Want the inside scoop on snowmobile technology? Look no further than Snow Goer magazine. The October 2014 that is in the mail right now (and hits newsstands on Tuesday, August 26), includes articles on new technology from each of the four snowmobile manufacturers. To read the story behind the development of Arctic Cat’s new ProTour chassis that houses the new Pantera and Pantera Limited snowmobiles, pick up that issue. In the meantime, here’s the word-for-word interview with Lynn Berberich, product team manager for Arctic Cat’s touring snowmobiles. He touches on the unique challenges in building this or any snowmobile, and on making a touring snowmobile that can be ridden aggressively.

 

SNOW GOER: Take me back to the original development of what would become the ProTour chassis. When was that? What were the goals at the time?

LYNN BERBERICH: We started in the fall of 2010, the ProTour was kind of done in  combination with the 7000-series engine itself. The first thing we had to do was we had to take that 7000 series engine from Yamaha and fit it in our chassis. So it was kind of a combination effort, and I was lucky enough to be a part of that whole process, fitting that engine into that ProCross platform.

So, we started from the front and fitting the engine in and so forth. While we were doing that it was the perfect time to kind of marry that into the ProTour chassis, because our current chassis was getting a little long in the tooth and we were due for an upgrade, so it was the perfect time to marry that engine package work with also developing a ProTour chassis. So we could not only come out with the 7000 series engine in sleds in the ProCross and ProClimb but also go forward right into the ProTour. That started back in about the fall of 2010, and started with the front end and making all of the necessary adjustments and changes needed to fit the engine. From there, we worked on, “OK, what do we need to do now to turn this into a touring sled.” Of course, that involved some differences with the chassis and so forth.

Really, the goal was to harmonize the front end with the multiple platforms as much as we could and then work our way through the back end of the snowmobile to create the ProTour.

2015 Arctic Cat Pantera Ltd
2015 Arctic Cat Pantera Ltd

SG: So, if I’m hearing you right, before any consumer even knew the ProCross and ProClimb were going to become available, you were already working on the ProTour application of that base platform, and the integration of the Yamaha engine?

BERBERICH: Correct, before ProCross and ProClimb [chassis] even came out, we knew that ProTour was part of that equation as well. When we did that work up front, fitting in that 7000 engine, we knew the platforms that it was going to go in at that time.

SG: Let’s get into some of the things that had to be specifically engineered so this was a touring chassis and not just another ProCross. What are you doing in terms of the flatter running boards or the shape of the seat or the weight carrying capacity – get into some of the decisions that you had to make to make this absolutely a touring application.

BERBERICH: We had a very nice touring sled already in our TZ1s, so we had a good basis to start with right there. Then we have to start developing with the prototypes, and the first prototypes that were made were in the ProCross and ProClimb because those were the first prototypes we ended up introducing. So we would take that ProCross and then evaluate it, and say, ‘OK, what are the things we believe we need to improve upon or change to make this into a better touring vehicle?’ Some obvious things are, we put more track length underneath the sled which of course results in its own tunnel. We went with a one-piece tunnel for strength and simplicity, more than anything. Another thing we do is we flatten out the running boards a little bit versus where the ProCross was at. And, the main reason for that, with the angle of the running boards [on the ProCross], when you continue to move back on the vehicle, that height gets higher and higher. When dealing with a rider and a passenger, you need to keep that passenger as low as you can, and of course and still be comfortable and still be in a seating position that works for the passenger. But the lower you can keep him or her the better, because all of that weight is so far back on the vehicle, it has a huge impact on the stability and the handling of the unit.

So, then, knowing we wanted to span the bumps more for two people and knowing that we needed more support for two people, that drove us to a longer one-piece tunnel and to a flatter running board angle than what you would see on a ProCross. We also need a little bit more strength to carry those two people, so we used a little beefier running board supports and a little more structure in the rear bumper and really the whole back end because, when you think about it, the very back of that chassis is now having to support the weight of not only the passenger but also we have a secondary gas tank we have to think about – because we had all of these right ideas up front – as well as the cargo that you’re going to want to carry with this thing. So we used steel tube running board supports, and a kind of boxed-in steel tube rear bumper that doesn’t just flow along the back of the tunnel but it also comes up on the top side of the tunnel and creates a real strong box section. We also have quite a bit larger rear suspension mounting bracket to add stiffness and support to the tunnel but you also have it provide you more strength for that extra long skid frame.

