Today is only the 24th day of 2017, but Arctic Cat has already won the first race of 2018 by being the first snowmobile manufacturer to release some of next year’s machines: the 2018 Arctic Cat ZR 8000 Sno Pro and 2018 Arctic Cat M 8000 Sno Pro. The early release machines feature an all-new, Arctic Cat-built engine, updated clutches and new bodywork. We’ll start by covering details about the new 800cc engine and clutches up top, and then go into details about the M 8000 farther down the page.
The new engine replaces the Suzuki 800 H.O. and features the exclusive Dual-Stage Injection (DSI) fuel system that debuted on the 6000 Series engine in 2014. Like the 6000 engine, the 8000 will be built at Arctic Cat’s manufacturing plant in St. Cloud, Minnesota.
To review the DSI system, fuel is injected between the piston crown and cylinder head at low RPM, but when the engine load increases and more fuel is required, fuel also shoots through a slot in the side of the piston. Each combustion chamber relies on one fuel injector that’s mounted on the back of the cylinder.
Arctic Cat officials didn’t release an official number, but instead referred to the new laydown engine – with the intake and exhausts ports on the same side of the cylinders – as a 160 hp class powerplant. It displaces 794cc, with an 85 mm bore and 70 mm stroke; dimensions that are identical to the Suzuki engine it replaces. Arctic Cat officials claim the new engine’s weight is also comparable to that of the Suzuki.
New technology for Arctic Cat on the 8000 Series engine include a three-stage variable exhaust system with each cylinder sporting one main center valve and a smaller, drum-shaped valve on each side of the center valve. The exhaust valves cycle during engine shut down to release cylinder pressure and make the engine easier to turn over during start-up.
The engine control unit (ECU) manages the valves and they open in three stages – closed, partial open and wide open. The intake has “W” shaped reeds made from fiberglass. At 50 mm, throttle bodies are 4 mm larger than those used on the Suzuki.
Also unique to the new 800cc C-TEC2 engine is a fuel damper on the fuel rail to help balance pulsations for more-consistent fuel pressure and better overall run quality. This technology is not used on the 6000 Series engine. Oil delivery to the new 800cc powerplant is through an electronic oil pump that is passively lubricated by oil delivered by gravity from the oil tank.
Exhaust exits the cylinder into a new stainless steel Y-pipe before it enters a new pipe that has a “slightly different” first divergent area. Engineers said they sought more mid-range torque with this powerplant, so it’s probably safe to assume that the new exhaust pipe helps achieve that goal. Finally after flowing through the pipe, exhaust gasses will exit through a ceramic-coated silencer that debuted on 2017 M 8000 models.
The new engine’s ECU will be programmed with a two-stage, six-hour break-in period. For the first 20 minutes of run time, extra fuel and oil will be delivered to the engine and engine speed will be limited to 6500 rpm, Arctic Cat engineer Ryan Hayes said. After 20 minutes the engine will be able to rev to its 8250 rpm peak and the fuel/oil ratio will be reduced to 30:1, Hayes said. After six hours, fuel and oil volumes will be normal.
Other changes to the early release 2018 Arctic Cat ZR 8000 Sno Pro include Revised TEAM Industries clutches that will reduce maintenance and improve low-end performance. The Rapid Response II primary clutch features a bearing on the center post, which allows the belt to be pulled tight without the sheaves grabbing the belt and causing the sled to roll forward.
Belt tension is automatically controlled within the secondary clutch, relieving owners and mechanics of this maintenance procedure. This means the belt deflection will always be within specification, enabling the optimum starting gear ratio for peak low-end performance, plus smooth engagements and reduced belt wear. This system debuted on 2017 Arctic Cat 9000 Series models.
The early release 2018 Arctic Cat ZR 8000 Sno Pro – available with a 129-inch RipSaw or 137-inch RipSaw II track – is based on the ProCross chassis that debuted in 2012, but it features new bodywork and an LED headlight. The body is nearly the same setup that debuted on last year’s 9000 Series models, and it offers better fit and finish, easier removal and installation and a fresh appearance. The tip-out panels also make it easier to access the oil reservoir and clutches.
A difference between the body on 2018 ZR 8000 Sno Pro models and the 2017 9000 Series is the intake and windshield mount set-up. Designers ditched the aluminum windshield/gauge mount bracket in favor of a cleaner, molded piece with integrated, down-facing air intakes.
We rode the new ZR 8000 Sno Pro on a short woods course during Arctic Cat’s 2018 media sneak peek last week and found the engine to be more responsive and snappier than the Suzuki 800 H.O., especially in the lower mid-range. Engagement was smooth and civilized at about 3100 rpm. The test track was windy and icy so we couldn’t get a good feel for the engine’s performance above 40 mph, but more test rides this spring will shed light on characteristics of the power band. Despite the conditions, we noticed an increase in torque-feel compared to the Suzuki. The new engine and exhaust package has a familiar, raspy sound that Arctic Cat aficionados will recognize when they saddle up on a 2018 ZR 8000 Sno Pro.The early release 2018 ZR 8000 Sno Pro models will be available from some dealerships after February 1.
Early Release 2018 M 8000 Sno Pro Features Narrow Body
Arctic Cat has something new for deep-snow riders, too.
The early release 2018 Arctic Cat M 8000 Sno Pro also gets the new 8000 Series engine and Rapid Response II clutches, but the ProClimb chassis-based machine gains a narrower body and a new label. The new platform is called Ascender and it features Next-Gen Mountain bodywork that’s a claimed 10 percent narrower than the original ProClimb set-up. This was incorporated not only to clean up the fit and finish, but to also improve sidehill performance.
Engineers took features that debuted on the 2017 Arctic Cat M 8000 Mountain Cat and M 9000 King Cat to build the Ascender platform. They include the narrower running boards, a driveshaft positioned 1 inch lower and 0.75 inch farther back and a revised nosepan shape. All of these changes were made to make the machine easier to ride and more maneuverable.
The Fox FLOAT 3 rear track shock was lengthened 1 inch to provide more air volume for a suppler ride quality early in the compression stroke, and the FLOAT 3 ski shocks also were revised to gain more air volume. Track options of the early release 2018 Arctic Cat M 8000 Sno Pro are a 153- or 162-inch PowerClaw with 3-inch lugs. The early release 2018 Arctic Cat M 8000 Sno Pro also gets the new gauge/windshield mount, but it keeps the up-facing intakes. It will be available from some dealerships after February 1.