It won’t be long before Snow Goer announces the 2015 Snowmobile Of The Year, and that has the staff looking nostalgically at the past 24 winners of the prestigious award. That includes this: The 1998 Snowmobile of the Year, Arctic Cat’s ZR 600 EFI. Looking back now, that first year sled actually had some teething problems that needed to be ironed out, but several items on it truly were trend setting and can be seen in more modern sleds. They include a modern fuel delivery system in the batteryless EFI, the sharp handling dual A-arm front suspension (back when the three other competitors were focused on trailing arm designs) and the way the rear suspension gained travel without jacking up the right height.
Here’s a look back on the words and pictures, as printed in the March 1998 issue of Snow Goer magazine.
1998 Snowmobile Of The Year: ZR 600 EFI
A cut above. A major leap forward. A historic landmark.
To be considered a serious candidate for Snow Goer’s Snowmobile of the Year, a sled must be all of that and more. It has to mark a point in history upon which the industry can look back and see a major change in direction. We take our Snowmobile Of The Year award very seriously because we are stating, for now and forever, that the sled of choice is a new benchmark.
For 1998, the choice was quite simple. While the rest of the industry struggled a bit for sales, one factory is making a dramatic surge forward and selling out. That company is Arctic Cat, and its surge is being led largely by the ZR 600 EFI.
Why is this ZR bucking the trends? It has so much to offer, taking a ton of technology that is new to the sport and mixing it with the new styling and much-improved fit and finish found in the ZR II chassis. Furthermore, it is a great example of the type of torque-filled, twin-cylinder trail rocket that is sweeping the industry. Our balloting this year wasn’t even close, folks – the choice was loud, clear and unanimous: The 1998 ZR 600 EFI is the Snow Goer Snowmobile Of The Year.
A long list of features and the new chassis design put this blight green sled over the top. It starts with the motor, a crisp-reacting 599cc twin fitted with Cat’s exclusive battery-less EFI system, which provides awesome acceleration, always-accurate air-fuel mixtures and a light throttle pull, all without the extra weight of a battery. As this industry moves forward, unique carburetion systems will lead it through challenges posed by consumers and governmental regulations. Cat appears to be stepping into the future first.
That engine also features Cat’s new clutching, complete with roller secondary, a user-friendly air box and other features.
The powerplant rides behind the best handling front suspension system ever developed, Cat’s AWS V. This lightweight, agile front end holds its lines in corners extremely well, allowing a carve that is beyond·compare. It hooks into a lightweight bulkhead that sets the tone for the whole machine – light and agile.
The rear suspension is Cat’s long travel FasTrack, which offers a claimed 13.5 inches of travel. The travel number is high, but the way Cat gets there is impressive. It starts with the Extra Travel Tunnel, which features a kink at the rear to allow more suspension movement without serious tampering of the sled’s center of gravity. Even more.impressive is Cat’s Torque Sensing Link. It counteracts the rear suspension’s natural desire to squat under hard acceleration, giving maximum travel when pushed hard.
The finishing work was the coup de gras. The new styling focuses on both function and aesthetic appeal, from the Celstrand front bumper to the integrated skid plate, from the raised wells above the front suspension to the well-placed hand and thumb warmer switches and the blight, twin-bulb headlight.
The bottom line is this: This season, beyond any doubt, is the Year of the Cat, and this Cat is the pick of the litter.