Yesterday was our first ride of the season, and we grabbed our 2014 Arctic Cat ZR 6000 El Tigré demo sled and rode it to stretch out our snowmobiling muscles after they were in off-season storage since April.
It’s amazing the difference a few months of R&D and a few thousand feet of elevation makes for a new snowmobile. We rode prototype Arctic Cat ZR 6000 El Tigrés last spring in Montana and walked away feeling just OK about its new engine, but after running a tank of fuel yesterday through our production-based sled in the flatlands of Minnesota, we’re excited about this new 600-class snowmobile.
The 2014 Arctic Cat ZR 6000 El Tigré has the all-new, Arctic Cat-designed and built C-TEC2, two-stroke engine with dual-stage fuel injection. The powerplant features slotted pistons through which fuel shoots when the engine is under heavy load; at lower RPM fuel is injected into the combustion chamber. This is Arctic Cat’s unique take on semi-direct fuel injection, and it seems to work very well.
Pull from the 599cc engine was strong in the mid-range, like when accelerating out of 30-50 mph corners. Engine response was crisp, making the sled feel athletic and fun to drive through the woods. Unlike the El Tigrés we rode nine months ago, this sled was quick and we felt a lot of torque when we squeezed the throttle. Holeshots and corners were more fun, and the engine could easily lighten the skis to hop over a bump. Clutch caibrations are good.
After this ride our initial impression is that the meat of the powerband seems to be around 6500 rpm; this impression might change with more seat time and after we get to know better the engine and its power curve. Clutch engagement was about 3500 rpm and it revved to slightly more than 8300 rpm at wide-open throttle. Cold engine starts took two good pulls on the cord, one when it was warm. Oddly, idle stayed high — around 3300 rpm — a few times when we brought the sled to a stop.
Another nice, new feature that’s part of the 2014 Arctic Cat ZR 6000 El Tigré is the seat. It has a new shape near the fuel tank that makes for easier, more comfortable transitions from side to side, and it’s easier for small riders to lean out for corners — contributing to better handling. The foam feels good. The new, Deluxe Digital gauge is bright and, so far with our limited interaction, easy to operate.
The chassis — especially the front suspension — felt tight, well damped and controllable. Since our route within central Minnesota hadn’t been prepped by goomers, there were a few early season surprises, including ruts across the trail. Fortunately for us, the Arctic Race Suspension front end managed the deep, sharp-edged divots very well so we could maintain control rather than involuntarily eject from the saddle. As has always been the case, the ProCross chassis cornered flatly and kept the inside ski on or near the ground.
There were instances, though, when driving through a curve that the outside ski would unexpectedly bite hard or grab hold of a ski track left by another machine and lift the inside ski. This is most common when a turn is so sharp or fast that the bars need to be turned to nearly a full-lock position. This causes the skis to push for a moment until the outer one suddenly latches on to the terrain. We’re planning to test a set of aftermarket skis on this machine later this winter, so we’ll see if they help sort out this characteristic of the tall ProCross chassis.
Both Polaris and Ski-Doo have had outstanding 600cc engines for some time, but now Arctic Cat is a real competitor in the class with the 6000 Series oil burner. We have a Polaris 600 Rush Pro-R and Ski-Doo MX Z X 600 in the fleet this year, so it will be interesting — and fun! — to see how the three machines compare through the season.