It should be no secret that ever since Arctic Cat released their innovative and exceptional-performing Dual Stage Injection 600 2-stroke engine just about everyone involved in snowmobiling has been waiting for Arctic Cat to do the same with an even bigger displacement engine.
It was the 2014 model year that the DSI 600 was introduced on a single model – the El Tigre. Here we are, model year 2017 and still no big bore DSI. That’s three model years later, 2018 will be four model years since the intro of the 600. So the Arctic Cat faithful, their entire dealer network, and all of us are left scratching their heads – where is the DSI 800?
To be honest, quite a few of the faithful were (optimistically) expecting it to be a 2016 offering. When it didn’t materialize, the logic was it was held back to make sure it was ready for prime time, so it had to be coming for 2017. When the 2017 sleds were introduced and it was absent, the logic then turned to Haydays; it just has to be a late-release that we will see at Haydays.
So when September and Haydays came and went with no new DSI 800, we all now look forward to the next possibility – once the calendar says “2017” Arctic Cat can officially introduce a new model as an early release 2018.
We all know how technology-driven this industry is. New tech sells. And, new tech costs money to develop. We have many factors in play here, so let’s analyze what might be occurring here to better understand why we are in the current situation we are in.
Snowmobile sales are down. No rocket science here. Two poor snow years in a row sure didn’t help matters. And the fact of the matter is the current Suzuki 800 twin is an AWESOME engine. It is very durable and it makes great power, both down low, through the mid and on the big end. It is (relatively) less expensive to produce since it has been in production for a long time now. It accepts aftermarket modifications with ease, making even more big power, and it does so reliably. Arctic Cat just hasn’t suffered the engine durability issues that Polaris and Ski-Doo have over the many years with their 800-class engines. But, the fact remains it is a throttle body injection system, rather lacking by today’s lofty standards. The crossover to their own Dual Stage Injection was all too logical.
While this all is sweet and dandy, getting somebody to buy a brand new sled to replace what they have sitting in their garage right now is a tougher sell when the brand new model has the same chassis and same engine as the old one. Since 2012 we have had the same (basic) Pro-Cross & Pro-Climb sleds with the same (basic) engine package, albeit significant calibration and chassis improvements. The 2017 Arctic Cats are excellent sleds, well refined compared to the first-year sleds from 2012. Never the less, getting somebody to buy a 2017 that looks so much like the 2012 with the same basic engine is, well, tougher to accomplish.
We know from our own reader surveys that there were a bunch of Arctic Cat faithful looking for a new 800 for the 2016 model year. When it didn’t show, they went and bought a new Polaris or Ski-Doo. And when the 2017 models came, same deal – the next round of buyers were looking for a new 800, only to find it absent – and they too went and bought the “newness” found in the Polaris and Ski-Doo line-ups. Arctic Cat has long hung their hat on having the most brand loyal customers, but face it, a bunch of them jumped brands and they will likely not be back anytime soon. They’re gone, at least for now.
Officially, Arctic Cat can’t and doesn’t say much in regards to what the future holds. But unofficially there have been indications of where this is headed. From a development and testing perspective, the “new 800” is ready to go by all indications. Has been for a while now. So what’s the hold-up? One source indicated a “vendor issue”, meaning one of the many suppliers of parts and pieces that would be used in the assembly of such new engine was simply not where it needed to be. Arctic Cat designs and assembles the engines, but they do not build all of the parts. They might not build any of the parts. They do assemble the parts into a final complete engine, making it an Arctic Cat engine. So if one, just one, supplier can not supply a single part up to the required specifications, the whole assembly can not be built. And as we have stated many times, one is always better off to be late and have it right than to be on time and have problems, as you only have once chance to make a first impression. Blow that and you have blown the entire opportunity.
There is yet another wrinkle here – Yamaha. While we have talked in the past about how Yamaha could help Arctic Cat with an injected 2-stroke big bore engine, that’s not our primary angle this time. Instead, it is the joint venture called the Sidewinder and Thundercat/King Cat. Even a company like Arctic Cat can only handle so much on their plate at one time. Yamaha is a very big customer for Arctic Cat, and Arctic Cat wants to keep them happy. Yamaha wanted to bring their turbocharged Sidewinder models to market for the 2017 model year. That was a big undertaking for the entire Arctic Cat staff and operation. Their resources were directed at doing the very best job they could at preparing the Sidewinder and Thundercat models for 2017. And, as you should have figured out by now, this consumption of time, energy and resources left little time to also prepare a new 2-stroke engine & models. Actually, it would be foolish to bring both a turbocharged 4-stroke and a brand new big bore 2-stroke to market in the same model year.
If this logic holds true, then somewhere along the line the decision was made to bring the new turbo engine to market before the big bore 2-stroke. This was likely many years ago, at a time when nobody really would have known for sure what Polaris and Ski-Doo would be doing for 2016 and 2017. One has to make their best decisions and go with them. We seriously believe Arctic Cat would have done better for themselves if they had brought the DSI 800 to market before the turbo, but hindsight is always 20/20.
There is yet another consideration. The 850. Yep, Ski-Doo pulled a quick one all of us by upping the ante to 850. Arctic Cat usually pulls this trick, to increase the displacement in a class. They have done it repeatedly over the history of the sport. Let’s say Arctic Cat had their DSI 800 ready to go and they caught wind of Ski-Doo coming with an 850. Does Arctic Cat move forward, knowing their latest 2-stroke engine is going to be not as powerful as the new Ski-Doo? Or, do they say let’s go back and tweak it up so we are more competitive? The 2-stroke engine industry and all of the suppliers are a fairly small community, so somebody somewhere could have tipped off Arctic Cat at an early stage as to what Ski-Doo was up to. They very likely have to work with several common suppliers, be it pistons, crankshafts, ignition systems, or how about oil pumps or throttle bodies?
We admit, most all of this is theory and conjecture, trying to rationalize and make sense out of it all. So our best guess at this point in time would have to be that of a 2018 Dual Stage Injection big-bore 2-stroke from Arctic Cat, wrapped in the new skin of the Thundercat & 600 RS, but what size could be the kicker – 800, 850, 900? For some reason an 860 seems to be a number that resonates, but with the big turbo in the line-up there is less need to go bigger, so we will still place our chips on an 800. Dual Stage Injection still seems to be the more likely fueling method, as Arctic Cat doesn’t have to pay somebody else for their own technology, but one simply can not rule out the possibility of a Yamaha-inspired injection system as the connection is there. Who knows, Arctic Cat might have run into development issues with making an 800 DSI, turned to their new friends at Yamaha for assistance, and we could end up with the best of both worlds. It has already happened with all of the other sleds the two companies have worked on together. Arctic Cat is building better products with the help of Yamaha. Which leads one to the next logical conclusion – if Yamaha would help Arctic Cat with 2-stroke technology, would they also use the engine in a Yamaha-branded model? Tempting, very tempting.