Arctic Cat 2020: New Riots, More Alpha & Suspension Changes

2020 Arctic Cat Riot X 8000
The 2020 Arctic Cat Riot X 8000.

Arctic Cat and its relatively new owner Textron unveiled its 2020 lineup with many upgrades for the new season.

For 2020 the Cat crew is unveiling all-new Riot 6000, Riot 8000 and Riot X 8000 extreme crossover sleds aimed at the often-targeted 50/50 crossover riders – complete with new front and rear suspensions.

Cat also focused its mountain lineup exclusively on the Alpha One platform, with new base-level M and rugged Hardcore models joining Mountain Cat models with the single-beam rear suspension design. The second-year adjust-from-the-handlebar iACT suspension will include separate controls for the front and rear in 2020, and all Cat trail sleds will get an updated front suspension that is said to improve overall machine handling. 

Rumors of an bigger bore engine didn’t come true, but that doesn’t mean that Arctic Cat doesn’t have additional two-stroke power. The brand upgraded its C-TEC2 8000-series engine with new cylinders, pistons, combustion chamber, flywheel, fuel rail and calibrations, with promises of more responsiveness, better fuel economy and cleaner running overall from a powerplant with a claimed horsepower output of 165 ponies. The upgrades will be found in all 8000-series applications  – from the M to the ZR to the new Riot. 

More details on exactly what Arctic Cat/Textron has going on with its sales program, along with pricing, is scheduled to be released at a future date. 

Gone for 2020 are all XF, Pantera and Norseman models plus twin-rail Mountain Cats, 129-inch ZRs, most Bearcats and any sleds with either Yamaha’s 1049cc triple (7000 Series) or the KYMCO four-stroke (3000 Series) engines.

What’s left? Let’s take a look. Details on the 2020 Ski-Doo2020 Yamaha and 2020 Polaris snowmobiles are also now available!

2020 Arctic Cat Riot 8000
The 2020 Arctic Cat Riot 8000.

Have A Riot

According to Cat officials, the new-for-2020 Riot lineup is a blend of both Mountain Cat and ZR model DNA that creates a multi-dimensional snow machine. Designed as the ultimate 50/50 crossover, the sled is built to be capable of both pounding hundreds of miles of trails and exploring the endless backcountry all within the same day.

Every sled in the Riot lineup – the Riot 6000 and 8000, plus Riot X 8000 – include the new Cross-Action rear suspension featuring a three-wheel rear axle assembly, Torque Sensing Link rear arm and adjustable torsion springs that blend the increased weight transfer of an uncoupled rear arm with the precise cornering and bump-absorbing capabilities of the Slide-Action front arm.

Where the Riot models really differ from one another, though, is in trail capabilities vs. off-trail prowess. It starts up front, where the base Riot models (6000 and 8000) will be equipped with new, trail-focused front end technology that Cat claims was developed on the race track. The Arctic Race Suspension II features new forged aluminum spindles that are 1.5 inches taller, new lightweight upper A-arms that are more rigid and revised geometry that delivers a new roll-center and adjustable camber.

It’s set at a 42-43-inch adjustable stance on the G2 ProClimb skis. The new suspension is said to offer improved cornering plus increased ground clearance.

The more trail focus is also reflected in the laydown steering on the Riot plus the use of a 15- by 146-inch Cobra track with either a 1.6 or 1.35-inch lug.

The Riot X 8000, meanwhile, is set up a little more radically for the rider who likes to push limits off trail. It rides on Cat’s Arctic Mountain front suspension featuring mountain-specific geometry, tilted spindles and a narrower 39.5-41.5-inch adjustable stance for improved handling in deep snow and more predictable counter-steering. It moves powder with a more aggressive 146-inch Peak track with 2.25-inch angular lugs. The X also utilizes a vertical steering post to position the standing rider in a more aggressive stance, better positioned for side-hilling and powder carving. The X will only be available with the 794cc DSI twin.

Likely resulting from the new Riot lineup addition to its crossover segment, Cat discontinued its XF Cross Country Limited (6000/8000/9000) and XF High Country Limited (8000/9000) models heading into next season. If sledheads see the move as a trade-off, it appears to be one in the favor of performance junkies everywhere.

