Feast your eyes on the finest Arctic Cat snowmobiles in fifty years from the Thief River Falls, Minnesota manufacturer. With 2011 marking five years of the F-Series chassis for Arctic Cat trail sleds, a number of us were expecting to see some new short track trail sleds for 2012. But maybe even more logical was an upgrade to the M-Series mountain sleds and the Crossfire crossover models, as their chassis traces back to the 2003 Firecat.
2012 Brings us two variations of Arctic Cat’s new platform, called the “ProCross” for the short tracks (128” Fs and 141” XFs) and “ProClimb” for the M-Series long track mountain sleds. XF you ask? That is the new designation for the crossover sleds, replacing the Crossfire models.
All three variations, 128” F sleds, 141” XFsleds, and the long-track M-sleds come in your choice of three power levels – the 125 HP 1100 4-stroke, the 160+ HP 800 H.O., and the 177 HP 1100 Turbo. Let that sink in for a moment. Four-stroke mountain sleds. Four stroke crossovers. No 600 two-stroke twins!
But aren’t four-strokes heavy? That’s why Arctic Cat had to squeeze them into a super-light yet smart-strong chassis. The EPA emissions police are cracking down for 2012, and going with this combination makes the slide-rule work out. Once you ride them, you will become a believer. We had our doubts, but while you can detect the extra mass up front, the responsiveness and light steering make up for it. You know full well Arctic Cat wouldn’t try to sell you a four-stroke mountain sled unless they could get them to work well. Remember, a 177 HP turbo makes 177 HP at 8,000 feet, 10,000 feet, or at sea level. An 800 H.O. two-stroke (or any non-turbo) loses about 3% of its power for every 1,000 foot increase in elevation. Mathematically that means at 8,000 feet you are down about 24%. 160 HP at sea level drops to (about) 120-125 HP up at 8,000 feet, so it feels more like a 600 does at sea level. Meanwhile, the 1100 Turbo still makes 177 HP. No need to change gearing, flyweights, nothing. Just ride the thing and hang on. Horsepower masks weight quite well, at least until you get stuck.
Basically, these are all new sleds except for the engines and tracks. The rolling chassis is all-new, stronger, lighter, and damn good looking. While clearly an Arctic Cat, these new sleds are very stylish and futuristic-looking – at least we sure think so. Arctic Cat didn’t hire out the design work, either. This is home-grown green from TRF, the work of Cat’s own Nathan Blomker. Hat’s off to you dude, good job.
The ProCross chassis is the lightest, strongest and most-capable chassis Arctic Cat has ever built. It incorporates aluminum extrusions, stampings, forgings and castings in a pyramidal design that sets a new standard for high-tech design and construction for Arctic Cat. A forged steering housing ties together many of the load-bearing chassis components. The ProCross chassis is significantly lighter than the Twin Spar, and is used on both the new F and XF models.
How much lighter? Depends on the model. Anywhere from 50 to 60 to as much as 85 pounds lighter (1100 Turbo models). At least that’s what Cat is telling us right now, based on the most current renditions. And when you ride them, you know it.
One of the really cool features of the new platform is the tapered two-piece tunnel. The top of the tunnel is 15-in. wide (compared to 16 in. on the Twin Spar and 17 in. on the ZR), while wider at the footrests, which maintains the sled’s narrow feel without sacrificing track clearance. The two-piece design adds greater rigidity to the rear of the chassis, while the tapering significantly improves the ergonomics and leg comfort. The rear tunnel section of the ProCross chassis is concave to allow snow to flow on top of the rear heat exchanger, offering increased cooling.
Maybe the first thing one notices is how high the upper A-arm is, especially compared to a Twin Spar sled. This is where the influence of the 600 Sno Pro race sled comes into play. The one-piece forged ski spindles are really tall to reduce the forces and load inputs into the spindle, and here’s the key – to allow a longer distance between the upper and lower arms for added chassis strength.
This latest generation front suspension from Arctic Cat is now called the ARS (Arctic Race Suspension). It combines the tall spindles and widely-spaced A-arms for the greatest torsional rigidity and strength. The lower A-arms mount to the chassis in a 30-degree angle from the chassis centerline with optimal caster/camber angles to improve comfort and cornering traction while reducing bump/steer. The one-piece spindle construction with ball-joints eliminates the added weight and stiction of spindle-in-housing designs.
A stouter, triangulated front chassis also enabled the use of a simplified, single bell-crank steering system, replacing the previous twin-bell rack design. This is great news, as it reduces the amount of “free play” or steering slop that can develop during use. The turning radius is also sharper than both the Twin Spar and M Series.
