We have come a long way since the very first side by side was released and by all indications on market growth it shows no signs of slowing up. I am talking about an industry that has many milestones, many throwing stones and many advancements that make some just seem to try and keep up with from year to year. It was only a matter of time before the highly sought after 50-inch SXS market had some additional players in the mix and for 2014 Arctic Cat has unleashed their answer to need for competition in this segment.
Released just this past fall we found out that Arctic Cat had indeed dug out their footer for the new ground. This all-new tight woods twin-seater would be the talk of the town and it wasn’t long before we had a chance to get under the wheel in the mountainous regions known to the locals as Gateway Canyon in Colorado. We have plenty of news from behind the steering wheel and foot feed of the mighty little woods rager but lets look at some facts about the machine known as the Arctic Cat Wild Cat Trail first!
Comfort and Controls:
The cockpit of the Arctic Cat WildCat Trail looks much like the full size Wildcat. Seating is low and you are more down in the ride just like big brother. This gives the balance for a low center of gravity and when you put two grown men inside you need the weight to be as low as possible due to the machines tight width. The comfortable bucket seating has been custom sewn and looks tough enough for any trail wars. Arctic Cat claims the Wild Cat Trail sits the riders 3-inches lower in the cabin than the Polaris RZR. Now it was not listed in the “media presentation “ like this but hints where thrown that way and we really knew whom it was they had been comparing too anyway. Also, just like the full size machine from Arctic Cat the Trail version has very simple features in the cab. The all-new digital dash gives up plenty of the pertinent information you may need to know while riding around in the woods. The key switch and 4WD selector are both located just under this new display and you will find the light controls there as well. Changing what direction (forward or back) is as simple as a push or pull on the gear shifter in the center of the seats. The glove box, which is the only enclosed storage, has a net to keep your basic needs from flying out onto the trail. Storage is at a premium in this machine, as its small stature tends to eliminate any room for extras. There are two cup holders and some limited space behind the drivers seat but other than that there is only the small cargo box to carry any trail essentials. There are six molded tie-down points located on the top of the Wild Cat trails bed rails, three on each side, to offer some cargo holding cinch points.
The totally new Arctic Cat WildCat Trail engine, while designed and engineered by AC, is actually built by Kymco. This is a Parallel twin cylinder power plant breaths life through electronic fuel injection. This brand new engine design boasts an Arctic Cat claimed 60HP rating using EFI to feed this four-valve, dual overhead cam engine. Of course the engine is liquid cooled and I can see the world of after market companies jumping at a chance to get the Horsepower up even further in the near future.
This new mill is coupled to an all-inclusive transmission developed by the experts at TEAM industries. It is tucked together tightly with the twin cylinder firebox and seems to be a mere 2.5 feet long from the front of the engine to the rear of the transmission. It is very compact for sure and all located behind the driver and passenger for a 40/60-weight balance. The transmission is belt driven with what Arctic Cat calls their Rapid Response Clutch system. At a glance the CVT system looks just like many on the market yet the experts at Team Industries tuned this RRC system specifically for the Wildcat Trail machine. The interesting feature of this total unit is the fact that the rear drive axles come out of the sides of the transmission. This has eliminated the need for a rear differential and by loosing the weight of the extra gearbox, u-joints and shaft you gain a nimble handling lightweight machine. The transmission becomes essentially the rear diff. This not only allows the Wildcat Trail to be weight biased just like its big brother but it seems to keep everything narrower. A few other notable items in the transmission area would be the electronic 2WD/4WD/Diff lock features for the more adventurous driver and a true parking gear selection. The 4WD on this Wild Cat Trail is a great feature for a two-seat machine because you know you will drive off into something showing off to your wife and this will save you the humiliation of having to push it back out!
Getting all of the power to the ground is very well handled but absorbing the rough spots in the trail is the job of the suspension and Arctic Cat focused once again in a key area to make the best out of the new narrower Wild Cat Trail. Getting a closer glance at the suspension on the new Arctic Cat we find a little more than the typical 50-inch sport trail UTV. The front reach of the a-arms on the Arctic Cat Wild Cat Trail, swing up to an impressive 10-inches while the rear suspension will travel 10.5-inches. This gives just a bit more movement than the competition. The dual arm design is coupled to a front and rear sway bar that keeps the chassis just a bit tighter while riding off camber terrain as well as offering stability while cornering. The suspension is dampened by premium FOX nitrogen charged shocks. These FOX single spring, preload adjustable only shocks should offer suitable trail dampening for this compact ride. Comfort is key when you only have limited travel to work with and FOX has become the go to company for elite shock absorption.
Although we have been to the Gateway Canyon resort before it is always fun to get back there. The views from just about anywhere on the property are amazing and riding the tight ridgelines and farm roads is a favorite of this guy. Not to mention the deer run in herds and it is very exciting to see. With our knowledge of the trails here we knew at least the drive train was about to get its test! Heading out as early as we did on the morning our ride the cool weather in Gateway Canyon would surely have gotten the best of any carbureted machine. Our EFI equipped Wild Cat Trail fired the 700 engine right up and we were making dust. The engine sounds great and seems to be internally balanced very well. The first thing I noticed when I sat down into the machine as a larger rider it was a bit tight in the cab and I had to adjust my seating position to get comfortable. This however is to be expected I guess in a smaller more nimble ride. The steering wheel tilts very well and it also has an incredible range of tilt so I did not feel trapped by the wheel. I was able to get the feel for the machines cab and after just a bit I had truly gotten comfortable.
Driving out of the canyon and up into the even colder climate along hwy 141 we were able to open up the motor a bit and let it show us its potential. The throttle response is good and the engine seems to produce good usable power. The power is very linear as it responds to the throttle being pressed on. We did notice the transmission internal gearing seemed as though it could have been tighter to eliminate some chatter but functioned well once the gas pedal was pressed down a bit. We did encounter some icy conditions in higher elevation and slowly made our way through. The Wild Cat Trail machine worked the slick mud and icey conditions like a pro and the Carlisle “Trail Pro” tires that had been specifically designed for the Wild Cat Trail hung on to what grip they had. Rolling over some smaller rocks and high-speed rough terrain conditions the suspension fought like a prize fighter and made us proud for sure. For a simple nitrogen charged and only preload adjustable dampening these FOX shocks worked surprisingly well. We heard it mentioned that some had not been able to bottom the shocks and overall we felt this setup works well for the machine. The travel of the suspension being 10/10.5 really helped as well and with sway control bars both front and rear the machine seemed stable at slower speeds.
As the speed began to increase it was apparent we were driving narrow smaller machines as the Carlisle tires would grab corners and bicycle the WCT. I’m sure this is possible in the competitions rig as well. Overall we had a full day of good times in the Wild Cat Trail as it is a very fun machine with plenty of potential and I will say its nice to know off-roaders now have a new choice in the 50-inch sport-recreational category.
For vehicle options, specifications and pricing for the Arctic Cat Wildcat Trail, please visit the Arctic Cat Website