2018 TEXTRON WILDCAT XX FIRST RIDE

TEXTRONS NEW WILDCAT XX HAS RIDERS ASKING. THE ANSWER IS; YES, THAT GOOD!
Written By: 
John Arens

Textrons newest thrill machine, the Wildcat XX below one of the other machines they make, the Bell Ranger chopper above.


Desert racing legends Robby Gordon and Todd Romano explained it best.  “It’s not about a horsepower war, it’s all about suspension and handling when you want to go fast.”  They ought to know, and it tells you everything about what they designed Textron’s new Wildcat XX to do, namely cross the toughest terrain on the planet quicker than anything else.  “I could win King of The Hammers race in this” Gordon said.  After watching him drive the XX and getting seat time in it ourselves we believe him.  It’s that good!


DREAM DESIGN – MEET THE TEAM

Give a couple championship winning racers a crate of parts and a free hand to design their dream chassis and what comes back is going to be all about performance.  That’s exactly how the Wildcat XX project began, and after a close look at the original prototype, the production model XX is amazingly similar.  Any way you look at it, the Wildcat XX oozes knowledge that comes straight from the track.  Even before turning the key it’s easy to tell this car is something special.

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Our initial impression of the Wildcat XX is that it looks like a class 10 desert racer, those impossibly long-legged, sometimes gangly looking, custom built racecars that prowl the deserts at mind numbing speeds.  The difference is, Textron’s Wildcat XX has the same chassis performance and handling as the racers, but in a stylish, factory finished package, and it doesn’t cost as much as a house.  Key points are:


  • The Wildcat XX cockpit is racecar all the way.  The dash isn’t as sculpted as the Can-Am Maverick or as refined as the Yamaha YXZ 1000R, and you could make the case it is slightly boxy when compared to the two, but it is supremely well designed.  It’s got exactly what you need, where you need it, from the switches to the gear shift lever.  In the center of the dash is a large, removable panel that begs for a GPS.  

  • Headroom is excellent, as is the foot room.

  • The rear bed is extended.  This allows the spare tire to lie flat, leaving the rear view unobstructed.

  • Great electronics and battery location between the seats!  The XX is also prewired for accessories, and the dash has knockouts for switches.  

  • LOVE the flat bottom steering wheel which creates extra room for your legs.  This feature is straight from racing as well.  The wheel also does not flex like some others.

  • The seats feel stiff at first, but they provide very good support, and side bolsters help keep you in place when driven aggressively as this car begs.

  • Extra stiffening bars in the roll cage definitely increase the strength and safety.  It’s built like an aftermarket racing cage right from the factory

  • Passenger hand holds on the door and center console do not flex or rattle like the T-bars on other models.  MUCH better design!

  • A HUGE glove box provides excellent on-board storage

  • The doors feel very sturdy thanks to their internal structure.  They always close well and don’t rattle around on the trail.  Dual latches, one on top and one inside, make opening easy.  

  • Bodywork is very durable, with good splash protection

 

CHASSIS and ENGINE

Gordon and his team spent a huge amount of time perfecting the chassis on the Wildcat XX.  This is where the real magic is to be found.  Handling and durability are everything to a racer, and you can bet they built this car to their standards.  Chassis details include:


  • Built from High Strength Low Alloy steels, allowing for a strong chassis and supreme durability

  • VERY COOL front suspension upright is unlike any traditional steering knuckle.  Another RG creation.  

  • More than 18 inches of front and rear travel, and it works!  14 inches of ground clearance.

  • Leading tie rods for extra strength.  Imagine clipping a rock with the front wheel, which always causes the wheel to want to turn out.  A leading tie rod will not bend, as forces attempt to stretch a leading tie rod, while a traditional tie rod would be much easier to fold as it was compressed.  

  • Chassis features a modular frame, with front, rear, and middle sections bolting together.  This feature allows for damaged areas to be replaced.

  • Full length skid plates provide excellent underbody protection

  • EVERY component is bolted on with a double shear bracket, creating a MUCH stronger design.  Again, GREAT features and details from a desert racer.

  • Rear suspension arms have stiffening ribs formed into upper and lower main members.  That means less flex!  

  • Large diameter FOX 2.5 Podium QS3 Shocks with Bottom-Out Control system.  Finally somebody made a car where the upper coils work rather than just rattle around.

  • 15-inch KMC aluminum wheels with 30-inch CST Behemoth Tires are the largest stock tires in its class

Check out the front steering upright on the Wildcat XX.  This type of upright offers unlimited suspension travel and was only previously used once on a production ATV, the limited production Cobra ECX youth racer.