And of course, there are small things we do with the running boards, with the traction features and the openings in the running boards – a little less aggressive, they are geared more for on-trail use, not the huge clean outs or huge grip features like you’d need in the mountains. We could get a little less aggressive with that; we tried to make it look nice but also functional.

SG: When you’re talking about having a flatter running board, how do you decide what degree or angle to put it at for a touring application? Do you play with different angles on the computer and then go out and field test varying designs?

BERBERICH: A lot of it is done off past history. I mean, I believe we were the first to market with touring sleds way back in the day, so Arctic Cat has a long history with touring sleds. A lot of it is really just kind of historical data, to be honest. We know where we have been in the past so we have a pretty good idea of where we want to be when we do something new. We kind of start there and then make any adjustment we can off of that, but then we also, when we get in the field, we make any adjustments that are necessary. With things like the running boards angle and the running board height, we pretty well know where we want to be so by the time we build that first unit, usually something like that angle doesn’t change.

SG: To expand on something you said earlier, we know from our own 2-Up testing that, on some machines, when you’re the passenger and you’re sitting higher, it’s nice because you can kind of look past the driver and look around at the winter scenery better, but when you get into that first turn, then you’ve got a ski up in the air and you’re headed for puckerbrush. Talk about that tradeoff a little bit more.

BERBERICH: That’s one of the bigger challenges: How do you get the passenger into a position where they feel a little more comfortable, and like you said, they can still see the scenery and still have a good experience, but yet it doesn’t sacrifice the handling and the stability of the unit? It is a little bit of a compromise. We do use past history once again – what’s worked for us in the past and the relationship and ratio of where the front seat is compared to the back seat. So, we use past history as a guide, and then of course every sled is a little different, so we have to go out and do seat-of-the-pants testing, that is what it really boils down to. Get people of various sizes and shapes on the back, get input, we’re trying to make it so that, with our touring sled, we make it so the rider can drive without knowing the passenger is there to some extent, but also not to the point where the passenger feels like they are just cargo back there. They still feel somewhat integrated with the snowmobile and the driver, close enough so they feel like they are right there, because typically you’re talking about a wife or a kid or somebody who, you don’t want to get them so separated that they don’t feel like they are a part of the experience. That’s a balance, too. How do you get them so they are far enough away and in a spot that doesn’t hinder the driver, but also in a spot that doesn’t make the passenger just feel like they are riding back there as cargo? We kind of play with that a lot in seat-of-the-pants testing. We start with past history – I’m just pulling numbers out of the air, but let’s just say we were a couple of inches higher on the TZ1, that seemed to work well for us, so then we just go out in the field and kind of tweak from there. We use a lot of history and past data, it’s always a good starting point.

Of course, we also ride competitor’s sleds, because we’re always trying to be best-in-class. So we evaluate the competitive sleds and see how they do things and, like I said, our goal is to always be best in class, so if we see something that works well for a competitor we are obviously going to take note of that.

SG: The space the driver has, and the space between the driver and passenger is important. Testing many 2-up sleds over the last 20 years – we’re always testing them with a co-worker so it’s not like you have the get-close relationship that you’d probably have with a spouse – on some you sometimes feel like you’re all over the person, which on others you have a little bit more space. But, I imagine, it’s not just the height of that passenger that’s important but also how deep they are on the chassis that can have a big effect on handling.

BERBERICH: Sure. Just like with the height, the further forward you can get that weight, generally the better off you are. That’s also a balance, like I said. Because these sleds are always ridden with a driver of course, so you have to make sure they are comfortable, and they have enough seat. You cannot move the passenger so far forward that a 6-foot, 2-inch driver is completely uncomfortable. We try to accommodate the driver as much as we can – with as many sizes of people as we can. Especially tall people, we try to make it so tall people can get comfortable. But then, at some point you’ve got to invade that space a little bit to make sure the passenger feels like they are a part of the ride but also, to help with the stability of the vehicle. A lot of that is done by past history and a lot of seat-of-the-past testing. We do a lot of rounds, myself and the rest of my team out riding one-up and running two-up and just riding and fine-tuning the right place for the rider and the passenger. Once we kind of have those things set, then you start working the suspension and everything and making sure that the handling and stability are still there and making sure you have a comfortable position for both the rider and the passenger.

