By Jason Kawczynski
Something on the floor! That’s what Cat dealers asked for, and Arctic gave it to them! If you recall, last year you could only order your new Cat sled beforehand. For 2022, that has changed and dealers and consumers couldn’t be happier.
It was the right move to make, and just another thing Arctic Cat fans have to celebrate in this, the OEM’s 60th year producing quality snowmobiles. Looking back on its first snow machine, the 1962 “Model 500”, compared to the lineup produced today, there is an amazing amount of innovation throughout the long and storied history. These innovations certainly helped shape the industry, and paved the way to the high level of technological sophistication we all see from OEMs today.
Cat came into this season with a lot of hype over the past year of our stay-at-home isolation around the world. This surely helped breed countless rumors in chat rooms and forums this year for Cat. A new chassis possibly? A new 900cc 2-stroke motor? While many of these predictions came true to MY22 (we will all have to wait one more year while speculating with friends at a safe social distance of six feet, or virtually via social media), we did get to ride plenty of awesome new Cat iron. But by all means, let the rumors continue!
Good news is, after a few years of a narrowing lineup, in MY22 Cat returns every favorite from last year, along with some high-tech options that really make the good stuff even better. With an array of new packages, color choices, and more across the lineup (many of which are absent the typical Arctic Cat Green color scheme), these sleds are sure to please a massive array of buyers.
Snowcheck is easier and procrastinators catch a break
In MY21, Arctic Cat went with a “pre-order only” mode of purchase for their entire lineup. While this got new owners the best deals, it left very little options for the guys and girls who wanted to get their hands on a new Cat in-season. Dealers were forced to do some creative ordering to get models on their floor, but even at that, it was difficult to find many models to view in a local showroom. With the limited options for fall snowmobile shows, many prospective buyers have only seen last year’s models at a glance, while passing them on the trails. But don’t fear, in 2022 we will see return of the in-season models again. Dealers and procrastinators can now rejoice!
New for this season, you can simply go online, build your new sled and reserve it with a deposit. Using a very easy to use platform, you can select your model, colors, option packages, and use a credit card to pay a $500 deposit. Upon checkout, you can select your preferred dealer and finalize the remainder your sale at the time of delivery. No waiting on the sales floor for an afternoon anymore to order your new Cats, we love it!
Thundercat EPS tames a lion
The big news for trail riders is the new EPS system available on the ZR 9000 Thundercat. The all-new system is a Textron design, claimed to be based on their ATV technology – but with tweaks specifically for the ‘King of Fast’ on the snow. Its variable assist gives more power at slow speeds, and takes into account speed and other variables as you move along the trail. This delivers truly consistent turning ability, no matter how fast or slow you are moving. Many folks have asked us – why would you need power steering on a snowmobile that already handles great? Well, you can always make things better! In reality, this system may add a small amount of weight to the sled, but it makes a large 4-stroke feel like you are on the lightest machine around. It’s truly unbelievable how well it works, and paired with the ATAC suspension and the 998cc turbo EFI triple cylinder motor, it may just be the best all-around trail sled in the industry that’s offered next season.
Cat makes your choices simple for MY22, as the Thundercat comes in only two options. The standard Thundercat ZR 9000 will get you the C-TEC4 9000 Turbo, a 15”x137”x1.25” Ripsaw II track, push button electric start, and ARS II with QS3 suspension, featuring a lowered ride height compared to other ZR models. This is also available as an in-season purchase, or as a pre-order.
The second ZR 9000 Thundercat EPS package includes all the standard options, plus the upgraded ARS II w/ ATAC suspension, and of course, electric power steering. Don’t try to wait to buy this gem, it’s only available as a pre-order until April 30th. This year, with the Arctic Cat Snomageddon pricing, you essentially get the ATAC and EPS for free versus the normal MSRP of the in-season model. Getting into one of these new Thundercats during their pre-season sale will cost thousands of dollars less than some of the comparable high-horsepower turbos from the other OEMS. It’s a deal that’s way too good to pass up!
NEW! ADAPT® CVT System
The big tech release from the engineers out of Thief River falls is the all-new ADAPT clutch. Gone are the days of the Team fast clutching; now all full-size sleds will come equipped with Cat’s newest and greatest package.
The new design is more lightweight overall. Looking at the sheaves, they are much smaller and narrower, which significantly reduces the rotating mass, giving a very snappy and responsive feeling across the board, to all models it is on.
With ADAPT® clutches also comes the ability for automatic belt tensioning – no need to shim anymore to get that perfect alignment. Plus, as your belt wears down, you can count on consistent performance throughout its lifespan, due to its automatic adjustments. This is accomplished by adding an idler bearing that maintains a set, constant tension.
The Riot’s return- In a good way this time!
Back again for their second season are the two 146 Riot crossover options. Choose again from the more trail behaved standard Riot, with the dual slide-rail rear suspension, or for a much more off-trail oriented ride, try the Riot X with the single beam Alpha rear suspension.
The standard Riot comes with both options of a C-TEC2 6000 or C-TEC2 8000 motor, ATAC or QS3 suspensions, and choices between the 146”x1.35” or a 146”x1.5” Cobra track. Both come standard with the matte grey and choices of two different accent colors. With the addition of ATAC, it really made this Riot a phenomenal machine on the trails, while keeping its ability to get through deep snow when the situation presents. We got some extended miles on this as well, as we had a demo unit at the end of the season. Lucky us!
