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Thread: 2014 Wildcat Trail - The Shakedown Run

  1. #1
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    2014 Wildcat Trail - The Shakedown Run



    The long rumored 50-inch Wildcat is now a reality. And I am here to tell you, what a reality it is. I didn't know what to expect when I was told that I would be reviewing the little brother to the Wildcat. I was pretty blown away with the Wildcat from a couple of years ago, and now they have had time to tweak, refine, and redefine. The development team at Arctic Cat has pushed the limits of the 50-inch platform with the all new Wildcat Trail.




    The specs paint the picture for a truly great little machine. It seems as though the boys at Arctic Cat took a look at the current segment, and said, "Okay, this is good, now lets turn our amps to eleven." 50 inches wide, and 110 and a half inches long. This makes it 7.5 inches longer than it's direct competition. I will get to what this means in the bends later on. In the power to weight ratio department, the Trail is on par with the likes of a certain machine that is well out of it's class with just about 200 more cc's. I am not saying anything, that is just math. As for the all important subject of power, the manufacturer is claiming the vague 60+ horsepowers. The Trail is no slouch to say the least.






    The Trail is powered by an all new Inline EFI Twin Cylinder motor that features "60+ Horsepower." The power distribution is handled quite well by a TEAM Industries Rapid Response Clutch. I will be the first to say that they got it right with this CVT system. According to the lead engineers at AC, they worked with TEAM from the inception of the Wildcat Trail, two years ago. With every iteration of the Trail along the way, TEAM got a copy to test with. This continual relationship was made possible by the simple geographic location. The two companies are located about an hour from one another.




    In yet another category where the Trail bests the competition, the Trail features 10 inches of suspension travel in the front and 10.5 inches in the rear. This is impressive when you realize that your butt is actually a full 3 inches lower than in the competition. Since I am speaking of suspension, the addition of FOX Shocks is really one of the crown jewels of the Trail. The mission statement on the Wildcat was, "Suspension, Suspension, Suspension." The smaller brother of the Wildcat did not go unnoticed when this credo was nailed to the wall at Arctic Cat. The suspension on the Trail is something to sit up and take notice, or sit back and enjoy if you prefer. Those short a-arms, and steep shock mount angles do not translate into a rough, harsh ride. Again, more about that later.




    The front suspension begins with dual a-arms with Nitrogen Charged Fox Shocks with preload adjustment suspending the body, and keeping everything in check is a front sway bar. The rear sings a very similar song as you motor down the trail. Dual a-arms and a rear sway bar. All of this geometry, rubber, metal, and nitrogen is kept off of the ground by a set of 25X8.00-12NHS tires that were developed by Carlisle specifically for the Wildcat Trail.




    Another gem in the Trail's crown is the TEAM Industries Transaxle. This bit of kit makes the whole package tighter. The overall length of the machine was able to be shrunk by an impressive 13 inches with the use of the transaxle in lieu of a traditional setup. By shortening the entire vehicle, the Trail is able to boast a 60/40 weigh bias resulting in some truly impressive and precise steering characteristics. The full transmission delivers what you would expect from the sport class in that it offers Park, Reverse, Neutral, High, and Low gears.




    For a lot of you, one of the big questions is, "Does this thing have power steering?" Alas, it does not. That being said, this machine does not need it, due to the rack and pinion setup, as well as a completely new knuckle allowing for a quicker turning radius and knife-edge accurate cornering.







    For others, myself included, is whether or not they fixed the door latches. We are in luck. They did indeed. In talking to one of the project leads, he said that they were just trying to keep it simple this go around. The KISS principle prevails, and the new door latches are simple and above all, work.




    Once all of the boring spec talk is done, and the machines are topped with fuel, it is finally time to take these machines out for a full shakedown. This is the part where this review kicks into high gear, literally.




    Dawn broke in a remote canyon in Southwest Colorado. I was up early to grab some photos while the frost clung to the predawn temperatures of this quintessential Colorado morning. The machines were lined up outside the Arctic Cat trailer donning the prototype accessories that will be available upon the launch of the Arctic Cat Trail early this coming year. We were told only hours before that the newest cats would be in dealer's showrooms in late January, early February.




    The welds on the front bumper of a black Trail machine were experiencing the antithesis of their liquid hot birth. My breath billowing from my mouth due to this early season cold snap was clouding my lens, leading me to hold my breath in calculated anticipation of the shutter release, foreshadowing the momentary halt in breathing that was to occur in anticipation of the turn-in on the rapid assent of the canyon wall that was to commence in a matter of hours.




    Flash forward, I sit low in the Trail with my foot on the loud, go-fast pedal as my breath returns to me after the quick flick of the steering wheel, and my foot finds the floor as it sandwiches the throttle between the two. The machine that is carrying my body up the canyon wall in hot pursuit of the Wildcat 4X LTD that is leading the way, kicks sideways in a planted and confident manner. The suspension, and the weight of the body pushes the tires into the Earth as the fight between grip and slip is carefully managed by the throttle and steering input. I make drift, tearing up the the switchback laden road trailing the 4X LTD. The Trail settles into the corner with surprising ease, the long wheel base compliments the 50-inch width of the machine, almost daring me to push it just that much further, harder, faster. Pushing up the hill, the power on tap, the suspension, and the length of the machine all work in unison to inspire confidence in the machine making it feel not like a narrow, younger sibling to the Wildcat, but a capable counterpart designed to attack the trails just as the Wildcat has been terrorizing it's domain for years. It is in the DNA.




