THIEF RIVER FALLS, Minn.-based Arctic Cat Inc., released its 2006 snowmobile product line to dealers in early March at its dealer meeting in West Yellowstone, Mont.
This is one of the few times that the dealer meeting has been held where real-life demo rides of the new models has taken place. Over the course of the event, demo sleds logged 85,000 miles, said Kale Wainer, media relations specialist for Arctic Cat. Mountain sleds were tested in the mountains, high-performance machines were on high-performance rides.
With a dearth of new technology introduced, the company appears in a holding pattern in terms of its development. The company is, however, using its EFI and four-stroke technology to meet upcoming emissions standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which go into effect in 2006.
The dealer meeting was also in conjunction with the company’s Snow Blast event in the town, where an estimated 8,000 people came for the snowmobile events and concerts.
The news on the new models is that not much is new. Of the 43 models for 2006, only the Crossfire hybrid machines are a truly new entry. Even these machines, however, were not a surprise to dealers: the 700 EFI version was unveiled as an early 2006 release in January. It will also come in a 600 EFI engine package for 2006.
The Crossfire machines are based on the M-Series mountain machines, and include high mountain handlebars attached to a reinforced steering post. Running boards are wide, and the footwells are short and flat. It uses the ACT Diamond Drive System in place of the chaincase. The track is a Camoplast Ripsaw with dimensions of 15 by 136 by 1.25 inches. It rests in the new Crossfire chassis.
For Bill Krim, general manager of Profile Motorsports Plus in Gorham, N.H., it’s exactly what his customers are looking for. “It’s very nice. The mid-position riding will be very popular with my customers,” he said. His biggest seller right now is the F7 Firecat, and he predicts the 700 engine version of the Crossfire will be hot. Krim sells about 100 Arctic Cat snowmobiles annually, and an equal number of Ski-Doo sleds.
The Firecat series returns with 10 models, including four race-style performance Sno Pro packages in all the liquid engine classes. All engines, except the 500-class engine, comes carbed or with EFI. The 500-class engine is carbed only for the Firecats. There is a new EFI version, which is used in the Sabercat 500 EFI base and LX models. and the M5 EFI.
The Firecats also get Fox-brand shocks and a 1-inch lugged Camoplast Hacksaw track.
There will be a special-edition F7, melding the machine with the style of NASCAR racer Tony Stewart. Other than the special orange graphics and the number 20 on the hood, this is a standard F7 EFI. Arctic Cat does have special matching accessories to compliment the snowmobile, including a helmet, gear bag. jacket and cover.
The remaining two models classified in the high performance category are the ZR 900 EFI and its Sno Pro version. This is the only high performance machine remaining in the ZR chassis.
Of the 11 models in the Trail Performance category, only the 500 EFI engine is new and the 600 EFI improved. The remaining models, ranging from the Z fan-cooled models to the T660 Turbo four-stroke and Sabercat series, remain unchanged over 2005.
The mountain machines, including the M series and the King Cat, also return nearly identical to the 2005 versions. Buyers will get track options — the Attack 20 or the Camoplast Challenger — on the M6 and M7 machines. The King Cat will also come with a 900 EFI engine in addition to the carbed 900.
The touring sleds are four-stroke heavy, with eight models, five of them four-stroke. The Turbo Touring LE and Turbo LE have creature-comfort upgrades, including a heated seat and the Cat Comm communication system. All four-stroke touring machines have upgraded passenger handwarmer switches, saddleless skis, redesigned handlebars and a new brake master cylinder.
The Cat Comm works with a special Arctic Cat-designed Crosstec VRE helmet, which has internal speakers and a microphone. A dash-mounted control dial offers 15 channels for voice communications and an outlet for an MP3 player. The heated seat operates via a different dash-mounted dial and has a temperature range of low-medium-high.
The budget-minded Pantera touring series now includes a the 660cc four-stroke engine. It will sell for $6,999.
The three Bearcat utility models receive several hand-me-down updates previously found on other Arctic Cat models, such as backlit control panels, electronic gauges and remote start. This remote start feature comes with “Sentinel Mode,” which, when enabled will run the sled for 12 minutes if the engine’s core temperature drops to -4 F or below. This feature is also on the T660 Turbo Touring LE, the T660 Turbo LE and the T660 Touring. Other new Bearcat features are a 1.25-inch lug track and a straight rail skid frame on the Widetrack Turbo, and redesigned handlebars all around.
The first level of EPA compliance requirements begin in 2006, and Arctic Cat plans to meet these emissions standards via two directions — both four and two stroke.
Arctic Cat claims the new EFI engines in the Firecats are updated and tuned to make the engine compliant to meet the EPA’s 2006 standards. The use of an exhaust pipe sensor on the 600 EFI reduces carbon monoxide emissions by a claimed 25 percent. This engine is also used in other models, such as the Sabercat600 EFI LX.
“We’re developing new technologies to reduce emissions from two-stroke engines,” Chris Wright, corporate manager of exhaust emissions compliance, said. “Some of these technologies already exist, like EFI, electronic exhaust valves and our exhaust pipe temperature sensor, and others are being researched. We believe that further development and implementation of these tools will allow new-generation clean two-stroke engine to coexist with four-stroke engines in the future.”
Followed Up By Snow Blast
The dealer meeting segued into the Arctic Cat-sponsored Arctic Blast consumer weekend event. There was a special concert on by country music band Trick Pony on March 10 for Arctic Cat dealers attending the convention and West Yellowstone residents. Trick Pony, Terri Clark, Sawyer Brown and Big & Rich were the headline bands playing on an outdoor stage for Friday and Saturday night concerts.
An estimated 8,000 people attended the weekend event, including many dealers, such as Krim. Krim not only attended the concerts, but spent the weekend riding.
The snowmobile gear sported by concert-goers proved it was mostly a snowmobiling crowd at the event, Krim said.