The Riot X choices are simpler, with only the C-TEC 8000 motor and the 146”x2.6” Power claw as standard, with the option to choose from ATAC or QS3 suspension packages. You also have color choices of the red on grey, or a new bright orange and hyper green design that will guarantee you will be seen.
Formerly known as iAct, and now properly termed ATAC, this adjust-on-the-fly shock system is a great idea. But be sure you do not pronounce it “A-tac”, and correctly pronounce it as “Attack”. Otherwise, that Karen in your group will definitely call you out. The ATAC is now expanded in the lineup to not only the ZR trail sleds, but the Mountain Cat and Riot as well. The Fox zero shocks with piggyback reservoirs give you three factory configured options (Soft, Medium and Firm), and two custom, rider configurable, saved settings that can be changed with the flip of a toggle.
This suspension package really makes for precise handling in different conditions, delivered right on your handlebars, no tools needed!
Returning for ‘22 is the ultra-popular Blast lineup of sleds. Cat certainly underestimated the popularity of these ¾ sized snowmobiles. Evidence can be seen of them being sold out, and the extremely low availability of anything in even remotely good condition. Plus, there’s close to zero used machines in the secondary market, even now at the end of the season. The Blast was a massive hit of nitrous to the family-scene, just when it needed it!
All models in this category return again this season, with the addition of the new Blast XR and XR touring. You now have seven choices to choose from that are equipped with the 400cc single lung 2-stroke fuel injected motor. The Blast XR is based on the 2021 LT models with the 15” x 146” x 1.5” track, but with a sportier look, sans the large windshield and rear cargo rack.
Need room for one more? The XR Touring package comes with all the options as the standard XR, plus it is equipped with a rear 2-up seat to carry friends and family along for the ride. We have certainly gushed over these sleds in past editions, but why waste the opportunity to do it again now? If you want to get your kid into snowmobiling, and have a fun toy for yourself after they get to bed, this is a mandatory addition to your fleet. The lightweight chassis, paired with a narrow front end, make these machines just plain, old fashioned fun for all ages.
Dads all over the world will be happy that you can now add the option of a front bumper for hood protection during any unfortunate navigation mishaps into obstacles, or even when your son/daughter kisses the rear bumper of your sled. Note, the bumper is only available via the ‘ship-with’ options package, available on all spring buy Blast Models.
The ZR 120 and ZR 200 return again unchanged. Both models follow the rest of the full-size trail sled color scheme, with the matte grey plastic and accent colors. The ZR 120 comes only in the standard green, whereas the ZR 200 gives you three choices of accent colors, as well as electric start as standard on all models.
The ZR 200 is now returning for its fifth year, and Arctic Cat’s devotion to the youth sleds is certainly paying returns for them, as well as all other OEMs in the industry. Early buyers are now ready to get those kids on full-size sleds, and are doing so in huge numbers. Building brand loyalty at a young age allows for an easy transition to the 400cc Blast, and then the ZR trail machines for this new generation of riders to get out with their friends and family.
Trail and Mountain Performance
This year, you get three different platforms to choose from, in order to tame the trails. All sleds across the ZR lineup now come only in a 15” x 137” x 1.25” Ripsaw II track configuration, and with electric start as standard. Other options to choose from are limited to the 800 C-TEC2, or the 600 C-TEC2 motors and two different suspension packages.
The ZR RR race inspired trail model comes in a historically Cat, bold green color as the only option, and you can get either the 600cc or 800cc motors. With the ZR Limited, you can also have either motor choice with the ARS II w/QS3 package, or select the ZR 8000 Limited as the only model with ATAC. Finally, the aforementioned flagship ZR 9000 Thundercat rounds out as the third option for trail performance.
The mountain lineup this season is relatively unchanged, with all models coming standard with the Alpha One rear suspension. Choose from 154” or 165” models in the Mountain Cat Alpha One package, standard with ATAC suspension and manual pull starter. There is an option to add push button electric start as an addition to the pull cord though. In the Hardcore, you have the same 154” or 165” choices, but now also have the choice for a shorter 146” skid. All Hardcore models will come with the AMS/QS3 package, but have no availability to add the ATAC.
The entire mountain lineup will now have the ADAPT® clutching across the board, and like we said, the option to add the ATAC on either of the Mountain Cat Alpha One configurations.
The Norseman X is back again with its 15”x153”x2.25” Power Claw track and adjustable 35.5-41.5” ski stance. Again, relatively unchanged from the previous model year, this is the only serious deep-snow capable snowmobile in the Cat lineup, without the single beam Alpha One rear skid. The Norseman X is popular, not just for utility, but also for the flatlanders near the Great Lakes’ snowbelts, who need to traverse several feet of fresh snow in a familiar and easy-to-handle package, for both on and off trail use.
Test Rider Comments – Thundercat EPS
I will double down on any comments that were made by other test riders, and say that the Thundercat with the new electronic power steering is a breeze to ride. It is not your “Grandpa’s sled”! You can ride all day, and ride aggressively, but never get tired and always be in control. This was the best handling Cat trail sled I’ve been on in years. – Mark Boncher, Test Rider
BOX OUT in Mountain sled area
Use Mountain Sled photo
If you are an Arctic Cat fan and that’s where you feel at home then you’re in luck because it hasn’t changed a bit Since 2019. That being said not much needs to be done to the Alpha it holds a side hill like no other and still holds its own in the mountains.
- Jordan Hammack