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Many of our readers and viewers don’t get this whole Textron thing yet. I can’t believe the number of questions continually coming from readers and viewers unaware of this giant corporation’s equity in things motorized and specifically off-road.

Much of the confusion stems from this reality: Textron purchased Arctic Cat a little over a year ago and then took the Arctic Cat branding off the Arctic Cat off-road models they continue to produce.

In fact, Textron has moved most of its off-road manufacturing from Georgia to the home of Arctic Cat in Thief River Falls, Minnesota and St Cloud, Minnesota. So Textron Off-Road products are still built in Arctic Cat factories and most of the Arctic Cat employees are still in place. Less confused?

Here’s the beef. Textron is a $15 billion corporation (FYI – approximately the same size as Yamaha Motor Corp worldwide) producing sophisticated aviation (Cessna, Lycoming and Bell Helicopters) and other military vehicles – to mention just a few categories.

What does this have to do with our report on the Textron Stampede? First: The Stampede is not a re-branded SxS from somewhere off-shore. It is true-blue American engineered and manufactured. It’s well built, tough and backed by an impressive dealer network that got a whole lot more impressive when Textron added Arctic Cat’s well established North American dealer network to the relatively small number of Textron Off-Road dealers.

For the record, the Achilles heel of every newcomer SxS and ATV OEM always has been a profound lack of dealers. You can’t get anywhere in the off-road biz today without distribution and customer service – that’s what dealers do.

What do we think of the Stampede? A full-on DirtTrax Test Ride segment will be airing on the Outdoor Channel in the US and OLN and Wild TV in Canada early this summer. Here’s some info to wet your whistle:

The Stampede scores big marks in the specifications column. It’s powered by an even firing, SOHC, 850cc parallel twin driving through time-proven and built-in-the-USA TEAM clutches.

This 80-hp engine is torquey from initial engagement to a near 8000 RPM shift speed. Great care has been taken to ensure the engine and driveline are well protected from water and mud intrusion as are the clutches that have an effective venting/cooling system.

Suspension numbers are equally as impressive with 11 inches of ground clearance, 9.5 inches of wheel travel up front and 10.5 outback.

Here’s where we have some concern. The Stampede is deliberately targeted at the industry leading Polaris Ranger XP. This is a lofty target and one that has more than 50-percent market share in the Sport-Ute SxS segment. If you’re going to target the leader then you need to pay attention to ride quality because the leader (and most recently Can-Am’s new Defender) has ride quality nailed. The Stampede isn’t quite there yet.

Function is where the Stampede – in our opinion – really shines. The basic chassis uses what is best called an “extended cab” to produce a very useable and innovative storage area behind the cab and in front of the large 600-pound capacity dumping cargo box.

You can easily throw a chain saw, gas, axe and safety gear in there while saving the box for the load of cut wood you just stole from your neighbor’s wood lot. There’s a beefy 2-inch hitch receiver, full-length, sealed doors and nice aluminum wheels shod with Maxxis Big Horn 2.0s. The Stampede also comes with traction sensing on-demand true 4×4 and lawn saving turf mode for yard chores.

Stuff we don’t get would be led by the existence of only two seat belts up front. This class of SxS needs three belts like the Ranger and the Defender. The other issue is the two-handed tailgate release clamps – definitely old school – and not up to the standard set by the competition’s pick-up style, one-handed gates.

There’s a lot to like and little to dislike on the Stampede X for MY2018. You owe it to yourself to visit your local Textron Off-Road dealer – which may look an awful lot like your Arctic Cat dealer – and check out the Stampede X before making a purchase in this popular SxS category.

Mark Lester
Mark Lester
Mark Lester is Co-Publisher of SUPERTRAX Magazine and a regular Host on Dirt Trax TV.

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