It’s always exciting for us to get an invitation to try out a brand new model, but this time around the location got us even more electrified. It was at a place I had once visited with my parents as a teenager. One that had carved amazing and unforgettable memories into my brain and awoke in me a fascination for what these spectacular rock formations represented. To think that the rocks you touch on canyon walls had prehistoric aquatic life forms rubbing their fins against them million of years ago.
Our invitation to this press event included a spectacular shot of a majestic archway located in Bryce Canyon, surely the most spectacular National Park in this wonderfully eroded part of our planet. Sculpted over millions of years, Bryce Canyon mostly enjoyed from the Paunsaugunt Plateau on its eastern edge in southern Utah, features a unique style with numerous towering rock pylons, all of them standing tall and in a seemingly semi-organized fashion. They wow tourists from all over the world. Hundreds of them get a taste of local folklore, music and food almost every evening year-round at Ruby’s Inn.
Providing visitors since 1916, Ruby’s Inn at Bryce Canyon is also a destination in itself, where you can enjoy horseback riding, mountain biking, guided 1 or 3 hour ATV rides and helicopter tours, along with western experiences such as rodeos and live country western music shows. For the guided ATV rides they provide helmets, goggles, ATV instructions and ATVs. You’ll find their gift shop and general store to be the largest of it’s kind in the Bryce Canyon area, boasting an impressive selection of authentic South-western Indian arts and crafts including jewellery, pottery and weavings. Across the street you can check out their Rock Shop featuring rocks, fossils, minerals and petrified wood. Connecting ATV trails start right outside the guest rooms and campground sites, and access trails in the Dixie National Forest. The connecting trails head south from Ruby’s Inn and join the Paunsaugunt ATV trail in the tropic reservoir / east fork of the Sevier River area.
Left standing from the forces of erosion, hoodoos, not to be confused with the body of practices of sympathetic magic, traditional especially among blacks in the southern United States, sculpt this archetypal terrain, into a sort of stone forest or cave without a roof. The bright orange sunrise flooding Bryce Canyon makes all of them stand out even more. It is truly a must see for all, absolutely breathtaking! Anywhere you point your camera, it creates an amazing photo.
Hot days transform into chilly evenings in a flash and the cold night left frost sprayed all over the hood and seats of this new W2015 Arctic Cat Wildcat Sport I chose randomly out of a really cool-looking group of them perfectly parked in front of Ebenezer’s barn & grill. It was a familiar experience, as its cockpit is an exact replica of another recently added model called the Wildcat Trail. The cold feeling on my bottom, I’m very used to. Let me see here; the same digital display, same high range of adjustment tilting steering wheel, exact same seats sitting nice and low in the vehicle, that feels great! ROPS approved roll cage is identical, as is the highly practical air box with its lid conveniently placed out in the open in the back, making maintaining and checking the air filter too easy to neglect. Notice also if you would the position of the engine in relation to the rear trailer hitch receiver on the photo of just that 60-plus-hp 700 parallel-twin 4-stroke engine with closed loop EFI, SOHC and liquid cooling, on its cradle. This push totally back towards the rear not only makes room for the occupants seats to be lower, thus helping lower the centre of gravity and providing a unique seat of the pants feel, but it makes accessing the CVT belt for replacement a breeze and totally doable trail side.
The digital gauge features all the essential operation information indicators: RPMs, speedometer, trip mileage, gear indicator, digital clock and fuel indicator, but I think it’s a shame that they didn’t use all the space they have available at that spot for a much larger and visible one. As long as we are talking about space, something should be done to accommodate us bigger boys, a little better. It was impossible for me to place my left foot on the rest designed for it. I had to keep it laying on its side right in the middle of the floor to be comfortable and not have my knee obstructing my very active manoeuvering of that amazing feeling steering. A stiffer spring on the gas pedal would also be a must or a heel pocket, to avoid spending the day holding back the weight of your leg. Mine cramped up near the end of both of our amazing riding days and I had to stop and get out to stretch it back to normal.
At 110.5 inches in length and 60 inches wide, the new 2015 Arctic Cat Wildcat Sport fits in between the Wildcat Trail (110.5″ x 50″) and the Wildcat 1000 (128″ x 64″) for a more complete Arctic Cat ROV line. There is a lot of talk about restrictions to 60 inches in width that might be soon implemented in Québec, which we of course here at ATV Trail Rider strongly oppose. Too many people are already enjoying the added safety of the more high performance oriented and wider Side x Side vehicles, driving them well below their maximum ability. That being said, today’s 60 inch wide Side x Side Sport offerings, including this Wildcat, offer excellent handling and a logically set power output for very safe, yet adrenaline pumping, harsh terrain conquering experience.
