Currently, the UTV industry is all about numbers. Tag lines read “more horsepower” and “more suspension travel” across manufacturer marketing campaigns. Modern-day turbo cars are extremely fast, have incredible suspension systems, and make the average driver look like a hero behind the wheel. However, what would happen if you put some of the most skilled drivers and fabricators in the world on the development team for a new company’s first foray into the heated sport UTV market? The question is, what if the manufacturer worried less about surveys and customer testimonials, and more about building the car they truly thought the market needed? The answer- you get the new Textron Wildcat XX.
When the focus is all about numbers, sometimes the driving dynamics change. Electronically adjustable suspension, variable throttle mapping, adjustable power steering assist- all of these things are very nice when you feel the need to flip some switches and change the way your UTV drives. All of these things also eat into a build budget- in both cost and development time. For their first all-new sport UTV, Textron chose to shy away from complex turbocharging, adjustable engine mapping, servo-assisted shocks, and variable assist power steering to create a car that they feel is just right in factory trim. Did they succeed?
The new Textron Wildcat XX is an all-new vehicle from the ground up. There are no recycled frame sections, suspension parts, or powertrain pieces pulled from a previous model. From front to rear, top to bottom, this car is 100% Textron, and it is healthier because of it. The clean-slate build represents a different way of doing things for a UTV manufacturer, as Textron has enlisted the help of Robby Gordon, Todd Romano, and the Speed Energy Racing Crew to develop what they feel is the most capable, durable stock UTV on the market.
The Wildcat XX was debuted at the Arctic Cat dealer show exactly one year ago (see Quick look at the Wildcat XX), and we couldn’t wait to get our hands on one. In our original first look, we noted that Textron wouldn’t ship a single unit until they were completely satisfied with the product, and that time has finally come. The car is set to debut to the public today, February 25th, 2018, and Textron is ready to enter full scale production. They have a plan to introduce long travel, turbocharged, and 4 seat variants of this car in the coming years, and most of those units are already production ready.
RACE BRED HERITAGE We have been teased with this car in multiple forms, from dealer show releases to pre-production prototype race entries in Baja. The development of the Textron Wildcat XX was tag-teamed with Robby Gordon, Todd Romano, Speed Energy, and a handful of the top offroad racers in the world. As a ground-up new build, the Wildcat XX has been flogged through countless hours of test and development time in the harshest conditions possible. Robby told us that their team has over 20,000 miles logged in the race cars alone! In the time we spent with Robby Gordon and Todd Romano during the launch of the car, we learned a lot of the key design aspects they aimed for with the car, noting durability, stability, and ease of ownership. They wanted a car that anyone could buy from a dealership, add the necessary safety equipment, and go race without having to rebuild the entire car between events. They have also developed over 200 accessory items that will be available straight from the dealer, including supercharger kits, long travel kits, shock options, billet parts, a racing steering rack, and more.
The early prototypes were scrapped and rebooted until they were completely happy with the design. Suspension mounting points, manufacturing processes, tuning setups, and more were ground down and built back up until they had a car that Mr. Gordon himself was happy driving in stock trim. During our testing, Robby was laying down laps on a 90-second rough course for nearly 8 hours on the same car, stopping only for fuel and to swap passengers. The course was full of nasty ruts, G-outs, huge rocks, deep washouts, and big rollers. Every lap, Robby would push the Wildcat harder and harder.
SUSPENSION Arctic Cat teased us with an all-new suspension design on the Wildcat RG Pro edition, which sported a revised dual A-arm front and Y-link trailing arm rear setup. The aim of the redesign was to get the suspension’s geometry and movement tamed to lessen the impact that wheel travel had on the car’s handling. In a typical 3, 4, or 5 link trailing arm rear suspension setup with radius rods, a fixed length axle is fitted to the car. This means that as the wheel moves up and down in its travel, it also moves inwards and outwards in an arc, using the axle as the radius of the arc. This is typically a reliable setup and a great way to get huge travel numbers with little camber or toe change, but the deficit comes in track width variation. If you’ve ever put a RZR XP or a Can-Am Maverick X3 on a jack and lifted it up high enough to get the rear wheels off the ground, you likely noticed that the vehicle’s track width changes dramatically throughout the suspension travel. At full droop, the car is at its narrowest width, usually 6-12 inches narrower than at ride height. This side to side movement of the tire affects cornering and stability during compression and rebound, causing the car to feel busy through whoops, G-outs, and heavy cornering loads.
