2018 Arctic Cat Snowmobiles Unveiled!

This year's new 800 C-TEC2 motor, ¾-size sled and mountain chassis were well worth the wait!
2018 Arctic Cat ZR 8000 RR 800 C-TEC2 engine motor snowmobile gray
The new 794cc liquid-cooled dual-stage injection twin C-TEC2 2-stroke motor will be spread across Cat’s entire lineup of sleds.
No more testing on consumers – ever! That’s one of the messages that we took away from Arctic Cat’s release of its 2018 sleds. Chief Marketing Officer Greg Williamson made this clear when he was finally able to introduce the new 800 C-TEC2 motor. He was backed up by product folks (like manager Troy Halvorson) and the engineering group, including Cat engine guru Don Eide (with Cat since 1969). Any doubts were laid to rest.

New, less tested technology has been a point of contention in the business for many years, but the new 800 was kept under wraps until all performance and durability thresholds were met. Consumers will be happy to hear the confidence Arctic has in this new dynamic dual-stage injection power plant.
2018 Arctic Cat ZR 200 3/4 snowmobile
Smaller can often be better! The new Cat ZR 200 has the same chassis and motor as Yamaha’s new SnoScoot for 2018. The 4-stroke 192cc Yamaha motor produces a strong 9 horsepower.
2018 Arctic Cat ZR 200 3/4 snowmobile 4-stroke 192cc Yamaha motor engine
2018 Arctic Cat ZR 200 skis double A-arm front suspension with coil-over shocks 3/4 snowmobile
But that’s not all! The more important news is that Cat came out with a true 3/4-size snowmobile! YES!!! Dads, kids, moms, nephews, nieces, grandparents and everyone else across the snowbelt can now collectively high-five, and possibly even group hug! The new sled is called the ZR 200 (yes, there’s a Yamaha SnoScoot version), and it’s what the industry has been waiting for.

If that wasn’t enough, a culmination has occurred in the form of Cat’s Ascender mountain sled platform. Will Ascender finally put Cat back in driver’s seat that the fabled M-sled was in for years (before the ProClimb chassis)? We’ve got more on that coming up!

What families asked for

We’re losing kids to video games, sports, hobbies and more because of a lack of sleds between youth- and full-size machines. Is the ZR 200 the golden gun that will keep our youth in the sport and ensure a healthy future for the industry? It can’t hurt! And families have been craving it for years!

The all-new ZR 200 platform is slightly larger than a 120, and it has much the same features and workings of a full-size sled. Perfect! It is aimed at kids roughly 6-12 years old who are learning the ropes with older, experienced riders monitoring them. The sled is fully SSCC trail legal with working lights, bumpers, brakes, etc. It also has real plastic skis, double A-arm front suspension with coil-over shocks, and rail rear suspension with coil-over shock and torsion springs. The track is a capable 10x93x1-inch Cobra, and it can even take an adult through the snow.

The ZR 200 is powered by a single-cylinder, 9-horsepower carbed 192cc Yamaha 4-stroke engine. Top speed was estimated at 30-34 mph, depending on rider and conditions, but the sled does not have a governor on it. There is a relatively big 2.2-gallon tank, and a Hayes hydraulic disc brake incorporates some of its bike technology. Handlebar warmers, hi/lo headlights and even a tiny, mountain bike-like mountable gauge are standard. Like a pit bike, we can see many adults having a good time on this sled as well.

There’s plenty of impressive tech on this little sled, but possibly most impressive is the clutching. This sled gets similar new technology in its Arctic 200 CVT system as the big sleds get this year in the TEAM Rapid Response II. There is a roller bearing on the bottom of the primary and, just like the big sleds, this clutch is self-adjusting, so you never have to mess around with setting your belt deflection. Kevin Thompson, a long-time engineer at Cat  in charge of driveline and electrical systems, said, “We want to make this sled easy for the whole family to go out and have fun, with as little maintenance as possible.”

We are sure more options will come for the ZR 200, but a taller riser is already available. At press time, pricing was not final, but we were told it would be under $4,000 US. There are sure to be updates on this highly anticipated sled, so stay tuned to www.AmSnow.com.

2018 Arctic Cat 800 C-TEC2 motor engine snowmobile
2018 Arctic Cat ZR 8000 137 800 C-TEC2 engine motor snowmobile gray limited edition
Cat allowed out a limited number of early-release, gray-colored ZR and M 8000s. Look for them at a dealer near you!
The 800 Cat owners wanted
A high-output 800 twin-cylinder laydown dual-stage injection motor has been awaited by press, consumers, and dealers  for at least two seasons. It wasn’t ready last year, and instead of pushing out an inferior product, Cat held it up for refinement. Now Cat sleds have two of the four newest big-power motors to be released in the last two years: this C-TEC2 800, and the massive Yamaha 4-stroke turbo in the Thundercat and 9000 models.

The new 794cc liquid-cooled engine will be spread across virtually all lines of Cat sleds, replacing all the Suzuki 800 motors. The only Suzuki motor left in the entire Cat line is in the youth 120 sled. Basically, Cat sleds are now all powered by Yamaha 4-strokes and Cat 2-strokes, with the exception being the 3000 series 4-stroke Kymco motor. This gives Cat control of its own destiny as far as power goes for its sled division.