Textron developed a new, 998cc, naturally aspirated, 3-cylinder EFI engine with 125 horsepower for the Wildcat XX.  Thanks to their manufacturing alliance between Arctic Cat and Yamaha snowmobiles, the engine is similar to Yamahas YXZ 1000R powerplant but don’t count on any common parts.  The engine also is unique in that it features a small alternator to power accessories, which is unlike every other Side x Side.  It does not have a turbocharger but it doesn’t need one.   Key engine features are:


  • Unique hanging motor.  Again, much like a class 1 desert racer, the engine hangs from large, vibration dampening rubber mounts at the top of the rear chassis rails.  The advantage is, when something hits the frame bottom, (which is guaranteed at some point) it makes no difference.  The impact force is not transmitted to the engine or drivetrain.  GREAT FEATURE!

  • CVT has fan fins cast into all pulleys.  The result is excellent airflow.  Another great idea and we love how they get one part to do multiple jobs.  That’s a sign of excellent, creative engineering.  Gordon claims this feature helped them achieve no belt issues in testing.

  • A dry sump oil tank helps with oil cooling.  We never did find the oil filter though.  

  • The air filter is just under the bodywork at the top of the engine.  Easy service location!

  • Rear bed is quickly removed without tools for excellent engine access

  • Easy access front cover with radiator and fluid reservoirs beneath.

 

BEHIND the WHEEL

We couldn’t wait to try a machine with the unique features the Wildcat XX brings to the table.  Climbing into the Wildcat XX is easy enough, but the door opening is ever so slightly restricted when compared to other high-performance Side x Sides.  However, it may be the hardest to get in, but it’s the last you’ll want to get out of.  Once inside and strapped down the real fun begins.  Here’s how the Wildcat XX performs on the trail:


  • Like the sound!  The triple cylinder engine cranks for about 3 seconds, then fires every time.  

  • Very easy shifting.  Good feel when it drops into gear.

  • The engine makes it’s power much lower in the RPM range than the triple cylinder Yamaha which revs like a dental drill.  The Wildcat XX doesn’t begin to approach the Yamaha’s upper rev limit, but it doesn’t need to.  It makes power from immediately off idle to approximately 7600 rpms.

  • Top speed is about 75mph.  The Can-Am Maverick RS will pass it on flat ground.  Nothing will pass it in the whoops.  

  • The XX carries its weight low in chassis.  The result is very good stability.   You can rail corners at high speeds with no fear.

  • The steering ratio is very good.  You rarely have to take your hand off the wheel.  Love the quicker steering that allows.  Some felt the EPS input was a little too much and reduced trail feel.  They wanted more feedback through the wheel.  

  • Chassis feels very solid and not flexy underneath.  That means very precise handling.

  • Floats like a desert car.  Body stays stable, suspension dances underneath.  Animal analogy would be a cheetah.  The head stays on target, the suspension moves below.

  • CVT responds well with no back-shifting lag when getting off, then back on the throttle.  It’s very easy to go quick on the XX.  Clearly shows Textron / Arctic Cat’s mastery of CVT systems from their sled heritage.  

  • No need for turbo.  It’s not about horsepower, it’s about handling.


Stiffening ribs in the upper and lower trailing arm frame members greatly increase strength

SUSPENSION – THE BIG STORY

Suspension and handling on the Wildcat XX is phenomenal.  Its handles exactly as Gordon and Romano said it would, and when they climbed inside to really show us what it was capable of the results were stunning.   The suspension and handling clearly shows not only their driving skills, but the design and fabrication crews abilities as well.  They drove the Wildcat XX absolutely without fear and with supreme confidence.  Then again, so did we, albeit a good bit slower than they.


The right side of the engine has a small alternator beneath this cover


On the trail the Wildcat XX is VERY, VERY predictable and confidence inspiring.  More so than any performance Side x Side we’ve ever driven.  Textron’s solution to going through waist deep whoops is simple enough; just get on top and drive over them AT ANY SPEED!  All you need to do is point it where you want to go.  The Wildcat XX jumps on top and floats like a magic carpet.  It also holds its line and stays on the straight and narrow like a born again preacher, with not a hint of swapping.  The result is a machine that will float past anything else in the whoops, including the higher horsepower turbo cars.           

We LOVE how a full size tire fits in this bed.  You now can see behind!
THE MAN AND HIS MACHINE.   This is the very first Wildcat XX and it was raced at King of The Hammers.  It’s not much different than the production units.  Behind is the creator, racing legend Robby Gordon.


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Gordon and Romano really came up with something special when they rolled the Wildcat XX out their shop door and into the sand, and just as they said, it is all about suspension and handling, and not about a horsepower war.  No doubt aftermarket companies will immediately look for more, but as Romano said, “If you need more power, just come drive my trophy truck.”  Fair enough, but for now we’re completely thrilled with the new Textron Wildcat XX.  


Check out the front steering upright on the Wildcat XX.  This type of upright offers unlimited suspension travel and was only previously used once on a production ATV, the limited production Cobra ECX youth racer.


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