The Wildcat XX’s Y-link rear trailing arms do not use radius rods, and the track width is fixed throughout the travel. By using a dual spherical joint mount at the front of the trailing arm and a plunging axle, Textron has succeeded in eliminating the busy, wandering feeling as the rear suspension cycles through its travel. This is the same type of setup you would find on a Class One buggy, and it’s great for hammering through rough terrain under throttle while being able to steer the car precisely down the trail. Rear suspension travel on the Wildcat XX is limited to 18 inches, and is controlled by Fox Podium QS3 shocks with dual-rate springs and crossover adjustment. The rear shocks also have Fox’s bottom-out control technology, which uses an internal cup as a bypass to stiffen up the shock as it reaches full compression. At full compression on flat ground, the Wildcat XX was engineered to still have 3.5″ of ground clearance underneath the skidplate to avoid slapping the belly of the car on the ground (which you get in some other high performance UTVs).
Up front, Textron’s Wildcat XX uses a near J-arm front suspension setup, which allows them to bolt the lower shock mount to the lower A-arm for a lower center of gravity and a more upright motion ratio for the shock. The front arms are unequal length, keeping camber changes in check to increase the tire’s contact patch with the ground during suspension travel. No shock towers sticking through the hood here. The Wildcat XX is rated for 14 inches of ground clearance off the showroom floor.
The extremely long arms and narrow-offset wheels allowed Textron to get the bearing centerline positioned directly in the center of the wheel, negating kickback through the steering system by reducing the leverage placed on the steering linkage. The steering rack is front-mounted, which also decreases kickback by limiting the amount of leverage the tires can place on the steering system by moving the pivot point to the front of the knuckle. The stock front knuckles are forged aluminum pieces that are claimed to be as strong or stronger than mild steel. All of the suspension and steering mounting points are double shear mounted, meaning that the bolts are captured on both ends for added strength. The front end uses spherical joints instead of ball joints, increasing their strength. Spherical joints are a little more maintenance-intensive than a sealed ball joint, but the strength tradeoff is well worth it. The Wildcat XX’s lug pattern is 4 x 156, which is the most common lug pattern in the UTV industry currently. RZR owners who purchase a Wildcat XX can use their existing wheels and tires, as long as the wheel offset is correct.
Front suspension travel is also limited to 18 inches, giving the Wildcat XX a very balanced feel front to rear. The Fox Podium QS3 shocks are also dual-rate sprung and crossover adjustable up front. We left the preload and crossover settings alone, and had the front shock compression set at level 2, with the rears at level 3. During our 8 hour test session in the car, we experienced zero shock fade, even during repeated hammering through long whoop sections and loops of Textron’s test track in Barstow, California. What’s even more impressive is that when we hopped in for a few hot laps with Robby Gordon at the end of the ride day, the showroom-stock car he had been lapping all day exhibited no signs of shock fade, belt slip, or any other mechanical issues.
The manual rack is electrically assisted with a very strong power steering unit, filtering nearly all of the feedback out of the wheel. Some drivers during our test session thought the steering was too light for their tastes, but the faster you drive the car, the more you appreciate the kickback-free steering. Even loading one wheel into a G-out mid-turn doesn’t wiggle the steering wheel, allowing the driver to exercise precise control over the vehicle at insane speeds over rough terrain. Larger tires will still be easily controllable with the stock power steering tune. We are told the Wildcat XX can easily clear a 32″ tire with no rub in stock trim.
DRIVETRAIN The Textron Wildcat XX uses a variation of the 3-cylinder Yamaha engine found in the YXZ mated to an all-new CVT system developed in conjunction with Team Industries. A different cam, intake manifold, and throttle body system bumps the Wildcat’s power output to 125 horsepower in naturally aspirated trim. Later on, Textron will offer a factory turbocharged version of this same engine, rumored to produce well over 200 horsepower. The factory Yamaha turbo sled motor this engine is based on is rated at 210 horsepower.
The inline three cylinder engine is 998cc, and features a dual overhead cam setup with an auxiliary 65 amp alternator pre-installed from the factory. A single large throttle body controls engine speed via a drive by wire system. Throttle mapping is progressive and smooth for the first 75% of the pedal travel, making easy work of tight, technical terrain without being jumpy or lurchy. The last quarter of the pedal travel feels like a boost button, spinning the engine to 9200 RPM and providing quite a bit of forward thrust regardless of the load on the vehicle. With two people in the car, the Wildcat screams up to its electronically-limited 75 mph top speed quickly. It’s not RZR XP Turbo fast, but would you expect a naturally aspirated car to be?
