2003 Arctic Cat Snowmobile Lineup
If you find an Arctic Cat enthusiast who isn't excited about the new technology coming from Thief River Falls this year you better check their pulse. One of the goals for the Arctic Cat design team this year was increasing power to weight ratio. I think everyone will be pleased with the results. The new Firecat is the centerpiece of a very well rounded lineup that includes 29 models for the 2003 season. The performance class receives a major overhaul this year. Three of the four models in this class are new for 2003. There are two all-new Firecat models and a new class-leading twin-thumper ZR 900 in the proven gen-3 ZR chassis. Arctic Cat didn't stop the overhaul there, this year they are offering a mountain class lineup that will make the serious highmark crowd take notice. The Mountain Cat chassis went on a 35-pound diet since last season and also utilizes the 862cc power plant. To round out the lineup, the Trail and Touring classes receive some fine-tuning for the 2003 season with all models now benefiting from the precise handling of the gen-3 ZR chassis and AWS-5 front suspension.
In recent years words like "revolutionary", "innovative", "earth-shattering", and "radical" have been used to describe manufacturers new models with relatively minor changes. That doesn't leave many words to describe the 2003 Firecat. The Firecat makes anything else seem like a "trip through the parts bins" in comparison. You will be hard pressed to find a single component on the Firecat that has been used on a previous model. Not the frame, not the skid, not the front or rear suspensions, or the motors. This sled really is new from top to bottom and front to back. The Firecat design beats up both ends of the power to weight ratio equation. It also moves as much of the remaining mass closer to the center and as low as possible.
When it comes to power to weight ratio the F7 will be the class leader this season. It may be the best power to weight ratio produced by any manufacturer?.ever. This 700cc twin lets loose 140hp in a sled weighing a scant 435 pounds. Throw in Arctic Cat's batteryless EFI (BEFI) for smooth power at all temperatures and altitudes and you have a package that will most likely be their best selling sled of the year.
The Firecat has a unique styling. The first thing to grab your attention is the cat-eyes headlights featuring quad-halogen headlights. The other prominent feature in the front is the bulge in the hood housing the new Air-Force Induction system. Controlling the front of the sled is another new piece, the AWS VI front suspension sporting a 43-inch ski stance and 9.2-inches of trail smoothing travel. In their quest to reduce parts count there was a design philosophy "every part should serve at least two functions", this is evident in the headlight dimmer built into the brake lever. By pushing forward on the brake lever the headlights are toggled between low and high. As you walk around the sled you will notice the 13-gallon gas tank is an integral structural component supporting the steering post, footholds, oil and coolant tanks, and APV servo. Yet another major reduction in parts count. At the rear of the sled is another major redesign. The tunnel is now 1.5 inches narrower and covers a new 13.5 x 128 x 1 track and redesigned skid frame.
Joining the F7 is its little brother, the 500cc F5. The F5 shares the same chassis as the F7 and comes with heated TM38 flat-slide carbs, throttle position sensor, Arctic Power Valve (APV) electronic exhaust valves, and the Exhaust Pipe Temperature Sensor (EPTS). A high-tech power plant, at 104 horsepower, in 425 pound package. Both are available in green, black and red.
is a list of features that highlight the Firecat line:
The other half of the performance line comes in two ZR packages. Returning this season is the unchanged but capable 140 hp ZR800 EFI. And for those who want more power, there is a new normally aspirated 862 cc, 150 hp, ZR900. Both of these sleds share the proven gen-3 ZR chassis with AWS-V suspension in the front and FastTrack long-travel rear suspension with Extra Travel Tunnel and Torque Sensing Link. They also feature race inspired integrated handlebar hooks and wide running boards. Gone this season is a 600cc entry in the performance class. This seems to shock a lot of people but makes sense considering the new, highly attractive 700 and over achieving 500 engines.
As in years past, the Firecats and ZR models are available in two suspension calibrations. The standard suspension comes with 1in track is calibrated for average trail conditions. The SnoPro suspension, previously called the cross country, comes with a 1.375in tracks, remote reservoir shocks, and is calibrated for the aggressive riders who frequently ride the big moguls.
The trail class gets some polish for 2003 but no major changes. The lineup, this year, offers something for everyone; from the spartan fan-cooled entry models to the plush Smart Suspension models with remote electric start and reverse. At the top of the ZL pile are the SS models. In 2002, with the advent of the "stand-up" ergonomics on the ZR line, people were looking for a more touring friendly sled that was still capable of handling the mogulized weekend trails common in most areas. Arctic Cat answered with the Smart-Suspension. The SS models have the same suspension calibration as the standard ZR models with the addition of electronically controlled shocks that automatically change the amount of damping based on trail conditions. By measuring how far and how fast the shock shaft is moving, 1000 times per second, a bypass valve adjusts the shock between soft and firm settings. The result is a ride that is more plush than the ZR in the small, washboard bumps yet still capable of handling the 1-2 foot moguls like the ZR. For 2003 the SS receives cable routing changes to improve reliability and different shock valving to improve ride quality. The SS is available in both 600 and 800 flavors either with or without electric start and reverse (esr). One of the more lavish additions this season is the "remote starter" that comes with the EFI esr models. This speaks volumes of the confidence that Cat has in their EFI system. It truly is a crank-and-forget starting process. For those without the electric start, the EFI models will start on the second or third pull at any outside temperature when the motor is cold and on the first pull when the fuel rail is still primed.