2020 Arctic Cat ZR models
The 2020 Arctic Cat ZR models.

ZR Changes

The biggest change in the ZR lineup can be found in the incorporation of the new ARS II front suspension setup that also debuted on the Riot. The ZR line has a long reputation for good handling on trails – the enhancement offered by the new spindles, A-arms and overall geometry are said to make them even more predictable and stable.

Returning is the Slide-Action rear suspension with its exclusive Torque-Sensing Link and unique front arm design that control both track tension, coupling and ski lift while providing a high-quality ride that shines in stutter bumps. 

Within the ZR family there continues to be different subsets, including Sno Pro, Limited, RR and R XC for 2020, with one of the major differences being in the shock absorbers.

The iACT suspension featuring adjustable iQS shocks that was unveiled to much fanfare last season will return yet again be an option on ZR LTD models (6000 and 8000) as well as the ZR 9000 Thundercat, though the level of adjustability increases thanks to new customizable driver settings. The results: For 2020, users of an iACT/iQS-based system won’t be stuck with one shared setting for the ski shocks and the skid frame’s rear arm – a notable upgrade. The Limited models and Thundercat will also be available with the standard Fox QS3 shocks for drivers who want to avoid the electronics.


Billed as “the world’s fastest production snowmobile,” the lake-racer focused Thundercat returns with a C-TEC4 9000 four-stroke 998cc liquid-cooled turbocharged engine wrapped inside of classic black and green graphics and propelled by a 15- by 137- by 1-inch RipSaw track, with a 42-43 inch adjustable ski stance on the new ARS II front end.

The ZR 6000/8000 LTD models sit an inch taller and have more suspension travel than the TCat, plus has 1.25-inch lugs on a RipSaw II track for a better grip on the surface below. The LTD and Thundercat also ahre a mid-height windshield, LED headlight and goggle bag as standard equipment.

Elsewhere in the ZR family, the 6000 and 8000 Sno Pro rides on Cat’s own IFP 1.5 coil-over above the skis and on the front arm, with a 2.0 IFP on the rear arm, plus a halogen headlight, low windshield, limited storage and a 1-inch RipSaw track.

The other returning ZRs are the green race-replica ZR 8000 RR and the cross-country racing/ditch-banging focused ZR 6000 R XC. Both offer upgraded shocks – with Kashima-coated Fox 1.5 Zero QS3R piggyback coil-over shocks above the skis and on the front arm, but they differ beyond that.

The 800-class RR opts for another 2.0 QS3R Kashima-coated shock on the rear arm, while the 600-class R XC leads toward a Fox 2.0 Zero RC shock. For 2020, the R XC also gets updated engine mapping and a new seat.

Gone from the 2020 ZR model lineup are the base-model ZR 3000, 6000, 7000 and 8000; ZR Sno Pro 9000; ZR Limited 7000 and 9000; and ZR RR 6000 and 9000.

Also notable, Arctic Cat’s experiment with purple graphics appears to be a one-year wonder – traditional Arctic Cat green and black has won out on all adult-sized ZRs.

2020 Arctic Cat M 8000 Mountain Cat Alpha One
The 2020 Arctic Cat M 8000 Mountain Cat Alpha One.

Alpha One On Every Mountain

Cat is going all-in with its Alpha One design, using the unique single-beam design in all of its returning mountain sleds.

Cat raised the backcountry performance bar with its Alpha One suspension last year, thanks to its design that allows the track greater ability to flex with the terrain. Our own test team has been impressed – it performs admirably in deep powder, lending a whole new level of agility to Cat’s mountain lineup.

For 2020, the M lineup will include 154- and 165-inch lengths of the returning M 8000 Mountain Cat Alpha One, plus the new base-level/price conscious M 8000 Alpha One and new M 8000 Hardcore Alpha One. All will have 3-inch lugs on their PowerClaw tracks, with Arctic Mountain Suspension front ends featuring adjustable 35.5-37.5-inch stances. And all will be powered by Cat’s 165 hp, dual-stage injected, 794cc C-TEC twin.

The new, base-level M 8000 Alpha One 154/165 will come with Arctic Cat IFP shocks all around and few frills, but all the power and suspension design features to get riders where they want to go.  

