First Ride – Wildcat Roundup

First Ride – Wildcat Roundup a rush!  Only inches from the edge of the trail and just off my shoulder, the desert scrub was flying by as it never had before.  An endless whoop section slid under the nose of my Arctic Cat Wildcat X and ran to the horizon, or at least to the base of the parched El Paso Mountains on the opposite side of the valley.  The Wildcat effortlessly skipped across the top of knee-deep whoops like a Leopard running down its prey on the Serengeti Plain, head down and charging forward.  The adrenaline charged race across the whoops was unlike any I had known before and as I rolled to a stop at the other side of the valley, I thought to myself, “I get it.  This is what the big Cat was meant for.  This is where it is the top predator.  I want to do that again!”

Expanding Pride

A little over a year ago, Arctic Cat introduced the high-performance Wildcat 1000i.  The staff must have left the desert intro and went right back to the office, however, and now the Cat pride has expanded to four Wildcat models, including a four-seater.  While they were at it, Cat also upped the performance ante with an all-new

Arctic Cat engineers wanted to increase the performance of both the existing Wildcat and for any new models.  The first place they went to work was on the engine.  Officially called the 1000 H2 V-Twin 4-Stroke engine, the engine cases look quite similar to previous engines on the outside, but many of the internal components have changed.  Over 2lbs. of rotating mass was eliminated by designing a new crank, and that translates to faster revs.  New cylinders and heads were designed as well with what Cat calls “Pentroof Hemispherical Combustion Chambers.”  The unique head design is said to provide higher performance with an efficient power delivery.  Arctic Cat claims peak horsepower is 90+ and we believe them!  

A huge part of performance and feel is transmitted through the clutch, and Arctic Cat partnered with their friends at TEAM for the new Wildcats.  TEAM has long been a leader in high-performance snowmobile clutching, and the new Wildcats are equipped with what TEAM calls a 

Rapid Response™ drive clutch.  It’s a state-of-the art, high performance system that provides a quicker response from throttle input, excellent back shifting, and improved acceleration even when getting on and off the throttle.  

All models share similar chassis design features including the racy, hi-strength exoskeleton tube frame, a true five link rear suspension with maintenance free pivot bushings, electronic power steering, 13 inches of ground clearance, and huge suspension numbers.  No other Side x Side comes close to matching the Wildcat’s 17” of front wheel travel, and 18” of rear wheel travel.2013.arctic-cat.wildcat1000.close-up.engine.JPG

Body styling is very similar on all models, and they all come with Cat’s aluminum doors to keep you safely inside, deep bucket seats, three point belts, and a center mounted shift lever for Hi, Low, Reverse, and Park.  On the dash is a combination digital/analog gauge that displays critical engine management information along with a speedometer, tachometer, clock, hour meter, fuel level, odometer/trip meter, and gear position.  We liked how easy it was to flip through different gauge functions, but on the trail we never messed with it, mostly because the scenery was going past in a hurry!  Tilt steering is standard on all models, and at the rear is a small cargo deck for hauling any gear, a cooler, etc.  The four Wildcat models are:

Wildcat-X Sport 

The Wildcat-X is the raciest Wildcat with the features to conquer the roughest terrain.  Included in the X-package are a 90 horsepower engine, TEAM clutches, and FOX Podium Piggyback Reservoir shocks with Compression, Preload Adjustment and Dual Rate Springs.  A new swaybar, front and rear painted bumpers for extra protection, color matched seats, automotive paint with custom graphics, and 27” MAXXIS Bighorn tires complete the package.  Colors:  Team Arctic Green, Vibrant Red  2013.arctic-cat.wildcat1000.close-up.crank-assembly.JPG

MSRP $18,499 USD


Wildcat 1000 Sport

The Wildcat 1000 might be considered the base model of the Wildcat family, but don’t let that fool you.  We really like the 1000 sport, and it’s got the suspension to handle anything thanks to new FOX Podium piggyback shocks with compression and rebound adjustment, and a swaybar for better cornering.  Inside the motor are new TEAM clutches for faster response.  Duro Kaden Tires & Aluminum Wheels.  Colors: Green Metallic, Orange Metallic, Black Metallic 

MSRP $16,999 USD

Wildcat 1000 Limited Sport

The Limited package gets you the same performance enhancing features such as the TEAM clutches, FOX Podium Piggyback reservoir shocks with 23-position compression adjustment shocks, and a swaybar as found on the standard Wildcat 1000, but you also get brushed aluminum front and rear bumpers, and color matched seats for a little extra bling on the trail.  Duro Kaden Tires & Aluminum Wheels.  Colors:  White Metallic, Vibrant Red

MSRP $17,699 USD

Wildcat-4 1000

This is the Wildcat for the whole crew.  The new four-seat CAT brings all the performance of its brothers, but now you can scare more friends and family.  Fox Podium shocks with 23-position compression adjustment keep the ride smooth on the 29” longer chassis.  Duro Kaden tires on aluminum rims complete the package, and a swaybar keeps body roll to a minimum.  Colors: Team Arctic Green, Black Metallic, Sunset Orange.

