Our friends at Cat sure know how to heighten our enjoyment of off-road vehicles, with style and performance levels that are truly their very own. First to slip a 1000cc engine in a Quad, first to offer powerful and confident mud-specific ATVs, the Thief River Falls, Minnesota based company seems also particularly talented in designing some of the most amazing-looking and desirable snowmobiles and other off-road products. We took a gander beyond and beneath these shiny coverings on this joyous occasion among the distracting lights and bells, at a promising all-new ATV chassis in the XR for three engine classes, a much welcomed new Wildcat Sport at an in-between width of 60 inches and an almost totally redesigned Prowler line.
Through a network of independent dealers located throughout the contiguous United States and Canada, and through distributors representing dealers in Alaska, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and other international markets, Arctic Cat spreads the joy of trail riding and ROV use with exciting and great looking vehicles. The international flair to this event in Vegas was obvious as there was a constant multi-language chatter going on all through the imposing presentations. This is a big model year for Arctic Cat and not only is the company coming out with more new models in one year than they have ever before, but are also further expanding their engine production. The St. Cloud engine facility has been a great addition for the company since they began manufacturing their own ATV engines there in 2007. The 56,000-square-foot plant located on 15 acres and currently employing 41 people, will also take on the challenge of producing snowmobile engines starting 2015.
Arctic Cat’s 50th marked a major milestone back in 2012, which began in 1961 when Edgar Hetteen founded Polar Manufacturing in Thief River Falls. That’s where and when he began producing snowmobiles, which brought his dreams to reality. A year later he changed the company name to Arctic Enterprises and began a series of innovations that transformed large snow “machines” into much smaller and practical, play capable snowmobiles. Although Arctic Cat did not start their company with the production of all-terrain vehicles, they now produce one of the widest ranges of different models from the youth class right up to high-performance competition models, with other models being sport, recreation, 2-Up Trail, and utility models. Most of their offerings come with both 2-wheel drive and 4-wheel drive, ride-in suspensions, and electronic power steering capabilities, all aiming to render challenging off-road treks easier to manage, so that more people can reap the benefits of a now proven healthy way of life, that is ATV trail riding. Most of the 2014 Arctic Cat models you might already know about are making a comeback like the 50 inch wide Wildcat Trail or Wildcat X or Wildcat 4, the 1000 remain the same available only in red XT EPS form, the 2-Up rides, mid-size choices and Utility class vehicles both in ATV and ROV, are all still there. That’s getting to be a lot of Cats to look at, so we will concentrate on the new stuff.
Arctic Cat Inc. unveiled 15 new 2015 models at this annual ATV/ROV dealer meeting in sleepless Las Vegas Nevada, where we were lucky enough to be invited, on the evening of September 10th, for a grandiose Cat happening starring an all-new XR ATV line, a new line of Wildcat Sport side-by-sides and a few fully redesigned Prowlers. Improved ergonomics; easier storage solutions and automotive-inspired styling were among the goodies announced to eager dealers, along with a few other technology innovations on all new products and enhanced designs, which included a claimed 25 percent greater fuel efficiency on the majority of its models.
Blasting on no less than three cinema-sized screens, placed over a huge stage, were ultra-fast video images of various Arctic Cat models we were already familiar with. Of course, they kept our curiosity suffering for the longest time possible and we knew something bigger was planned for this event. There were just too many green shirts in the house and too many stage lights dancing to the same fast-paced beat, for this to be it. After a two second total black out and silence, just enough time to start a roar of murmurs, a dry beat coupled with a flash of lights accompanied the announcer’s deep low voice. “That’s not all!”
Now true goodies started pouring off the screens, with live never before seen models rolling forward after each video segment. So far, a new TRV 1000 XT EPS joining the touring category was parked looking ready to take a stage dive. We were getting anxious to see what prompted Arctic Cat to organize such a grand scale event. Surely there was more to this 2015 model year.
