A brand new Cat has been rumored since long before the Textron’s acquisition. Combining Textron Off Road’s passion and downright will to build cool stuff with the industry dominating plan that Arctic Cat already had in place, could only be topped by one thing. That “thing”, was bringing Robby Gordon and “Tonka” Todd Romano into the mix! These guys were brought in with open arms, and given all the freedom and means necessary to develop and create an incredible handling suspension platform. As it turns out, they have also played a large part in the development of the entire project, and its accessory lineup.
The new Wildcat XX has a mission, or “position” statement, and that is “to deliver an unbeatable ride experience that can only be brought to you by the company that builds some of the most-advanced machines in the world.” Bringing in a super knowledgeable and accredited Racer like Robby Gordon is a perfect example of Textron’s passion for offload and supremacy. For the recent XX press launch, the Off Road Legend himself was on hand for Q&A, proving to be a really approachable, down to earth guy with a complete wealth of knowledge. This guy knows Off Road like no other, he also completely understands suspension set up and design.
The night before our first hands-on Wildcat XX experience was spent bench racing with Robby and Todd over dinner and drinks. They were both obviously as proud of and impressed by the new machine, and couldn’t wait for us to experience it for ourselves. As the “Ride” was of the highest importance, the suspension was the key focus of the build, as well as our dinner conversations.
THE WILDCAT XX’S RG SUSPENSION
The WILDCAT XX features a little over 18 inches of front and rear wheel travel. While this is on par, or a little less than the rest of the current competition, it’s not always just about numbers in the suspension game. Robby made a point of mentioning that all suspension travel is created equally, and that how you get it plays just as big a part in how well it works. Upon first examination, the key differences you will notice are that the front steering rack is located in front of the axle, and the absence of the rear radius rods, commonly associated with long travel UTV suspension systems. The Wildcat XX features a completely unique suspension system, utilizing unequal length front A-arms and an Off-Road racing or “Trophy Truck” inspired rear trailing arm. Robby Gordon has been developing and proving this suspension design in his SST race Series for the past two years.
The unique suspension combination reduces track width change by up to 40% in the rear and 80% in the front, in comparison to the competition. This true tracking design creates previously unmatched stability and control. The XX’s rear trailing arm allows for the tires to travel virtually straight up and down through the entire suspension travel. This creates less side-to-side movement than the conventional radius rod set up, in which the tires track drastically in and out during the suspensions travel. This design requires a lot more inner CV axle plunge, as the wheel is not moving further away as the suspension compresses. The Wildcat XX uses a unique double plunging CV axle set up to make this work seamlessly.
The unequal length front A-Arms adjust the tires’ camber throughout the suspension travel, to ensure maximum tire contact with the ground at all times. This further enhances steering and control, as does the steering rack being mounted in front of the axle for increased leverage. The shocks are angled for the ideal motion ratio, and the fronts are actually mounted to the lower A-Arm for a lower center of gravity, The Wildcat XX comes equipped with FOX 2.5 Podium QS3 Shocks with Bottom-Out Control in the rear for increased comfort. The QS3 technology offers simplicity at its finest, with three drastically different compression settings, depending on what type of terrain and driving you will be throwing at it. The RG designed Wildcat XX features 13.5” of ground clearance, just like the RZR XP platform.
RACE READY DURABILITY & SERVICEABILITY
Textron and Robby both claim that durability and serviceability were at the forefront of the design for
this vehicle. The Wildcat XX is one of the first UTVs to feature all double shear suspension and steering components. This means that they are all supported by tabs on both sides, with the bolt passing through two supporting members for increased durability. This is a pretty big deal in the off road racing world, as we’ve recently seen complete failure or breakage with under-built examples from the competition. The steering and suspension system also includes a T-Pin style, forged aluminum front knuckle and large wheel bearings. The Hanging Rear Drivetrain prevents underside damage from impacting the powertrain mounting points.
Access to key vehicle systems was also a major factor in the Wildcat XX’s design. The entire rear engine and transaxle is housed in a subframe that can be removed with 6 bolts, after removing the skid plate and disconnecting the fluid and electrical connections. The front gear case is also mounted to an easily removable front steel clip/skid. The whole front clip can actually be replaced if damaged, instead of replacing the entire frame, like with other UTVs. This alone could save thousands when considering the
cost and labor difference of a frame replacement.
