2018 Textron Wildcat XX – First Drive Review
View the original Wildcat XX article in the March 2018 Issue HERE!
Story: Casey Cordeiro
Photos: Brandon Bunch
There is no secret here, the Wildcat XX has been seen for what seems like at least a year and a half. However, details surrounding the new XX have been completely speculative. You might have seen Robby Gordon spinning brody’s in the snow with a turbo version, and you might have also seen this vehicle racing at King of the Hammers this year. Either way, the wait has been excruciating at times because we all want to see Textron succeed after their acquisition of Arctic Cat. New blood and fresh competition is good for this industry – it will continue to make everyone step up their game and develop better products.
Well, the wait is finally over, and we can positively say that it was well worth it. The XX is going to do what we mentioned – push the industry forward in many ways. It’s definitely worth getting excited about! Clap your hands, stomp your feet, I want to see your excitement here, people!
The Wildcat XX represents a departure from the industry norm in several ways, so let’s kick this off by highlighting those new XX features. Full explanation of these features will follow, below. Here we go:
Suspension: rear trailing arms with no links, front a-arms with uniball connections to the forged aluminum front knuckles, front shocks mounted to the lower a-arms, front bulkhead for cross strength and top shock mounts, all double-shear mounting points
Powertrain: a version of Yamaha’s venerable 998cc triple cylinder, fuel-injected engine is used. Output is 125 horsepower. CVT transmission has superior Team clutching. Little to no powertrain noise overall, excellent build quality. Locking front differential
Interior: Full automotive-style doors, bucket seats with adjustable driver’s seat, iPad-ready & driver-centric dash, carnivorous passenger glove box holds 4 gallons, low and race-ready driving position
Accessorization: Built-in and labeled accessory wiring. Standard 65-amp alternator.
Maintenance: Rear bed (holds up to 300 lbs. and fits a 32” tire) removes to access all rear powertrain components, makes for easy servicing
With this list of excellent items, you can imagine that driving this animal is completely different than any other similarly packaged and sized UTV on the market (pun-intended).
For example, let’s dive deeper into the RG Pro suspension packaging. And, if we were to pick out one item on the XX that pushes the innovation ticker in the UTV industry, this is the part of the XX that does that.
The front suspension is comprised of unequal length dual A-arms that feature double-shear mounting points everywhere. It is laid out in such a fashion that the lower front shock mounts are located on the lower a-arm, which effectively puts the shock at a more ideal and upright angle to move through the travel more effectively without big camber changes. This mounting point also causes less stress on the knuckles and associated components when tackling the big hits.
From the driver’s seat, you can feel this progressive shock movement as it cycles through the travel. The ride is smooth and extremely controlled, no matter if you are going through 3’ deep whoops at 70 mph or going 5 mph through the washboard. We played with the underwhelming (for this price range of a vehicle) 3-position compression adjustments on the FOX 2.5 PODIUM QS3 shocks and found that they actually provided a good amount of differentiation between the 3 modes (we liked the clickers at position 2 in the front and position 3 – full stiff – in the rear the most). Because Textron allowed Fox to put a true dual rate spring setup along with crossover adjustments on this XX, it doesn’t necessarily need wazoo shocks right off the showroom floor – it just rides that good, in all terrains. However, in an ideal world, we still would like to see more compression adjustability from the factory, especially because it could use a little stiffer valving actually, but these do an admirable job no less.
The same goes for the rear suspension system of the XX, where the RG Pro treatment continues to shine. This is where we find a lengthy Y-shape trailing arm setup that is reminiscent of Class-1 buggies. This trailing arm, coupled with the plunging axle design, allows for a near perfect vertical movement of the trailing arm. This ideal motion and upright shock angle doesn’t fight the ground like the linked-arm systems in other UTVs (those exhibit a large arc motion when cycling through the travel). 18 inches of travel feels bottomless back here, and, again, the seemingly underwhelming shocks (again, only 3-position compression adjustable) reward the occupants with overwhelming compliance and depth of travel available. There is no kickback when going through the whoops – it is truly amazing. Again, the magic is in the dual rate spring setup with crossover adjustment. And, we found ourselves testing it out even further by starting in the middle of a whoop section to see if the XX could be pushed to get up on top of the monsters from a dead stop. Again, it was a seamless affair as the suspension keeps the wheels on the ground, pushing forward even through the bumps, so you are laying the power to the ground efficiently and traversing the obstacles in front of you.
Here’s a scary thought for you: have you ever needed to change your line in a whoop section because you have an uneven set coming in your path? Yeah, we have too, and switching lines in some stock UTV’s is near impossible without flying your bucking bronco flag. The Wildcat XX, however, tracks where you want it to, and with it’s ideal center of gravity, heavy duty build quality, and ideal weight balance, you can easily change your line in the whoop section with minor steering inputs. Steering is precise in this car, especially with the front-steer system (the steering rack, tie rods, and tie rod mounting points on the knuckles are all double shear and mounted up front of the a-arms. This setup increases strength and rigidity no matter the terrain). Steering effort was widely regarded as vague with a very light feel – too light in fact. A little more effort and feedback in the wheel would be welcome.