SG: One thing that we’ve always credited Arctic Cat for is that, you guys have long had some of the most comfortable and roomy ergonomics for tall people. Sometimes, some taller riders or bigger riders can start to feel pretty cramped on some competitive brands. You guys have always done a good job of building machines so for the guy who is 6-4 can get on it and not feel cramped. Is that something you specifically design for?

BERBERICH: We feel that is very important and we do a pretty good job with that. We want to make sure that anybody can buy our snowmobile and feel comfortable. We don’t want tall people, as you said, to feel cramped on the vehicle, and we don’t want short people to feel like their feet are dangling and they can’t even touch the running boards. So, we try to accommodate as wide a range of people as we can, because obviously our customers are all shapes and sizes. We do make that a conscience effort. Sometimes you do have to compromise a few things to fit a rider who is taller or shorter, and so forth. At the end of the day we do feel like we’ve got to make a sled that is comfortable for everyone.

SG: Is there anything else you’d like to touch on about the ergonomics and the layout of the machine?

BERBERICH: One thing we do with the touring that’s different than some of the ProCross sleds, your foot position is pretty well set, we kind of know where we want to do that with the running boards. When you think about ergonomics, you talk about your feet, your backside and your hands, that’s your ergonomics, you’ve got three points there. So, your feet are kind of set, so now where do we put our hands and our backside in the best place to be comfortable. We had a pretty good place to start with the Twin Spar – we felt we were pretty comfortable and very ergonomic there. But every sled being different, a lot of seat-of-the-pants testing is needed, once again. We have all of the high-tech design equipment here at Arctic Cat, but we do a lot of riding. We do a lot of in-the-field, seat-of-the-pants testing, especially when it comes to things like ergonomics. You can only do so much on a computer – you need to get people out there with different shapes and sizes and you need the experience to get it the best that it can be. So, we had the feet in position, then it was, “OK, let’s set up the hands and the backside positions.” One thing we wanted to do with the ProTour is bring the rider a little bit back. We ended up with a little taller handlebar riser, and that was done not so much for the height but for the ability to tip that back and get the rider back a little bit further on the seat. The [ProCross] sleds are very aggressive and they put you in a little more of an aggressive/attack position. We wanted to relax that position, scoot the rider back a little further. Also, we put a little bit wider seat on that was a little flatter to give [the rider] a little bit more of a platform. Because you are a bit more of a sit-down, a bit more of a relaxed position, and we wanted a bit more of a platform on the seat. On a sled like this, you’re putting lots of miles on, you’re cruising, you want to be comfortable and relaxed and have a base underneath your backside, so those are probably the big ergonomic differences. You’ve got the rider back on the seat a little more and gave him a bit more of a wider, flatter seat to get ahold of.

ProTour Chassis 2015
The new ProTour chassis, in green, eatures a flatter tunnel design than the ProCross, shown in blue, and more structure in the rear.

SG: In previous discussions with you and designers at other factories, we’ve heard that a lot of two-up sleds are ridden primarily by a solo rider and every now and then is used by two passengers. Address that: What’s it like to build a 2-up chassis that’s not just ridden like a 2-up chassis?

