Want to learn a little trivia?
Little-known fact number one: 2006 will mark Arctic Cat's 10th anniversary of building ATVs. Little-known fact number two: Every model in Arctic Cat's '06 lineup was new within the last two years; in other words, AC's revamped its entire product line in the past two years.
That's impressive, especially when you consider that there are 13 basic models in the '06 line-most available in at least two versions, not to mention two or three color choices. That results in at least 51 different possibilities for the consumer, if we counted right. With something for just about everyone, from 50s for kids to 400cc sport models for weekend racers to 650cc side-by-side utility vehicles for adults, there are almost no holes in the AC line.
We spent an all-too-brief day getting to know as many of these models as we could during a recent press introduction held at the Bass Pro Shop's extensive Dogwood Canyon Nature Park south of Branson, Missouri. Now, you have to remember that this is not your usual riding area. In fact, it's off-limits except to those who are there to hike, fish or ride bicycles or horses. But it's a beautiful, unique venue, and its management allowed the Minnesota manufacturer access to some of the seldom-used hiking trails.
An airline mix-up left us in misery, contemplating a day of simply watching since our gear bags never left LAX airport. Fortunately, Moose and Sidi bailed us out with a next-day shipment of gear, meaning we lost only half a day of riding, some of which was taken by a brief tour of Dogwood. But even a full day of riding wouldn't have been enough time to thoroughly evaluate every Cat, so we'll have to leave that to future issues when we get the machines for our very own thrash-fests.
In the meantime, however, we'll whet your appetite with reports on some of the new Cats in-country.
Built for riders age six and older, the 50 and 90cc Arctic Cats come with single-speed four-stroke engines that feature electric starting, front and rear suspension and your choice of two body styles: either a utility version or the DVX sport style. In addition, both are available in lime green or red bodywork. The 50s are limited to 10 mph while the 90s have a 15-mph top-end, so neither carries robust adult-sized bodies very quickly up hills (and we do report this from personal experience), but for their intended riders, either should prove to be very entertaining.
We didn't ride either of the 250cc 2WD models, but judging by the response of other journalists, it sounds as if we missed out on a couple of fun little quads. As with the 50s and 90s, the 250s are available in a utility type complete with front and rear racks or with the DVX sporty bodywork. The DVX 250, however, goes further than the smaller Cats with its aluminum wheels, adjustable shocks and three color combinations instead of the ute's two. Both have automatic transmissions with reverse.
400s And 500s
Next up the ladder are the 400 and 500cc 4x4 models; in most cases, a 400 will have a matching 500cc model that differs only in the size of the engine, with the 400 offered primarily as a lower-priced option. Although the 400 4x4 VP is 4WD-only, all the other 400s and 500s feature rider-selectable two- or four-wheel-drive, some with a front diff-lock. In addition, you have your choice of the fully automatic CVT or five-speed semiautomatic transmissions with high and low ranges. All but the 400 VP models feature AC's Fully Independent Suspension (FIS) with double A-arms front and rear; an optional sway bar is now available for flatter cornering at the expense of maximum articulation through the 10 inches of wheel travel. All now come with 2-inch automotive-style receiver hitches and AC's novel slim-line low-mounted SpeedRack system. New for the 500s are larger-diameter stainless steel headpipes for improved power and durability.