The 2015 Arctic Cat ATV line has seven all-new XR models featuring a new chassis, new bodywork, a new SpeedRack II system and a new level of riding comfort, thanks to easier steering, revised suspension geometry and a more comfortable rider position. The new XR Cats come in three trim packages to satisfy the full range of customer needs and feature an engine sound reduction system, as well as a new LED/Halogen lighting system.
Arctic Cat unveiled a total of seven 2015 models in the side-by-side ROV segment during this impressively colourful and action-packed presentation. Three new Prowler XT models define Arctic Cat’s 2015 recreation category of side-by-side machines with automotive-inspired bodywork and improved comfort, three Wildcat Sport models on a new 60-inch wide chassis, aiming to serve a broader range of users with recreational needs and a new upscale version of the Wildcat Trail in the Wildcat Trail Limited EPS, which has a 50-inch wide chassis, electronic power-steering and painted bodywork.
We were told we would soon get a chance to try these really modern and slick-looking new XR rides, but for now, there are already things that felt promising as we sat on them for the very first time. The machine felt a tad more ergonomically correct to a wider range of rider sizes. The new chassis design features a 52-in. wheelbase (compared to the 50-in. wheelbase, on the previous) which we know will improve ride quality and stability in turns, yet with an overall length that’s actually more than 1-in. shorter. The mid-section we’ve always found to be somewhat wide with the housings on the engine’s sides keeping the feet spread apart more than on most other 500 and up ATVs on the market. Now they’ve revised the rider’s position and the engine has been mounted further forward in the chassis, which results in 3 inches of additional foot space in the foot well, placing the feet approximately 2-in. closer together than before for a noticeable improvement, even just now parked on this carpet I wouldn’t mind decorating any room with.
Same thing goes for the new lighting; no need to be out on a trail to appreciate the facts right here in this typical Vegas style jumbo showroom. Seeing the combination of halogen headlights with LED accents convinced us of its excellent upgraded lighting performance, something I can’t help but remember suggesting a while ago when KYMCO started using LED lights here and there. No these rides are not the fruit of a deal with KYMCO, but are entirely made at the Arctic Cat plant in St-Cloud Minnesota.
The new racks were yet another obvious improvement over the classic and aging in style steel tubed ones. TPE rubber coats these new SpeedRack II system racks, to keep objects solidly in place. These much sleeker looking racks are now constructed from a high-grade plastic with a reinforced steel tube inner structure and truly were the best I had ever seen fit and finish wise. The front and rear racks are exactly the same. Purposely designed as such, to provide an equal sized carrying platform for the front and rear. The Limited package adds front and rear heavy-duty bumpers, but I couldn’t help but notice how these just don’t protect the ride as well as the old ones did. Same sort of disappointment with the fact that the aluminum wheels on the XT and Limited models just don’t stand out as much in all black, while scratches on them surely will. The Limited also adds a 3,000lb Warn winch.
Most impressively intelligent to me was the seat that is superbly shaped. Much like on a recent 450 full-sport model, it truly encourages proper weight transfers with a narrow front to mid-part and good bump protection dropping down low on the sides. This superbly comfortable seat also kind of forces a proper forward seating initial rider position by widening generously at its rear.
More elusive for now was the new geometry on the double A-arm front and rear suspension. It is said to provide more shock travel in relation to suspension travel, delivering an improved ride over all terrains. It also features an integrated rear sway-bar for more feel. For now it sort of felt like it had quite a high stance. I can’t wait to feel how these handle.
Three models are powered by the same, liquid-cooled 695cc Arctic Cat H1 engine; the XR 700, XR 700 XT EPS and XR 700 Limited EPS, which are all graced with Arctic Cat’s famous Duramatic automatic transmission with Park, High, Low, Neutral and Reverse that keeps constant tension on the drive belt to increase its performance and longevity. Its generous power has been further refined with a new closed-loop EFI system. Closed-loop fuel injection systems improve the air/fuel mixture control with an exhaust gas oxygen sensor and further reduce exhaust emissions. A new sound reduction system enhances the engine’s smoothness with a 8-decibel reduction in volume.