One notch up is the M 8000 Mountain Cat Alpha One– available with or without electric start. The Mountain Cat designation will get the buyer upgraded shocks – it dumps the springs in favor of Fox FLOAT QS3-style shocks all around, with QSL technology on the rear arm that allows riders to attain a stiff rear shock setting with the turn of a switch. The Mountain Cats also comes with a LED headlight with accent lights and a goggle bag.

Built for tough and rugged pursuits, plus big jumps and hard landings, the Hardcore lineup with tunnel reinforcements shifts to an Alpha setup for 2020. It features Fox 1.5 Zero QS3 coil overall up front and coil-over QSL on the rear arm, plus LED headlight with accent light.

If at first you were a skeptic of the slimmed down mountain machine model lineup, it won’t take long to see the remaining sleds aim to please.

Youth And Utility

No surprise to many who follow the state of the industry closely, Cat continued its support of youth-oriented sleds in 2020 in bringing back its ZR 120 and ZR 200 offerings.

The ZR 120 offers the smallest riders on the market a proven 123cc four-stroke engine propelled by a 10- by 67- by .75-inch Cobra while the upsized ZR 200 has a 192cc four-stroke engine, 10- by 93- by 1-inch Cobra track and slide-rail suspension.

The next step up the ladder is the fan-cooled Lynx 2000 for solo passengers and two-passenger Lynx 2000 LT. Each rides in the dated Twin Spar chassis, with an AWS front suspension but upgraded Slide-Action rear suspension, with affordable twin-tube shocks all around. Power comes from a 565cc twin built by Suzuki.

The Lynx has a single round gauge and rides on a 15- by 128- by 1-inch Challenger track, while the LT gets a 144-inch Challenger track, longer tunnel, 2-up seat, taller window and rear rack for affordable touring.

The Bearcat 2000 XT featuring the same engine is also back, but you won’t find any other Bearcats, Pantera, Norseman or Norseman X models in the lineup for 2020.

What offerings have you most impressed? Be sure to leave your opinions in the comments section!

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9 thoughts on “Arctic Cat 2020: New Riots, More Alpha & Suspension Changes

  • Avatar for Clinton

    So what is going on with cat? No 600 mountain models? Major downsize on everything. Not looking good especially since brp bring out a new 600 r for the summit. Not good at all

  • Avatar for Kevon

    No norseman’s no Pantera’s what’s really going on with Arctic Cat AKA text Ron yeah that’s right text wrong

  • Avatar for gbarchives

    Too much carryover from last year means slashing the choices for this year. If you want anything else go ask your dealer to ask your distributor for an older model in the pipeline. I saw a 2015 ZR4000RR in uncrated leftover condition for barely six grand a few months ago. If only we got more snow east, I’d have been sorely tempted. The mountain sleds and the youth sleds are making money, the rest, not so much. That’s what I hear.

  • Avatar for Mad Mike

    What are the options in the touring segment?

  • Avatar for Dana Temple

    The only thing I disagree with is dropping the twin rail M series sleds. Here in the east we have to ride too far on the trails to get to the deep snow. The Alpha 1 is a complete pig on any trail. At least the old M series was rideable on the trails and then still good in the deep stuff. We can’t all kick off the sleds into 3 ft of powder.

    • Avatar for Kerry N

      If you think alpha one sucks on the trail it’s because you haven’t rode one. I have an 18 mountain cat, a 14 xf and an alpha one. The xf is by far the fastest on the rode because you can take the turns faster but the alpha one is much nicer on the rode than the 18. Little suspension adjustments make a big difference

  • Avatar for Randy Thyssen

    The local dealer told me there are no touring sleds out there. Supposedly didn’t sell well, yet there are none in the pipeline. Will not order new this year from cat as no sales after spring buy.
    I need to see something more than a brochure and the riot is not my thing.
    After 51 years on only Arctic Cat…time to move on.

    • Avatar for gbarchives

      Randy I just did a brief Google search and came across thirty left over 2019 Pantera’s for sale across the country. This is what they are doing, moving product sideways at heavy discounts to clear out the pipeline. But yes if you want a 2020 you are out of luck.


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