Wild step forward
Liz Hochstedler, Associate Editor
November 28, 2011
Filed under Features
Arctic Cat enters new league with sport side-by-side
That Arctic Cat has stepped into a new side-by-side segment with its new Wildcat is apparent from first sight.
The styling is aggressive, with a new exoskeleton chassis, automotive paint in green and black, looming Walker Evans shocks and Wildcat-exclusive treaded Duro tires. The short doors that swing toward the back, race-inspired seats that sit low in the cab and its carefully chiseled features add to the look.
But once the vehicle is out in its element — scaling hills, tackling whoops and grazing over rocks — the Wildcat really begins to shine. And it really shows that Arctic is stepping into a full-sport realm.
Dealer orders for the Wildcat are pouring in. Limited production of the vehicles was set to begin in November, with another limited run in December and full production set for the end of January or early February. But media got a sneak peek in mid-October in Barstow, Calif.
Arctic Cat has launched this vehicle not only as an aggressive punch into the sport side-by-side market, but also as a direct response to Polaris’ RZR.
A dealer-tailored video shown to the media compared the Wildcat to the Polaris RZR XP 900 and explained in which categories the Wildcat is unique when compared head-to-head with its competition. Arctic Cat considers the Can-Am Commander far from reaching the same audience as the Wildcat, which was also demonstrated in the film. Arctic conceded that the Wildcat’s 13-inch of ground clearance is the same as the RZR XP 900, and the 64-inch width is similar, and obviously both are built for sport. But the list of features in which Arctic Cat believes it excels is long. The biggest bragging point for Arctic Cat is in the Wildcat’s suspension. It boasts 17 inches of travel in the front and 18 inches in the rear, which can be felt, as many editors said whoops for which they had braced themselves were barely felt. The Walker Evans shocks also have 16 compression adjustments as well as two pre-load adjustments.
Also, the engine placement is unique to the side-by-side market. In an effort to create a 60/40 weight bias inspired by trophy trucks and Class A cars, the radiator was moved to the rear of the vehicle, to sit closer to the 951cc 1000 H.O. V-twin — the same engine found in Arctic’s largest displacement ATVs. Also, ceramic exhaust pipes — that require no shrouding — were used to save space in the engine compartment. The engine also features the OEM’s first PTL clutch plate and five-link rear suspension.
Other features which will likely pique customers’ interest are the electric power steering, LED headlights and taillights, 14-inch rims, disc brakes and the cargo box, which holds up to 300 pounds of cargo. The Wildcat weighs 1,300 pounds and has a 90-inch wheelbase. Its MSRP is $16,599.
Because of the vehicle’s sporty features, it has been appealing to dealers who have in the past sold fewer Arctic Cat side-by-sides.
“This machine is going to help us gain more distribution in California and Arizona and out West,” said John Tranby, Arctic Cat’s marketing communications manager.
However, the Wildcat can also be used in other parts of the country. Though it won’t be allowed on many public ATV trails due to its width, Arctic Cat expects it to be popular for those who can play on private property. One Minnesota dealer has already ordered 10 Wildcats.
There’s no doubt that the Wildcat will create serious excitement at some dealerships, but it’s yet to be seen how it will compare when stacked up against the RZR XP 900 at retail.