This new closed-loop EFI system with catalyst exhaust providing 25 percent improved fuel economy and lower CO emissions for optimal performance in all conditions is also used on the three XR 550 models, as well as on the XR 500, only available in basic form without EPS in green or red non-coated plastics.
All the XR models offer a wide range of improved features such as Cat’s super easy to use electronic 2WD/4WD/differential lock with handlebar-mounted switch, the SpeedRack II cargo handling system with 100-lb. front and 200-lb. rear capacity, 5-position adjustable spring preload on the shocks to tailor the ride to individual riding styles, terrains and loads, and a 2-in. automotive style receiver hitch. A few comas and a period to take a breath and you also get soft seat foam compound, zero-maintenance suspension bushings, sealed drive shafts, a large 6.0-gallon fuel tank, durable full-length plastic skid plate, Duro Kaden tires, a rear sway bar, aluminum rims (XT and Limited), a 3,000-lb. front mounted winch (Limited) and front and rear brush guards (Limited). The XR 550 is available just in Green, while the XT comes in a choice of Navy Blue, Sunset Orange or True Timber Camo. The Limited only comes dressed up in shiny black.
Although a lot of hype and excitement is created in this industry with the coming of newer and hotter looking sport Side x Sides, the Prowler models had just as much of a presence that evening and the total redesign was attracting lots of attention from the dealers. Like the XR ATVs, for optimal performance in all conditions, the Prowler engines also have the new closed-loop EFI system with catalyst exhaust provides 25 percent improved fuel economy and lower CO emissions.
They boast an all-new hood, bodywork and console for improved styling, greater usability and better ergonomics. The automotive-style hood that opens just like on most cars and trucks from the front and holds up thanks to an integrated prop, features a new, more usable, 3.0-cu.-ft. under-hood storage space (.5-cu.-ft. more than in the previous Prowlers); weather-resistant sealing; and simplified access to the headlight adjusters, brake reservoir and radiator.
The new Prowler’s body panels are now made from Surlyn, a premium quality plastic with moulded-in color that maintains a higher quality finish. New fully variable tilt steering mechanism offers greater overall range, infinite adjustability and increased room for driver entry and exit. The new design provides 3 in. additional legroom in the full-up position,. when compared to the previous model. Its new headlight system features a combination of LED and halogen bulbs for increased lighting options and improved light output. A four-position switch offers Off; LED Accent; Low Beam with LED Accent; and High beam with LED Accent. The new dash layout features a larger, 539-cu.-in. glove box (compared to 234-cu.-in. for the previous box) plus an additional center-located, cubby space for small items such as electronic devices. New occupant restraint system features lower-profile metal shoulder and foot restraints that ease vehicle entry/exit, with greater overall comfort. The new shoulder restraints provide 3.125 in. of additional space for each occupant. New side-restraints feature a handle-lock (instead of a seatbelt-style buckle) for simplified access. A new dash-mounted shift lever provides a more ergonomically friendly shift motion, delivering surer shifts. New gas and brake pedals provide more comfortable heel on-the-floor operation.
Other improvements include a new digital gauge, and the fuse box relocated under the dash console (instead of under the seat) for easier and simplified access. New 3-point seat belts are more comfortable and simplify operation. Revised softer shock calibration improves overall riding comfort. The Prowler XT chassis includes fully-independent, double A-arm front and rear suspensions boasting 10 in. of travel, 10 in. of ground clearance, and a rear-mounted sway bar for enhanced ride quality.
Determined to satisfy consumers’ desires for machine customization, performance and utility, Arctic Cat brings forward its largest and most comprehensive accessory program ever for this exciting 2015 model year.
“This is the strongest new product launch for the ATV and ROV markets in our company’s history.” Commented Christopher Twomey, Arctic Cat’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.
For more information on the above mentioned models, please visit the Arctic Cat Website