If I were to have gathered 100 snowmobilers in a room last fall to review the line-ups from each OEM to pick out the model they’d like to purchase, chances are the 2018 Pantera 6000 would not have been high on the radar for the group. Maybe a few riders would have given it some thought and maybe one would have picked it as their new ride but the reality is models like the ZR or XF High Country would have topped the list. To be honest, they’d top my list too. However, this past season I realized that the Pantera 6000, specifically the 2018 model, is arguably the most versatile sled on the market right now while also being the most overlooked and underrated. At a time when many riders are looking for a sled that can do everything, and do it well, this sled delivers.
Outstanding Adventure Touring Sled
How I came to this conclusion was somewhat by chance. Late in the fall of 2017 I began to make plans with some friends for a trip to Northern Ontario in March 2018 that would have us taking some of the best groomed trails in the Province to the Abitibi Canyon then hopping off the trail to follow the unmarked and un-groomed route to Moosonee, Ontario.
At the planning stage, I didn’t know what to expect for the off-trail route of the trip. I knew there would be lots of deep snow off trail and I’d be in for some cold mornings. I also knew that once I left the groomed trail I’d be following a hydro line and eventually be meeting up with an adjacent rail line but wasn’t sure what the terrain would be like. I really wasn’t sure what to take for a sled but I was pretty sure a short track trail sled wasn’t going to cut it, both in off trail ability and the lack of cargo capacity. At this point the search began for a sled that would work for the upcoming adventure.
While speaking with a couple friends at Arctic Cat about the trip, they mentioned that they had two 2018 Pantera 6000’s available if I wanted them. A quick review of the specs online made it an easy decision and I quickly booked the sleds. It may seem odd to consider taking a 2-up trail cruiser on an on/off-trail adventure but the Pantera 6000 isn’t your typical 2-up, far from it. The 2018 Pantera 6000 features a 146x15x1.35 in. Cobra track, an easily removable 2-up seat, and a huge storage compartment. It had all the necessities required for my trip plus a few other features that make it a great adventure touring sled. Features like a 51.8 L (13.7 US gal) fuel capacity, the lighter weight of the 2-stroke 600 DSI engine, stand-up friendly ergos thanks to the tall riser, mid-height windshield with mirrors for great wind protection, and the overload springs on the SLIDE-ACTION 146 rear skid that can be used if you’re carrying a lot of gear or a passenger made the Pantera 6000 an ideal sled for this type of adventure.
I picked up the sled about 2 weeks before we left for the trip and didn’t have the time, nor available budget, to pick up some of the accessory bags and storage options available from Arctic Cat so I just used the space that was available. With the 2-up seat removed (which only takes about 10 seconds), it leaves lots of options for carrying oil, tools, gear, and even extra fuel if you leave the “trunk lid” off. With the massive fuel tank on the sled and history of respectable fuel mileage I wasn’t too concerned about my fuel range so I elected not to carry extra fuel. This allowed me use the trunk lid to keep the snow out of the storage area. I recommend removing the plastic storage area “insert” that you see when you remove the lid. With that removed, you have quite a large storage area available.
My main concern was how to carry enough oil while avoiding any leaks over the 3 days and eventual 796 km (495 miles) of riding. I wrapped three 1.4L (48 fl. oz.) bags of Cat’s C-TEC2 oil in bubble wrap and stored them up close to the fuel tank at the front of the storage compartment. I also stuffed a tow strap and duct tape in the small crevices on either side of the fuel tank to make the most of the space available. I was able to fit a hunting knife in the middle of the spare belt in its holder and strap a hatchet to the rear rack/tail light housing as well. I also added a few extra tools to the tool kit and stuffed in a couple extra bunji cords behind the rack. I put my change of clothes, extra gloves, extra balaclava, and some snacks into an old tunnel bag and placed that in the storage compartment and was able to close the lid. Everything fit nice and snug with no messing around and didn’t have to worry about straps coming undone, stuff bouncing around, or losing any gear. It’s a piece of mind knowing your gear is secure and dry on a big trip allowing you to just focus on the riding. The Pantera 6000’s storage ability is awesome, the only thing I wish I had was a windshield bag for easy access to my camera and phone.
This is an unexpected strength of the Pantera 6000 thanks to its huge 51.8 L (13.7 US gal) fuel capacity. While riding smooth, fast, Northern trails, maintaining a steady speed I calculated a fuel range of 295 km (183 miles) per tank. When mixing in a lot deep snow riding and slower off trail speeds the calculated fuel range dropped significantly to approx. 129 km (80 miles) per tank however this included a lot of wide open throttle runs in 4 feet of untouched snow. Compare that to any other 600 2-stroke with their lower capacity fuel tanks and you’ll quickly see that the Pantera 6000’s fuel range is actually pretty good.