The large CVT clutches have cooling fans bolted to them, good for a near leafblower-like stream of air out of the CVT’s exhaust duct at high RPM. Robby and his team targeted belt temps of 180 degrees during hard use to ensure belt life and clutch longevity. Of the 15 cars Textron had on-hand during our test day, not a single one exhibited any belt slip or damage. The car features dual CVT air intakes for maximum airflow, and sports very large clutches that are tuned very well from the factory.
Textron also worked with Team Industries to develop a new, oversized front differential and rear transaxle. The drivetrain is specific to this Wildcat, and is not offered on any other UTV. Coupled with the largest CV joints and beefiest axles we have seen on a factory UTV, the Wildcat XX is sure to be plenty durable. The front differential features a positive locking switch for crawling as well, selectable by a dash-mounted rocker switch. The clutch cover itself is attached with tool-less quick-release fasteners, and you don’t have to wrestle the cover around the rear shock to remove it. Trailside repairs in the event of a breakdown won’t have you cursing before you even get the clutch cover off!
CAB & COMFORT The Wildcat XX offers what may be the roomiest cab of any stock sport UTV. The seating position is a mix between a RZR XP and a Can-Am X3, offering a more secure feel than a RZR without the detriment to forward visibility that the X3 creates by placing its seats so low. The seats themselves may very well be identical to an older Wildcat seat (unconfirmed), but they are comfortable, strong, and supportive. They aren’t as comfortable or nice to look at as a Maverick X3 seat, but they are much more supportive than the stock RZR seats. Standard on every Wildcat XX is a hidden harness bar positioned behind the seats at shoulder height, ensuring proper fitment of 4 or 5 point harnesses, which can be threaded through the stock seat’s pass-through slots.
The full doors are smooth and comfortable, and they open and close easily. The top-mounted latches are sleek-looking, and the interior latch makes getting out of the car a breeze. The only caveat we found with the interior is the door frame crossbar. You have to step over a sizeable panel to get into the car, which covers a frame brace that adds a large amount of structural stability to the chassis. Once you get in and out of the car a few times, it becomes only a minor bother. The tradeoff is the tightest-feeling, most rattle-free stock UTV we have ever driven. Even at speed in rough desert terrain, nothing in the car squeaks, rattles or shakes. We dig that.
The cockpit is very driver-focused, with a center stack that is angled towards the driver for visibility. The key position is a little awkward at first, as it is placed in front of the shifter on the center stack. There are four dummy plugs in the dash for aftermarket switches, and the wiring work is already done from the factory. Going to install a lightbar? Mount the bar, run the wires to the panel between the seats and plug them into the pre-installed power and ground leads. Put a fuse in the fuse box, pop the switch in the dash panel, and plug the switch in. That’s it. For the average user, having the electronics pre-wired is going to be an extremely helpful time and cost-saving measure.
Above the switch panel is a large, blank plastic panel secured with four torx-head screws. This panel is sized for either a Lowrance GPS or an iPad mini, whichever you prefer. Mounting is simple, and the power leads are pre-installed from the factory. A small cubby resides in front of the shifter, perfect for holding phones, sunglasses, gloves, etc. The two rubber-damped cup holders keep water bottles held in place easily, even in spirited driving. In front of the passenger sits a cavernous 4 gallon glovebox. During our day with the Wildcat, we had a sweatshirt, two pairs of spare goggles, two pair of gloves, and a couple water bottles in the glovebox.
Leg room is plentiful, and the areas that your legs contact in the cab are smooth and free of rough edges or fasteners. The dead pedal is set to the same height as the gas pedal, which reduces fatigue on your body due to having one leg bent and the other straight. Passenger leg room is available in spades, with angled footrests and grab bars on either side of the seat. The cab is very comfortable, even if it is relatively spartan in its design. The glovebox features a 12v accessory port (there are two onboard) and an optional dual-USB charge port for phones or cameras.
The thick-rimmed padded steering wheel is very comfortable, and is tilt adjustable. The driver’s seat is adjustable fore and aft via a sliding base, but the passenger’s seat must be adjusted by unbolting the seat base and sliding it forward or backward. The overall interior design is well laid out and very comfortable, even when bashing through big desert bumps. A new dual-screen LCD dash display houses lots of useful information, including speed, trip, RPM, hours, service info, ambient air temperature, engine temperature, and more.