BERBERICH: Oh, exactly. That was one of our major goals right on the outset was to make sure that this vehicle was more than just a touring sled. Even though we were in need for a new touring sled, we also believe that an opportunity was there to just make a really nice trail sled. Because, the touring segment itself is not a huge segment – that’s not a secret. It’s not as big as the performance segment or the mountain segment, for example. How do we make a sled that’s the best touring sled that it can be, but make versatile enough that it becomes a really great trail sled, or a sled you can put a lot of miles on and still feel comfortable with. That was a goal of ours right up front. And then also knowing that, some of our data has said that as much as 2/3rd of the time or 60 percent of the time, the guy is riding solo anyway. So, how do we make this the best riding experience for that person when they are riding by themselves, as well as with a passenger. That’s why we feel it’s important to continue with something that we’ve been doing for awhile now, and that’s making sure that the back seat is very easy to remove and reinstall – we don’t want something that’s locked down. We want to make sure that it’s easy to take on and off by themselves so if they do go riding by themselves it’s not a battle for them to do it, or they don’t have to [ride] with the back seat hanging behind them.We want to make sure that we have good storage and good fuel capacity and all of the things that people would want if they are just going to go out riding with their buddies and just put some miles on. That was huge. One of the big things was something that I touched on earlier: Making sure that the sled feels comfortable when you’re riding it by yourself. Having a nice comfortable seat that fits people with different shapes and sizes, and the back seat is easy to remove if you want to go riding by yourself… it’s also got to look good. You know, when you take that back seat off, it can’t look like something’s really missing back there. We built the seat so it has good styling lines, so it still looks sporty when he goes riding solo. For the reasons we kind of had the passenger seat fit somewhat over the top of the front seat, a lot of that was done just so we could get a nice looking front seat and take the back seat off and still look sporty.

SG: That leads me to the styling end of it: You don’t see a lot of touring sleds in bright colors or with loud graphics. The customer for these sort of sleds seems to like something that looks more classy, or BMWish if you will. Are you a part of the team that gave this sled its more classy look?

BERBERICH: Well, I am a part of the styling committee. That’s made up of marketing people, accessory people, of course our general manager and product manager, and then also our product team manager on the engineering side. Part of styling is cost, manufacturability and things like that. So I’m part of a committee that looks at the styling, and then also as the product team manager in the engineering world I’m also supposed to be in touch with our customer, so basically, it’s a committee that gets together and concepts are put together and reviewed. It’s kind of an around-the-room roundtable – you know, I like this, I don’t like that, what if we did this. Really, it’s committee driven, although at the end of the day it’s really Brad Darling our general manager that has the ultimate say. But it is done as a committee, and we have stylists that put together packages, based obviously on some input. We don’t let them go completely crazy, they are given some input – here’s kind of the customer base, here’s what we’re thinking, and then they are given the opportunity to take that and kind of run with it. Being a touring sled, the Pantera name was brought back – it was a very good name for us, and it epitomizes a nice, luxury touring sled. And then graphicswise, you think BMW that you mentioned or Cadillac Escalade – just kind of rich, classy, I don’t know how you want to say it, but that’s the general theme when it comes to styling on this vehicle.

SG: Some competitors it seems at times have gotten a bit wacky with their colors, but sometimes there’s something special about just a rich, black sled like what you folks designed here. You’ve built a beautiful sled here that, to me, says, “I’m successful, and I deserve this sled.”

BERBERICH: Well, thank you, we appreciate that. I guess I can’t speak to the competitors but once in awhile we come out with some new colors, and sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. Arctic Cat customers are pretty passionate customers and we have a pretty loyal customer base. Obviously we’re always trying to get new customers as well, but I think we have a pretty good pulse on what our customers are expecting, and typically with our touring sleds, we have tried some different colors in the past, and most of them went fairly well, but black is always a good color for us. I think it was a really good fit for the sled, but just in general I can say that we can hardly go wrong with black. It’s a core color of Arctic Cat, and obviously black is a popular color in many forms of vehicles. It’s a very good fit for this sled, it’s got a pretty classy, rich, Cadillac Escalade feel to it.

SG: Say what you will about the Twin Spar, which some aggressive riders had mixed emotions about, but it made a real nice touring setup. To top that, with a new chassis, is maybe a bigger challenge than having the ProCross top the Twin Spar for the F/ZR buyer. Compare and contrast how this machine is different or better than the TZ lineup? Lighter, certainly, but what else?