From what we have been told, the performance advantages of the new C-TEC2 are increased peak rpm and better low- and mid-range power. Additional advantages include MUCH better oil efficiency than the old Suzuki 800 (see graphic below) and better fuel economy, plus cleaner emissions. Real improvement is in the mid-range power and feel, as the torque increased 18% under 6000 rpm and 36% under 5000 rpm. We have spent some fairly significant time on this sled already thanks to Cat’s early limited release of this new engine. At press time, after logging a few hundred miles, we are happy to report that we have not had any issues. More importantly, the performance was positive. Our assessment is mostly seat-of-the-pants so far, but there was definitely a snappier feel to the throttle from the start to the mid-range of the power band.

Like the 600 C-TEC motor, the new 800 C-TEC2 mixes the oil with the fuel, and that mixture is directly injected into the cylinder’s boost port side. The positioning of the injection system allows the mixture to hit the top of the piston at low rpms, and at high rpms, a shot of lubricating oil hits the wrist pin bearings.

A new APV exhaust valve with 3-stage control of all the ports provides better feel and quicker response, and there is a new 50mm bore to the throttle bodies. The air coming into the system travels through new W-shaped intake reeds that are said to be more durable, have increased trapping ability, and improve throttle response. The fuel rail is new as well, and Cat says this engine has less visual smoke at start-up due to a sealed center gear cavity. The sleds we rode in testing all showed less smoke at start-up.

2018 Arctic Cat Norseman crossover touring snowmobile
Tougher than a viking in a Saturday night brawl! The Norseman is a mean crossover touring sled that is new for 2018.
The new norseman
The 2-Up/Sport Utility segment also got an all-new Cat: the Norseman! We love that name, and we think all riders should be required to wear Viking helmets with horns coming out the top! The Cat folks expanded the use of the 6000 motor across many product lines, including the Norseman, Pantera, and XF CrossTour sleds (previously, the latter two 146-inch flat-top tunneled sleds were only available in the 3000 or 7000 4-stroke motors).

The Norseman is a sport utility sled that’s made to be practical, but it’s still fun with a big 15x154x1.6-inch Cobra track and the utility consumer’s coveted articulating rear suspension. It also has HUGE ProUte skis that a pro snowboarder would be jealous of. Off-trail goodies include a mountain grab bar and a higher riser. On-trail additions include a comfortable seat, a wider ski stance, and a big windshield. Plenty of stock storage, a big rack for accessories and a hitch all come standard. Oh, and there is a 13+-gallon tank that utilizes thinner materials and a new shape. That gives this sled incredible range!

This sled wouldn’t be complete with-out electric start and, of course, all the new plastics that Cat developed this year. (See sidebar, “New Styling, Same Tough Look,” below.)

A couple more notes on the utility and crossover segments: The 9000 motor is now available in the CrossTour setup; the Bearcat 7000 XT now comes with a new 15x154x1.6-inch BearClaw track; and the new Pantera 6000 features all-new plastics and styling (along with an adjustable backrest, a removable 2-up seat, rear storage, and an outlet for a heated shield). The new Bearcat is basically the same as the VK 540V that was introduced in Yamaha’s line last year.

2018 Arctic Cat CrossTour 6000 C-TEC motor engine snowmobile
Cat expanded the use of the 6000 C-TEC motor through the crossover segment, including the Crosstour.
Arctic Cat SVX snow bike vehicle
SVX still isn't available, but it should be soon! Cat’s snow bike/snow vehicle could be available to buy as early as the end of 2017.
Early release, SVX and more!
The icing on the cake this year was that Thief River Falls let some cool gray Cats out of the bag early. Two models shipped early to dealers across the country – the ZR 8000 Sno Pro in 129- and 137-inch lengths, and the new M 8000 Sno Pro Ascender-based sled in 153- and 162-inch lengths with 3-inch lugs. These early-release models have the new 800 C-TEC2 motor and new styling, as well as TEAM Rapid Response II clutching (only available on the 9000s last year), but the early-release mountain sleds do not have the hollow driven shaft and aluminum driveshaft that the full-season sleds will.

On the trail sled side of things, the new full-season El Tigre and RR models will have the newest LED headlight that was only on the 9000s last year. This is a great feature, and we wish it was on every sled from Cat. Also, all the new trail sleds get new windshields and more rear storage on the 2-stroke and 9000 models. Every trail sled will also have the self-adjusting belt deflection system with the new TEAM Rapid Response II drive clutch. Also, check out the new cooling system for the trail performance sleds. And for the guys who install studs and traction products, there’s a pretty cool new way to install the new “stud protectors” that should be quicker and easier … more on that to come! Finally, a little race sled news: the new cross country race sled will simply be the new 129-inch ZR 6000 RR that’s available to all consumers. 

