If you’re looking for a fun, small-bore sled, you owe it to yourself to check out the 2015 Arctic Cat ZR 4000 models. It doesn’t matter that these ZR models are only 500cc — they’re flat-out fun to ride, and isn’t that what matters most?
Yesterday we took advantage of an invitation from Arctic Cat to test ride the 2015 ZR 4000 RR and the ZR 4000 LXR on trails in northern Minnesota. The company didn’t have ZR 4000 models ready in time for the annual Rode Reports test event in which we took part a few weeks ago, but it seems like the Arctic Cat engineers have these prototypes dialed in and working well.
First, a little background on both snowmobiles.
The ZR 4000 models are based on the ProCross chassis that hit the snow in 2012. The 4000 Series engine is the non-power valve, 499cc, liquid-cooled Suzuki twin that debuted in 2004 Arctic Cat Sabercat models. The fuel-injected power plant is fed by a single, 38mm throttle body and puts out 85 hp, Arctic Cat claims.
Two versions suit different types of riders. The ZR 4000 LXR is a replacement for the Twin Spar-based F5 and has comfort-tuned Arctic Cat gas shocks in the front and rear suspensions; each of the ski shocks and front track shock have a coil-over spring. The LXR gets a mid-height windshield and push-button reverse.
The ZR 4000 RR is a racer replica that replaces the popular Sno Pro 500. The ZR 4000 RR has an aggressive Cobra track with 1.25-inch lugs, a tall handlebar riser, shorter window, a tether switch and bold graphics. Fox FLOAT X Evol air shocks with external compression and rebound adjusters are up front; rear shocks are Fox Zero Pro piggyback dampers with external adjustability. The ZR 4000 RR has true manual reverse (meaning that riders will have to lift from the bumper and push or pull to change direction … manually).
Even though the two sleds are designed for different types of riders, snowmobilers will appreciate the lightweight feel of the ZR 4000 models. The engines were responsive and made the sleds quickly accelerate from corner to corner, and we were surprised by the top-end speed they showed on a railroad grade. All machines we tested were studded and fitted with carbides for traction in late-season conditions.
Recent warm weather has taken its toll on trail conditions in Minnesota where we rode: trails were mostly hard and smooth, but there were dips and bumps so we could test suspension action. As expected, the RR felt firmer and was more resistant to bottoming because it’s calibrated for aggressive rides over bumps and moguls. The LXR was plush and it settled in for a smooth, predictable ride. Like the engine, front suspension action from both the LXR and RR is quick, too, making the Arctic Race Suspension respond with a light and predictable feel over the bumps. Steering effort was light for each model.
To prove differences, Arctic Cat officials also brought a Sno Pro 500, and this showed how the new ZR models have a more refined, stable feeling. The ProCross chassis feels longer and tracks straighter so it’s less twitchy on its skis, but it maintains the sharp, predictable handling characteristics of the old Sno Pro. Ergonomics of the new machine are more comfortable with less interference against the knees.
It had been a few years since we took an extended test ride on a 500 two-stroke, but yesterday we left with a renewed appreciation for sleds with small engines. We truly do have just as much fun riding “little” sleds as we do driving bigger, more powerful snowmobiles, and with performance like the 2015 ZR 4000 models we just rode, there’s a good chance you would, too.
Click through to read more about the 2015 Arctic Cat snowmobiles.