The truth is, we could write any number of clichés about Cat being on the prowl for new technology, or always trying to be king of its domain. But the simple truth remains that Team Green is at the top of its game, and in 2019 the rich just got richer.
After riding its new 800 twin this winter, Artic Cat enthusiasts will be pleased to hop aboard the new iACT interactive suspension system on flatlander sleds and revolutionary Alpha One rear suspension on mountain machines, not to mention the lowered and faster turbocharged Thundercat. And if that weren’t enough, Cat also unveiled 13 new models and continued to upgrade its fleet by redesigning the ergonomics on its returning lineup of 69 machines for 2019.
But what exactly is the iACT, and why should mountain riders consider the single-rail Alpha One suspension – which is being introduced in a new sled, the M 8000 Mountain Cat Alpha One? New news means good news in Arctic Cat land for snowmobilers everywhere – let’s dig into the details a bit further.
Evolution and Innovation
The 800 C-TEC2 became the logical next step to the 600 C-TEC2 and the inevitable successor to replace the Suzuki 800 H.O. in the 8000 series ZR, XF and M model sleds. For 2019 Cat focused on three main objectives: innovation, evolution and ergonomics.
Nearly all of its 69 sleds have upgraded ergonomics to improve rider comfort and increase user ride ability and performance no matter the riding terrain.
Demonstrating its innovative prowess, Cat unveiled the new-for-2019 iACT interactive suspension system – a product that’s the result of a partnership with Fox shocks and engineers learning from automotive technology advancement.
Providing a rider with complete suspension control, Fox Zero iQS coil-over gas shocks are wired to a new thumb-operable control on the new left handlebar cluster enabling a rider to change suspension settings on the fly, with the setting change – between soft, medium and hard – adjusting in .2 seconds.
The need to interrupt your ride to adjust clicker settings has now been eliminated because the change is as simple as a push of a button – left for softer and right for firmer – and once it’s made, the change in setting is definitely noticeable to a rider encountering a rash of stutter bumps along a trail or in a ditch.
During a test ride in Island Park, Idaho, in January we tested the iACT system and found we could easily switch settings back and forth quickly coming out of turns, bracing for an approach or headed into clearly choppy trail conditions. The opportunity to switch instantaneously increased our ability to customize the perfect ride, and more importantly we could really feel a difference between each setting.
The iACT will be featured in select 2019 models ZR LTD 6000, ZR 7000, ZR 8000, ZR 9000 and Thundercat models with the iACT suffix in their names.
Lowered Thundercat, And Other Improvements
Other new handlebar-mounted controls are also easier to use while riding thanks to the visible information illuminated on a digital instrument gauge, a new push-to-start button on the left side for easier starting, and all 6000, 7000, 8000, 9000 and Thundercat models also come equipped with a new Stealth lightweight brake master cylinder that features a more protected design for enhanced braking performance plus new ECM calibrations that deliver superior performance.
Also new for 2019, the ZR lineup will offer four unique sled packages that include premium handlebar-mounted controls with improved ergonomics, a new magnetic tether switch to complement the key ignition and a shorter, more comfortable throttle lever.
Specifically, the ZR Thundercat 9000 comes with quick-adjust Fox Zero QS3 ski and rear track shocks. The sled is one to be reckoned with, and built for maximum top speed with a new lowered ride height, single-runner ski carbides, an 11-inch windshield and a 137-inch RipSaw track with 1.0-inch lugs to match the 200-plus horsepower Yamaha engine introduced for 2017.
All these upgrades offer completely optimized suspension performance options and a system package for varying riding styles that can be changed to conditions on a dime.
Advancing The Alpha
Another Cat product born of both innovation and evolution comes via the Alpha One rear suspension for powder and mountain riding.
Cat officials say the Alpha One revolutionizes rear suspension and track design by using the patented single beam design positioned in the middle of its new lightweight track that, unlike a traditional two-rail system, allows the track to significantly flex and conform to the snow – delivering a new level of maneuverability with less rider input, substantially easier sidehilling and increased traction during deep snow conditions. The single-beam also reduces overall weight by 10 to 11 pounds.
The specially designed Power Claw track offers increased traction and conforms to snow conditions to reduce buildup. The 15-inch wide track is available in 154- or 165-inch lengths, with 3-inch lugs and a 3.5-inch pitch.
The Alpha One will be featured solely in the new M 8000 Mountain Cat Alpha One – special for 2019 and available to all snowmobilers looking to bring their ride to new heights.
“The Alpha is a hoot. It reminds me of the tMotion, but better in the fluff. Going back to the standard Ascender platform after the Alpha wasn’t too much of a jump in how I rode it, but it definitely required a little more effort to ride,” said Snow Goer writer T.J. Krob during a test event in January. The track itself provided excellent traction and was a real roost-thrower.
“It makes a beginner feel like an intermediate rider, and it’s so much easier to ride than a traditional system,” said Jared Spindler, Arctic Cat’s director of product strategy.
Arctic Cat’s mountain lineup will also use G2 ProClimb-7 skis featuring new geometry that delivers better balance, improved flotation, easier steering and more consistent performance in varying snow conditions.
The sleds will be packed with a 800 C-TEC2 two-stroke engine with Dual Stage Injection that boasts a 36 percent increase in low-end torque with up to 30 percent less oil consumption below 7,000 rpm compared to the Suzuki 800 engine it replaced a year ago.
New Norsemen and More
A two-stroke treat that’s poised to offer a blend of utility with backcountry and trail riding versatility is the new-for-2019 Norseman X model series. According to Cat, the Norseman X 6000 and Norseman X 8000 sleds are like the already versatility Norseman models, but on steroids.
Propelled by the 15- by 153- by 2.25-inch Power Claw track, the Norseman X models are built on the ProUte chassis that offers flat running boards – for rider comfort while maneuvering – and feature ProUte tapered skis with a 35.5- to 41.5-inch adjustable ski stance.
The 6000 series will feature the 125 hp 600 C-TEC2 engine, while the 8000 series will offer a more meaty 160 hp 800 C-TEC2. Both will use Dual Stage Injection and a TEAM Rapid Response II drive clutch and Rapid Reaction driven clutch.
The youth segment will continue to be a focus for Cat, especially given the success of the ZR 200’s inaugural season. The 2019 model will be upgraded to the ZR 200 ES and feature electric start, improved calibrating for better hot restarting, a new carb and engine isolator (from metal to plastic) and a new and more visible tail light cover (from white to red). An added tether will also now come standard.
Editor’s Note: Every issue of Snow Goer magazine includes in-depth sled reports and comparisons, aftermarket gear and accessories reviews, riding destination articles, do-it-yourself repair information, snowmobile technology and more! Subscribe to Snow Goer now to receive issues delivered to your door 6 times per year for a low cost.