BERBERICH: I think, the first obvious thing when you look at it is it looks a lot sportier, it looks a lot more modern. Just from an aesthetic or style standpoint, it just looks much more appealing and a lot more modern and sporty. As far as functionally, you’re going to feel that it’s lighter, it’s a lot easier to maneuver, it’s a lot easier to get it to do things you want it to do. It feels more nimble, it feels more sporty. It accelerates harder – just because people are touring customers doesn’t mean they don’t want to be able to accelerate hard when they get on the gas. It’s got better traction, better acceleration. With ergonomics, we felt they were quite good on the TZ1, so we tried to keep them somewhat similar: wery comfortable for the rider and very comfortable for the passenger. We added wind deflectors on this unit, and it has a tall windshield, so we wanted to make sure we kept the good wind protection. Our ride package is similar, it’s not the same, it is a little different feel but it is similar in nature in that it is very smooth and it’s still going to give that person a very plush ride. The thing I like to compare it to, on the TZ1, you kind of feel like you’re sitting on a big, ol’ couch. Nice and comfy, just kind of floating down the trail. With this, you’re still comfortable, but you feel a little more sporty, you feel a little more one with the sled. With the [TZ1] you were kind of riding back there on that couch, but on this one you feel like you can have some input on that sled. Just the lightness and nimbleness of it, it creates more of a fun-factor. That’s probably the biggest thing – you don’t feel like you’re sitting back there on the couch, now you feel like you’re sitting on a nice comfy chair, but you kind of have the remote in your hands and you feel like you can experience the ride a little more. It gives you a little more of a fun factor feel to it. You feel like you’re part of the ride and not just along for the ride.

SG: What is the weight difference?

BERBERICH: We’re right around 30-31 pounds [lighter], give or take a few pounds, on a Pantera Limited model versus our previous TZ1 LXR, we’re about 30 pounds. On a standard model, we’re even a bit more than that, we’re about 35 pounds. That would be a standard Pantera 7000 vs. a TZ1.

SG: And how about the past TZ1 Turbo model? Was that turbo model, what, maybe 30 pounds heavier than the TZ1?

BERBERICH: No, the turbo model was about 40 pounds more than a TZ1 LXR, so we’re approximately 70 pounds lighter than that turbo.

SG: Let’s talk about the suspension specifically: The rear is pretty similar to where you were at but the front is notably different. Any special challenges in setting the final spec on this?

BERBERICH: Well, the challenge always with a 2-up sled is when you put the extra person on there, and then we have the extra fuel tank and the hard storage cases, so the challenge is always to make the sled feel comfortable for both one person or two, and also handle and be stable for either one passenger or two. The challenges in the front end are making sure that you have a shock and spring combination, along with the swaybar, that not only feels good through the bumps but also is going to support you in the corners both when you’re riding solo, but also when you put that extra weight behind you, or the mass of a passenger. It’s a balance of trying to get a plush ride as well as stability. The suspension, if you want a plusher ride, you kind of soften the suspension up, but when you soften the suspension up, when you get in corners and start putting weight on the back, you have a tendency for things to get rolly or however you want to say it. So, the challenge is finding that balance of a nice, smooth front end, but also so it carries and holds you enough so it’s stable when you get into the corner. That’s the balance in the front. With the rear, as you said, it’s similar to designs in the past, in that we have our Slide-Action skid frame and use our overload springs for 2-Up riding, so that part is similar. What we have found that has been successful for us, and I don’t know if everybody does it the same way, but we kind of go out and see, how do we make this thing good for the rider. If we can get it to ride well for a single person – feel comfortable, plush, not bottoming out through the g-bumps and so forth – typically, once we add the passenger on, our overload system works so well that we can put the overloads engaged and we’ll still feel good with a second person. Once we get it riding good with one person, it’s usually pretty minor changes from there to make it feel good for two.

SG: It wasn’t that long ago that, when people thought of a “full-featured” touring sled, that meant it had electric start, reverse, a high windshield and mirrors – then folks started adding an adjustable backrest and you really had something! Now, all sorts of features are being added, from plug-ins for the shields to heated seat to the various other things that the manufacturers do. Now you’re adding the fuel tank. Is there, for lack of a better term, sort of an arms race between the manufacturers, or otherwise an unwritten competition where you’re thinking, “What else can we do or add to our luxury machines?”

