If you love charging across rough terrain with all the precision and smoothness of a guided missile, Arctic Cat has a model for you. There aren’t many models in the 2023 ‘Cat lineup, but what they offer is definitely worth trying. We recently had seat time in the Wildcat XX, the only performance Side x Side ‘Cat offers. Our thought during the test ride: We sure wish there were more of these!
SMALL BUT MIGHTY LINEUP
Sales of all categories of Side x Sides have increased geometrically for more than a decade. Unfortunately for Arctic Cat dealers, fans, and the company itself, they’ve been on the sidelines for approximately half that time, with a lineup that was severely whittled down after the Textron takeover. There’s no other way to put it than to say it was an opportunity missed. What makes it especially bitter is that they had some very good models such the Wildcat Trail 700 and Prowler HDX 700 which both won awards for being the best in their class. Today the Arctic Cat performance Side x Side lineup consists of just one model, with four different versions. Thankfully it’s a very good one.
THE WILDCAT XX
At its core the Wildcat XX is a racecar. It’s the perfect balance between power, handling, and suspension, all wrapped in a package that is supremely capable. Details of the Wildcat XX are:
- High Strength Steel chassis built for performance. The chassis is strong but also light, and it bolts together in three sections, front, middle, and rear.
- The roll cage is built like an aftermarket cage from the factory. High strength, Low Alloy steel and extra stiffening bars increase strength and safety.
- It’s extremely stable. The XX has excellent ground clearance but also a low center of gravity.
- Engine is isolated from the chassis by a rubber mounting system. It does not contact the lower frame rails. This helps protect it from bottom impacts.
- Full-sized skid plates protect the entire underside.
- All chassis components bolted into double-shear brackets.
- Rear suspension arms have stiffening ribs formed in. Increases strength and reduces flex.
- Front wheel uprights are built like a desert racer. Forged Aluminum front knuckles increase durability and allows unlimited suspension travel.
- You can see out the rear! The bed can also easily be removed for quick engine access.
BUILT FOR SPEED
All Wildcat XX models feature a high-strength steel tube chassis. We really like how ‘Cat went the extra mile with the little details like using double shear brackets for extra durability, and full-length skid plates. The suspension also features a unique front steering knuckle forged from aluminum. What makes it unique is that it does not use a ball joint but instead uses heim joints for steering, but that gives it unlimited, bind-free travel. It’s a concept we’ve only seen on high-end desert racers. Also unique are tie-rods ahead of the front suspension arms. This allows a beefier tie rod for extra strength. At the rear is a trailing arm design, and again, it’s built tough! Anytime a crease or bend is put into steel it stiffens that area. Arctic Cat stamped ribs into the entire trailing arm assembly to take out any flex and it works very well. The chassis is also modular with three different sections that bolt together. Long travel suspension is used at both ends, and it floats across whoops while holding its line perfectly.
Overall, Wildcat XX styling presents a very aggressive, sporty look inside and out and everything fits well. The seats are down in the chassis to help keep the center of gravity low, but sight lines over the hood are good. All the switches and controls are exactly where they need to be, and we like the digital display ahead of the wheel. Speaking of the steering wheel, it’s a flat bottom design which is a nod to its race car lineage. Very cool!
All Wildcat XX models share a 998cc, 3-cylinder EFI fed engine cranking out 130hp and it does not feature a turbo but we don’t miss it. The engine is unique in that it features both a stator and a small alternator to power up to 8 pre-wired accessories. We like how ‘Cat installed their Adapt CVT clutch on this engine. The new clutches are lighter and provide constant belt tension across the RPM range for less wear, instant throttle response, and longer belt life. Arctic Cat knows CVT systems! The engine makes power from immediately off idle to approximately 7600 rpms with a top speed of about 75mph. It’s quick enough!
TRAIL TEST TIME
There isn’t anything overly fancy about the interior of the Wildcat. Upon entering or exiting you’ll need to lift your foot over a triangulation brace near the door front, but that’s part of making a very durable chassis. Styling can best be described as functional. It is what it needs to be.
The Wildcat XX is the perfect example of all parts working together as a complete package. It’s VERY, VERY predictable, stable, and confidence inspiring. You can push the throttle to the floor and charge across whoops at any speed. We’ve never driven anything that floats like this! There may be faster Side x Sides on the market, but going fast is more than just about horsepower, and horsepower is useless without handling. The Wildcat suspension is supreme!
The engine on the Wildcat XX runs smooth and responds to throttle input quickly. Cat’s ADAPT CVT clutch technology delivers a strong response but also shifts seamlessly when backing off the throttle, then getting back onto it. We also like the quick steering ratio which helps you drive aggressively, and that is exactly how this vehicle likes to be driven. Again, it’s built every bit like a desert racer and that’s what it performs like. Point it where you want to go, and prepare to fly over trail whoops like never before. Even when crossing deep water, we found no excessive flooding of the floorboards. When leaving the pond, the floor drained quickly. We can’t say enough about the ride though! All four Wildcat XX models are winners!
WILDCAT XX MODELS – THE FOUR HORSEMEN
- WILDCAT XX. The base model Wildcat XX. Steel chassis riding on 30” Behemoth tires, 15” ground clearance, 18” wheel travel front and rear, 3 position Fox 2.5 Podium QS3 shocks with Bottom-Out Control. 998cc EFI engine, Cat ADAPT CVT clutch with dual air ducts for longer belt life, and new transaxle for extra strength, and shift on the fly 4WD with locking front differential. Color is Fossil. MSRP: $23,199
- WILDCAT XX LTD. The base model specs plus upgrades with front and rear steel tube bumpers, and color matched cage and suspension. Color is Black / Green. MSRP: $24,199
- WILDCAT XX SE. SE trim package includes upgrades to front and rear steel tube bumpers, rock sliders for side protection, and color matched suspension and cage. Color is Phantom Grey. MSRP: $24,999
- WILDCAT XX BLACK HILLS EDITION. The top-of-the-line Wildcat with 32-inch Kenda Klevers tires, 15” ground clearance, 18” wheel travel front and rear, 3 position Fox 2.5 Podium QS3 shocks with Bottom-Out Control. All-new CVT clutch cover and cooling system for cooler belt and better water seal. All-new lower gear ratio transaxle to help low speed climbing. Includes Garmin Tread Off Road GPS, front and rear steel tube bumpers, rock sliders for side protection, winch, and color matched suspension and cage. Color is White. MSRP: $27,999
Arctic Cat’s new management team doesn’t just work from the office. They were on the trail with us, and anytime you can get an active, enthusiastic management team that knows the product you’re headed in the right direction. We were extremely happy to learn this team is made up of lifelong riders. After hearing their plans to reinvigorate the Arctic Cat brand we’re stoked about ‘Cat’s future. A platoon of new engineers has been hired, they’ve been given a mission and the tools to make it happen, and we can’t wait to see what they come up with. After all, they’ve got some excellent existing and not-too-distant past models in the ‘Cat lineage to work from, and that might be all they need. The Wildcat XX is an excellent start. It just needs some new members to round out the family.