Though there are six different engine sizes available, the entire field should prove to be extremely reliable as all of these motors have been around for one or more seasons. The 800, 600 and 550 are liquid cooled. And the 570, 440 and 370 use fan cooling. All models are utilizing the gen-3 ZR chassis with AWS-5 double wishbone front suspension and Fastrack long travel rear suspension with 13.5 inches of rear travel. The ZL SS models employ the ACT electronic shocks in the rear and standard ACT shocks on the front end like the ZRs. The standard ZL models use Ryde FX shocks all around. And the entry-level Z models come with hydraulic twin-tube shocks.
In it second year, the 660cc C-Tech 4-stroke motor returns in both a trail version and a 2-up touring edition. Both models come nicely equipped with electric start, electric fuel gauge, reverse, standard electrical accessory jack, and factory-installed mirrors. This 4-stroke engine is fitted with many of the systems found on today?s autos such as a closed-loop electronic fuel injection system complete with oxygen sensor. The control system also contains an engine knock sensor to provide optimum ignition timing at all times. Although these will not be the lightest or fastest sleds on the trail, the power is up 17% to 53 HP and fuel mileage is reported to be 24 mpg. This allows the rider to travel nearly 300 miles on a single tank of fuel at normal trail speeds. Performance is comparable to the medium displacement fan-cooled motors. With the ever-increasing restrictions on motor vehicles use in public parks, these clean and quiet sleds will be a big hit with tour operators in those areas. This motor is so quiet the only sound heard on the trail comes from the track moving across the slide rails.
The touring sled has long been thought of as the sled for 2-up riding but is now seeing an increase in popularity for the solo tourer. This season there will be four models available with an emphasis on luxury, comfort, and value. The Pantera comes in an 800 EFI, 600 EFI or 550 liquid-cooled motors and the Panther with a 570 cc fan. Both the Pantera and Panther were designed with convenience and comfort in mind. Standard equipment includes electric start, reverse, fiberglass overload springs, and windshield-mounted mirrors. The Pantera takes it one step further, to extreme luxury. The Pantera models include more standard luxuries such as electronic fuel injection, remote electric start, modular seating, and rear passenger hand warmers. The modular seat, first seen last season, offers the solo tourer the option of rotating the backrest forward and removing the rear seat for added storage. The seat comes off in a flash by pulling a lever at the rear of the seat. Arctic Cat even offers an optional travel bag that fits in place of the rear seat. Another feature that makes the sled easily convert from 2-up to solo machine are the fiberglass overload springs found on the rear slide rails. The rear suspension is calibrated for a single rider. However, with the simple flip of a lever, the overload springs provide the extra carrying capacity needed for a passenger.
The Firecat has undeservedly overshadowed the improvements Arctic Cat has made to the mountain class this season. For 2003 Arctic Cat took it to task to present their most competitive mountain class lineup to date. The serious mountain crowd will be happy to find features that would normally cost thousands of dollars through the aftermarket. The dropped and rolled chaincase married with a 151 x 2 inch track and a belt-tightening 35 pound weight loss will help make the Mountain Cat 1M a real contender in the mountains. Especially when powered by the new 862 cc, 150 hp power plant found in the 900 1M. In the quest for lightness, the seat weight has been significantly reduced this season and can be quickly removed revealing a cool storage area containing storage for a shovel and other gear. Under the hood there is a smaller and lighter airbox that is easier to remove. In the quest for lightness, the sled now has aluminum-bodied gas shocks and makes use lighter nuts and bolts. Another feature that the mountain riders will find useful is a new hood mounting system with quick-disconnect hinges. The 900 1M carb is joined by 800 EFI, 600 EFI, and fan-cooled 570 carb versions. Each of the liquid-cooled models has a choice of track lengths. The 900 and 800 models are available with a 151 x 2 in or the 144 x 2 in track. And the 600 1M is available with either a 144 x 2 in or 136 x 2 in track. The 570 1M comes with a 136 x 1.4 in track. All models will come in the lightweight 1M chassis with the dropped and rolled chaincase. Other standard features include adjustable ski-stance, raised handlebars with grab loop, and wide parabolic skis. Another feature that will help tailor the sled to the task is an adjustable ski-stance. It is adjusted by moving spacers on the spindles resulting in a stance of 39, 40, or 41 inches.
The utility class has been reduced to a single model for 2003, the Bearcat WideTrack. The Bearcat is as rugged as ever while incorporating some of the conveniences found in the Pantera line, like the removable rear seat and convertible backrest, electric start, reverse, high windshield, and mirrors. This year?s workhorse is powered by the 660cc C-Tech 4-stroke providing an ample 53 horsepower and astonishing 24 miles per gallon. The power is put to the snow through a wide-ratio clutch system. And a 20 x 156 x 1.25 inch track provides great flotation and traction.
The lead picture in this article was pulled from the Arctic Cat press package. Those of you with a critical eye will notice something we can look forward to for next season. For more pictures and specifications see the Arctic Cat website.
Arctic Cat Inc.
601 Brooks Avenue South
Thief River Falls, MN 56701