A 50-inch-wide UTV may be the best fit for your budget and the trails you ride, but it’s only natural to wonder if it can be as much fun as larger, more expensive machines. We tested Arctic Cat’s Wildcat Trail XT to find out.
WHAT POWERS IT?
A 700cc, eight-valve, doubleoverhead-cam inline twin. The 700 makes just over 60 horsepower, which may not sound massive, but the 60 horses only have to move about a thousand pounds of machine, one of the best power-to-weight ratios in sport UTVs of any size.
WHAT KIND OF TRANSMISSION DOES IT HAVE?
A fully automatic, belt-type, dual-range continuously variable transmission. It’s a Team Industries Rapid Response transmission with roller-actuated clutches instead of slower-acting sliding elements, so the transmission backshifts and upshifts instantly. The transmission doesn’t have automatic engine braking, but it’s so sensitive to throttle that the transmission engages anything above zero throttle.
HOW FAST IS IT?
It’s quick. The Wildcat Trail’s sporty power-to-weight ratio is obvious any time you stab the gas pedal, and it pulls strongly to a 60-mph top speed. The sensation isn’t quite as eye-opening as with the big 100-plus-horsepower UTVs, but the Arctic Cat is about 150 pounds lighter than the 75-horsepower RZR 900, so the feeling of acceleration is similar.
HOW IS THE POWER ON THE TRAIL?
The Trail’s smooth, free-revving engine and quick-clutch response work perfectly together, especially in the tighter conditions this UTV was built for. Combined with the machine’s light feel, the Wildcat has a point-and-shoot personality that’s actually more fun than a big, wide, heavy, high-horsepower rig in twisty conditions. Control is good in tough, technical trail obstacles, too, once you get used to the responsive engine and clutching. The engine pulls well off the bottom, and the power keeps coming at high revs.
WHAT KIND OF SUSPENSION DOES IT HAVE?
Double A-arms front and rear with front and rear sway bars. Travel is 10 inches up front and 10.5 in the rear. The non-reservoir, preload-adjustable Fox gas shocks are simpler than the more adjustable units many machines have, but they are high-quality units, and simple is good on a fun trail machine. The stock settings are spot-on for trail riding, and they are re-valvable and rebuildable if you feel the need for different settings or you want to service them to keep them performing at their peak.
HOW DOES THE SUSPENSION WORK?
It’s impressively plush, with good bottoming resistance for jump landings and unexpected bumps, though too aggressive or over 200-pound riders can find the suspensions limits. You can’t get away with the speeds big long-travel machines manage in whoops, or disregard ledges and G-outs when you’re deep in the throttle, but the suspension works very well at trail speeds and conditions.
HOW DOES IT HANDLE?
On twisting trails the Wildcat is one of the most fun UTVs made. This thing isn’t about flattening whoops at freeway speeds, but in its element, it’s so accurate and connected with the driver it will make owners of big machines envious. Yeah, you can get the Trail on two wheels if you really overcook a corner, but it’s tough to beat the feel of a machine that is truly light, balanced and corners flat. The XT’s power steering helps, but the base model without power steering feels nearly as agile. The way the Arctic Cat’s seating keeps the driver’s and passenger’s weight low really helps the handling and makes the machine feel planted too.
HOW DOES IT HANDLE HILLS?
The Arctic Cat climbs like it actually has claws. Great balance and a very effective four-wheel-drive system with front differential-lock mode give this machine true, go-anywhere traction. There’s no engine braking in off-throttle situations, but the four-wheel disc brakes have impressive power and feel.
HOW ARE THE DETAILS?
We like most of them. The Wildcat Trail XT’s half doors are much nicer than nets. We’ve seen some inside door handles break due to rough use, but the doors and latches are solid and well made. The three-position 2WD/4WD/differential-lock toggle switch could be more positive, but the instrument display reminds you of the mode you’re in. The instrument display is easy to read and offers plenty of useful info, but the kind that are directly in front of the wheel are even better.
The rest is very good. The seats are comfortable, and the Wildcat is easy to get in and out of. The passenger gets two good handholds. The shift lever has a smooth, high-quality action. Access to the air filter, drive belt, drain plug and oil filter are among the easiest on any UTV. Thanks to a convenient service access cover at the rear of the center console, you can even check the oil or replace the spin on oil filter without leaving the seat!
WHAT’S OUR FINAL ANSWER?
Arctic Cat’s Wildcat Trail XT is smaller and far less expensive than machines like the Wildcat X, but where it works best, you won’t miss out on any of the fun of driving a larger, more expensive UTV.