Arctic Cat just couldn’t wait any longer. The much anticipated and long-overdue Dual Stage Injection 800 two-stroke is finally here, and it rocks. We’ve been talking about this engine for a couple of years now, actually all the way back to when the DSI 600 was first introduced. The new 800 DSI is really very similar to the rock-solid 600 DSI, with a few changes to better match the larger piston size and power delivery expected of an 800.
As we look through the Arctic Cat 2018 line-up, we find that the throttle-body injection Suzuki 800 has been replaced in every model, top to bottom and all the way through. Not that it was bad, but it was time. Arctic Cat had been sorting through supplier issues, and with the introduction of the Yamaha-built turbo engine for 2017 it just made sense to wait until 2018 to bring the DSI 800 to market. Not that it was the right choice, as a fair number of Arctic Cat faithful got anxious and abandoned ship for the new models from Polaris and Ski-Doo the past couple of years.
The new DSI 800 is truly the most refined two-stroke engine Arctic Cat has ever produced, with a focus on durability, fuel and oil economy, and midrange power and response. Riding it out on the snow, it really is everything one could hope for, delivering a crisp response with noticeably more power and a healthy torque increase below 6,000 RPM. The DSI system reduces the distance the fuel has to travel, so when you whack the throttle the power is quick to respond. The 3-stage powervalve system has a unique set of side valves in the boost ports that are not found on the 600, helping to give us the response and efficiency. It appears the operating RPM has been raised slightly (maybe 150 RPM) from the Suzuki 800, and if there is any power increase up top it isn’t anything crazy or big. That’s fine, the old 800 always good power up top, it was through the midrange that it was spongy, and now we have a new 800 that is crisp and clean, much quicker to snap to your beck and call. It was a long wait, but it sure does work good.
Not only is the Arctic Cat 2018 lineup bringing their new DSI 800 to market, but they are also expanding their Next-Generation ProCross platform across the line. Well, it is now being used in the 6000, 8000 & 9000 Series models, but not the 7000 Series 4-strokes or smaller 3000 Series models. The Next-Gen plastic and bodywork was introduced last season in all of the 9000 Series Turbo models, and in the 6000 Series race sleds, and one lone consumer two-stroke – the Roger Skime Edition ZR 6000.
Now for a twist – not all of the Arctic Cat 2018 Next-Gen ProCross sleds get the LED headlight that the platform featured for 2017. The LED headlight will only be found on the higher-end models, so you will need to pay attention to the spec sheets to see what gets it and what does not. If having an LED headlight is important to you, that is.
Along with the Next-Gen body, all of the 6000, 7000 & 8000 models get the new Team Rapid Response II Drive clutch (introduced last year on the 9000 Series Turbo models) which features an auto adjusting belt tension design. This is accomplished by using an idler bearing on the center shaft between the two sheaves, allowing the belt to maintain a perfect tension at all times – even as the belt wears. This is a huge benefit, as you never have to adjust the belt tension or deflection ever again. This design also reduces the effective starting ratio by 12.5% providing a smoother engagement and reduces belt wear. We really like how smooth the machines are upon take off and were impressed by how well they all perform with the lower starting ratio.
Looking at the Arctic Cat 2018 Mountain sleds, we now find what is being called the “Ascender” platform. Arctic Cat would like us to think this is an all-new platform, but it is more of a new name for their continually-evolving mountain sled chassis. In reality we have the same basic ProCross platform that dates back to 2012, but with heavy modifications and enhancements over the years. For 2018, the Ascender platform incorporates many of the changes found on the 2017 Mountain Cat models and now gets a mountain-specific version of the Next-Gen ProCross body panels, specifically unique side panels and belly pan designs that are optimized for deep snow duty. Many detail items are also mountain-specific, thing like the clutch guard and oil tank, as Arctic Cat realized that they needed very different platforms to truly perform as they should in the mountains. The Ascender sleds are narrower and even more agile, easier to ride and quick to respond.
Improved deep snow performance comes from repositioning the drive shaft 1.125” lower than the previous M 8000. This required a longer chaincase but allows larger 8-tooth drivers to reduce the approach angle of the track down to 9.7 degrees. These changes also result in better power transfer to the ground with an increase of 3 HP at the track.
As with the 2017 Mountain Cats, the 2018 M-Series sleds have narrowed the running boards and belly pan to further reduce drag and improve off camber performance. They also opened up the foot well area to allow the riders foot to slide forward another two inches compared the previous models. This eliminated most of the side restriction placed on the rider’s foot and improved the rider’s ability to move forward on the chassis in extreme terrain. This width, along with the mountain-specific Next-Gen panels allows the machine more lean angle on steep side hills reducing the chance of the track lifting out of the snow from belly pan drag.
Down at the bottom of the line-up we find an all-new ZR 200, powered by a 192cc Yamaha engine with 9 HP, CVT clutching and a function suspension package. This is a SSCC-certified snowmobile, so it is trail legal. Sized just about right for growing riders, it isn’t quite big enough for an adult but will definitely start to fill the huge gap between the 120cc kid sleds and larger, full sized machines. It might be kind of spendy with pricing expected to be just below $4,000, but there was such a need for a sled of this size that they will sell every one they can build.
Arctic Cat has also expanded their DSI 600 engine into several new 146” models, from a new Pantera 6000 to a new CrossTour 6000 to the new Norsemen 154” utility sled, an attractive option for world markets and off-trail excursions.
And with the recent announcement of Arctic Cat being purchased by Textron, we can now have the confidence that Arctic Cat will be able to flex some muscle in ways they have not been able to for a while now. Things could get really exciting for Arctic Cat over the next few years, and we’re really happy to see their history and heritage surging forward once again.