MSRP $ 19,599 USD 

Trail Time

Climbing into the Wildcat is much different than on any other Side x Side.  Seating position is lower which immediately makes it feel like a performance machine, but also helps keep overall center of mass lower for better handling.  We especially like the doors which have a seatbelt style latch that clips securely into place, but they also have a built in side net for extra protection.  It was time to fire it up.2013.arctic-cat.wildcat-x.close-up.dash.JPG

The 951cc engine starts quickly at any temperature or elevation, thanks to EFI.  We like the exhaust note which carries a healthy growl that lets you know the Wildcat is all business, but not so loud it offends anyone else on the trail.  We slipped the gear shifter into High and headed out into the desert.  It didn’t take long to get used to the new Wildcat.  The rear suspension squats and digs in under power and the motor runs crisp and clean. 

Darting around the sagebrush, rocks, and sweeping turns was easy on the Wildcat.  Electronic Power Steering means you can drive it all day with no arm fatigue regardless of how many twists there are in the trail.  We do like how CAT engineers have calibrated the EPS.  It provides just enough feedback for excellent feel of the terrain without so much steering assist that it takes away feel.  Our rule of thumb is, if the steering feels so natural you never have to think about it, it’s perfect.  Cat has the EPS dialed!  We also love the steering gear ratio.  It feels very precise, and any input at the steering wheel was met with a response at the tires.  It’s definitely a performance driving machine!

Underneath the Wildcat chassis is an enormous, composite skid plate keeping everything protected, and we were happy to have it.  The only drawback was we managed to get a small stone on top of it once and you could hear it rattling around at times.  Any extra vibration drives us nuts.  It’s knee deep in the nasty stuff where the Wildcat really begins to shine.  

Suspension King of the Desert

The desert is full of spine jarring whoops and suspension is the name of the game.  This is where the Wildcat is absolutely unbeatable.  Unless you’ve got a Baja style Trophy truck in the garage, the Wildcat is the closest you’ll ever come to experiencing one.  The Wildcat LOVES the whoops and it’s a huge combination of adrenaline, exhilaration, excitement, disbelief, and a slight bit of terror attacking the trail far faster than we ever had before.  Think 60mph plus through the whoops for miles, with plenty of throttle left, but not enough will to push it any harder.  The Wildcat is able to attack whoops like nothing else, thanks to the longest A-arms ever built on a production Side x Side and an enormous 17 inches of front wheel travel.  That’s more than double the travel of some other models!  The dual A-Arms are mounted as close as possible to the center of the chassis for minimal geometric change through the suspension stroke. 2013.arctic-cat.wildcat1000.close-up.clutch.JPG 

At the rear the Wildcat uses a true, five point trailing arm system with 18 inches of wheel travel.  Thankfully, the FOX shocks are highly adjustable, and after our first ride we felt the front shocks were slightly harsh, but we softened the rear shocks by two clicks to change weight transfer.  The slight change took any harsh feeling from the front end while maintaining excellent ride at the rear.  The Wildcat is phenomenal in the whoops, and it’s an absolute blast to float up and over rises, dips and jumps in the trail.  

Tires and Turns

The Wildcat’s super long travel suspension is incredible in the whoops, but it does have a catch.  The Wildcat has a large turning radius for tight trails.  All suspension ball joints, CV joints, and universal joints have a maximum angle of misalignment.  That means they can only move so far before they bind.  The tradeoff is, with huge suspension travel like on the Wildcat, turning radius is often increased because the joints will bind at maximum turn angle when the suspension extends.  The Wildcat’s large turning radius is easy to deal with by making a three point turn if needed.  The long wheel travel also gives it a little more body roll than some models, but the rear swaybar helps control it.

All models of the Wildcat come with 26 inch Duro Kaden tires, while the Wildcat-X comes with 27” Maxxis tires.  In our experience, the Maxxis tires hold up while we’ve cut several of the Duros, but there is a catch.  We REALLY like the steering precision of the smaller (26”) Duro tires.  The steering is much more responsive with the smaller tire, but the Maxxis wins in durability.  We would probably swap out the 26” Duros for a similar size tire with better durability like the Maxxis.

Wild Ride

Our first ride on Arctic Cat’s Wildcat 1000i H.O. last year was impressive.  This year every one of the Wildcat models take performance one or several steps further.  They’re high horsepower, high performance machines with addictive performance.  We can’t wait to experience that rush again!

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June 22, 2013

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