Review: 2008 Arctic Cat F6 LXR
Cat equips the F6 with one of its most-proven motors, the Suzuki-built 599cc liquid-cooled twin
|If you’re a diehard Firecat owner expecting the next evolution of Cats to be more of the same, get over yourselves already! Fast, light but plagued with problems in their first years, Firecats now belong to the ages with the likes of the first Yamaha SRXs and Mercury Snow Twisters. They are now instant classics—and out-of-date in our current emissions-conscious world of snowmobiling.
The popular 600cc and 700cc, two-stroke-powered Firecats have been replaced by a new generation with broader appeal to more riders via much friendlier ergonomics and unbelievable adjustability. Now simply referred to as the F-Series, the 2008 sports models from Arctic Cat are totally different from their predecessors in many ways. Most obvious is styling. With rider-forward seating and a lowered, shortened nosepiece, Cat fans won’t mistake an F-Series for a Firecat.
Broad Range of Riders
Designed to suit a broad range of riders, an F6 can be configured to sit former Firecat owners low and aggressive or place a new-to-Cat owner in a saddle position that will let him cover hundreds of miles in a day with minimal fatigue. Yes, there are trade-offs. Consider Arctic Cat’s problem. The Firecat was limited to one type of rider who perceived himself as an aggressive, go-fast trail racer. The F-Series, especially the 800cc and one-liter models, are honking sleds with strong acceleration and above average top speed. In independent testing, a 2007 F1000 SnoPro version covered the quarter-mile in 11.7 seconds with a top speed of more than 105 miles per hour! That’s quicker through the quarter than a 500-horsepower, super-charged 2007 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 which Car&Driver magazine reported taking 12.9 seconds!
While there are variety of performance Cats from which to choose, we’re going with the most popular power category, the 120-horsepower class. There are more sleds sold in this power range than any other. Arctic Cat offers a choice of models with its proven 600cc powerplant. We’d opt for the most livable F6 LXR version. This is the “loaded” model and our reasoning here is that it would best suit the broadest range of riders. Well, not only suit them, but keep them happiest the longest.
The other options are the SnoPro version with stiffer Fox Float shocks and a baseline model. Although the LXR comes with more softly sprung shocks than the SnoPro, they are a gas-shock with an internal floating piston for consistent ride performance. Only the most aggressive riders will know the difference in performance.
Twin Spar Design
Common to all F-Series Cats is the new-last-season Twin Spar chassis. Arctic Cat calls it, “The most ergonomically correct, best handling chassis that Arctic Cat has designed, leaving you a snowmobile that can be ridden for countless hours with minimal fatigue.”
Well, that might be a bit of hyperbole. Nonetheless, we have found the newest “F” Cat to be incredibly rider-friendly, whether we were merely cruising or torching the throttle to full-on flame. One of the reasons we opt for the LXR has much to do with the fact that due to the Twin Spare chassis setup, the F-Series can be pushed hard for an aggressive high speed run during which sled feedback is always consistent. Steering agility is exceptionally good with the seventh generation Arctic Cat Wishbone front end. The LXR gives you plush features but it’s still a Cat that will scratch and claw in the turns.
Are there competing models that will outhandle the F6 LXR? Of course! Ski-Doo’s new lightweight REV XP chassis models come to mind, but they are among the lightest 120-horsepower sleds to ever hit the snow and their performance reflects it. Still, we would take Cat’s LXR over ‘Doo’s GSX touring sled, which is quite nice but a bit too cruiser and not enough sports for our tastes!
For day-to-day, aggressive, high-mile sports touring, the F6 LXR is a champ. Much of that goes directly to the new chassis design. Compared to the Firecat chassis, the F6 underpinning is 46 percent more rigid. With less flex in the chassis, the suspension systems can be more precisely calibrated front to rear. Rigidity is good. Flex not good.
Arctic Cat engineering accomplished some of the stiffening through the use of self-piercing rivets now used instead of aluminum welds. With robotic manufacturing comes repeatable and more consistent manufacturing resulting in overall upgrades in durability and quality.
As the central focus of Arctic Cat’s sled development the Twin Spar design means that the engines—both 2strokes and the new 4stroke motor—can be laid back and lowered to maximize handling and the sled’s center of gravity. Centralizing mass is the new buzz in sled design. The whole idea is to bring the heaviest components of a rider/sled combination together to create a balanced center point. The concept first showed up in 1984 with Yamaha’s original fan-cooled Phazer.
