Thrill Ride – The Arctic Cat Wildcat 1000i H.O.

Thrill Ride – The Arctic Cat Wildcat 1000i H.O.

2012.arctic-cat.wildcat1000i-ho.green_.front_.riding.on-sand_0.jpgWhether you’re a lover or a hater of Arctic Cat products there’s no mistaking their all-new WILDCAT 1000i H.O. for a bulky, lumbering farm wagon of a Side x Side best suited to chasing cows and hauling bales. The new Arctic Cat is designed for hauling a$$ and running down every other Side x Side on the planet over the roughest terrain you can find.

A Baja Beating Chassis

The new Wildcat 1000i H.O. looks like nothing before it other than custom built desert racers. Arctic Cat gave the Wildcat an “exoskeleton” tubular chassis made from high strength, low alloy steel tubing. By using a large diameter tube with a relatively thin wall they were able to keep the structure very strong, and at the same time hold weight to a minimum. We’ve built many parts out of this same material and the mechanical properties allow it to flex as needed. Basically, you’ve really got to hit something hard to screw it up. The tube structure starts at the front bumper, ends wrapped around the tail lights, and there’s ‘nary a component on the Wildcat that isn’t attached to or protected by the beefy, black

Bodywork styling is ultra-sporty with aggressive lines that flow from the narrow front, around the driver and passenger compartment, and then flare out over the rear wheels. A small cargo deck, rated for 300 pounds, is found above the engine which is perfect for hauling a cooler or a little camping gear, but nobody is going to be toting firewood or white tails on the Wildcat.

Inside the Arctic Cat there are two supremely comfy, wrap around seats with built in headrests. A cutout in each seat seems ready-made for a racing harness system, but the Wildcat 1000i H.O. comes from the factory with a standard lap and shoulder belt. Seating position is low in the chassis with the driver and passengers legs out in front of them to help keep the center of mass low and to aid handling. A tilting steering wheel reaches out to the driver, and between the seats is the gear shift lever which features Hi, Low, Reverse, Neutral, & Park. On the dash is the nifty Arctic Cat combination digital and analog gauge, the switches for lights, 2wd/4wd plus Diff Lock, and thankfully, a locking glove box. The display offers a clock, hour meter, fuel gauge, set/reset button, odometer, trip meter, gear position, speedometer, tachometer, differential lock, drive select, high beam, battery condition, temperature, and oil pressure. We really appreciate the switch bank area at the center of the dash which will be extremely handy for mounting the controls for extra lights or

Desert Designed and Tested

When the engineering crew arrived back at the office in Thief River Falls, we’re guessing they were one dusty, well-tanned bunch of hombres. Anybody involved with the design and testing of this vehicle undoubtedly spent a lot of time living between the rocks and the kangaroo rats. The Wildcat 1000i H.O. was conceived on the Baja race course and countless hours were spent running prototypes around the deserts of the Southwest. Arctic Cat is no stranger to the desert, however, and their Prowler was the first Side x Side with the cajones to even finish the Baja 1000 much less come home with a win.

Suspension is the name of the game in desert racing, and here the Wildcat stands head, shoulders, torso, and silky thighs above anything else. At the front the Wildcat gets the longest A-arms ever built on a production Side x Side. The dual A-Arms are mounted as close as possible to the center of the chassis for minimal geometric change through the suspension stroke and wheel travel is a whopping 17 inches! That’s more than double the travel of some other models!

At the rear, Arctic Cat gave the Wildcat 1000i a five-point multi-link trailing arm, shocks seemingly as long as a baseball bat, and wheel travel is 18 inches which is unheard of for any production Side x Side. Cat says the five-point multi-link design minimizes wheel camber and “axle plunge” which helps keep the tire’s contact patch flat against the ground for maximum traction and consistent control. It works!

At both ends of the vehicle are huge Walker Evans shocks with dual springs, preload adjustment, compression adjustment, and piggyback reservoirs. These are the first stock shocks in the ATV or Side x Side world that also offer crossover adjustment control. Rather than swapping out springs and spacers, the Walker Evans shocks have threaded adjusters which are much easier to work with, especially if you don’t happen to have a complete set of shock tools.

Shoot to Thrill

Climbing into the WILDCAT 1000i H.O. is more like sliding down into the seats. You’re going to be sitting much lower than in every other Side x Side. We especially like the doors which have a seatbelt style latch and they clip securely into place. They also have a built in side net for extra protection. The doors open to the front (hinged rear) which in effect increases the opening area for easier entry and exit. It was time to fire it up!

