Ride Tested – The Cowboys

Ride Tested – The Cowboys

2011.arctic-cat.prowler700hdx.front-left.camo_.parked.on-dirt.jpgWhenever we test any all-new ATV or UTV, whether from Arctic Cat, Yamaha, Honda, Polaris, or any of the OEMS, we usually don’t stray too far from the truck on our first day. After all, we don’t know exactly what to expect from the new model, and we might need to make adjustments or even repairs. Not this time however. Our initial ride on Arctic Cats new heavy duty 700 HDX, and 700 XTX wouldn’t be a casual ride through familiar woods, farm, or trail, but a go-for-broke, no turning back trek spread over 3 days and 400 miles of some of the most remote and toughest terrain in North America. This would easily be the toughest first day of testing any machine had ever faced, and anything we needed to do would have to be done in the mountains, canyons, and desert of Northern Arizona, someplace between the rocks and the rattlesnakes. We’d become cowboys.

The Big Horse – The All New 700 HDX 

Arctic Cats new 700 HDX is designed to be tough, rugged, and reliable, and to take on the most demanding jobs whether at the construction site, hunting camp, or farm. In fact, one of the design parameters was that it had to be capable of hauling an enormous round bale almost as big as the vehicle itself! It can easily do that and more!

The new 700 HDX is Cats answer to hard working units from John Deere, Kubota, Polaris, and Bob Cat, but with the Cat pedigree for performance as part of the package. The 700 HDX rides on an all new, beefy steel chassis with a wheelbase that is a full 10” longer than the standard 700 XTX, but designed for maximum load hauling capability. To control the ride the HDX comes with premium quality FOX air assist shocks. Stock UTV shocks don’t get any better than the high quality FOX units, and one feature we really like is that they are adjustable for your load. Stiffen them by adding air for hauling heavy loads, and then reduce the air pressure to smooth out weekend trail rides! At both ends of the chassis are a 2” receiver hitch, but one of the most impressive features of the new HDX is the cargo box.2011.arctic-cat.prowler700xtx.front-left.blue_.riding.on-trail.jpg

Every job is different, and to make sure the new HDX offered maximum work capability CAT designed the rear box to be transformable. With the side panels installed the tough, massive rear dump box is big enough most other UTV boxes would fit inside it, but for hauling an even larger load or when a work deck is needed (like when sawing lumber) the sides can be removed and a flat surface gets the job done. One really nice feature found exclusively on the CAT 700 HDX is a pair of awesome, sealed storage boxes nestled just under the tilting bed, and just ahead of the rear wheels. The twin storage boxes are a GREAT place for tie downs, a tow strap, an extra hitch, or any of the stuff that usually rattles around the in the bed. We LOVE IT! Just like with the other Arctic Cat Prowlers, the HDX also offers a massive storage bin under the front hood, which comes in handy for just about anything else you need to carry. A set of super durable machined aluminum wheels not only look great but keep everything rolling.

Most UTVs carry only a driver and a single passenger thanks to bucket seats, and every other Prowler in the Arctic Cat family is built that way as well. The new 700 HDX is built with a bench style three person configuration however, and this will certainly appeal to many. To make the working day a little more comfortable, Cat gave the HDX a few upgrades such a tilt steering, a combination digital /analog gauge package, and power steering! For casual riding power steering is only a convenience, but for hauling heavy loads like the HDX is designed for, working your way through thick mud, across rocks or downed timber, or on a rough construction site, Arctic Cats Variable Assist Power Steering is like a gift from the Lords of UTV design. Powering the 700 HDX is a 695cc, liquid cooled, SOHC, 4-stroke, 4-valve engine. Electronic Fuel Injection insures excellent starting and a clean, crisp running engine at any temperature or elevation.2011.arctic-cat.prowler700hdx.front-right.camo_.riding.on-dirt.jpg

Saddle Up – Common Cat Features

As we settled into the 700 HDX and headed out for our adventure we found the bench seats to be comfortable. The seat is sculpted to hold you in place and it feels normal yet roomy compared to bucket seats, with plenty of leg room. The tilt steering is very comfortable and easy to adjust, and it was easy to find the seat belt. Arctic Cat uses an interwoven net as a secondary safety device in place of any door, and we were glad to see only one clip fastens it in place. Common safety features with other Prowler models include a sturdy, lower leg shield that protects your legs from any sticks or debris trying to poke its way in, but the shield also keeps your leg and foot safely inside the vehicle. One ingenious little device only found on the Arctic Cat Prowlers is a little shoulder shield fastened to the cab structure next to your left shoulder. It works similar to the support in some race car seats which wrap around the driver. At first we wondered how any plastic shield would hold up but the material is incredibly strong and durable, yet offers a little flexibility as well. Basically it’s designed to offer a little extra protection, and to help keep you well inside the vehicle, protected by the cab structure. We really like it, and we even found ourselves leaning on it at times. It’s tough, and a big tip of the visor to whoever came up with this! Even with the lower leg and shoulder shields, entry into all of the Arctic Cat models is easy, with nothing in the way.2011.arctic-cat.prowler700hdx.front_.orange.riding.on-trail.jpg