Arctic’s attempt at a fully trail-legal snow bike, was still working its way to the dealers at press time. The SVX was still not 100% available, but Cat brass were delivering more, newly refined units to several racers for use in snow bike races across the country. This racing includes a lot of durability and performance testing for Cat. The SVX utilizes the same rear skid and ski sold by Camso. More info: www.camso.co. 

In the meantime, the SVX engineering team is working to meet stringent SSCC requirements to be considered trail legal and a “snow vehicle.” Sound and emissions regulations have been a challenge, but the hope is that Cat dealers will have the bike ready to demo by early this next winter, and possibly have units to sell too. We were not given an exact time of when this machine would be available for purchase by the general public.

We did test ride the SVX on the snocross track at ERX Motor Park in Elk River, Minn., and we can report that the machine handles well in rough conditions. The demo version had a hand brake, not the combination clutch/brake lever system from Hayes that will most likely be on the final product. The machine actually sits lower than some other kits we have ridden, including the Timber-sled, and it seemed to handle corners and chop on the sugary, hard-packed snocross track very well. Our mountains guys also rode it out west, and they loved it!

New 800 Oil Consumption
NOTE: Compared to old 40:1 Suzuki motor oil pump

30% total reduction: Under 7000 rpm
33% reduction: 4600-5600 rpm (< 35 mph)
27% reduction:  5600-6200 rpm (35-55 mph)
20% reduction:  6200-7000 rpm (55-65 mph)

2018 Arctic Cat Thundercat 9000 turbo snowmobile
2018 Arctic Cat ZR 9000 Sno Pro snowmobile
It is not just bold new graphics (BNG) for sleds like the 9000s or ZRs. They all get new windshields, panels, hoods, paint and much more for 2018.
New styling, same tough look
Cat has been one of the toughest looking brands on the snow for a long time. Like Ram trucks, I personally think they just look like they mean business. The new body and redesign for the outside of the ProCross and new Ascender chassis sleds is still crisp and edgy, but it also allows for better airflow under the hood. Improved cool air intake and hot air exhaust from under the hood keep the sleds running at optimum performance. Much of the hot air is exhausted through the footwells, and when the sled is idling, more hot air can be released through the top of the hood. The headlight cowl is the same, but basically all the other plastics are different.

EVERY Cat enthusiast will love the new side panels that are super easy to take off and put back on (a thousand times better than the old ones)! Also, our least favorite design flaw has been rectified … you can now actually get to the oil reservoir without having to be Houdini with the oil can, or peel back another plastic shroud panel. Ask any 2-stroke ProCross or ProClimb Cat owner; they will tell you what we mean.

Kudos to Cat on the fit and finish, as well as the locking fasteners on the narrower panels and hood, and the new gas tanks. 
2018 Arctic Cat M 8000 800 C-TEC2 engine motor snowmobile gray
2018 Arctic Cat M 8000 800 C-TEC2 engine motor snowmobile gray
The Ascender chassis isn’t totally new; instead, it’s a culmination of years spent refining the ProClimb chassis.
2018 Ascender mountain sleds
The release of Cat’s own 800 is great news for mountain folks. The best part of this engine is it is made in the USA in St. Cloud, Minn.

The M series loses weight with a new molded fuel tank (5 lbs. lighter) and a new hollow jackshaft (2.25 lbs. lighter). Depending on the model, you are looking at a total weight savings of 10-15 lbs. All of this, along with a 10% (roughly 4 in.) narrower profile, makes sidehilling on the M-8 series much easier without “paneling out.” We rode the 2017 Mountain Cat (MC) the same day as the 2018, and there was a noticeable difference. That’s saying a lot, since the ‘17 MC is nimble, fun to ride, and responds extremely well to rider input.

We were impressed with the bottom-end power as well as the mid-range in the MC 153 and the Sno Pro 153. The Sno Pro got the new mountain drive system and chassis that were introduced in the ‘17 MC. Noticeable changes include 1-inch narrower running boards, a new belly pan design and a rider stance thats 2 inches farther forward.

We rode both the MC and Sno Pro in a variety of conditions. From wind-blown snow to corn snow, they handled all quite well. The new QS3 Clicker shocks from FOX helped the MC handle any type of terrain by just clicking the shocks through settings 1-3. The MC gets a new lockout FOX QSL rear shock, and anyone who rides in deep powder or up steep hills will immediately notice how planted the lockout makes the sled feel. By locking out the rear shock, the rider can keep more track on the ground, allowing for better floatation and getting on top of the snow more quickly. We really liked this feature since most of us mountain riders stay off the beaten path, but for those times you are on trail, you have options to make your ride feel like a Cadillac.

Test Rider Lonnie Thompson liked the way the sleds responded overall. “The new suspension geometry, shock calibrations and weight loss help it respond faster to rider input. With the lighter steering, it was less work, which after a day of riding really makes a big difference. Rider input, counter steer and throttle control are the recipe for success in the backcountry, and Cat has made improvements in all of these areas in the Mountain Cat and Sno Pro.”

Consumers will enjoy the ease as well as the new places the M-8 series will take them. These sleds also take a beating and keep on going. Arctic Cat again stepped it up this year!

- Ryan Thompson, Western Editor

2018 Arctic Cat Mountain Cat 153
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