BERBERICH: Well, I mean, sure, when you think about the core customers for these units, there are people that want all of the bells and whistles. So, we’re always looking at what we can do to be best in class. What can we do that can give our customers everything that they’re looking for but also, how do we get best in class and offer more than our competitors are offering? What are the features that people are asking for? One such feature is the backrest that adjusts both forward and back. You know, we had that back in the day, and we went away from it and we caught some grief from some customers who said, “That was a nice feature, why did you take that away?” So we said, OK, when we go the next round, we’ve got to make sure we give that back to them. Beyond that, warmth is always key, so seat warmers become more and more important, hand warmers for both driver and passenger. A huge feature for us was our second gas tank. We listened to our customers, they like to go on long trips and go on 200 mile rides during the day. So we thought, ‘How do we make a better snowmobile so we can do that, and not have to stop for gas?’ Or, we get a lot of customers who ride in locations where there aren’t a lot of gas stations, so they’ve got to go a long span between stations we so had to accommodate those people to give them enough fuel range so they could make sure they could get from one fuel stop to the next. Once again, it’s trying to be best in class – what can we offer that our competitors maybe aren’t, and kind of separate us from them and make us the vehicle of choice.

lynn berberich
Lynn Berberich, on the right and wearing safety glasses because he was on the factory floor, shows off the huge storage area in the back on the new Pantera.

SG: Do you guys look at other markets to see, what’s in the automotive market that could crossover, or what’s the latest gadget on a Gold Wing for inspiration?

BERBERICH: Oh sure. We’re always looking at what’s going on in different markets – the bike market, the automotive market, you name it I guess. Any market that’s out there, we’ve always got our eyes on what’s out there in the engineering world. Everybody these days has the Internet and magazines, and on television, you’re always paying attention to what everybody else is doing. And we’re trying to stay in tune with our customer, either directly or through our dealers. What are they asking for, and what are the features that they believe they need, or what are the features that they are asking for or features that they have on their bike that they like or whatever it might be. We always have our eyes and ears open to what’s going on in the world so we can try to stay ahead of where the market is headed.

SG: When you and other snowmobile manufacturer officials have talked about the 2-up market over the years and where these sleds are most used, Quebec often comes up as a prime example. “This is a great Quebec sled,” I’ve heard that countless times over the last 20 years. Is that really still the heart of the 2-up market, and with the international markets growing so fast, does that change the game at all?

BERBERICH: Well, Quebec is a very good market, that is the truth, that’s why you’re hearing it from everybody. Eastern Canada in general seems to be very pro four-stroke and more of a touring market than a lot of other places. So, yes, that is obviously a big market for us, and international, that continues to grow so obviously that will be an important market for this sled as well. But we also see a lot of opportunities in the U.S., especially with the way we approached it, trying to make it not just a great 2-up sled but also a nice so solo sled. We see opportunities in markets that maybe haven’t been so big for touring sleds in the past. Trying to get some of those markets a little more by offering a really nice solo machine that also has the ability to have a back seat on it. But yeah, Eastern Canada is a big market, international is a big market and we’re hoping that the U.S. will become a bigger market for this type of vehicle.

SG: Various brands have made swings at the very high horsepower touring sled, from back when Ski-Doo threw the triple-triple Mach Z engine in the Grand Touring to more recently with your own TZ1 Turbo. Is that a small market, or why does nobody play there anymore?

BERBERICH: Well, we no longer offer that turbo model and Ski-Doo no longer offers the one you’re talking about, so it’s obviously not as big of a market. Most people who want that turbo or that really high horsepower are more performance oriented, whether it is short-track performance or mountain performance. Is there some market there? Yes. Is it a big market? No. I can’t say whether that’s something we’d explore in the future again or not. But, the core market is not in that really high horsepower as far as touring goes.

SG: Let’s talk about the track you put on it. Address the choice of tracks that you put on this machine.

