New Model Test – Year of the Cat

New Model Test – Year of the Cat

2015.arctic-cat.xr700eps.red.front-right.riding.over-rocks.jpg Riding high into the majestic, red rock mountains just outside Moab, Utah is an experience like no other. It’s no wonder so many western movies have been shot here. With views that go on forever, countless canyons to explore, and the mighty Colorado River cutting its way through the canyons down below, it’s the quintessential western scene, where you can’t help but squint at impossibly bright, blue skies and feel insignificantly small against the rocks that have marked the test of time. If you’ve never been here, you owe it to yourself to visit at least once. We were in Moab for a different test, though. It would be our first ride on Arctic Cat’s new XR lineup of ATVs, and if you have not been on an Arctic Cat in a while, you’ve got to try the new ‘Cats.

WORK & PLAY

Arctic Cat calls their new ATV lineup the XR line, and they are vastly different than any Arctic Cat ATV before them. CAT labels the new XR ATVs as “recreation” class machines, but a closer look reveals they are fully capable of hard work as well. When designing the new machines, the design priorities were:

1: Supreme rider comfort

2. Reliability and ease of ownership through simple maintenance tasks2015.arctic-cat.xr700eps.red.front-left.riding.on-dirt.jpg

3: Modern styling and features

Visually the new Arctic Cat XR ATVs look great! We love the aggressive lines that sweep back across the machine, making it look ready for action, even when sitting still. Rather than steel racks front and rear, Arctic Cat engineers gave the new XR models tough, composite racks, but thanks to a steel tube structure underneath, they are also capable of toting any load you want to pile on them. Plus, it’s easy to strap your gear down due to generous tie-down points. For anything else, Cat has a long line of SpeedRack accessories ready to quickly fasten into place. A few well-placed rubber pads limit vibration, and we noticed CAT engineers came up with another clever trick: both the front and rear rack are identical. This makes them efficient to manufacture. One of the best features about the bodywork, however, besides being pliable and tough, is that it’s easy to remove. While many manufacturers continue to wrap their machines in ever more bodywork with a seemingly endless number of fasteners, Arctic Cat engineers asked themselves, “How can we do better?” The answer is quick and easy to remove body panels held by limited, strategically placed fasteners. Thank you Cat! It’s simple and fast to peel off the panels for complete access to normal maintenance items. The battery, airbox, oil filter, and even CVT cover are within easy reach. The oil filter is the screw-on variety, while the air filter is the round style with a paper element covered by a water resistant nylon cover.

Added bodywork often means one other concern to many riders – trailer tie down points. CAT again showed a creative solution to an everyday problem and the lower front of the XR models features two sturdy steel loops that look very much like grab handles. These are excellent points for securely fastening your XR down to a trailer. (And if we can get our hands on one, we’ll give it a try!) Between the “handles” is a removable panel that covers winch mount points already in the frame. At the rear a 2” receiver hitch is welded into the frame and ready for up to 1050 pounds of towing.2015.arctic-cat.xr700eps-le.black.front.riding.over-rocks.jpg

While the new look and features are easy to spot, underneath the bodywork is an all-new chassis. Like other Arctic Cat chassis, this frame is also built from high strength steel, with dual A-Arms at the front, and a dual A-arm independent rear suspension. Disc brakes are used at both ends, and the shocks offer preload adjustability with 10 inches of wheel travel and 11 inches of ground clearance. Arctic Cat slid the engine forward in the new chassis to narrow the area between the rider’s feet for more comfort. The effect is very noticeable, as is the nearly perfect weight balance.

From the rider’s seat is where Arctic Cat really was able to show their best work with the new XR ATVs. They are super comfortable and the relationship from foot peg/floor board, to handlebars, to seat is excellent. Cat engineers even slid the steering column slightly towards the rear for less reach. We understand their thought, but it does change the leverage angles of your arms. Perhaps it’s our sport riding background, but we still prefer our arms up and ready to react rather than hanging, as if lounging in the Lazy-Boy. With a machine this comfortable and capable, you’re bound to ride aggressively at some times, but with power steering you don’t need a lot of arm strength anyway.

Arctic Cat’s electronic power steering system does a great job of taking the sharp edges and unwanted handlebar kickback out of any trail ride. The EPS system is also speed dependent and the faster you go, the less input it gives. This makes for consistent feel of the terrain, just the way we like it. It’s possible to ride this machine all day without getting arm fatigue, or a sore backside as well. The seat is wide enough to provide support, soft enough for comfort, and is sculpted to put you in the perfect riding position, yet still allows you to move your body as needed. We like it!2015.arctic-cat.xr700eps.close-up.under-plastics.jpg

Arctic Cat did a great job of paying attention to all the little details on the new XR ATVs. We love the new digital instrument just ahead of the handlebars. It’s easy to read, but also offers tons of useful information on everything from mileage to upcoming maintenance tasks. Scrolling through the various items is done with a button next to the display. On the left handlebar are a few simple, easy to read switches while on the right are the thumb throttle and the 4wd, differential lock. We like the sliding action of the differential lock button, and the thumb throttle is comfortable and easy to hold steady regardless of how rough the trail is. About the only thing we miss is a brake lever on both handlebars, but the left bar mounted lever easily gets the job done since it is linked to both the front and rear brakes. Down by your right foot is a brake lever as well.

Just ahead of your left knee is the best shift lever in the business. The new Arctic Cat transmission and shift mechanism is so incredibly easy to use it can make you wonder if you’ve got it engaged. We wouldn’t want it any softer, but we’ll gladly take it the way it is. Finally, storage is ultra-important on off-road machines, and we’re glad the XRs come with a generous, water resistant storage compartment between the rear tail lights. Speaking of lights, all of the XR models come with LED rear tail lights for optimum visibility. At the front, the top end Limited models get dual LED projectors with LED accent lights, the Base model is equipped with halogens, and the mid-range XT models get dual halogen main beams with LED accents.

