its mounting points on the a-arms further outboard, coupled to new composite blocks to reduce sticktion. Coming hard into a corner you don’t have an initial amount of body roll then have the sway bar kick in. Now, the sway bar effect is more consistent as there is little, if any, binding in comparison to the 2007s (that could exhibit a slight roll, then when the block would let go of the sway bar, it’d flatten out).
Another handling improvement can be found in the rear suspension, as the limiter strap gets some holes put back in for those who like to vary the strap length for specific handling requirements. While most trail riders will simply add carbide or more aggressive skis to get the handling response they’re after, the ability to vary the limiter strap length is still used by some riders for their unique conditions or preferences.
And in what we consider to be the most noticeable difference is the addition of a truly functional mid-height windshield to the standard models. Last year both the standards and Sno Pros came with a lacking (but go-fast) windshield.
Arctic Cat has recently informed us of additional changes that are being made to the 2008s in comparison to last year’s models. One problem area was with the honeycomb cover on the intake vents. Powder snow would pack into these, making it a bugger to wipe the snow out of them for a clean intake path. For 2008, the high-mounted intakes will resemble those found on the Crossfire and M-Series sleds, a wise change.
For a cosmetic improvement, the lower side panels and the lower portion of the rear tunnel plastic will now be textured instead of the smoother finish of 2007. This should reduce the visible scratching and buffing of the panels in these vulnerable areas.
As is typical from model year to model year, the EFI programming of the F6, F8 and F1000 models has been upgraded with revised fuel mapping that should increase the performance at any elevation. No mention has been made, however, of improvements in fuel economy. The throttle body EFIs run quite well, but they do use slightly more fuel than the four-strokes or the SDI/CFI injection systems used by Ski-Doo and Polaris.
From what we can tell, the F1000s will also be getting some tweaks to the clutching in the form of heavier flyweights, as the four-tower primary has been replaced with a more traditional three-tower primary. That means we’re now back to three flyweights instead of the four used in the 2007s. The F1000s are also coming with a multi-angle 46/40 helix in the secondary, which should quicken the upshift and enhance the acceleration of the big twin. F8s get new gearing as well, now 64/56 for improved top end performance, compared to 62/58 as used in the 2007s.
You’ll also find a new exhaust deflector on all Twin Spar chassis sleds, designed to better direct the spent gasses away from the side panel for less heat damage and soiling.
One minor gripe with the 2007s was the difficulty in getting the clutch guard off. Now this should be easier, as there’s a new 2-pin quick-pull design.
One other issue was with the way we would knock the rear-facing side panel vents out of the side panels with our knees. Quite often we’d find them laying down inside of the side panels, chewed up by the rotating secondary clutch or brake disc. This time around they have an improved locking design with longer tabs so we shouldn’t have to glue them in place any more.
And in the durability department, really aggressive riders were finding they were damaging the rear arm on the 2007s in extreme conditions. Cat’s cross country racers figured this one out, so they came up with a stronger rear arm that proved to work well in the race circuit.
Just like last year, there is a noticeable difference between the standard versions and the Sno Pro models. The faster you ride and the rougher it is, the better the Sno Pros will work in comparison to the standard ones. The standard sleds are excellent at typical trail conditions, and it really takes some hammering on them to need a Sno Pro, but there is a point at which the Sno Pro is going to be the better sled. And likewise, there is a point where the standard sleds are going to be more compliant through the stutter bumps, yet will bottom easier than a Sno Pro. There is no right or wrong here, it is really a matter of matching the calibration to your conditions and riding style. Younger riders typically go Sno Pro, a better fit for standing and rougher riding. Sit down riders and those not standing as much will find the comfort greater on a standard issue. This has held true for many years, and continues. All of these are flatter cornering sleds, more like the ZRs of old.
The 2008 Arctic Cat F-Series machines come in four engine sizes and two suspension packages, ‘standardâ€ and â€œSnoProâ€. The F5 retails for only $7,399. The F6 goes for $8,699. The F8 will run $9,599, and the F1000 costs a cool $11,249 (gulp!). The F6 Sno Pro sells for $9,499, with the F8 Sno Pro running $10,399 and the top-of-the-line F1000 Sno Pro coming in at $12,099. All of these are offered in black, green or orange. The F8 Sno Pro and F1000 Sno Pro were also offered in a â€œNightfire Limited Editionâ€ package during the spring at no extra cost.