Yes, the suspension is absolutely one of the highlights of this vehicle. Let’s put it this way – if you want a stock setup that you don’t have to mess with out of the box, this is THE UTV to buy in the industry. The suspension and chassis dynamics are that good right out of the box.
We’ve already seen keyboard warriors complaining about the fact that this XX has “only 125 horsepower”. The brass tax of this argument comes down to this: if you’re a dune guy, you’re going to want more power than what this stock engine provides, especially because this XX weighs more than most of the competition at 1868 lbs wet (keep in mind that the build quality is superior on this vehicle and that accounts for the added weight).
However, this XX puts it’s power down very efficiently through the well clutched CVT transmission, which also includes a tool-less belt cover for easy switch outs (we didn’t have any belt issues and don’t anticipate any, TEAM did a great job on the smooth clutch engagement and there is a lot of airflow here). So, open deserts and open mountain trails/fire roads are where this machine is going to feel right at home. Coming off of the Yamaha assembly line, the 998cc triple cylinder engine is similar to the powerplant found in the Yamaha YXZ1000R, but the XX version has a couple modifications, including an intake system with a singular throttle body along with a lower max RPM. These changes, along with a cam profile change, give the XX more grunt down low in the engine RPM’s. If you want more power, there are already turbo kits available from the Textron accessory department, or you can wait for the rumored factory Turbo Wildcat XX.
In an effort to test out the crawling and High/Low range capability of this machine, we found that the XX was easily able to crawl up steep rock climbs at 4mph with plenty of available power to get up and over the 2-3 foot boulders in Low Range. The 14 inches of ground clearance, full factory skid plates, and lack of rear radius rods all factored in to our confidence when tackling this terrain. On the flipside, High range takes you up to a limited 75mph, where the machine is pulling about 9700 RPM. Cruising at 50 mph, which feels like you are doing 35 mph in this machine, the engine is running right at 7000 RPM, and the engine isn’t winding out right in your ears. Actually, it isn’t that loud at all. And, while the exhaust note is more muted on this XX compared to the YXZ1000R, it still has a resemblance to that high-pitched, streetbike wail that we love in the YXZ.
Fun fact for the day: for those who race or those who want to enjoy easy maintenance of the powertrain, the back half of the XX chassis that encases the engine and transmission can actually be removed with 6 bolts. Again, dune buggy traditions built in here. Nifty.
Let’s get to the interior for a moment… The full doors are a thing of beauty. They have a tight, secure fit and are my favorite factory doors in the entire industry, hands down. Latches are easy to use, too. One latch did get stuck on us with a clunky fitting after a days use, but it seemed to be an anomaly since we couldn’t replicate the issue with any other XX.
The seating position. It’s great for the desert, but not so great for the ups and downs you would typically find on tight, steep mountain trails. You sit low in the cockpit, which is awesome for making you feel like you are literally an extension of the chassis. Desert drivers will love it. It’s when you get into those aforementioned tight trails or rocky hill climbs that the low seating position, combined with those large front fender flares that look cool from the outside but impede on our sight lines, will give you the feeling that you have to scootch your bum up in the seat to see over the front. The seats are comfy, too, but they don’t provide enough bottom cushioning – it’s rather hard actually – or side bolstering. They make you feel as if you are sitting on top of the seat, not in it. A set of aftermarket seats would easily alleviate this issue, along with 4-point harnesses. Speaking of 4-point harnesses, I’m going to sound like a broken record here but this UTV should, again, come with this style of restraint, standard. It is capable of too much performance for it to not come standard with 4-point harnesses. The mounts are there from the factory, too…
Generally, the XX interior is extremely clean with a driver-focused dash, which we love. The instrument cluster is mounted to the adjustable steering column, and it provides all of the necessary readouts that you need for the trail. We love the fact that the dash has a spot for an iPad Mini straight from the factory. An iPad Mini holster is available as an accessory. The key to start the vehicle is in a weird spot behind the shifter, but this doesn’t hamper you from having fun, that’s for sure. Passengers will be pleased with that large 4-gallon glovebox that has a dedicated 12V power source, along with the ample leg room and 2 grab handles.
Overall, my takeaway from this entire experience driving the new Wildcat XX is this: Yes, this new XX is a magnificent jump from the original Wildcat platform. Textron has a truly competitive vehicle in their hands, and now they need to build out this XX lineup using this platform. They now have a legit powertrain, suspension, interior, and overall package to compete with the best in the industry. Build out the lineup, make it happen Textron! We look forward to seeing more in the coming years…
The Wildcat XX will be available at Textron dealerships this spring, and it has an MSRP of $20,499. Yes, it is more expensive than it’s direct competitors, but the package at this price point is better overall when it comes to suspension, interior and exterior build quality, and powertrain. Check it out for yourself and tell us what you think. www.textronoffroad.com
Be sure to check out the full image gallery below!