This model does not come with the auxiliary fuel tank (available as an accessory) like the Pantera 7000 however with a fuel tank that’s already larger than most of the other sleds on the market and an engine that isn’t a gas guzzler, the sled is well suited to running long distances between fuel stops. Personally, I’d rather have the extra storage capacity to carry oil in the rear compartment vs. the auxiliary fuel tank.
The big question heading into the trip was how the 2-up trail cruiser would work off trail in deep snow. The simple answer is that the 2018 Pantera 6000 works very well off trail. In my experience, it does better in the deep snow than most trail-based crossovers. The first couple trips off the beaten path and into the untouched powder removed any doubt from my mind on whether the sled could handle deep snow or not. The key to success here is the 146x15x1.35 in. Cobra track, it alone is responsible for the off-trail ability and increased versatility of the 2018 Pantera 6000. Had it been equipped with a RipSaw, like the Pantera 7000, it simply wouldn’t be nearly as capable in the deep snow. Combined with the lighter weight and power of the 600 DSI, the sled was able to boondock and be manoeuvred quite easily. I was able to climb some fairly steep hills in fresh snow with no worry of running out of power or not having enough traction. I was definitely surprised at how capable this sled was.
Make no mistake the sled is intended for groomed trail riding and the coupled SLIDE-ACTION 146 rear suspension has its limitations off trail, but that’s the case for any coupled suspension. However, you don’t need a mountain sled for the type of riding I was doing nor do you want a mountain sled for adventure touring. To be capable off trail the sled needs enough floatation, traction, and power to get you through while still being easy to ride on the trails. The 2018 Pantera 6000 fits this description perfectly and after 550 km (342 miles) of ungroomed/unmarked trail and off-trail/powder riding I can honestly say it’s a legitimate and capable adventure crossover sled.
Tip: for those who are going to do any serious off-trail rides, take the time to remove the coupling blocks in the rear skid before leaving the trail. We did this to the 2nd Pantera 6000 we had on the trip and it was a huge improvement in its ability to transfer the weight to the track and get the skis in the air when needed. A big improvement off trail however this is not recommended for 2-up riding.
On-Trail Handling & Ride Quality
After 250 km (155 miles) of solo riding on groomed trails, most of which were wide and smooth (safely allowing for higher speeds), I have no complaints about the Pantera 6000’s handling on-trail, it simply works as expected from Cat’s proven front end. I didn’t spend any time playing with the suspension set-up, other than setting the rear torsion spring preload, and out of the box it met my expectations. Actually, it exceeded my expectations when it came to how well it cornered considering the 146 in. track. It corners flat and rides well. As far as 2-up touring models go, the Pantera is definitely calibrated to handle aggressive riding more than its competition.
The one minor complaint I have is that the rear suspension seems to become really stiff when the rear arms hit the coupling blocks. I didn’t notice this when riding 2-up with the overload springs engaged however when riding solo, at a decent pace, it’s something that was noticeable when paying close attention. Again, I really didn’t spend any time dialing in the sled in apart from setting the rear torsion springs so this might be something I could have rectified with a few adjustments. Worth noting is that had this not been pointed out to me by the rider of the 2nd Pantera, I don’t think I would have noticed.
2-up Touring & Family Riding
Last but not least is the category of riding that this sled was actually intended to do, riding 2-up. The week after my northern adventure with the Pantera a small area of local trails reopened and I loaded up the family for a weekend of March riding. I loaded the trunk of the Pantera with snacks for the kids, a thermos with hot chocolate, extra gloves for the kids, and hand and foot warmers and hit the trails. I logged 200km (124 miles) of family riding with my 8 year old on the back and 6 year old riding in front of me on perfectly groomed trails and a few small lakes. The sled was perfect. My 8 year-old was comfortable on the passenger seat with toasty hands and my 6 year-old was warm and happy up front thanks to the mid-height windshield and very-practical vent in front of the steering post that lets hot air escape from under the hood. I’ve long been a fan of the ProCross and ProTour chassis for riding with young kids simply because of this one feature.
The 2018 Pantera 6000 is a great 2-up sled as it has enough performance to ride quickly and even aggressively over rough trails while still remaining plush and comfortable for casual cruising.
Each manufacturer has a handful of underrated models that never get the credit or attention they deserve. The 2018 Pantera 6000 is not only Arctic Cat’s most overlooked model, but arguably the most overlooked and possibly underrated late-model sled in the industry. If you are primarily a trail rider but want a sled that will basically do-everything, without compromising trail performance, then you need to take a serious look at the 2018 Pantera 6000.
By Brad Harris – Photos by Brad Harris and John Sharrard