BERBERICH: The track that we have on there is 15 wide, 146 inch length with an 1.25 inch lug and a 2.86-inch pitch. It’s like of a RipSaw-like pattern. It’s meant mostly for on-trail use, but it also, with a 1.25 inch lug and the characteristics of the track, it is a pretty good off-trail track as well. As far as our choice of that track, we were 144-inch with our Twin Spar touring sleds and now we’re 146, and those numbers are rounded, so the actually difference is more like an inch and a half, so the actual difference is less than an inch on the ground. For all intents and purposes, they’re about the same. We have competitors that are 137, we have some that are 144; we chose that length because we felt it didn’t compromise the handling of the vehicle. We believe it still handles really well, it still corners, it doesn’t feel long behind you, we didn’t feel like we compromised anything as far as that goes, but in terms of having that length instead of anything shorter, you get good span on the bumps. It also allows you to place that passenger on or forward of that rear arm, which is very huge when you’re suspending a 2-up sled. If you can keep rider and passenger in line or forward from that rear arm, it really helps with the suspension. If you start hanging that passenger out behind the rear arm, your suspension has a lot of work to do to support that weight back there. This gave us an opportunity to get the rider and passenger in a good position so we could get a nice plush ride and it gave us enough length where it could span the bumps well. You’ve got a lot of track on the ground so it gives you good traction and acceleration. We wanted to make sure that this one felt fast and sporty and accelerated hard, and it didn’t compromise enough of the handling to get us to go any other way. We felt that we’ve come up with a good combination. Just in general, sleds seem to be headed in a path of longer tracks. Mountain sleds continue to get longer and longer tracks, and crossovers sleds and so forth. We felt this was a good overall length for a 2-up.

SG: The quiet track moldings that are on the inside of the track, how much perceivable noise does that actually take out of track?

BERBERICH: It depends on which track you’re talking about, we have that feature in pretty much all of our tracks. It does take out a noticeable difference. It varies on the track depending on which one you’re talking about, but it can be anywhere from one decibel to in some tracks I think it’s like three or four. That’s pretty significant, it may not sound like a lot but a couple db for example – not just a noise meter but also to a person, you can tell the difference in a couple db. It really depends on the track. I can’t tell you on this model because we went straight to the quiet bumps right out of the shoot, because we know that history tells us that this is where we wanted to be. We didn’t even go back and run without them, because we know this is going to perform better than without so there was no reason to go backwards.

SG: Were there any special challenges in the way you did the rear fuel tank, the way it’s plumbed and the way you want it to empty first so you don’t have all of that weight in the back?

BERBERICH: I wouldn’t say it was a special challenge, but there had to be some thought put into it. How to get both tanks to vent and how to utilize both tanks and pull from one tank and then pull from another. There was some thought that had to be put into the fact that we wanted to drain the rear tank first so, it took some thought on how it would be efficient to do that, and effective and, for lack of a better term, simple. We didn’t need to make things too complicated. I think we’ve come up with a pretty good system that seems to work well for what it’s intended to do. We have guys that work in the fuel area and they’ve come up with a pretty clever idea that seems to work slick. You drain a little bit from the front tank and then, once that vacuum is created, it’s going to pull from the rear tank down. I guess I’d say, it wasn’t a huge challenge but there definitely was some thought and effort put into it by our fuel system group to come up with a system that works well and work in a way we’d want it to work – to draw that back tank down first so that you’re not only getting rid of that weight back there, but also as you get that fuel down, your fuel gauge is now reading off the front tank and giving you a true fuel level.

 

Pantera Limited auxiliary fuel tank
This is the Pantera Limited’s auxiliary fuel tank, which gives the sled a range of more than 200 miles between fill ups.

SG: Is there anything else that you’d like to tell our readers about what was involved in engineering this sled?

BERBERICH: One message that we want to make sure to get across is, our intent right up front was that this was more than just a touring sled. I know you’ve heard that, as we’ve said that several times. As the product team manager on the project, we’re very excited with the end result. Even if I’m not per se a touring customer, we built a snowmobile that is a fun sled for me, even though I am not a core touring customer, because of the features it has and because of the way it handles and the way it acts. Its acceleration, its light feel, just everything about it, it makes for a fun sled for somebody who is maybe not just a true touring customer. I guess that’s maybe one of the main messages I’d made sure that we get across.

 

 

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