The steering wheel felt absolutely great as its race style design with palm rests seemed to constantly attract my hands to an optimal position, both for comfort and proper control. It has the potential to be extremely influential in the whole feel of the ride and did so as it imposed a proper two-handed grip and encouraged constant focus and concentration. If I may scream: nobody should drive such a vehicle with just one hand on the steering and left arm hanging off the side!
Also, the same as with the 50-inch Wildcat Trail, the engine used is a 700 EFI equipped Arctic Cat built mill, with just the right amount of power to provide a decent amount of vehicle control at the gas pedal. We rarely talk about top speed, as we find it is an unimportant factor to take in consideration when buying such a vehicle, as well as being unsafe for us to test in most trails. This time around we rolled on a road, built by the state, mainly for off-road vehicles to reach the numerous trailheads in the area. There we reached this particular vehicle’s logically set top speed of just a little over 100 km/h, safely. How awesome is that! The State building roads just for off-road fans like us! Here they can hardly keep up the pace building them for cars and trucks to move about efficiently. All of a sudden this region is sounding pretty nice to live in, even if it was hotter than I had ever experienced before.
The low to mid-range torque of the engine and how the horsepower is transferred on looser ground through the CVT, was much more important to me, and it only took one full press of the pedal on the first few meters of trail to thoroughly satisfy. Just like its bigger brother, the Wildcat 1000, clutching is managed by a great quality Team Industries Rapid Response CVT. It felt much smoother in engagement than on the 1000 and we would have liked to grab at a bit higher RPM, where this 700 seems to shine brighter, but I do admit that as such it made the ride’s behaviour highly predictable, perfect for riding switchbacks at a cool pace without any risk of losing control. Actually, this vehicle felt like it would be very tough to get in trouble with. Coming in too fast for a turn just wasn’t an option, where going off to one side meant certain death. The cliffs we had to deal with almost constantly throughout this spectacular ride day in Utah, were absolutely breathtaking!
You might be interested to know that one can ask the Cat dealer servicing the machine to change the clutch springs to achieve different results in the way the power is transferred to your wheels. Tighter clutch springs would give this thing more snap off the start and help save the belt, if you were going to be doing a lot of rock crawling. Set as such it felt perfect to confidently hit the throttle hard in long curves without any possibility of getting in trouble. To be totally honest in that sort of situation, the vehicle feels a lot like it’s driving itself.
Whichever vehicle you buy, it’s just simply a good idea to inspect everything as often as possible. As you do, you will sometimes notice that there are simple little things you can do to improve your chances of keeping things rolling. On this vehicle like on any other, I would maybe add some heat wrap over a coolant line, extra sealant over connections.
If you know you will have to challenge gnarly rock sections, it’s a very good idea to add protection to the underside with a skid plate, rock sliders and a-arm guards. Add a set of little bit bigger tires on this puppy and you’ve got one very formidable crawler. As is, it already impressed me and that’s with tires I would call, ok.
Don’t let this sort of talk discourage you… Right out of the box, these new 60-inch wide 2015 Arctic Cat Wildcat Sport models are a total blast to drive, extra sporty with the low seating position and the smile factor is way up there from the giggle inducing capabilities. It made a joke of a big fallen tree across the trail. I attacked it at a 45 degree angle and skipped over with one confident press of the throttle going halfway in its very light feeling play. The one true element that makes it all plausible or possible is the really impressive suspension units on them. Any off-road machine is going to have issues at some and any point. On the 2015 Arctic Cat Wildcat Sport models, there is very little chance those will have anything to do with their suspension. The Limited model features Elka Stage 5 shocks. With both high and low speed compression dampening as well as a precise control on rebound, this is that Canadian company’s best and highest priced product. The double A-Arm front suspension offers 12.2 in of travel and the rear, with sway bar, features 12.6 in. which is far from the big Wildcat 1000’s whopping 18, but enough to catch a little air with confidence. The XT model wears JRi shocks, which are also regarded as very good quality aftermarket units. Both of these suspension packages are premium with very refined adjustability features.
So to recap, the new 2015 Arctic Cat Wildcat Sport is offered in three different forms: a base model without EPS (variable assist electronic power steering), rolling on black steel rims and a little less shiny with its coloured moulded plastics, then the XT has no EPS, just nicer black aluminum rims, along with those shocks from JRi with 70 different positions on the tool-less clickers to choose from. In my opinion, it would be a true shame to buy anything less than the Limited. The extra $2,500 gets you EPS and the Elka Stage 5! Just those shocks would usually throw you back for a lot more. For all who know a little bit about off-road racing and know how these shocks have helped countless racers climb up on the podium and can completely open up possibilities with this vehicle, it’s a no-brainer.
For more information on the above mentioned models, please visit the Arctic Cat Website