The cage is perhaps the nicest-looking stock ROPS to be fitted to a UTV. It is made of .095 wall HSLA steel, and is rumored to be SCORE and BITD race-legal by simply welding the bungs together. The six-point cage features a large roof crossbar and a V-shaped intrusion bar from the factory. Textron offers two accessory roofs- a plastic hard top and a zippered soft top that features a convertible center section with a mesh screen. We would pick the soft top, as it allows more airflow in warm conditions while still providing shade.
SERVICEABILITY Textron and Speed put a lot of thought into making the Wildcat XX easier to live with for an owner. As mentioned above, the clutch cover is a tool-less design, making belt access a breeze. The large, deep bed pan fits a 32” spare tire laid down flat, and has a built-in anchoring system for a spare tire and wheel. The bed pan itself is removable via four large plastic fasteners that require no tools. Loosen the four wingnut-like anchors, and the whole bed lifts out, granting easy access to the engine, airbox, oil tank, exhaust, and more.
The electronics are centrally located in a box between the seats, which is accessible by removing one quarter-turn fastener by hand and lifting the lid off. Here, you will find the battery, ECU, fuse boxes, and pre-wired accessory leads. A lot of noise and heat shielding has been implemented to make the car more refined, which is well-received when you’re jamming along a trail at 9,000+ RPM.
Both the front and rear lower frame sections unbolt from the car and are replaceable in the event of damage. They are extremely strong units, featuring steel skid pans underneath the factory full-coverage plastic skid plates. Textron will offer accessory items such as a full billet motor mount plate for racing purposes as well.
Certain key items in the Wildcat XX’s suspension and driveline system are multi-purpose to make life easier for the owner, as well. For instance, the front and rear wheel bearings, hubs, brake calipers, brake rotors, and wheels are all the same. The rear trailing arms are the same part number, and can be used on either the left or the right side. This kind of manufacturing lessens the amount of part numbers a dealer or race team has to keep in stock for repairs, and allows the owner to carry all the spare parts he or she needs for racing without completely deflating their budget.
Speaking of racing, Textron has built another great feature into the Wildcat XX that race teams will appreciate. The entire engine and transaxle can be removed with six bolts after removing the rear skid pan and disconnecting the fluid and electrical connections. Being able to easily pull the entire engine and transaxle assembly out of the car between races for servicing will greatly reduce the time and cost of freshening up a drivetrain mid-season.
THE RIDE We met up with Textron in Victorville, California for our ride day the week of King of the Hammers. After a short caravan to Stoddard Wells OHV area, we received a brief walkthrough of the car from Textron’s engineering staff. We hopped in a Dynamic Charcoal colored XX and turned the key for the first time. The inline triple spins a few (perhaps too many) rotations before the ECU gives it an ignition signal, making the engine sound like a high-strung race powerplant. It idles smoothly, giving off that familiar burble that the YXZ engine is famous for. Shifting is slick and easy, with Low range all the way back and High range one gate north of Low.
Low-speed maneuverability is great, edging out any fears of a boggy low end like the stock YXZ powerplant. Smooth CVT engagement and a noise-free driveline exude a feeling of quality from behind the wheel. There is no clunking as the driveline takes up slack from a standstill like you get in many other stock UTVs. Reading through the spec chart doesn’t paint the whole picture. The Wildcat XX is heavy- 1,800+ lbs full of liquids and ready to ride. However, it doesn’t feel heavy. The engine is peppy, there is minimal body roll, and the car is incredibly agile. The 95-inch wheelbase is long enough to soak up big hits without causing the car to buck, but still short enough to make the car maneuverable on tight trails. Steering effort is incredibly light, but precise.
Our first couple of loops took us through some technical canyons and steep, rocky hillclimbs, with the trails littered with large, sharp rocks and deep silt. The standard 30” CST Behemoth tires did quite well in the variety of terrain we drove the car in, but we did get a carcass puncture from a sharp rock in the trail that was easily remedied with a plug kit. The Wildcat XX uses the same width front and rear tires. This is how we set up all of our build cars, as it makes carrying spares easier and allows you to rotate the tires to prolong their lifespan. The CST tires exhibit nice bite on turn-in, with a progressive amount of sidewall flex and great braking traction.
The steering rack in the Wildcat XX is incredibly fast, and it makes for easy corrections at speed. Jamming through knee-deep whoop sections, you will really appreciate the strong power assist and quick ratio rack, as quick quarter-turn movements bring the car in line perfectly if it starts to slide. Steering under braking is particularly impressive, thanks in part to the front-mounted rack lessening the deflection felt through the steering wheel as the tires claw for traction. The front end suspension geometry and plentiful amounts of wheel travel make it feel nearly bottomless, even when stabbing the brake pedal in the bottom of a big G-out to scrub speed.
