A lot of 2006 fanfare was steered toward the new dual-purpose Arctic Cat Crossfire series. It’s built on the M-Series chassis with a 15- by 136- by 1.25-inch track, and boasts a rider-forward position with a tall seat and wide, hooked handlebars.
The ergo setup provided drivers with a commanding view of the terrain. Riders’ knees were positioned closer to a 90-degree bend than on a Firecat, which means easier stand-up transitions for bumps and off-trail riding.
Due to its longer, wider track, the Arctic Cat Crossfire felt more stable in the rough than an Arctic Cat Firecat. The bigger track made the Crossfire less nimble than its predecessor, but the added stability outweighed the tradeoff.
The 2006 Arctic Cat Crossfire worked very well in moguls and rippled sections of the trail; it was better than our 2005 Arctic Cat F7 Firecat. The machine was predictable in how it reacted to bumps and holes, and the nose stayed pointed down the trail when jamming the throttle at the apex of a turn.
We had two Crossfire 7s last winter. Following the media introduction, we took home a pre-production sled. But shortly after we returned home with the prototype, Arctic Cat offered to replace it with a production version that had revised fuel mapping and an updated steering post.
The difference in engine performance between the two was remarkable. Our first Crossfire 7’s 698cc engine wasn’t as snappy as we’re used to, but Crossfire 7 No. 2 had the familiar arm-straightening acceleration we expected.
We brought the sled to Cooke City, Montana, where the sled shined in the deep, late-season snow. Other riders in our group who rode the sled were amazed at how well the hybrid sled climbed mountains and boondocked through the trees.
Getting the clutches set up for Montana’s 10,000-foot mountains was a snap. Clutch removal in a Firecat is a nuisance because the nosepan doesn’t provide enough clearance to slide the primary clutch off the crankshaft. But clutch access on the Arctic Cat Crossfire was convenient because of the removable side panels.
The Crossfire’s removable seat provides easy access to a large storage area. Unfortunately, due to a faulty latch, we lost a license plate on a trail near Aitkin, Minnesota. One of the latches on our first 2006 Arctic Cat Crossfire unhooked from the tunnel and gave just enough room for the plate to slide out from under the seat. Our second Crossfire’s seat was trouble-free.
Though time spent with our Crossfire 7 was limited, it was enough to leave a good impression and get us fired up for a trail sled that might soon come down the assembly line in Thief River Falls, Minnesota. If a cross-bred M chassis-based sled can be the best trail sled from Arctic Cat yet, imagine how well one would work that’s entirely devoted to on-trail use…