The Wildcat for the rest of us
On our long drive from the St. George Municipal Airport to our ride location in Bryce Canyon, Utah, we had plenty of time to think about the machine as well as the company we would be visiting with for the next two days.
Arctic Cat had come to market in a little different fashion in comparison to others (Polaris) as it developed its long-travel, high-power Side-by-Side machine first and worked into the more trail-friendly versions as the years passed went on. The Wildcat Trail, a 50-inch trail machine, popped up last year and it wasn’t long before a slightly wider and powerful machine were in the works. Enter the 2015 Arctic Cat Wildcat Sport and Wildcat Sport Limited EPS.
Both new Wildcat Sport models are more suited for the average trailheads, rather than the wide open desert. When given the choice of what machine we wanted to drive, it had to be the Limited with Electronic Power Steering. Without a doubt we would see rocky terrain as well as rutted out sections of trail from the last two months of torrential rain, so we wanted all the help in the steering department we could get.
COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2014 Arctic Cat Wildcat Trail
Focused right in the middle of the 64-inch wide 1000-class Wildcat and the tight woods 50-inch Wildcat Trail, this Wildcat Sport provides another option for those consumers. Speaking of options, our rig was outfitted with Elka Stage 5 shocks that offer dual speed compression and rebound adjustability. But if you need another choice, there were the JRI ECX-1 shocks with full compression adjustability as well. This variety of adjustments help each and every driver get a good feeling and comfortable ride in their own personal trail riding styles.
While we are on the subject of suspension, Arctic Cat’s new Wild Child has dual A-arms front and rear with the travel being 12.2 inches in the front and 12.6 in the back. During our ride we noticed the stock settings seemed to be relatively focused on the trail rider and a good start for those who wish to pick up the pace just a little more.
With an overall ground clearance of 13 inches it was not hard to get over the massive rock gardens waiting for us in the dry river beds of the canyon. Our Wildcat Sport always felt in control and we had little to complain about in the way of suspension or shocks. The front lower control arms are also arched a bit to add to the overall ground clearance or at least to give it as wide a space across as possible before tipping down to the spindles. The rear mounted sway bar on the Wildcat Sport helps control chassis roll in the corners and we were curious how a front sway bar might tighten that machine up just a tad more.
As far as power for the new Wildcat Sport, you will find a 60hp 700cc four-stroke powerplant hooked into the automatic belt driven transmission. Obviously, this engine is fuel injected and with the type of altitudes we had seen over the two days of riding this machine felt as if it had plenty juice to give thrill seekers a good run on the trails.
COMPARISON: Read our preview of the 2015 Polaris RZR 900
Morning temps dipped into the mid-20s and the engine seemed to like that, but eventually temps climbed to the 70s during the day. We rode around 6000 – 10,000 feet of elevation for our ride. Where most machines will cough and reject any attempts to build power, our Wildcat Sport worked well even at the estimated 10,500 feet close to Powell’s Point. The Team Industries Rapid Response clutch gave great pulling power and seemed to really work hard in the nasty rocks and steep climbs during our ride. If we had incurred a problem (which we did not) with any of the drivetrain, it would have been much easy to investigate on the Wildcat Sport as the clutch cover and as its components were really easy to access.
The cab of the new Wildcat Sport is very familiar and seems to be laid out the same way as its bigger siblings. Everything is right in reach and with an informative digital gauge you have important information at the ready. The cab is a no-frills style just like all other Wildcat machines, but it has room to grow. Tilt steering works for larger riders and for the most part it is a comfortable arrangement. One thing that kept getting at us was the seemingly flat seat bottom. We think the front of the seat could use a little tilt rearward and some kind of fat bolstering on the front of it to help the rider stay planted. We found ourselves pushing against the flooring to reset our seating position as we would slide forward in rough and uneven terrain. This brought to light the slick floorboards and the possible need for a grippier surface for our feet to grab onto.
We like the full doors on our Limited model Wildcat Sport as it gives the driver and passenger mucho protection. We’ve become used to the half doors where, as a larger rider, our leg would either protrude through the bottom gap in the door to frame connection or become irritated leaning against the bar of the door.
COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2014 Kawasaki Teryx LE
One thing we should mention was the huge amount of under-hood storage, where we kept our water and lunch wrapped up during the ride. The container is sealed and easy to access when you need it.
Overall, the 200-plus miles we rode in the Wildcat Sport was enjoyable. Electronic power steering worked well and took the strain of the many tight sections as well as the rocky terrain off of the driver.
Our machine held up very well with only one pinch flat and that was the driver’s fault. We had plenty of slow crawling trails but there were a couple that screamed, “Fire that sucker up!” Great job, Arctic Cat.