BIG TRIPLE POWER WITH THE EASE OF A CVT
Robby and Arctic Cat/Textron had been testing this suspension platform through race team development, but it had been mated to the lower performance, original Wildcat engine. Textron opted for the incredible performance of Yamaha’s high revving 3 cylinder EFI snowmobile engine. This motor has already proven itself incredibly reliable, and it’s known to make big NA power, and even bigger power with a Turbo or Supercharger. Yamaha has been using this stellar engine in its YXZ1000R, but Textron planned to change things up a bit by mating it to a TEAM Industries Rapid Response CVT clutch. The motor is known for making huge power; it comes on higher in the RPMs, and then pulls to the moon. While impressive, the curve is a little narrow and challenging to utilize when mated to a fully manual transmission. Hooked to a CVT system that can easily keep it in the meat of the power band, will bring a whole new experience.
The CVT sends power to an all-new, front and rear TEAM transaxle and front gear case that has been designed specifically for the Wildcat XX. You can toggle between 2wd/4wd and 4wd lock functionality for greater flexibility in different terrains, and for superior rock crawling ability. The 4wd diff-lock option ensures equal power to all four wheels at all times. A true locking diff like this is the only way to go for maximum traction when rock crawling or descending sharp grades.
FINISHING IT OFF RIGHT
Looking for the ultimate driver experience and styling, Textron gave the Wildcat XX the largest cab in its class. The race-inspired ROPS cage is the real deal, not your average one crash and throw it away design, like we see from other manufacturers. The custom looking cage is made with .090 HLSA, (High Strength Steel Alloy) just like many aftermarket cages on the market. It also features intrusion V bars to increase safety, as well as making it legal for many racing organizations. Standard full doors with a quality latch will also keep most customers from looking to the aftermarket and dropping an extra $600 for full coverage doors.
Sitting in the driver’s seat, you will immediately notice how much foot room is available. With its adjustable seat and crazy amount of floorboard, this car is built to impress anyone from a jockey to a defensive lineman with size 15’s. As an added nicety, the dead pedal has been optimally placed for increased comfort, allowing your left leg to be bent the same as the right while driving. The dashboard is also driver focused with 60% facing to the driver. Center panels are also designed for accessory installation, and angled toward the driver for increased visibility and functionality.
Speaking of accessory integration, the Wildcat XX has pre-wired, four key switch-based powered accessory connections for ease of installation. Textron has actually included four independently fused and switched circuits that are ready for true plug and play with light bars and or other electrical accessories. To power any and all of these accessories, a standard 60-amp automotive type alternator is included, in addition to the 470 watt stator that powers the motor. The car also comes equipped with a standard 12 volt outlet and a USB port.
STORAGE & BODY
Class-leading storage is obtained with a 300 lb. capacity cargo box that will horizontally fit up to a 32” tire, and a massive 4 gallon dry storage glove box. The plus-size cargo bed features tool-less removal to provide easy access to the top side of the engine, intake and powertrain. Four simple twist plugs and the entire floor lifts out of the bed box for generous access. The glove box will seriously fit your lunch, a light jacket or sweatshirt, a first aid kit and basic tools, it’s that Big!
The moment we’d all been waiting for, getting behind the wheel! With all the hype, our morning ride couldn’t come fast enough. We headed out to Stoddard Wells OHV area for our first desert driving experience. This high desert ride area is incredibly rocky, and with multiple different desert races taking place there each year, it’s always as whooped out as you can possibly imagine. This is where the So Cal big boys come to test suspension, tires, and other set ups. On any given weekday, you will run into the guys from FOX or KING Shocks, as well as many of the top trophy truck teams. It also happens to be the location of our first Arctic Cat Wildcat press launch back in 2012.
While we would spend the morning and better part of the afternoon driving them ourselves, Robby Gordon was also on hand to give E-Ticket rides around his personal test loop in the immediate area. Apparently the majority of the suspension and durability testing on this machine had taken place right there in the southern California testing hotbed. More on this later, but he absolutely has this loop wired and would impress the un-impressionable.
We left camp on a guided ride to get acquainted with the brand new Wildcat XX. While not a big fan of large guided rides in the dry dusty desert, it is pretty much a necessity to get everyone acquainted with the machine and the layout of the land. The first thing you immediately appreciate is the seating position, foot room and large, full coverage doors. The next thing I noticed was that it seriously soaks up the whoops like nothing we have experienced before. Most of today’s UTVs can eat the whoops while planed out at speed, but will pass a beating to the occupants while getting to speed. A good part of this beating comes from the tendency to swap side to side, as the suspension is going through its stroke.
