2017 brought us Arctic Cat’s new next-generation styling in their mighty Thundercat with its Yamaha-built 9000-Series turbocharged 4-stroke, but all of their 2-stroke sleds remained on the ProCross platform, sporting the same body going back to the 2012 models. As we were looking at the all-new body work and styling of the 9000-Series sleds with envy, we had to wonder – when does the rest of the line-up get the new styling and sexy-looks of the Turbo?
Even at our Spring testing in March of 2016, there were no 2-strokes with the new styling. But, if you looked closely at the 2017 line-up from Arctic Cat and you might have discovered there was one other sled that received the all-new body work and sexy styling – and only one – an extremely limited-edition 2017 RS Edition ZR 6000.
The Roger Skime Special
The “RS” stands for a man we all love dearly as being the father of Arctic Cat engineering – Roger Skime. Arctic Cat’s 2017 ZR RS 6000 was a celebration of the man whose passion for Arctic Cat snowmobiles spans 55 years and whose innovative spirit is immeasurable. For more than five decades, Skime has spearheaded many of the most innovative snowmobiles and designs, thanks to his competitive spirit and insatiable desire to build the best snowmobiles in the world. His dedication to Arctic Cat has inspired generations of engineers and riders whose passion reflects his example. And through it all he became a living legend. The RS Edition ZR 6000 was meant to reflect that legendary passion with a unique, commemorative styling design and component selection.
Skime has made it no secret that he loves the C-TEC2 6000 Series engine, the 600cc 2-stroke that Arctic Cat builds in their St. Cloud, Minnesota engine facility. Here at SnowTech we also really have a passion for this engine, as it is an overachiever and excels at all levels of performance. This being the case, it seems perfectly fitting that to commemorate Roger’s career and contribution to the sport that Arctic Cat would offer an extremely-limited build special-series snowmobile fitted with their latest platform and styling, fitted with Roger’s favorite, the C-TEC2 6000. Nicely done. These limited production RS sleds were even personally signed by Roger Skime.
The RS Edition ZR 6000 came with the all-new body styling with increased airflow for optimal underhood heat management. New side panels and hood were easily removed for simplified access to key components. An LED headlight is visually distinctive while delivering optimal lighting performance.
This model only came in one color – black with green accents – and one track length – 129”. It featured custom parts and accessories top to bottom, picked for and by the one and only Roger Skime. This model also received a unique graphics and coloration, including a custom green-striped seat cover design.
Other RS edition special features found on Roger’s signature machine included a billet aluminum wheel package, two-tone custom windshield, and RS-edition Fox shocks – good ones. These are Quick Switch FOX ZERO QS3R Kashima-coated ski and rear track shocks (with a QS3 Kashima on the front track) offer the ultimate in adjustability and performance. You also found a rear storage bag, hand guards, tunnel flares, curved Sno Pro brake lever and stout ProMountain front bumper. Candy green painted rails and a ceramic-coated pipe topped off sled off.
We have to tell you, we were worried about this sled. Anytime a manufacturer comes out with a new model but doesn’t have one for us to ride and evaluate in March, you have to figure it just wasn’t ready. That said, the attraction was too great to ignore. We knew this was going to be the platform of all future Arctic Cats, and if this was the only way we were going to get a “new” platform with a 2-stroke, we wanted it – even if (at first glance) it only seemed to be new plastic on the existing chassis.
There was also the concern that this sled carried the name of a legend, Roger Skime. We have known and worked with Roger for, well, a good portion of the 49 years we’ve been doing this. It worried us that he would allow Arctic Cat to put his name on such a brand new sled that didn’t even exist in March, at least for ride and photo opportunities.
One of our gripes for many years has been the lack of suspension adjustability, specifically shock damping, in so many of the high performance Arctic Cat models. If you wanted adjustable shocks you had to step up to the RR models. Seeing the spec sheet for this RS Edition about made us drool, having Fox QS3R Kashima-coated shocks front and rear, with a QS3 at center. This would be the very best shock package we have ever had on a Long Term Test Sled from Arctic Cat.
When the sled arrived we opened it up and took a look. Some of the wiring and cable routing looked to be an improvise, maybe not what a final production spec should look like, but seemingly still acceptable. That was really our only complaint. We removed the hand guards and mid-height windshield, and installed a slightly taller windshield to better suit our tall riders and give us improved protection for the long, cold days our test riders endure. We routinely will log well over 200 miles per day in whatever kind of conditions we might find, so we always opt for function over appearance when it comes to wind protection.
From an operational standpoint, the biggest differences we noticed when riding the next-generation ProCross was the reduced intake noise from the relocated intake (that is no longer pointed up towards the rider) and how the body console doesn’t spread your legs when you slide up into it for taking a corner. These were very welcome changes. The RS Edition also was fitted with the new LED headlight, but not all of the 2018s get this as it will be limited to the higher-end packages. It, too, is really is a noticeable improvement.
It didn’t take long for us to realize how special this sled really was. Arctic Cat absolutely nailed the out-of-box calibration of this machine. From clutching to gearing to shock calibration to engine mapping and running quality, we can honestly say this was the single best running Arctic Cat we have ever had in our fleet. We were worried about it going into the winter, but by the time the snow had melted we had racked up 1,238 miles of hard running. We took the little 600 out with our 2018 ZR 8000 Sno Pro 137” and ran them side by side for three days straight, long and hard days of 255 miles, 275 miles and 225 miles. The little six was quick out of the hole, nimble through the tight corners, and with the adjustability of the QS3R shocks we were pleasantly surprised with the ride performance in both comfort and capability. It wasn’t too harsh, nor would it bottom easily, keeping the skis on the ground and railing around corners.
When the snow melted early, we were very sad once we realized we would not get another chance to ride the RS Edition. It had stood up to our abuse, met and exceeded our expectations, and pretty much told us that Arctic Cat riders were going to love the next-generation sleds coming for 2018. Add to this the fact we logged yet another 1,800 miles on the limited-build 2018 ZR 8000 SnoPro 137” we got in February and we confirmed this even stronger. While the “new” skin looks very similar to the previous ProCross platform, it was planned this way very intentionally and by design. Arctic Cat wanted to leverage the ProCross heritage and Arctic Cat identity, but give it a bold, fresh new appearance. And, since the actual underlying platform is still a ProCross, there was only so much that could be done dimensionally to the outward appearance in the facelift process.
If you can still find a brand new 2017 ZR 6000 RS Edition, compare the shock package to any and all of the 2018 models. You really don’t find one with the same package, meaning it truly was a “special edition”. Seeing how it is signed by Roger Skime himself, it will likely become a collector’s edition. We sure do wish we would have kept ours. If this is the future of Arctic Cat, the future is looking very bright.
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