For 2017 Arctic Cat decided to take a different path with their latest version of brand new, do-it-all crossover sleds that leaned toward the backcountry. The XF Cross Country Limited models come in 6000, 8000 and 9000 versions, featuring the ProCross chassis and an array of components that make them the “enduro” dirt bike of the snowmobile world. For our test unit we chose the lighter 6000, being the newest engine package and offering the greatest range of the three.
ARCTIC CAT’S 50/50 CROSSOVER KING
Arctic Cat didn’t offer the XF Cross Country for 2016, with the 2015 model year being the last time it was in the line-up. Those models were fitted with the longer 141” track length and a 1.6” lug height Cobra track, but the biggest difference was found in the rear suspension and shock packages. For 2017 the Cross Country returned to the line-up, this time upgraded to the snocross-tested 137” Backcountry X track with 1.75” lug height, a key element of the new Cross Country models. It delivers outstanding traction in loose snow while still offering great bite and longevity on hard packed trails. The slightly shorter track length was a plus for the times we were on the trail, allowing it to rail the corners with easier turn-in and less pushing.
The other key improvement from the 2015 version is the switch from the FasTrack rear suspension to the Slide-Action rear suspension. This gives us the Slide-Action slotted front arm, with torsion springs, Torque Sensing Link and coupling blocks in the rear for a greatly improved ride comfort, handling capability and overall trail prowess. Where the 141” sled of 2015 was a killer off-trail sled, the 2017 version broadens the performance envelope and delivers an even more capable sled in a wider range of conditions – with the gains more on the trail side, despite the taller lug track.
Up front, the swaybar-equipped ARS suspension features an adjustable ski stance (42-43”) and ProCross-6 skis for excellent cornering capability on the trails, yet the mountain handlebar and mountain seat offer optimum ergonomics for deep snow carving. That is the beauty of the XF Cross Country models – it offers a blend of stand-up features and off-trail capability with on-trail handling and ride quality, bridging the gap even better than before.
Where the 2015 Cross Country was fitted with lightweight Fox FLOAT shocks up front and in the rear, the 2017 featured Fox ZERO QS3 shocks up front and at the rear, providing the ultimate ease of adjustability for all conditions and riding styles, allowing changes with a simple twist of the 3-position dial. This provided a huge improvement in adjustability over the Fox FLOATs, but admittedly it did bottom the rear arm easier on the mega bump hits, something the FLOATs are really good at.
So, how did it compare to the 2015? The difference in on-trail performance (ride and handling) is huge from the rear suspension and shock package change. This is what riders will notice first, and most. The shorter 2017 is more of a trail sled than the 2015 was. Where the 141” track length of earlier Cross Country models was better suited for the deeper snow, the 137” rail of the 2017 model didn’t have quite the footprint off trail. You’d think the slight difference between 137” and 141” would not be enough to notice, but it sure acted shorter. One thing we’ve learned over the years is that when it comes to deep snow capability, track length trumps lug height. A shorter lug 141” will work better than a taller lug 137”. That said, the 2017 version had a broader set of conditions that it excelled in, (again) due to the rear suspension and shock package offering up the most improvement. We also learned the 1.75” lug height Backcountry track it is not quite as trail friendly in lower snow conditions as the Cobra 1.6”. Ice scratchers should be installed and used when running on hard packed trails late season to lubricate the hyfax and keep coolant temps in check.
The 6000 Series engine is an excellent power package for those who don’t need all of the power of an 800, with crisp throttle response and excellent economy to boot. We’ve found this engine to be a solid performer and very reliable. It is geared slightly lower with the deep lug track on the Cross Country so you will run a slightly higher engine rpm rolling down a groomed trail, but still very acceptable for the added deep snow capability it affords. The lower price of the 600 is also a plus for many, and it runs smoother which also helps with long term drive clutch durability.
Why go with the Cross Country instead of something like a XF CrossTour or a 137” ZR? The main difference will be found in the seat height and track selection, along with the shock package. Taller riders, or those that are doing more standing when riding off-trail will benefit from the taller seat and riding position. This, along with the 1.75” lug height, make this sled better suited for deeper snow and more frequent standing. Add to it the adjustable shock package and we have a great sled for a wide range of riding conditions. The Fox QS3 shocks give us a wide range of adjustability, something we really value highly. This suspension package was perfectly matched to the Cross Country package, and easy to adjust for most any one. That said, riders looking for that elusive blend of having a single sled that works well both on- and off-trail will find an excellent combination of features and performance in the 2017 XF Cross Country Limited.
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