Tuning is the name of the game here, and the stock suspension setup on the Wildcat XX is perhaps the most well-sorted of any stock UTV on the market. The car tracks straight, flies flat, and handles like a dream, never feeling tippy or overworked. This is an incredibly stable car, and it rewards the driver with a chassis that is more than up to the task of slamming through big holes without worrying about how the car is going to react. It’s predictable and controllable, and we reckon that it will out-drive just about any stock UTV on the market when the terrain gets really rough. We can’t wait to pit the Wildcat XX against the RZR XP Turbo and Maverick X3 Turbo head to head to really find out. Textron did have a RZR XP1000 and a Maverick X3 64” model on-hand for testing in a whoop section, but that limited test won’t tell the whole story. That being said, the Wildcat XX simply walked away from both competitive cars in the whoops.
Throttle control is excellent, although the car doesn’t really feel fast until you bury the pedal. It’s as if Textron tuned the ECU to deliver small throttle openings until it sees anything close to wide open throttle, and then it’s game on. In the desert, we were never left wanting for more power. In the dunes, however, it may be a different story, as we have become accustomed to high-horsepower turbo cars.
Thankfully, the aftermarket will have no trouble adapting YXZ forced induction kits to the Wildcat XX, and Textron is set to unveil a turbo car in the next couple of years. If you’re on the fence about purchasing one and are thinking about waiting for the turbo car, don’t. This car is a blast to drive.
UTV drivers are spoiled for choice these days, with Can-Am, Polaris, Yamaha, and Textron all producing amazing cars that push the limits of what a UTV can do in showroom-stock form. Lining them all up side by side, the Wildcat XX seems to be built quite a bit stronger than the other three in the frame, suspension, and drivetrain departments. The size of the front A-arm tubing alone is enough to inspire confidence in the Wildcat XX, but our long-term testing will really put the car to the test.
UPGRADES Textron is launching the Wildcat XX with a host of available accessories and upgrades that you can find at your local dealership. The most impressive is the 77 inch wide long travel kit, which reuses the stock shocks and boosts wheel travel to a staggering 22 inches front and rear. The stock shocks are built with travel limiters internally, so by removing the limiters, you get the correct-length shock for the long travel kit. The rear shocks don’t even have to be resprung, as the leverage ratio doesn’t change. This will reduce the cost of a longtravel kit for the XX by thousands of dollars! Bolt-on storage bags, window nets, spare tire carrier kits, mirrors, light bars, bumpers, and more will be available from the factory at launch day. Textron is also offering two dealer-optioned accessory upgrade kits bundled for savings.
The two packages available include: Decked Out Package: • Steel Front Bumper • 36-inch Light Bar • Black Aluminum Roof • Kicker SSV Audio System • Polycarbonate Half Windshield • Rear View Mirror
Geared Up Package: • Steel Front Bumper • Bimini DLX Top • Kick Panel Storage Bags • Shoulder Storage Bag • Trailside Kit • Polycarbonate Half Windshield • Rear View Mirror
FINAL THOUGHTS The Textron Wildcat XX is posed to take the desert and trail market by storm. It is priced $500 over the base RZR XP Turbo and the 120 horsepower version of the Can-Am Maverick X3, at $20,499. For the money, you’re gettting strength here. There are no extra frills or features over the Maverick or RZR (save for the pre-wired accessory leads), and it won’t beat a RZR XP Turbo in a drag race. For the dunes, a Turbo Polaris RZR or Can-AM Maverick X3 will be a more logical choice, as the added power is advantageous. What this car does offer over the other two main competitors is a race-bred heritage in a vehicle that has been tested and perfected by some of the fastest offroad drivers on the planet. We can’t wait to put a few thousand miles on our test car to see how it holds up to racing and abuse- we bet it comes out shining with little to no issues. Textron spent an extra year of development and fine-tuning on the Wildcat XX to ensure that their first entry into the sport UTV market was a strong one, and it was well worth it. The company that builds Bell Helicopters and Cessna Aircraft have seemingly put as much time and effort into the production of this car as they do with their aerial products, and it shows.
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The new @textronoffroad Wildcat XX is the real deal! Stay tuned and we will have a full ride review towards the end of the month.
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