The intent of “rider-forward” as practiced today makes the rider more upright on the seat, moves his butt up and closer to the center of the sled. By integrating the rider’s legs more into the riding position action, the rider becomes an “active” component of the overall suspension and ride. With the rider in a “ready” position, he can quickly pivot to a standing position over rough terrain, pull forward on the handlebar to “post” in a semi-seating position for smaller bumps or sit upright for groomed trail riding. Regardless of which manufacturer’s ride-forward design you choose, the end result is less fatigue and less opportunity to take a particularly brutal slap up your back from an unexpected dirty mogul!
Arctic Cat’s ride-forward design places the rider with up to a 90-degree knee bend. Add in wide footboards, three-position adjustable footrests and Cat’s innovative Infinite Rider Positioning (IRP) system and you have a particularly versatile snowmobile for speed running or controlled cruising.
Arctic Cat won’t say it, but we will. This whole IRP thing essentially means that Cat has created a sled that is essentially “one sled fits all snowmobilers.” It’s quite incredible how well this concept works.
With the flip of a cam lever on the handlebar, you can set one of 11 settings fore and aft—just over 3-inches forward with just over 2-inches vertical movement from low to high. The handlebar can be rotated within an 85-degree range.
We already mentioned the 3-position adjustable footrests. And, then, there’s the 7-position adjustable seat with forward and upward settings for this sled. This truly is an accomplishment as we have seen guys greater than 6-feet tall sit the new F-Series as comfortably as diminutive women a foot shorter.
Although Arctic Cat claims the process of “…unlock, reposition and lock…” can be accomplished with one hand, we wouldn’t want to be trying it one-handed while holding a Starbucks latte in the other hand. On some models we’ve tested, the seat moved willingly, but on others the seat was as willing as a beaten mule to tow a wagon over the Rockies! Our suggestion to Cat riders - put the coffee down and use both hands. Our suggestion to Arctic Cat engineering and manufacturing - check into quality control because there is inconsistency with this feature.
Regardless, no other snowmobile has the all around ability to fit more riders with one design than Arctic Cat’s IRP-equipped models.
While IRP is their signature “what-separates-Cat-from-the-competition” feature, there are other notable items to make dealer showrooms a “must see” attraction.
Seventh Generation AWS — While its competitors played with trailing arms and telescopic struts, Arctic Cat made a commitment to double A-arm front suspension design on it's snowmobiles right from its rebirth in the 1980s. Now in its seventh iteration, Arctic Cat’s wishbone design is more efficient and functional than ever. Along with the revised geometry of the AWS VII comes a marvel in steering. Cat sled engineers designed steering to be not just easy but responsive with a progressive ratio that features a solid roller bearing mounted steering post. You have to ride the F-Series to believe how tight these sleds can turn. There’s also a redesigned swaybar to reduce side-to-side roll.
As Arctic Cat was the first snowmobile manufacturer to introduce slide rail suspensions, it seems only natural that evolution should come out of their Thief River Falls, MN, hometown. F-Series models like the LXR benefit from the snocross-based Slide Action rear suspension design that transitions front suspension arm action more smoothly to the suspension’s rear arm. You will notice improved transfer when accelerating from a standstill and more importantly, a reduction in ski lift and “push” when attacking corners.
Although Cat may have been a bit reluctant in the past to “couple” the action of its rear suspension, the new design is a leader in this area. Since the “slide action” shifts rearward more smoothly, the coupling can take place before the front arm totally collapses and effectively provide an anti-squat feeling under hard acceleration on the snow.
It may be the smoothness and overall effectiveness of the Cat slide action rear suspension that leaves test riders thinking that the competition with its traditional coupling setups and harsh action is reacting better on the trail. When you ride a competitor sled as hard as the F-Series Cat, you work harder and come away feeling as though you must have been riding harder. Aboard the Cat, you will not have lost ground to the competition, but because you didn’t have to work as hard… well, you couldn’t have been as fast! Could you?
When it comes to maintaining the status quo, Arctic Cat equips the F6 with one of its most proven motors, the Suzuki-built 599cc liquid-cooled twin which comes complete with battery less electronic fuel injection and power valve exhaust. The 120-ish horsepower motor drives a planetary ACT Direct Drive gearbox, which enters its sixth season at Cat. The bottom line here is that the F6 powertrain is efficient and smooth. Is the Cat F6 the fastest of the “120” class model snowmobiles? Probably not overall. But if not, it should still be more than competitive with your buddies on the other brands.
In Our Opinion
Arctic Cat has done quite a job in creating a line of solid performers in its 2008 F-Series models. For all-around, every day riding, we’d opt for the LXR version. If speed is your thing, go for the SnoPro and opt for the lighter, 14-inch wide track option. We’ll stay with power plush.