    As we gain altitude, the linear power curve seems to just continually pull from the bottom of the rev range, all the way to the top. Even with this thin Colorado air, packed dense by the cold weather, the Trail doesn't huff and puff in it's desire for more, and more air to mix with the 89 octane fuel coursing through the fuel rails. The Trail offers all of the power that you absolutely need in such a small package. The Trail boasts the most power to weight in it's class out of the all new inline twin 700cc motor. The engineering team at Arctic Cat seems to have been able to make this cat sing in perfect harmony between power, weight, and grip. On the aggressive corners, the Trail feels planted, as it claws at the ground for more and more dirt, rocks, and gravel. In the flats, the fabled top speed was touted to be a respectable 60 mph, but I was able to see a glimpse of 64, and snap a picture of 63. This is all at an altitude hovering around 5000 feet above where the good air lives, mind you.




    While the machine pushes you harder, and harder, the machine is only 50 inches wide, and while piloting this animal, you must keep that in the back of your mind. At some point, all the engineering and suspension work will give way to physics and the machine, with all of it's power, precision, and geometry will not be able to stop you from feeling that bit of tip that is inherent in a narrow platform. Despite the big brother like performance and composure, you must remember that you are still in a 50 inch machine. Hard to do when the machine keeps daring you to push the limit.




    Accentuating the linear power that is delivered by the motor is the near perfect clutching that was delivered through ground floor development with TEAM Industries. The combination of the transaxle that was specifically developed for the Trail by TEAM, the clutching, and the powerplant make for a harmonious marriage that deliver fluid power delivery when on, off, then on again throttling. The shift from Park to a driving gear is buttery smooth with no need to jerk the shifter from the Park position on any level of incline as with so many of the UTV's on the market. The motor is suspended from the frame with four puck rubber mounts that keep the high revving vibes to a minimum, and the catted exhaust keep things quiet, but also 2015 Emissions Compliant. Seems as though the Arctic Cat team are thinking ahead. With the smooth as butter shifting, there can be some small drawback as well. With a small bump of the elbow, the shifter can be knocked from it's home in High into a virtual purgatory of gearing accompanied with some light ticking, and diminished throttle response. Once you slide the shifter back home, and deliver a dab of throttle, the Trail snaps back into awesome mode, and you are off once again. Seat time will acquaint you with the spacial reasoning in the cockpit.




    Running through the tight trails and arroyos of Colorado, the Trail really shines. It shows it's heritage and pedigree of being developed in Minnesota, where the trial mileage outweighs the number of paved mileage in the state. You can tell that they have taken the Side X Side market seriously in their push to break into the Southwest market. This machine soaked up the bumps and rocks at speed in a genuinely surprising manner. The Fox Shocks took every bit of punishment that could be thrown at them and transformed the big stuff into nothing more than a head bobble. The terrain was rocky so the XT I was piloting was running 10 PSI in the Carlisle tires designed specifically for the Trail. I was told that the testers found that 8 PSI was the sweet spot. It can only get better from what I experienced on trail? Impossible.




    The only time that the Trail did not feel completely planted was on the fast decent from the mesa. The forward bias made the front push a little wide, and that was the only time that I felt unsure about it's footing. I am positive that this could have been due to the mass of meat in the lefthand seat as I have never liked the decent as much as the ascent. Simply put, "driver error."




    The XT model that I was in boasted the color matched seats, and suspension components, as well as the aluminum wheels with the polished accents. The fit and finish on the Trail seemed to be on the mind of the developers as it felt, "finished." There were a few pieces that rattled, and that was just fine considering the speed and terrain that I was throwing at it. The designers had the big picture in mind when they designed the panels as well. The ease of maintenance and access was designed into the panels from the start. From the quarter turn panels to reach the conveniently positioned oil filter, to the wide open access to the clutch, it is apparent that the designers took special effort to make sure that owners were not going to feel stranded without a wide reaching dealer network. The Arctic Cat Wildcat Trail is easily serviceable in your garage.




    The rumored market research question that was atop the decision maker's list was, "What out there is 'Bad Ass?'" Seems to me that this directive was taken seriously. And now the answer to that question is, "The Whole Wildcat Lineup." The Wildcat Trail does the brand proud, and delivers all-star performance that lives up to the breathtaking Wildcat X, but in a small enough package to run the miles and miles of ATV trail out there, and perhaps more importantly, run away from the competition.




    The Trail will sticker at $10,999, and the Trail XT will come in at $11,999. This positions the Trail $500 cheaper than the other guy. Might just mean that the Wildcat, is poised to take slice out of a Polaris RZR.


    4Nines, dascrow, wicked and 1 others like this.

  2. #2
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    Thank you for the thorough review and the wonderful photos! I think I might just have to look for a nice Stealth Black Trail XT to go in the back of my pickup truck

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    Just posted two galleries featuring over 80 photos of the new Arctic Cat Wildcat Trail, Trail XT, and the Wildcat 4X LTD:

    2014 Arctic Cat Trail XT Gallery
    WERA689 likes this.

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    Now that's a great gallery! I especially like these:






  5. #5
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    Thanks Nick! Great review and awesome pics!


 

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