It was only a matter of time before the highly sought after 50-inch SXS market had some additional players in the mix. Arctic Cat recently unleashed their answer to meet the competition in this segment. Just a few months back we found out that Arctic Cat had indeed dug out their foundation for the new platform to move them forward in off-road. This all-new tight woods twin-seater would be the talk of the industry and it wasn’t long before we had a chance to get behind the wheel. We have plenty of news from behind the steering wheel but let’s first look at some facts about the machine known as the Arctic Cat Wild Cat Trail Limited!
With a totally new Arctic Cat engine, designed and engineered by Arctic Cat, this one is actually built by Kymco. This is a parallel-twin cylinder power plant and it is fuel fed via Arctic Cat’s electronic fuel injection. This brand new engine design builds a claimed 60HP using EFI. This is also a 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 a near future.
This new power plant is mated to a transmission developed by the experts at TEAM industries. Team is an industrial company popular for building tough and reliable power transfer, making better CVT clutching. 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.
One 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 to the rear, 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 driver who likes to ride rougher terrain. There is even a true parking gear selection. The 4WD on this Wild Cat Trail Limited is a great feature for this machine because you know there will come a moment where you drive off into something and this will save you from having to push it back out!
The interior of our Wild Cat Trail looks much like the full size machine. The seating position is very low and you will feel more down in the ride. This gives the side-by-side more balance for a low center of gravity. When you put two grown men inside, you need the weight to be as low as possible due to the machine’s narrow width. The comfortable bucket seating has been custom sewn and looks tough enough for any trail war. Arctic Cat claims the Wild Cat Trail sits the riders 3-inches lower in the cabin than the competitive models. 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 crucial information you may need to know while riding around in the trails.
The ignition switch and 2WD/4WD selector are both located just under this new display and you will find the light controls there as well. A simple tug on the gear shifter in the center of the seats allows you to move forward or reverse directions. It would be nice if the selection positions had more of a detent in the gear lever to really stuff it in the gear. Or at least feel as if it is in its proper place. The glove box, which is the only enclosed storage, has a net to keep your basic needs from being on the trail. Storage still is at a premium in this machine, as its small stature tends to eliminate any room for extras. There are twin cup holders and some limited space behind the driver’s 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.
Arctic Cat clearly focused 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 swings 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 the key when you only have limited travel to work with and FOX has become the industries go-to company for shock absorption.
Without hesitation our fuel injected Wild Cat Trail fires that 700 engine right up and we were quickly making dust. The engine sounds great and seems to be internally balanced very well. The steering wheel tilts easily 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 fairly quick and I had truly gotten comfortable inside this machine. As a larger rider it is tight though.
Driving out of the gravel roads, we were able to open the motor up a bit and let it show its potential. The throttle response is good and the engine seems to produce good usable power when the driver calls it into action. 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 internal chatter but it did function well once the gas pedal was pressed down a bit.
The Wild Cat Trail machine worked the slightly muddy spots 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 champ and seemed to work well for its size and travel limits the WC Trail has. For simple nitrogen charged and only preload adjustable dampening these FOX shocks worked surprisingly well. We felt this setup works well for the machine. The travel of the suspension is 10/10.5 respectively front and rear. The Wild Cat Trail also has sway control bars both front and rear as well. This made the machine pretty stable at slower speeds. However, as we began to increase the gas pedal pressure it was apparent we were driving narrow smaller machine. The Carlisle tires would grab in the tight corners and seem to bicycle the WCT. As with any narrow side by side we knew there would be a point of where our WCT would start to tip and it only took a heavy foot and one sharp turn to find it. The cab was one place of concern as it seemed the chatter inside the driver’s compartment was intense. I would also love to feel more grip in the flooring of this machine. Like other WC UTVs the floors are slick and any little dust or water just magnifies the effect.
Our Arctic Cat Wild Cat Trail Limited also had electronic power steering. This was a grand benefit in the tighter trails and rocks. The assist is needed when 4WD is applied and just seems to help stabilize the steering too. Power steering is something that I feel every UTV/SXS should have and I know it can be expensive at times but it’s really worth it.
After all was said and done and the machine was shut down, we knew we had a full day of good times in the Wild Cat Trail. I will say it’s nice to know our industry now has a growing line of new choices in the 50-inch sport-recreational category and I think with just a little refinement the Wild Cat Trail is headed in the right direction.