On the Trail Out of Town

Town quickly disappeared behind us as the imposing mountains loomed ever larger, and we became comfortable with the 700 HDX. The engine was responsive to throttle input, throttle angle was very good and easy to control even over rough terrain, and Arctic Cats Variable Assist Power Steering was making it a breeze to maneuver around rocks, tight corners, or any other trail obstacles. Everything on the vehicle felt tight, and cab noise was negligible. We could detect a little air intake noise on the 700 since with the bench seat the air intake is routed differently than on other CAT models, but it was no big deal. We were carrying a heavy load of water in the bed however, and with two huge coolers and multiple cases of water and Gatorade, we were hauling over 600 pounds of liquid. The adjustable FOX shocks were easily handling the rear load, but in some corners you could feel the water sloshing in the coolers, and it was enough to actually push us at times. There was nothing to be done about it, other than to plan for a little input from what was basically unsecured load inside the coolers. The front shocks were taming the trail also, but at first they were a little stiff considering all the weight in back. Reducing air pressure a little softened them to our liking. We really appreciate the adjustable Fox shocks on the HDX, and you can easily adjust them for your riding situation. Mile after mile the HDX easily covered the terrain. Its longer wheelbase did help to smooth out some of the bumps such as those along dry stream washes, which often have an abrupt edge as you drop into them. It was a “point-it-and-go” type of ride, with no problems to worry about. As long as we kept the 700 HDX on the trail and out of the rocks or over the cliff edge, it would get us there. It was easy to pilot the HDX and take in the breathtaking, natural beauty as we did for over 100 miles. What more could we ask for?2011.arctic-cat.prowler700hdx.close-up.side-box.jpg

A Stallion – The Prowler 700 XTX

The Prowler 700 XTX is built on the same rugged platform that has taken Arctic Cat to the checkered flag in the Baja 1000 race. If it’s tough enough to finish Baja, much less win the race, it can handle anything we would try.

For 2011 the 700 XTX gets major changes, the most notable being a redesigned ROPS certified protective structure that now features round tube for a sportier look and reduced weight. Throttle angle and feel has also been redesigned, Variable Assist power steering was added, a new, sportier, steering wheel and digital gauge greets the driver, and 14” machined aluminum wheels make everything look great! The 700 XTX gets bucket seats like most other Prowlers, and it also shares the leg guards, shoulder guard, set belts, and door nets with the rest of its brothers as well. (A machine like this HAS to be a “HE”) We like the dash mounted storage box which is great for a couple bottles of water, a map, etc, but we really can’t say enough about the under hood storage area. CAT did an awesome job of utilizing that space wisely. Between the two bucket seats sits the same liquid cooled, 695cc SOHC, 4-stroke, 4-valve EFI equipped engine as on the 700 HDX, but instead of the dash mounted shift mechanism like on the HDX, the XTX has the shifter at the drivers right hand, along with the 2WD/4WD button. We also like the dual 12v accessory outlets and the rear view mirror, and the drink holders come in handy as well. Behind the driver and passenger is the tough rear dump box, and underneath is a rear sway bar to help control the ride, along with preload adjustable shocks. One of the best features on all the Arctic Cat Prowlers is EXCELLENT ground clearance (10 inches) thanks to the dual A-arms at each end, and in the rocky country we were headed for we would need everything we could get!2011.arctic-cat.prowler700.close-up.under-hood.jpg

Desert Runner

The 700 XTX may share a bloodline with the 700 HDX, but on the trail it is more nimble and in the open it likes to run! Winding between obstacles is easy thanks to its shorter wheelbase and Electronic Power Steering, but get it in the open and you can put the spurs to it! The 700 motor runs absolutely beautiful down open trails, and to be honest we’re not exactly sure how fast we were going since looking down as the sagebrush and rocks streak by can be more than a little hazardous. The 700 XTX is fast, probably in the 65mph+ range, and it more than delivers that “this is way too fast to crash” feeling. We like it! It was easy to ride it all day with no fatigue and a thrill every step of the way.

As much time as we spent in the saddle of both the 700 HDX and XTX, there is one thing we would change on both. The stock tires clean out well but they were also easy to cut on the sharp rocks. We started with higher than normal air pressure thinking it would help handle the load, but after changing quite a few tires we believe that may have been a mistake and only made it easier for the rocks to poke through. Reducing pressure seemed to help, but nothing could match the 1000 XTXs MAXXIS Bighorns for reliability. They hold up, and in our experience have been EXTREMELEY reliable on every vehicle we’ve ever tested. They get great traction, they clean out well, they’re tougher than an old saddle, and have worked well in sand, mud, rocks, and snow!2011.arctic-cat.prowler700.close-up.dash_.jpg

Life on the Trail – 3 Days in the Saddle

In our three days on the trail we tasted, lived in, and crossed territory most will only see in movies. Just like a trusty horse, our Prowlers only needed a little fuel and a new set of shoes now and then thanks to the sharp rocks, but they never let us down, and we couldn’t help but be proud of them for getting a tough job done. If John Wayne was going to set off across the desert on anything other than a sure footed horse, he’d be riding an Arctic Cat Prowler. Saddle up cowboy!

December 4, 2010

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