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ENGINE CHOICES

The XR ATVs come with three engine choices:

  • 500 (443cc) single-cylinder four-stroke

  • 550 (545cc) single-cylinder four-stroke

  • 700 (695cc) single cylinder four-stroke

All of the engines are fed by electronic fuel injection for easier starts and CAT managed to squeeze out a little extra mileage by revising the fuel mapping. Mated to each engine is Arctic Cat’s Duramatic automatic transmission which is CAT’s CVT transmission with a few tricks. The Duramatic system actually has two clutches! Rather than one primary and secondary set of pulleys, which requires the belt to slip when idling or when you’re not on the throttle, the CAT system has a second clutch which is always engaged. This keeps the belt from slipping and building up heat which is the death knell for belt life. The second advantage of the Duramatic transmission is smoother engagement and easier to control power when riding in tight areas at lower RPMs.

On our ride through the trails around Moab, we were able to try the XR ATVs over choppy, rocky sections, on high speed runs up and down the mountains, and even in a little snow. We found the Duramatic transmission and new engines delivered on CAT’s promise of smooth power delivery and a very rideable power band. There was no lag in power delivery when we stabbed at the throttle, or abrupt backshifting from the transmission. We should have expected no less from a company that built its reputation with high-performance snowmobiles. There is no huge, arm stretching hit in power delivery, but the XRs are meant for recreation and not racing. We were very happy with it, and the engines ran smooth and crisp regardless of elevation. In choppy terrain the suspension and electronic power steering really took any jarring out of the front end, with no tendency to wander or follow ruts in the trail. Overall the Kaden tires do a very good job of finding traction and providing a good ride, and even in snow they cleaned out well and kept us driving forward. Unless you have a specialized use or unique terrain where you normally ride, we would run the Kadens until they wore out.2015.arctic-cat.xr700eps.red.front-left.riding.up-hill.jpg

PACKAGE DEAL

There are three new Arctic Cat XR ATV models to choose from, all sharing a common chassis platform and many common features, but they each have unique properties as well. They can be summed up as follows:

STANDARD BASE MODELS

  • Power Sport Digital Gauge

  • 2/4 WD with Electronic Front Differential Lock

  • Front and Rear SpeedRack II

  • Rear 2-Inch Receiver

  • Steel Wheels

  • Dual Halogen Headlights

  • Dual Rear LED Taillights

XT MODELS

  • Power Sport Digital Gauge2015.arctic-cat.xr700eps-le.front-right.riding.on-sand.jpg

  • 2/4 WD with Electronic Front Differential Lock

  • Electronic Power Steering

  • Front and Rear SpeedRack II

  • Rear 2-Inch Receiver

  • Aluminum Wheels

  • Dual Halogen with LED Accent Headlights

  • Dual Rear LED Taillights

LIMITED MODELS

  • Power Sport Digital Gauge

  • 2/4 WD with Electronic Front Differential Lock2015.arctic-cat.xr700eps-le.black.left.riding.up-hill.jpg

  • Electronic Power Steering

  • Front and Rear SpeedRack II

  • Rear 2-Inch Receiver

  • Aluminum Wheels

  • Front and Rear Heavy-Duty Bumpers

  • Dual LED Projector Beam with LED Accent Headlights

  • Dual Rear LED Taillights

  • 3,000-LB. Winch

THE NEW CATS

Arctic Cat made enormous steps forward with their new XR ATVs, and if you’re looking for a comfortable, capable, reliable, and easy to maintain modern ATV, you need to check out the CAT XR lineup. We would have no problem riding them all day, all week, or for years on end.

2015 XR 700 LIMITED EPS Specifications

——————————————————————————————————————————————

Engine Type 695, liquid cooled SOHC, 4-Stroke, 4-Valve

Alternator Capacity 28 amps

Fuel Capacity 6 gal.

Front Travel Double A-Arm / 10 in.

Rear Suspension Double A-Arm / 10 in.

Ground Clearance 11 in.

Front Tire Duro Kaden / 25×8-12

Rear Tire / Size Duro Kaden / 25×10-12

Power Steering Electronic Power Steering (EPS)

Transmission Automatic CVT with EBS Hi/Lo Range, Neutral, Reverse & Park

Drive System 2/4 WD + Electric Front Differential Lock

Brakes Hydraulic Disc

Overall Size LxWxH 86.6×48.5×49.5 in.

Wheelbase 52 in.

Dry Weight 759 lbs.

Front / Rear Rack Cap. 100 / 200 lbs.

Towing Capacity 1050 lbs.

Hitch Type Rear 2 in. Receiver

Instrumentation Digital

Lighting Dual LED Projector Beams w/LED Light Bar / Dual Rear LED Taillights

Colors Black

Additional Features 3000-lb. Winch, Front & Rear Brushguards, Front & Rear SpeedRack II, Large 1.44 Gallon Water-Resistant Rear Storage Compartment, Sway Bar

MSRP $11,199 USD

XR 700 XT EPS

MSRP $10,499 USD – Vibrant Red – Navy Blue

True Timber Camo $10,849 USD)

XR 700 STANDARD

MSRP $9,199 USD – Green

XR 550 LIMITED EPS

MSRP $10,399 USD – Black

XR 550 XT EPS

MSRP $9,699 USD – Sunset Orange – Navy Blue

True Timber Camo $10,049 USD

XR 550 STANDARD

MSRP $8,399 USD – Green

XR 500 STANDARD

MSRP $7,799 USD – Red – Green

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September 8, 2015

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