Long-Term Wildcat Test

Published in the April 2013 Issue April 2013

Arctic Cat saw an opportunity in the performance side-by-side segment and went after it with a vehicle built with a top-notch desert suspension, stable wheelbase and competitive price tag. Arctic Cat has a long history of building solid snowmobiles, ATVs and UTVs, so jumping into the performance segment was an easy step.

We picked up our 2012 Wildcat mid-summer last year and spent the rest of the year ripping round the local trails, desert roads and sand dunes on it. Here’s what we liked about the 2012 Wildcat:



It rides like a trophy truck. In our book, the Wildcat’s best feature is the suspension. The faster you go, the better it responds. The harder you push it, the smoother it rides. There’s very little rear end kick compared to other performance vehicles. The Wildcat eats high-speed moguls like candy.

Most of the ride quality comes from the unique 5-link rear suspension design. It gives the Wildcat 18 inches of travel and dampens with Walker Evans shocks to control movement over any big hit. There is a wide range of clicker compression adjustment, too. We should note that the 2013.5 Wildcat vehicles come with Fox Podium shocks.

At slow cruising speeds, the long wheelbase helps soften out chatter bumps. The suspension is designed for fast impacts, so it’s a little stiff just cruising around. But you don’t shop for a Wildcat if you’re into just cruising around. This machine is built for speed.



Again, when we talk ride quality and handling on the Wildcat, we’re talking how it works at a fast clip. The Wildcat’s 95-inch wheelbase and 64-inch width make it a very stable platform on any terrain. And the center of gravity is very low. You don’t get the feeling you’re about to high-side or lift the inside tires on a whooped-out corner. The Wildcat tracks straight and true, with minimal unwanted steering feedback.

If we had one complaint, it would be the lack of electronic power steering. However, Arctic Cat has addressed that for 2013 with the addition of power steering to the Wildcat lineup. EPS makes a real difference, especially in rough terrain.


The 2012 Wildcat may not be king of the horserpower dyno charts, but it delivers a very smooth, usable power that gives the Wildcat a driveable feel. The power comes on smooth and pulls hard through high rpm. The clutching backshifts well and pulls hard out of corners.

On sand, the Wildcat holds its own. The best upgrade for a sand user would be better tires with deeper tread blocks. The tires that came stock on 2012 Wildcat models have low-profile tread and do more spinning than grabbing. The engine has the power to get around big dunes, it just needs more bite. The 2013 Wildcat X comes with more horsepower and better rubber. If you’re shopping new, opt for the X. It’s a good bargain for a minimal price increase.


Be Different

Want to stand out in a sea of red? Give the Wildcat a shot. We put other brand owners in the seat of our Wildcat last summer and watched as they experienced something different. Most drivers came away impressed with the difference in suspension. The Wildcat has a look all its own. And a ride quality package to match it.

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