|Arctic Cat Wildcat Review
I was fortunate enough to be invited by Arctic Cat to drive the new 2012 Arctic Cat Wildcat at the media introduction in Barstow, CA. After spending two days behind the wheel and as passenger, I can honestly say that Arctic Cat has stepped up the Sport UTV market. If you have been off-roading in Barstow, you know that it is an unforgiving place. If you haven’t been there, then imagine deep, uneven whoops created by every sort of off-road vehicle imaginable. In most UTVs, the only way to traverse the area is going slow. But not for the new Wildcat. As a passenger, I saw terrain ahead and thought “Uh Oh”. But then we blasted right through it. Truly impressive. And what we all experienced is based on shocks that were valved for all types of terrain across the United States. If you want something tuned for big whoops and g-outs, I can only imagine the nirvana that could be obtained with the Wildcat!
Here are a few things that stuck out in my mind:
Suspension, Suspension, Suspension. The 5-link rear suspension works real well, but I think the front is what really shines. If you have never been to Barstow (Stoddard Valley OHV Area), it is full of whoops of all sizes. Several race courses crisscross the area so this place gets use from every type of off-road vehicle – motorcycle to trophy truck. I was amazed at how well the Wildcat could float through the rough stuff. With two people in the car, we had to adjust the Walker Evans Racing 2″ shocks to a more firm setting to keep it from bottoming out in the rear. But after that we could bomb through terrain that other UTVs would not be able to handle at half the speed. Wildcat shocks have been setup for a sweet spot that meets all sorts of customers and terrain. If you want to haul ass in the desert, Walker Evans Racing can revalve specifically to handing this stuff even better. I can see Walker Evans Racing offering a 2.5″ shock in the rear of the Wildcat as an option. I would also like to see how a set ofFox Racing Shox Position Sensitive Shocks perform in the rear.
In addition to the 5-link rear suspension, and gobs of wheel travel, another thing that really helps the Wildcat perform in the rough stuff is wheelbase. The Wildcat’s 95 inch wheelbase is 13.5 inches longer than the Polaris RZR XP.
Front suspension articulation is incredible. Rear does not articulate so much due to the anti-sway bar. It did look look the the bar could be disconnected easy enough when you want to rock crawl. In the desert, I would like to see a little stiffer anti-sway bar to help keep the car flatter in the turns.
Exoskeleton chassis – I really like how the chassis was designed. Full-sized tubes everywhere instead of a main central chassis and scabbed on 1″ box tubing here and there to attach body parts. The overall look of the Wildcat has not completely set in with me yet, but I really admire how thought went into the chassis.
The one downside to the complete exoskeleton chassis is for aftermarket accessories like bumpers. There aren’t any good locations to bolt things on so I think there will be a lot of tube clamp type bumpers being made.
Seat height – With the engine and fuel tank moved behind the seats, there is nothing in the way of lowering the seats. With the seats removed, the cab is super clean and seats come in and out real easy. The low seat height really make you feel like you are driving a sports car and the lower center of gravity really shine when turning. Seating is comfortable for the driver at 6′ 1″. In the passenger seat there is lots of legroom on the left, but the sport for your right is a bit too close for long distances. We were going fast so I felt the need to brace my foot there. If you were just cruising, there is room all the way up front for both feet, you just can’t brace yourself as well.
Power – The good news is the 951cc V-Twin is not new. The engine has proven itself in the Prowler XTZ 1000 and Arctic Cat just made new larger throttle bodies and exhaust. I am sure the programming has changed as well. With all that said, the Wildcat is fast, but I feel the RZR XP has more bottom end grunt. To be fair, the Wildcat does weigh over a hundred pounds more and that will affect the seat of the pants feel. That being said, if you want to go fast through the big whoops, the Wildcat would navigate the ugly terrain quicker. I am thinking that once the aftermarket performance companies like Muzzys get their hands on a Wildcat, performance will take off with a little intake and exhaust work.
Power Steering – I am a big fan of power steering in UTVs and the setup in the Wildcat is spot on.
Passenger hand holds – There is a good spot for the right arm on the door that is comfortable and works well, but I felt like I wanted to hold onto something with my left had as well. I think Arctic Cat needs to look at something near the shifter for this. The car is capable of going through some nasty terrain, and as a passenger, I felt like I needed another hand hold to help me feel more me secure.
Wheels – Not a big fan of 14″ wheels in the desert. Just not enough sidewall to avoid pinch flats. Unfortunately, a 12″ wheel will NOT fit on the front of the Wildcat.
Leg Room – The cab of the Wildcat is pretty roomy. In the passenger seat you can tuck both feet up front and stretch out. There is a bracing foot position on the right and we did find ourselves using it quite a bit, especially going fast in the rough terrain. The only issue there is the left leg is stretched out further than the right and after a long ride in rough terrain it can get a little tired.
Bed Capacity – The Wildcat has a 300 lbs. bed capacity. Not out of line for a sport UTV (same as the Polaris RZR XP), but you do need to be aware of the radiator fan outlet area (these are puller fans) when loading up the bed. Air must be allowed to exit the grill area at the front of the bed in order to keep the engine running cool.
Fuel Tank – The fuel tank is situated behind the seats and on the right side of the Wildcat. This is great news in the cab as it does not limit seat placement, but can be of some concern in a racing environment.
Rocker Protection & Skid Plates – The rocker area under the doors has a full tube that is part of the chassis running the entire length. This is great for rock crawling as it should be able to take a solid hit from a rock. The plastic does stick out past this point and could be an issue in a tight spot where the vehicle is rotating around a rock. I like how the main skid plate tucks under the front skid. I wonder why the rear does not tuck under the main as well. The skid plates are fastened using a bolt with a large, flat head, but they are not counter-sunk so I am concerned about damage in the rocks. A full aftermarketUHMW skid plate would be a good improvement for the Wildcat.
Whip Flag Mount – Nice to see a good mount for a whip flag on the cage. Especially for sport models.
Doors – The doors on the Wildcat worked well. The latch mechanism seemed solid, and the door stayed out of my way unlike some of the net systems on other vehicles.
Harness Bar – There is not much room behind the seats to add a harness bar on the Wildcat. There is a bar situated behind the plastic that could potentially be used, but it sits a little bit lower than I would recommend.
Rock Crawling a Wildcat – The approach and departure angle of the Wildcat excellent so that is big in the rocks. Skid plate can be taken care of as mentioned above and the rocker area is setup nicely. Low range felt good in the terrain we were in, but hard to tell for sure until you are in the rocks. Rear end is full-time locked just like the RZR, Teryx and Rhino. An unlockable rear diff would be a big plus for tight maneuvering. Front suspension articulation is great which will help keep wheels on the ground and able to pull.
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