For years Polaris has owned the entire 50-inch wide sport side-x-side market – heck the company even created it and simply went unchallenged until Arctic Cat stepped up to the plate with a side-x-side that is sure to give the 50-inch wide RZR a run for its money.
Building on the Wildcat name, Arctic Cat saw its opening into the virtually ignored 50-inch wide market and stepped firmly on the gas to introduce the all-new Wildcat Trail.
We had a chance to ride this powerful little Cat and here’s what we thought.
Arctic Cat engineers worked with Kymco to produce a 700 EFI parallel-twin churning out a claimed 60+ horsepower, which is 20% more than Polaris’ 800 in the RZR! Maybe you’re rolling your eyes right now, but press your foot down on the accelerator and this mill roars to life.
We had the opportunity to open it up for miles down fire roads during the day’s testing in the hills around Gateway Colorado. As the trees, and bushes lining our path turned into a blur we held firmly to the beautifully crafted steering wheel and exercised precision power slides into and out of corners, counter steering as the vehicle drifted and then smoothly transitions back down the straightaway.
Front and rear sway bars made corners flat and controlled with very little body roll and the Trail’s incredibly low seating position provided the feeling of being inside the cockpit and not on top of it like in a utility SXS.
The Trail handles beautifully. Its rack and pinion steering feels light and controlled at each turn and maneuvering over rocky and rough sections of trail inspires confidence in the driver.
At first glance of the spec sheet we wondered if the absence of power steering even on the XT version would work against Arctic Cat in this category, but in our opinion we didnt miss it one bit and feel Cat has the Trails steering dialed in just right.
To really make an impact in this segment, Cat had to come to the table with its guns loaded. Any sign of weakness or a soft offering could spell immediate doom for the Wildcat Trail and in its typical aggressive style, Arctic Cat brought it’s A-game. The Wildcat Trail comes stock with some pretty sweet features that would top your list as aftermarket accessories.
The Trail’s FOX Nitrogen Charged shocks are a big step up from basic steel coilovers and are actually the same shocks we added to the DirtTrax RZR 570 Trail Tech project this season.
Furthermore, this little SXS uses Team’s Rapid Response Clutch for quick engagement when the throttle is stabbed. There’s also really sweet looking hinged doors that take the place of clipped on nets. These doors provide a feeling of security when you’re seated in the cockpit and prevent knees and elbows from dangling outside risking injury from tree branches in tighter sections of trail. Theres even a fully digital gauge package, which is probably the nicest we’ve seen.
The addition of aftermarket accessories you want, plus more horsepower, great handling, cool looking style as well as the safety of latching doors are all things most of us would be willing to pay extra for, but here’s where Arctic Cat really makes its mark. All of this is available on the 2014 Wildcat Trail for an MSRP of $500 LOWER than the RZR 800. Yeah, you read that right. You actually get way more for way less. When does that ever happen anymore?!
For a long time, Polaris has gone unchallenged in the category it created and finally we’re seeing a contender step in to really heat up competition. The 50-inch wide sport side-x-side market is about to get really, really interesting.