Yes sir, the new chassis platform, new front suspension, new steering system, they’re all really cool. But what you will feel when you ride one of these new sleds is not only how much lighter and responsive they are, but you will for-sure notice how smooth and consistent the power delivery is. Rarely does a new platform work so well in the power transfer department. Look closely and we find some major changes to the drive system. GONE is the Diamond Drive system. Why? Because Arctic Cat engineers knew keeping the clutches dead-nuts parallel and maintaining a consistent center distance would be a major leap forward in terms of power transfer and acceleration.
Enter the new Arctic Drive System (ADS). The ADS features the new Torque Control Link (TCL) – a stout plate connecting the PTO side of the engine to the bearing housing of the jackshaft – which maintains consistent center-to-center distance and proper alignment. The engine’s crankshaft and the jackshaft are locked in-line together, allowed to move together thanks to a new radial (upper) bearing in the chaincase. The result: improved and consistent performance, longer drive belt life and quicker acceleration. The new ADS features a longer center-to-center distance (12.2-in. on the 800s, 11.5-in. on the 1100s) than the previous 10.5-in. c-to-c, and is reverse-capable on the 4-stroke snowmobiles. The brake rotor remains down on the driveshaft. There’s also a new larger diameter secondary, lighter and more durable. Its 10.75-in. diameter (compared to10.4-in. on previous models) allows a lower engagement ratio/speed for smoother take-off.
The cool list continues. For greater weight reduction, the gear and chain case is made from magnesium, and serves as a mounting point for the chassis spars. The magnesium case cover also incorporates the oil reservoir on 2-stroke machines, and the oil tank on 4-stroke models. Neat, huh?
There’s even a new Radial Master Cylinder Braking System to slow down these rocket ships from warp speed. Borrowing technology from Superbike motorcycles, the new RMC brake system features a radial master cylinder and a longer lever for greater braking force. The driveshaft-mounted brake rotor is 12 percent larger than the previous brake for enhanced feel, yet 6 percent lighter. The dual-piston caliper is mounted on the rear portion of the rotor, so that any chassis flex won’t knock back the pistons. Reduced knockback allows smaller caliper pistons and a shortened lever “throw” before the pads contact the rotor, which in turn allows more powerful braking pressure. Freakin’ sweet!
In the rear we find a revised Slide Action rear suspension on the F sleds. On the rear axle is a neat idea – a new fastened, Tri-Hub assembly that’s lighter and more durable than two separate wheels. A new track tension adjustment mechanism, revised front arm and rail pattern help get rid of an impressive 7.5 pounds, with new front arm geometry for improved traction and acceleration. This Slide-Action design slide rail suspension with coupling is unique because the front arm features a U-shaped slot that fits over a fixed shaft (that’s attached through the tunnel) to allow a half-inch of sliding movement. Unlike all other coupled suspensions, this “non-fixed-front-arm-location” doesn’t force the front arm to collapse whenever the rear compresses with coupling. The result is the full benefit of rear coupling – controlled (or eliminated) ski lift during acceleration – yet with complete use of the front arm travel at all times.
Other tricks include a rear cooler that isn’t mounted all the way up onto the top of the tunnel. Instead, there is a gap so snow can contact it top and bottom for more effective surface, and thus better cooling. A new snow flap design helps to kick snow onto the top side of the cooler to keep the big-power engine running strong.
On the mountain sleds, the new ProClimb chassis is also built ultra-rigid with neutrally-balanced rider position. While sharing many design elements with the ProCross chassis, the ProClimb of course is optimized for deep snow mountain sled duty. The ProClimb chassis also incorporates stampings, forgings and castings to optimize the inherent strengths of each. Its pyramidal design ties together the load-bearing chassis components, eliminating chassis flex and fatigue.
These new mountain sleds also get a new ski that is lighter with an increased keel depth for increased cornering bite. It also features molded-in “gripper” traction on the top side and a new ski loop design that is stiffer and provides better hand ergonomics.
You asked for it, you got it. All new sleds from Arctic Cat that are lighter and more responsive, with a rigid chassis and full of techno-wizardry. Our initial testing indicates they are as good as they look, with more rider protection than we expected on really cold days (with a mid-height windshield installed). The running quality has been spot-on, making them pull hard and fast. About the only valid objection we had was the 1100 packages were more planted than a 600 twin would be, but for the long-term reliability improvement, we’ll take it, hands down. About all you have to do is pick your track length, engine size, and color. The rest is history.