What’s this, a 137” ZR? Yep, for 2016 Arctic Cat has re-classified their XF 137” models (LXRs, Sno Pros and Limiteds) as ZRs, so...

     What’s this, a 137” ZR? Yep, for 2016 Arctic Cat has re-classified their XF 137” models (LXRs, Sno Pros and Limiteds) as ZRs, so we now have 129” ZRs and 137” ZRs. Arctic Cat might have believed there was more equity in the ZR name than there was the XF name. Whatever the logic, we now have ZR LXRs and ZR SnoPros in both 129” and 137” track lengths, and in four engine sizes; 6000, 7000, 8000 & 9000. And then there are ZR Limiteds, again in all four engine sizes, at 137”.

      Which brings us back to the ZR Limited 137”. This is the sweet spot in the line-up, being the crossover length that is so wildly popular. For 2016 there are some major upgrades to ZR Limited in the 137” track length, and now they will perform even better. These differences are found in the clutches and shock packages.

      We have all new clutches, front and rear. For 2016 Arctic Cat is going to be using TEAM clutching, both primary and secondary, on their performance models. This is actually huge news. While many of us are familiar with the various TEAM secondary encapsulated roller secondary clutches, this is the first time we have been introduced to a TEAM-branded primary clutch. Of course, TEAM has been manufacturing primary clutches for many years for the snowmobile manufacturers, but this is the first time we get a TEAM Rapid Response primary clutch.

      The benefits should be many. Arctic Cat engineers tell us this package provides better long-term consistency, specifically greater durability and a more consistent engine RPM control with less RPM variation, hour to hour and day to day as well as month to month and year to year.


      Arctic Cat tells us they have been working with TEAM for over two years, with this being the third season of developing specific calibrations for each of their high performance models. Most notable is the increased durability of the spider assembly, something that has been an issue in the past for Arctic Cat. This new spider assembly provides a much wider roller to flyweight contact patch with 30% more roller surface area and a 40% increase in the flyweight base width. Arctic Cat indicates this will translate to a 250% improvement in average flyweight service life, a very welcome improvement considering the high horsepower levels of their engines. There is also a 70% increase in button (slider) contact surface area, and we are going to be seeing far less spreading of the towers. With the wider rollers the spider has a reduced wall thickness, so for added strength the spider itself is now going to be made of steel instead of aluminum. Even so, the new primary is almost a pound lighter than the current unit with less rotational inertia for slightly quicker spooling and acceleration.

      The TEAM secondary clutch is a Rapid Reaction BOSS CVT, a two-roller encapsulated design for smooth back shifting and torque sensing. This design is one most of us are going to be familiar and comfortable with, often used on race sleds and similar to what has been in the aftermarket for many years. Arctic Cat tells us it is also slightly lighter than what they are currently using, and that this combination will result in a 15-20 degree reduction in drive belt temperatures compared to the current clutching combination.

      The second big change is found on the Limited models in the new QS3 adjustable Fox shocks, up front and on the rear arm. For the past few years the Limited models had the same suspension calibration as the SnoPro sleds but with more features. For 2016 the Limited models get their own, unique suspension calibrations. We have been asking Arctic Cat why their RR models were the only ones with adjustable shocks for many years, and it kept coming back to many riders had difficulty in knowing how to adjust shocks with 10-20 settings. Thus, they sought a set of shocks that would be easy to use and understand.


      The QS3 shocks feature a very simple design with a nice big lever that you can grab with your gloves on, giving you three settings. The rotating lever had detents so you can easily and clearly know when you have set the adjustment to the next setting. Each of the settings provides a noticeable difference from the others. What does “QS3” stand for? Simple – Quick Switch 3. It is quick and easy to switch the adjustment, and there are only three settings.

      ZR Limited 137” models also get some extra features over and above the Sno Pro models; first and foremost a slightly taller, 11” medium height dark windshield that provides better protection than the low 5.5” windscreen of the SnoPro, but not quite as good as the 13” LXR windshield. You also get a heated seat and a standard tunnel cargo bag, along with a truly functional front bumper, a goggle warming bag, tunnel flares and a fancy brake lever!

      SnowTech test riders were lucky enough to get their hands on one of the 2016 early build units that hit the Arctic Cat dealers back in March, and squeaked 500 miles out of it before the good snow went away only a few days later. In that time we got a good feel for the new clutching and new shock packages, and with thousands of miles on the 2015 XF 137” sleds we could immediately identify the differences. The Fox QS3 shocks were really tight to begin with but they did start to loosen up nicely. They provide three distinct settings, but it is not soft like an LXR at the lowest setting. All 3 settings are more on the firm side of things as a ZR Limited is a high-performance snowmobile, calibrated for fast riding and high flying. If you want a cushy-compliant calibration we strongly suggest the ZR LXR, or ante up for softer base valving in the QS3 shocks. We did not find them harsh, but our 2015 XF LXR was a more compliant ride motoring down a groomed trail, yet not as capable as the Limited when really pushing it hard. Not a matter of right or wrong, just know which is which here.

      In the clutching department we wondered how well the calibration would be with new clutches front and rear, but this was really impressive. Smoother engagement, hard pulling acceleration, and the sled seemed to hold peak RPM better, as if the clutches were running cooler. Sure seemed like it. There was really zero to complain about with the clutching. Our test riders all commented on how the ZR 7000 Limited 137” was probably the strongest running sled we have ever had with the Yamaha triple engine, and that says a lot. Riders who always complain about their time on a 4-stroke actually wanted to ride it more, which never happens. They just wanted to be sure they actually liked it that much.


      One thing is for sure, the new Arctic Cat sleds we have been riding keep getting better and better. Quality issues are getting nailed down, detail issues are getting resolved, overall durability and reliability is improving. The 2016 ZR 137” Limited we rode showed us firsthand how advanced the Procross platform has become, or shall we say refined. Many of our test riders believed this might have been the single best 4-stroke trail sled they had ever ridden (stock, of course). With many riders logging more and more miles each year on their trail machines, the long term reliability and durability of the 4-stroke engine remains the biggest attraction.

      For those who still prefer 2-strokes, we really have zero reservations with the 2016 versions of the 600 & 800 2-stroke engines Cat offers. The Dual Stage Injection 600 twin has proven to be strong and reliable with great fuel and oil economy over our last two years of riding production versions. About the only gripe would be the louder intake noise with this engine, it does howl some in the midrange.

      The 800 twin has evolved each year and is now incredibly well calibrated compared to just a few years ago. It has always been strong and reliable, but thirsty as well, both oil and fuel. Our 2015 demonstrated a marked improvement in fuel consumption, with a modest reduction in oil consumption. Yes, it is a throttle body EFI system, but one that now performs extremely well and shows us how software can continue to evolve our perception of the hardware.

      Just by virtue of having the new Fox QS3 shocks, we would highly recommend the ZR 137” Limited models. The burning question might be who would be better suited with a shorter 129” track length ZR instead? Those who are shorter or lighter in body weight would be prime candidates, in our experience right about the 175 pound mark one could go either way. Those who are almost exclusively riding groomed trails might prefer the tighter cornering of the 129”, but the difference is really minimal. Those who demand every last MPH of top end should take the 129”. But if you prefer ride quality, less of the tail trying to pass you, better flotation and fresh snow capability, or like having room for extra cargo (gas cans, gear bags) then the 137” is the better option. We only had one short tracked sled in our test fleet last winter, and this year there will not be a single one.

From the November 2015 issue of SnowTech Magazine. (September 2015)

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