There is a war going on right now in the high-performance UTV market. Can-Am and Arctic Cat are all trying to take some market share away from Polaris in this growing class. In January we brought you the Can-Am Maverick test, and last month it was the new Polaris RZR XP 900 Jagged X that got the big feature. Now, Arctic Cat is unveiling an upgraded Wildcat, branded the 2013 1/2 Wildcat 1000X. Yes, there are 2013 Wildcats that don’t have these upgrades and sell for a lower price. This new machine addresses almost every single issue we had with last year’s Wildcat.  Simply put, it has better suspension, more power and a few other creature comforts added to the mix.
Arctic Cat completely reworked its proven SOHC, four-valve-per-cylinder, V-twin engine to make the new X a much faster animal. At the heart of the mill, AC installed a brand-new, lightened crankshaft that revs quicker and higher. This new bottom-end component also eliminates the wet-clutch system that was found on the 2012 and early 2013 models. The wet clutch further slowed revs and made the old cat feel lazy upon take-off or if you were hard on the gas exiting corners. AC had the wet clutch in place, sort of as a safety feature, but instead it took some of the thrill out of the machine. These engine changes will be made across the board on the base model and limited-edition Wildcats for model year 2013 1/2 and beyond. The standard 2013 models will not have any engine changes.
More motor mods on the X include a high-compression piston and more aggressive cam shafts. Arctic Cat claims the new powerplant puts out over 90 horsepower. While that number sounds great, the good thing is that whatever power the machine produces is instant any time you mash the throttle pedal to the floor.
By the numbers, the Wildcat still reigns supreme in the suspension category. It has more wheel travel up front and in the rear by 3 (front) and 4 (rear) inches over its competition. How did Arctic Cat improve upon this? By changing from Walker Evans shocks to Fox components, fine-tuning the suspension settings and changing out the old swaybar in favor for a new one.
The new 2.5-inch-wide Fox shocks feature preload, compression and rebound adjustments. Another welcome change the X model has over the previous model is that it is equipped with Maxxis Big Horn tires. While the old stock Duro tires the base models used provided good traction, they were not quite strong enough for the way we drive. In fact, not many tires are. We did even get one flat during the X test, but that one could have been blamed on driver error. The Maxxis Big Horns have been proven to be stronger and are the tire of choice for many desert racers.
Like the base-model Wildcats, the X version has automotive paint covering the bodywork. They are available in black/green and black/red color choices. The automotive paint looks good and resists fading better than some plastics; however, it chips and flakes if the body gets hit hard or gets smashed in a tip-over. The limited-edition Wildcats and the X model feature front and rear aluminum tube bumpers that are color-coated and help protect the bodywork. The final appointment that the X model receives is a color-matched seat with a new center stripe. Pricing for the 1000X is set at $18,499. The limited-edition Wildcat is a bit less at $17,699, and the 2013 1/2 base models sells for $16,999. Arctic Cat’s new four-seat Wildcat is listed at $19,599. These prices are comparable to the top-of-the-line RZR XP 900 at $17,799 and Can-Am’s flagship Maverick 1000R X rs that sells for $17,499.
The first thing we noticed when climbing into the cockpit of the Wildcat 1000X was that the passenger now has a solid left-side hand-hold to go along with the smaller handle on the right-side door. All 2013 and newer Wildcats will come with the second passenger hand-hold. Customers who already own a 2012 model can purchase and install the grab handle if they wish. We suggest it. It simply bolts to the passenger’s seat base.
When we turned the ignition and fired up the X, it was easy to tell that something special was rumbling behind the seats. The cams give the motor a more aggressive purr at idle that should draw some attention. It now has a header-equipped muscle-car feel. Throttle response is much quicker, and the revs fall just as fast. The exhaust note is a little deeper, but not any louder or annoying.
The real differences are felt when you punch the gas. Acceleration is almost instant as the 90-plus horses put you straight back into the seat.  The new, more aggressive Big Horn tires hook up well and don’t add any feedback through the steering wheel.
The power is very exciting on the Wildcat. It comes on strong and stays that way as long as you are hard on the gas. If you let off and jump back on, the speed comes right back up. The clutch lag and slower revs we felt last year are totally gone. This is exactly how we expected the first Wildcat to run. You can feel all 951cc working to spin the Maxxis tires. Even though the size of the motor hasn’t changed, it feels much better than before. During our 100-mile test, fuel consumption didn’t seem to increase.
Even with the old Walker Evans shocks, it was hard to find the limits of the Wildcat through the rough stuff. What we struggled with was getting the car to handle through bumps with more precision and control. The Walker Evans products were very much on the soft side and ran out of adjustment in a hurry.
The Fox shocks and new swaybar gave the car a more planted feel. It didn’t want to wallow or roll in the corners. The Wildcat now skips over the bumps and flies perfectly straight in the air. Having a slightly firmer setting sure helps the Wildcat turn better than it did before. We still felt a slight front-end push around some corners, but for the most part it was never an issue. To help it turn, you could set the car up better to slide the rear end around if needed.
Arctic Cat did not do anything to increase the braking power of this machine. Although it has only been a minor complaint of ours, we do wish the brakes were a little less spongy. Arctic Cat did add dual-piston calipers to the four-seat model, so hopefully in another year’s time, better binders will make it onto the two-seat model. Companies like Yoshimura, Muzzy’s, Trinity and Ron Wood have been working on hop-up kits for the Wildcat, and we plan on featuring more of them in the future.
It’s pretty impressive when a company as big as Arctic Cat can, in a year’s time, make such significant changes to a machine. They listened to our testers and their own customers and made a good product even better. q

Engine      Liquid-cooled, SOHC, 8-valve,
Displacement      951cc
Final drive      Shaft
Fuel system      EFI
Fuel capacity      8.8 gal.
Suspension/wheel travel:
  Front      Dual A-arms w/ 17″
  Rear      .Trailing arm w/ 18″
  Front      27×9-14
  Rear      27×11-14
  Front      Dual-hydraulic discs
  Rear      Dual-hydraulic discs
Wheelbase      94″
Dry weight      1305 lb.
Overall measurements      124″/64″/65.8″
Ground clearance      13″
Seat height      26.5″
Cargo limit      300 lb.
Colors      Red/black, green/black
Price      $18,499

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