By now everyone in the snowmobile world has already heard quite a bit about the new Catalyst. We’ve ridden and wrote about it extensively, but we can’t say enough about this chassis and it is hands down the best thing Cat has put out on the market in decades. It’s not only great on the trail, but also in the crossover and mountain markets. In the trails it corners extremely flat, predictably, and with less effort than any other Cat trail sled we’ve ever ridden. Much of that ease of turning and maneuvering comes from the centerline steering post with progressive steering. This system almost feels like power steering and paired with new performance trail spindles, and Trail 6 skis with 4-post staggered dual carbides this sled really rips through any trail corner chatter.
That was the goal of Arctic Cat engineers, to make a sled that was on par or better than… dare I say it… a Polaris or Ski-Doo in each of the market segments. We can honestly say that Cat’s new chassis is everything the years, and years, and taunting, and pre-releasing, and closed door meetings said
A Deeper Look…
The powertrain is the 599CC C-Tec2 laydown engine with dual stage injection (DSI) and it has been one of the most dependable quietest, and smoothest 600’s on the market for several years. How many times have you heard of a C-Tec 600 burning down early, or having major issues prematurely? I know multiple people with 8,000+ miles (not kilometers) on these motors and they have been bullet-proof. This is an aspect rarely talked about in bar-stool racing, because the 600 class just doesn’t seem to be sexy to anyone anymore.
The battery-less EFI motor is lightweight, and the laydown orientation allows it to sit low in the engine bay, making the center of mass more applicable with the heaviest portion of the sled lower the snow. There’s an electric oil pump, electronic APV exhaust valves, and pipe temp sensor. Plus a new crankshaft, flywheel, fuel mapping, and exhaust servo. The ADAPT clutch system transfers power seamlessly, and these sleds have a fiber composite Torque Control Link with the clutch guard incorporated into it. The TCL has been around for a while, but it’s not really discussed much anymore on the Cat sleds and is a true innovation that originated from long time Arctic engineers. When this motor first came out it had a different oil tank with just a sight glass on it, but that has been changed to a clear tank to easily judge oil fill for us old guys. Cat says this refreshed C-Tec2 makes 125 hp and we would agree it has all of that if not more from the many rides we’ve had on it. You might not quite hit triple digits if you are carrying too much around that mid-section, but you’ll be darn close!
The Cat rear slide-action suspension has also been around for a while, but the 129-inch version in this sled allows for a .5-inch sliding movement of the front arm which not only makes it feel free, and playful, but helps the front of suspension from bottoming out when the rear of the suspension totally collapses. Power to the snow is more constant with consistent track tension and you’ve got block adjustment and spring pre-load tension adjustment as well as 3-wheels in the axle in back.
Up front you’ve got the AWS 42 (Arctic Wish Suspension) which sits more under the pilot and gives quick response and feel through the bars. Stance is an adjustable 41.25-42.25 inch which is nice even for trail riders as some people feel more comfortable with a slightly narrowed up stance and some people like to be super-planted with as wide a stance as possible. This ZR 600 is available with either the standard Cat IFP 1.5 shocks up front, center, and 2.0 in the rear… OR the new ATAC adjust-on-the fly system with 3-settings you can change in a millisecond utilizing Fox 1.5 Zero IQS shocks up front, center and 2.0 in the rear. We would pick the ATAC system every, single, time… and I know what you are going to say, “well it’s the newest system Cat has”, but we don’t always choose the newest and flashiest. Arctic Cat was the first sled maker in the industry to use this type of system and has had longer to get it dialed in perfectly and it performs great. We still would like to see the center shock incorporated into the ATAC but hoping that will come soon.
If there’s one drawback of this sled it is the gauge. Even the ‘Deluxe Digital’ gauge on the ATAC version is less desirable than anything from Polaris or Ski-Doo… and the Sport gauge even smaller and more minimalistic. My personal feeling is that as long as all my necessary info is there, then I’m not too concerned, but all the additional options with the touchscreens and software from the other two main OEMs is impressive and is certainly a selling point for a lot of buyers. Over-all though we are incredibly happy with the new Catalyst and believe Cat totally dropped some awesomeness on the industry with this new platform.