The Wildcat XX’s minimized side to side movement of the tires pays off in dividends when it comes to desert whoops. You can roll slowly into the throttle or stab it with the new Wildcat; it tracks straight and doesn’t have the normal tendency to swap the rear end around on you. The wife/photographer/co-dawg also immediately commented on how comfortable the ride was in comparison to the competition. Like we mentioned, all the top machines seem to really soak up the whoops at speed, and where the Wildcat XX really impresses is at less than mashed throttle, starting out, or everywhere in between. This is also not to say it wasn’t impressive at WFO thru the whoops, it’s just that a few other machines are pretty dang good there as well.
After a short initial ride, we regrouped at base camp for a longer, guided trail ride to the other side of the OHV area. Everybody seemed excited about the handling and overall initial feeling of the car. The talk was definitely geared toward suspension, and a lot of people were equally impressed by its ability to track straight while soaking up trophy truck sized whoops. We all left camp on a higher speed trail ride, with some really fun whoop sections and multiple opportunities to open it up. Top speed was a very respectable 76 mph and it gets there in a hurry. “Robby was quick to assure us that the speed limiter is removable, and that it’s more than capable of a lot more.” Another cool feature with the XX was that it comes stock with 30 inch tires on super narrow offset 15” KMC wheels. What’s more, the oversized fenders will cover up to a 32” tire without rubbing.
The ride across Stoddard Wells brought us to what the Textron engineers were really wanting to showcase, a massive and nasty rock crawling section. We put the Wildcat XX in low range with 4wd Diff-lock and pointed it up a rocky trail that would leave most UTVs struggling for traction, and possibly leaving the trail along the way. The diff lock selector switch, while functional, is definitely not the cleanest or easiest to operate. It takes a minute to figure out, but really it’s not that bad, just a little awkward. The function of the diff lock system on the other hand, was flawless and brainless. It finds traction everywhere and virtually eliminates wheel slip. Ground clearance and skid plate protection was equally impressive, it takes some really poor decisions “or driving” to actually get it hung up on any obstacle that we could find.
The ride back to camp for lunch was sped up by taking a good portion of high speed dirt road, but everyone was leaning toward the hungry side at that point. On high speed dirt roads we notice that the EPS assistance seems to create really light steering. While this is definitely a driver preference thing, we would appreciate a little more feedback or connected feel, while some really like the overall minimal resistance. When brought up to the engineers, and Robby mentioned that he preferred it that way, it was also an easy internal change to be made, or could even be offered with multiple settings like the Can Am.
The afternoon allotted some free time to drive the car, as well as photo time and a chance to ride with Robby around his test loop. They also had a stock Maverick X3 and a RZR XP1000 for back to back comparisons through the whoops. The brand new stock Can Am was the 120HP, 64” wide version Maverick X3 Turbo, which is pretty competitively priced with the Wildcat XX. The RZR was a 14/15 borrowed XP 1000 with miscellaneous aftermarket parts on it. I would say the Can Am was a very fair test, but the modified RZR comparison wouldn’t really be admissible in court.
Long story short, the Wildcat walked all over the RZR in the whoops. It was also better than the Can Am, but it felt a lot closer. All joking aside, with it’s heavy, wide offset deadlock wheels, the RZR felt almost rigid and heavier to any stock XP I had ever tested. Don’t let that take anything away from the Wildcat XX, as it was night and day better than both vehicles and really leaves you impressed, with or without a vehicle comparison.
A RIDE WITH BOBBY
As a longtime MX and OffRoad Racer, I have never been a fan of sitting on the right hand side of a vehicle. With that said, this was Robby Gordon behind the wheel! In reality, I’d actually spent a lot of time testing tires with WORCS Champion Beau Baron behind the wheel in this same desert, and just got back from co-driving the Baja 1000 with TerraCross and TORC Champion Jason Luburg. Both great drivers, but anyone else leaves me in a panic, and constantly looking for an out. Riding with Robby Gordon was more than just an opportunity to experience the Wildcat XX’s true ability, it was also a lesson on line choice, and full on desert flogging from the best in the business!
Robby can absolutely rip through his 1.5 mile test loop like it’s an oval track with nothing but lefts! He rarely lifts his foot off the gas, and gains ground clearance in areas that you wouldn’t think possible. While he had been testing on this course for a lot of this car’s development, it was still over the top impressive, even for a guy who’s not easily impressed. There wasn’t one minuscule spot on that loop that left me thinking I could have done it any faster or smoother. This guy came from, and truly is a perfect example of OffRoad Racing perfection behind the wheel, in the shop and on the drawing board.
