Customers looking for a top-notch touring sled from Arctic Cat have been drawn to the Pantera since 1990, and they still are today.
However, for nine years there was a gap in the Pantera lineage – but not in Arctic Cat’s dedication to touring. Far from it. When the Pantera name was dropped starting with model year 2006, Cat first went with the somewhat obvious name of Arctic Cat Touring for its top-of-the-line, liquid-cooled touring machines before opting for letters thereafter, and the TZ line was born in 2008. Despite the name changes, the company never wavered from its commitment to giving its two-passenger touring models the best combination of features.
For 2006 and ’07 Cat went with four-stroke touring models based on its 660cc four-stroke before seriously stepping up its game for 2008 with the TZ models in the newer Twin Spar chassis with the 1056cc Suzuki four-stroke, then went one step further for 2009 with turbocharged versions of that engine in the TZ1 Turbo Touring and Turbo Limited.
Reactions to the Twin Spar were notably mixed from Cat’s most aggressive customers – particularly in the trail performance class where the new sleds looked good and had improved fit and finish, but were heavier than the previous F chassis machines and didn’t handle quite as well.
In the touring class, however, increased weight is generally accepted as the price of doing business with a long machine made to carry multiple passengers, and while reviewers in the snowmobile community would often say “the Twin Spar sleds are Cat’s most comfortable chassis to date, but…” what came after the “but” was far more acceptable by couples who wanted to ride thousands of miles on wide trails, cruising in style and luxury.
That luxury came with a capital L, as Cat piled on the accessories, especially in the full-featured LXR series that featured adjustable ergonomics, heated driver and passenger seats, remote electric start, sizable soft-side storage bags and much more.
To top it off, much like how some top luxury sedan automobiles are available with high-tech and high-output engine packages, a TZ could be ordered with the sport’s most high-output engine as a TZ1 Turbo. The boosted twin could create 177 hp at 7850 rpm, more than enough to put a driver and passenger into hyperspace in tandem. However, we suspect that – much like with people who now buy a BMW M5 (600 hp), a Mercedes AMG E63 S (603 hp) or Audi RS7 (605 hp) – not many people who ponied up the cash to buy a TZ1 Turbo treated their luxury touring bus with any level of disrespect. The power was there to impress, but the pride in ownership is what closed the deal.
That factor – plus the impressive longevity of the Twin Spar chassis and the 1056 Suzuki twin, whether turbocharged or not – make TZ1 and TZ1 Turbo models particularly interesting on the used market.
One dealership official with whom we spoke called the engine “flawless,” while another – Roger Hokanson at Grace Performance in Michigan – added the term “generally” before flawless, noting that one recurring problem that could crop up was that, when the engine would run low on coolant, the high temp sensor design wouldn’t send an alert to the driver and the engine could cook itself.
Both dealers stressed the importance of regular maintenance on the ACT Drive clutching system, which needed to be flushed and refilled at the end of every season or every 2,500 miles (whichever came first) to avoid more expensive repairs.
The TZ platform didn’t change a lot during its run – the biggest updates came in model year 2010, when Fox shocks, stiffer ski springs and off-set runners were added to improve the front end handling. After that, the 2011-14 models were nearly identical before the machines were replaced by the return of the Pantera name for model year 2015.
When eyeing one on the used market, both dealers said to check the usual stuff – bushing and bearings, suspension arms and the condition of the track.
“The twin spar chassis wasn’t popular with everybody, but it was a great touring chassis,” said Rich Rothmund of TA Motorsports in Wisconsin. “It was on the heavy side, but for the touring rider it was very stable.”