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2018 Arctic Cat ZR 8000 ES 137

Stop being surprised! Can you see the grin behind the helmet? Well it’s there!
2018 Arctic Cat ZR 8000 ES 137
The 2018 Arctic Cat ZR 8000 ES was a test rider favorite for the entire season. As one of those test riders, I was surprised at how well the revised ZR carved up trail like it was a Thanksgiving turkey. After several first rides on this sled in its pre-production form, not all of our riders agreed, but after we got our full-season demo sled, minds began to change. Our Real World Shootout gave us a great opportunity to put on eight straight days of testing. Numerous riders of all age groups and riding styles spent time on this sled and we were all happy to get back on it when our turn came around again. The rest of the season was no different.

Here’s what we came away talking about at the end of the season, the goods and the bads.

■ Seat of the pants, or data driven
If you went strictly by the numbers, most people might want to discount this sled. DynoTech, AmSnow’s official dyno testing facility, showed that this motor put out 152.4 hp. That power output does not make this the baddest bulldog on the trail when there are 850s to contend with now from both Ski-Doo and Polaris. Even compared to some of the other 800cc sleds, this horsepower is not tops.

Like we do with all our long-term demo sleds, we weighed this sled totally wet with all the fluids to get an idea exactly how much the sled weighs when you, the average rider, pull it out of your trailer for a day of riding. At 622 lbs. wet and without added studs or different carbides, this sled is heavier than other 800s and 850s, even with studs added to those sleds. However - and this is a big transition - the 2018 ZR 8000 ES is more fun, often by a longshot, in the trail than any standard 800 or 850. I would put this up against 800s from any other manufacturer.

Remember, this is a base model. It doesn’t have the fancy shocks, just the Cat IFP 1.5 gas shocks all the way around. But there are plenty of standard features we love. These include the mid-height 11.5-inch windshield which does a great job of keeping the rider in a nice warm cocoon. We also love the Hayes radial master cylinder with composite brake lever which is easy to use, extremely comfortable and the best one in the industry.
2018 Arctic Cat ZR 8000 ES 137
Electric start and push-button reverse standard on this sled are also must-haves. In fact, we came to the conclusion that every trail sled should have this standard. The cost is minimal, usually $400 to add as an option, so you know that the cost to the OEM is significantly less. Having a 12V plug-in standard and right on the console where it is easy to get to is also great. There are tons of things we plug into our sleds these days from extra heating elements to GPS to charging systems.

Little things make this sled enjoyable, and among those things are the diameter, grip and heating elements of the handlebars. A smaller diameter means that the bars are easier to grip for more riders. Revised heating elements and grips mean that your hands won’t get cold on this sled. Ski-Doo has traditionally had the hottest bar warmers, but these new Cat warmers are right on par. Coming from a guy who likes to wear thin gloves so I can feel all the feedback possible, having great bar warmers is in my top five aspects when rating how pleasurable my rides are.

Truly what makes this sled so fun in the trails, though, is how the ARS front suspension and slide-action rear suspension work together through the corners. Ride-height is not too tall and roll is controlled very well. The suspension, working in concert with the Procross 6 skis, makes each turn extremely predictable. That equals fun, because you feel in control, confident, and one with the machine. That’s what snowmobiling is all about, right?

We went all winter without any belt, or other major issues on this sled, except one worth mentioning. Once in a great while, after several mile high-speed pulls, if you came to a total stop, unburned mix would collect at the bottom of the can so it looked like there was fire coming out of the exhaust. Most of the time it quickly went out, but other times you just had to give the sled a little throttle burp and drive a bit and it would stop. There was a service bulletin issued regarding this, and if you’ve had this problem see your dealer. Conditions and temps had to be just right for us to re-create this issue so it wasn’t a problem for us.

All in all, this is a sled I would buy for myself because it is just that fun to ride. And it’s on the reasonable side as far as price goes.
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