After a full day of smashing the nastiest whoops and rocks in So California, the Wildcat XX was pretty much unfazed. With a dozen or so test vehicles and as many amateur drivers, we saw only one broken rear inner CV and zero other failures. Not even a single clutch belt was changed. Robby’s car that was used in the guided trail rides and then seriously abused for lap after lap around the test track was flawless as well. We even had him tip it up on its side to see that the skid plate and under carriage were holding up and still in near-new condition.
For the last day of the intro, they took us to spectate the King of the Hammers Race in the infamous Johnson Valley. As the production release was not until Feb.25th, there was only one vehicle racing, and it would be driven by longtime Wildcat pilot, and Arctic Cat dealer Dean Bulloch. While they only had one vehicle entered, they definitely showed up in style with their freshly wrapped TEXTRON helicopter. We did mention they own Bell Helicopters didn’t we, and if you got it, flaunt it. The Helicopter made a big statement, as well as providing some awesome filming opportunities.
As for Dean, he did DNF due to breaking the stock cast aluminum/rubber engine mounts. Pretty much every other UTV racing this brutal race would be running aftermarket billet ones, but they weren’t made available in time for the race. Another thing to keep in mind was that only 10 of 119 UTV entrants actually finished in the allotted time, and then only two others unofficially finished outside of the time limit. In other words, this was one extremely tough test on man and machine, with only about a 9% finishing rate.
With our day in the desert, we are pretty confident that this is the best handling new UTV in these conditions. We also think that it is on par, or poised to be the machine to beat in the very near future. It seems to be extremely durable, handles the whoops and the chop like a boss, and is very comfortable to spend a long day in. We loved it and hope to get a whole lot more familiar with it in the upcoming months.
ESPECS: 2018 TEXTRON OFF ROAD WILDCAT XX
- Engine type: Liquid-cooled, DOHC 4-stroke Inline Triple
- Displacement: 998cc
- Horsepower: 125 hp
- Bore x stroke: 80mm x 66.2mm (x3)
- Compression ratio: 11.3:1
- Lubrication system: Dry sump
- Additional cooling: Auto fan
- Induction: EFI
- Starting/back-up: Electric/none
- Starting procedure: Turn ignition switch
- Air filter:
- Type: Paper pleat tool-less access
- Transmission: Dual-range CVT w/reverse and TEAM Rapid Response Clutches
- Drive system: Selectable 2WD/4WD w/front locking differential via Electrical Actuator
- Final drives: Shafts
- Fuel capacity: 37.9 liters (10 gals)
- Wheelbase: 241.3 cm (95.0”)
- Overall length/width/height: 345.4 cm / 162.6 cm / 171.5 cm (136”/64”/67.5”)
- Ground clearance: 35.5 cm (14”)
- Claimed dry weight: 823.7 kg (1,816 lbs.)
- Bed weight limit: 136.1 kg (300 lbs.)
- Bed Dimensions: 86.4×81.3×22.9 cm (34x32x9 in.)
- Glove Box Capacity: 15.1 liters (4 gal)
- Towing limit…N/A
- Frame: Structurally Welded High Strength Steel Alloy
- Safety: Standard full doors, Race-Inspired ROPS w/front and rear intrusion bars
- Suspension/wheel travel:
- Front: Dual A-arm w/ Fox Podium QS3 w/compression adjustment/45.7 cm (18”)
- Rear: Trailing-arms w/ Fox Podium QS3 w/compression adj. & Bottom-Out Control /45.7 cm (18”)
- Front: Hydraulic discs/twin piston/left-side pedal
- Rear: Hydraulic discs/single piston/left-side pedal
- Front: 30×10-15 CST Behemoth Tires
- Rear: 30×10-15 CST Behemoth Tires
- Wheels: 15 inch Aluminum KMC Wheels
- Electrical Output: 470 Watt Stator & 65 Amp Alternator
- DC Outlet…Console
- Accessory Integration: Pre-Installed Wiring for
- unto 4 Accessories
- Front: 2 Halogen hi/lo headlights w/LED Accent
Instrumentation: Dual Screen LCD Gauge with Seatbelt Light, High Indicator, Coolant Over Temp. Check Engine Light, Engine Hours, Clock, Odometer, Oil PSI, Gear Position, Diagnostic Mode
Warranty: 6 months