Arctic Cat went with the tried and true engine from the Prowler XTZ 1000 for the Wildcat. The engine is a High Output, 951cc V-Twin SOHC 4-valve, 4-Stroker with Electronic Fuel Injection and dual 50mm throttle bodies. Cat calls the engine placement “mid-mounted” because they wanted to maintain a 40/60 front/rear weight balance and they routed the exhaust to the left rear of the vehicle through a ceramic coated exhaust system. Another move to maintain the desired weight balance was to locate the radiator behind the seats along with dual fans. As with the Prowler, the engine makes a nice, throaty sound that gets even better as RPMs

One feature we really like on the Wildcat 1000i H.O. Duramatic transmission is what Cat engineers call a “Spike Load Dampener”. Basically, it allows the driveline to slip for a millisecond under harsh spike loads. When you’re on the throttle bouncing through the whoops every time the wheels touch down they transmit a shock load back to the drivetrain and engine. The SLD takes up the shock to protect driveline components. We slipped the gear shifter into High and pointed the big Cat at a mountain in the distance.

It didn’t take long and everything to either side of the trail was getting blurry while the speedometer was still climbing, although you’ll hardly want to glance down at it. Performance from the motor was about the same as on the Prowler XTZ which picks up speed quickly, but doesn’t really deliver an arm jerking hit. We wouldn’t want that in any conventional Side x Side chassis, but the Wildcat 1000i H.O. is a whole different animal. This chassis would easily be able to handle even more power even if delivered a little more abruptly and we expect CAT is already working on it for future models. You can bet aftermarket clutch builders like our friends from DALTON CLUTCH are on it also. Until then, we’ll gladly take it the way it is.

It was easy to guide the Wildcat 1000i around the sagebrush and sweeping trails. Rocks were hardly a concern, and since the big Cat has Electronic Power Steering you can drive it all day with no arm fatigue regardless of how many twists there are in the trail! Nice! It also has a tough skid plate on the underside and excellent ground clearance, but it’s knee deep in the nasty stuff where the Wildcat really begins to shine.2012.arctic-cat.wildcat1000i-ho.close-up.exhaust.jpg

We’ve tested on the trails outside of Barstow in the past, and as we approached the first spine jarring whoops at high speed we braced for the jolt that would surely come. As we blasted into a whoop section that practically tossed us out of the vehicle on a ride last year we were astounded; this Cat LOVES the whoops at practically any speed. Get on a rough trail or race course with any other stock machine and they’ll quickly be a distant memory. At speed the Wildcat 1000i H.O. is very comfortable for the driver, and for the person squeezing the St. Christopher medal promising reform for wickedness and petitioning for divine intervention. No worries though; all is safe and well tucked down in the seats, if not in the seat of ones pants.

As a package the Wildcat 1000i H.O. works exactly as it was designed to. The rear suspension squats and digs in under power, it steers easily with EPS soaking up vibration, the motor runs crisp and clean even if it’s not an arm stretching experience, and as a whole, the rougher the terrain is the better it likes it! As a bonus it even comes with LED lights, and it seems to be easy on fuel! We believe it’s met all of the design goals and as company president Claude Jordan states, “Our customers asked for a high-performance side-by-side, and we happily responded with a no-compromise, pure-sport hot rod that redefines what’s possible with a production off-road vehicle.”2012.arctic-cat.wildcat1000i-ho.close-up.rear_.jpg

Wildcat Wrapup

A few years ago we got a chance to ride in a full-sized, desert racing Trophy truck down Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. The ride was a combination of exhilaration, disbelief, adrenaline overdose and terror all wrapped in one dusty, high speed, high horsepower package. It was the biggest rush and most sheer thrills per mile that we’d ever experienced and it was incredibly addicting. The Wildcat 1000i is the fix. Slip into the seat, strap yourself in, and you can live those feelings in a factory built vehicle right from the showroom floor.

Unless you can write a check for a full sized trophy truck, this is the closest you’ll likely ever come to driving a full-blown desert racer. The Arctic Cat Wildcat 1000i H.O. can let you blast across terrain like you’ve only imagined, but at the same time it also takes Side x Side performance to where it has never been before. You’ll love it!

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February 19, 2012

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