Arctic Cat says the Wildcat 1000i H.O. was inspired by Baja racers, which means it should haul across rocky terrain and sand dunes.
So you think the Polaris RZR XP 900 is badass? Well it is, but it’s also had a lock on the sport UTV market because no other manufacturer has stepped up to challenge. That’s about to change as the other crew from Minnesota, Arctic Cat, has responded to a growing demand for sport side-by-sides with a radical design. The 2012 Arctic Cat Wildcat 1000i H.O. is the newest addition to the Prowler family and takes on all comers with the largest engine displacement and suspension travel yet seen on a production sport UTV. Arctic Cat calls it a Recreational Off-Road Vehicle (ROV).
Arctic Cat says the machine was inspired by the Baja 1000, and it certainly looks the part of a high-performance race buggy. Aggressive bodywork and styling along with an exoskeleton chassis give the Wildcat a racy look, but it’s the massive suspension that points to serious off-road capacity. The rear setup utilizes a five-point multi-link trailing arm and enormous Walker Evans racing shocks with large piggyback oil reservoir. The shocks use two springs with separate tensions. This dual-rate setup is preload adjustable and the compression has 17 clicks of adjustability. Arctic Cat says the five-point multi-link design minimizes wheel camber and “axle plunge” which helps keep the tires flat against the ground for maximum traction and consistent control. It has 18 inches of travel!
The Walker Evans Racing suspension components are massive. AC claims 17 inches of travel up front and 18 rear with dual rate springs.
Up front is a double-wishbone (A-arm) design and the Walker Evans Racing shocks with 17 inches of travel. The suspension and chassis design combined with 26-inch Duro Kaden tires give the Wildcat 13 inches of ground clearance. For comparison, the Polaris XP has the same ground clearance with only 13.5/14 inches of suspension travel front/rear. Arctic Cat PR material says the Wildcat can “hammer through whoops and dunes,” so we anticipate this being similar to the XP 900 in that it hauls serious tail, but might not be the greatest slow-speed or rock-crawling handler. We’ll have to wait and see if that’s true, but there is currently no release date and the price is not yet available.
The engine is a 951cc four-stroke. The V-Twin cylinder arrangement is single-overhead cam with fuel injection featuring 50mm throttle bodies. It’s the same engine 1000 H.O. used in the Prowler XTZ but with a new two-into-one ceramic-coated exhaust that exits out the left side and revised air intake to fit the new Wildcat chassis structure. It drinks from an 8.8-gallon fuel cell and Arctic Cat builds the engine itself here in the States.
Engine placement allows for a 40/60 front/rear weight distribution. Perhaps due to Polaris’ patented rear-mount engine arrangement, Arctic Cat calls the Wildcat design a mid-mount but it looks to be in essentially the same location as the RZR family – behind the seats and underneath the small cargo bed (35.8 x 21 x 8.4 inches; 300-lb capacity). Arctic Cat has not offered a claimed overall weight for the ROV. The mid-mounted engine connects to the “Duramatic” CVT transmission. This automatic tranny uses Spike Load Dampener (SLD) technology which allows the driveline to “slip for a millisecond under harsh spike loads,” helping with durability of the driveline components. The shift lever is located on the center console and allows the drive to select from Park, Reverse, Neutral High and Low gears. Like the RZR there is no emergency/parking brake and the transmission acts in place of one. A switch on the dash flips between 2WD/4WD and an optional locking differential.
The Wildcat is equipped with electronic power steering – a feature not yet available on the RZR XP. The variable assist EPS reacts to steering input force, tire resistance and vehicle speed. The ECU monitors and deciphers the information and adjusts the amount of steering assist. This is a useful feature that will make steering easier at low speeds and during 4WD operation without becoming sketchy at high speeds. Arctic Cat has not released details about wheelbase or wheel width.
Arctic Cat is especially proud of its chassis which looks unlike any we’ve seen, simply because the fact there’s a lot of it exposed to the eye. The press release calls it a “full-perimeter exoskeleton” and it seems to fit the bill as there’s a distinct lack of bodywork and the frame is outside many of the existing panels. High Strength Low Alloy (HSLA) steel makes up the roll-over protective cage and the main chassis. The exoskeleton design has a similar effect as adding a frame extension to other UTVs, which is a popular addition for anyone afraid of going over backward. Arctic Cat claims the design and materials make the Wildcat frame a new standard in strength and rigidity. The doors have hinges at the rear and a latch in the front. They are incomplete doors with open space down low and small nets above and below the door panel.
As with the rest of the UTV market, despite the insane levels of performance this SxS appears to offer, it comes standard with three-point seatbelts instead of full harnesses. Contoured bucket seats help cushion the driver and passenger. A tilt steering wheel helps tailor fit and the Wildcat has a locking glove box and dual cup holders. The headlights and taillights are LED. A five-inch display offers digital and analog information including clock, hour meter, fuel gauge, mode button, set/reset button, odometer, trip meter, gear position, speedometer, tachometer, differential lock, drive select, high beam, battery condition, temperature and oil pressure. Braking is handled by four hydraulic discs. It comes in two automotive-style paint schemes: Black Metallic or Arctic Green Metallic. The Wildcat comes with a standard skid plate and a growing number of available accessories.
We can only speculate about the pricing. The 2012 Arctic Cat Prowler XTZ 1000i rings in at $15,599. Considering the high-end shocks, premium 14-inch aluminum wheels, heavy-duty engine, unique, targeted sport design and myriad of features including power steering, selectable 2WD/4WD, tilt wheel, etc., not to mention the cost of developing a new model, it wouldn’t surprise us to see this baby ring in upwards of $16,000.
As for the RZR XP and any other UTV that might be considered in the same ballpark, Arctic Cat says they have them covered. “The Wildcat has no equal. Period,” said Claude Jordan, President and CEO. “Our customers asked for a high-performance side-by-side, and we happily responded with a no-compromise, pure-sport hot rod that redefines what’s possible with a production off-road vehicle.”