Arctic Cat F7: Retro Rider

Its understated look got plenty of comments, good and bad, until it came in unintentional contact with a road. Then, it was cracked and ugly.

That’s when we found the biggest risk with ordering Arctic Cat’s speciality graphics pattern: replacements are a pain.

We tried to restore the machine to its “Z” sled glory by ordering a new hood and graphics, but it was such a hassle to get the special stickers that we gave up. It was probably akin to a real retro rider looking for a vintage hood. Too bad Haydays was over for the year. We ended up stitching it together with black zip-ties and went from Retro Cool to Herman Munster.

It was a shame for the machine’s vanity, but proof of the machine’s strongest asset: a powerful engine with tremendous pickup.

The Arctic Cat F7 uses a 698cc Suzuki twin with an output of 140 hp. It’s fast.

We’ve heard rumors that the Arctic Cat F7s with the ACT Diamond Drive, like our model, just don’t have the same speed and acceleration throughout the powerband. Our unscientific test (lining our machine up with a chaincase-equipped F7) proved the rumors correct — but only by a sled-length.

Most of us had fun driving the machine in the ways that matter most. It was light, nimble and quick. The powerband was strong and wide. Throttle response was immediate. Overall ergos were comfortable, with special kudos to the handlebars.

The suspension setup raised some eyebrows. Several on staff preferred this setup to the ultra harsh Sno Pro setup, but that wasn’t a surprise.

The rear skid is the FasTrack Long Travel sliderail with Arctic Cat’s IFP gas shocks. Up front, it’s the AWS VI with Cat’s IFPs and adjustable preload springs.

The suspension works great in smooth conditions, and the skis and track stays on the ground. That’s not impressive; it’s a minimum requirement for any snowmobile.

Rough trails are where the gremlins come out. We bottomed the suspension more often than we should have, and it felt and sounded ragged. We pitched to and fro with little control and the unpredictability of a dented ping-pong ball.

The light, pitchy feel isn’t for everyone. A Yamaha rider tried it for about 10 minutes and then said, “People really like this thing?” He liked the heavier, more connected-to-the-ground feel his four-stroke offered, and quickly returned the Arctic Cat F7 to its original driver.

Overall, the Arctic Cat F7 was OK. The engine was awesome, but it needs better stock suspension to support it.

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