Arctic Cat has been very busy the last three model years and the activity around Thief River Falls has been feverish on several fronts. First, the refining of the F-platform has been priority-one and the engineers and designers have been working hard to improve handling and increase the F’s appeal.
Although F-Cats originally came out of the box with an incredible list of amenities like adjustable seat, handlebars, windshield and an impressive digital gauge package, their best feature was and continues to be the incredibly good ride delivered by Cat’s sliding arm skidframe.
This suspension overachieves in ride compliance no matter what level of shock you add into the mix. It doesn’t matter if you’re riding on low cost twin tube steel dampers or the most sophisticated reservoir gassers, its sliding arm design absorbs bumps with amazing consistency.
The trick was getting the sled to handle with the characteristic precision consumers had been expecting. Two years ago, the team flattened out the angle of the tunnel versus the engine cradle about two and a half degrees and it made the steering spindles a bit more upright so the sled carved corners more precisely.
The difference was night and day and suddenly the F was a contender again. Last year, the skidframe’s rear arm mount was moved 1.7 inches higher in the tunnel and about a quarter of an inch rearward to improve the sled’s ability to pivot in corners.
These subtle tweaks have netted big improvements and we’ve found the combination of excellent ergonomics and evolving power combinations makes these sleds the equal of just about anything on the market.
The magic about the F-platform is its adaptability. Originally designed to house a 4-stroke twin generating about 123 horses, the engine now carries a full selection of 2-stroke twins from 85 horsepower to 162. It’s also home to a turbocharged 175-plus stallion version of the Z1 4-stroke and is available in both short (128) and long (144) tracked models.
For MY 2011, it’s featured with choices of 2-stroke or 4-stroke power in either track length.