Over the years we have all heard rumors of machines that may or may not be in development. Sometimes those rumors are actually squashed or in some rare cases, they come to fruition, bringing a brand-new machine to the anxiously awaiting public. This past month we had a chance to see one of those long-awaited machines in person and drive the newest offering from Textron Off-Road – the 2019 Textron Wildcat XX.
Having incredible engineering departments and not to mention a deep well of resource funds, Textron has continued the relationship with former Indy Car, NASCAR and desert driver Robby Gordon to put the wraps on its latest entry into the world of go-fast Side-by-Sides. Robby’s involvement was deep and instrumental in making this Wildcat XX what it is today. In the dust-covered rocks of the California desert, we had the chance to finally get in, buckle up and stand on the go pedal for an incredible journey into what Textron Off-Road has been working on over the last couple of years.
Let’s take a look at the broad spectrum of chassis design and buzz through the overall features before we get into our initial impressions of the ride during our day in the desert. As mentioned before, Robby Gordon’s influence on the machine comes from his trophy truck desert racing background and the Wildcat XX reflects it.
Sitting 64-inches wide and with over 18-inches of suspension travel, the 2019 Textron Wildcat XX gets your attention right away. Where Textron Off Road claims its design works better is in the reduction of track width change through the stroke of the suspension. Compared to other UTVs in the market, Textron Off Road claims a better than 40% reduction of track width change in the front and 80% in the rear. Textron claims this system, in theory, gives better control and stability to the car.
Utilizing the FOX Podium QS3 shocks on this Wildcat XX, Textron believes that giving the average consumer this type of set up takes the stress out of dialing in the dampening of their machine. The three-position clicker is easily understood and effective for those who need simplicity without giving up performance. During our testing of the Wildcat XX we found the factory setting of the number two position in the front and the number three position in the rear worked very well.
The 2010 Textron Wildcat XX does come with EPS, which is no surprise, but the steering geometry is laid out just a little differently. The steering box and tie rods are located out in front of the front differential. The tie rods attach to the forged aluminum steering knuckles in the front as well and the knuckles have oversized bearings for longer life. When asked why engineers went with this design over a traditional UTV set up, we were basically told this gives the driver maximum leverage and control of the vehicle.
Speaking of the front end of the Wildcat XX let’s think a little about what could happen when ripping the new machine through the desert landscape it was designed for. The engineering mind and “what if” mindset of a desert racer is exposed when you hear that the front of this car’s frame is replaceable. The front steel clip or “skid” as Textron Refers to it, is easily replaceable if damaged by a hard impact. The rear of the machine is also easily removed and replaced, making the base framework, in our eyes, essentially three separate parts. By taking the rear skid panel off, disconnecting electrical as well as any fluid attachments and unbolting six bolts, the engine is free to drop out of the chassis; pretty impressive from a racer standpoint, as it makes service incredibly easy.
So, let us talk powerplant for a second. The 998cc triple cylinder in the 2019 Textron Wildcat XX is producing a stated 125 hp according to Textron Off Road. This engine is admittedly a Yamaha-produced mill. The engine sits across the framework as opposed to the way it is used in the Yamaha YXZ1000R and transfers the power to the ground via a TEAM Industries Rapid Response CVT belt drive. It is no secret that Arctic Cat and Yamaha have worked together on the snowmobile side of off-road and this relationship has become beneficial for this new Wildcat XX.
One item you will notice is that there is a slight bulge on the right side of the engine. Although the stator is sufficient on the Wildcat XX, it was decided that extra voltage produced for those accessories could easily be achieved by running an external alternator off the crank. So just like many desert racing vehicles Textron Off Road installed that insurance for the add-ons you have in mind after the purchase of your Wildcat XX.
The features just kept us busy for hours as we looked the 2019 Textron Wildcat XX over. Everything from the tool-less removable bed tub for easy engine access, to the easily accessible CVT belt enclosure, you can service the machine without losing your religion. When we opened the CVT cover we also noticed an extra piece of formed ABS on the drive clutch. Textron has engineered a fan blade of sorts to the drive clutch to help move air through the CVT box. Details like these are impressive and forward thinking. Also catching our attention was the dual plunge CV half shafts in the rear of the Sports UTV to give a little more stretch to the equation.
So how was the ride? Well, it was just one day in the rock-strewn desert landscape near Barstow, Calif. However, the time spent in this new machine allowed us to get a grip on how much thought and dedication the team at Textron Off Road as well as Robby Gordon had put into the project.
So, let’s get this out of the way first. Personally, I’m not completely sold on the overall look of the machine. It is almost there, but I guess looks aren’t everything and the ride proved it to be a contender. Sure, the fenders do provide very good deflection of tire roost and even seem to funnel the dust away or to the left and right from the driver and passenger instead of just up and behind them. I also find it slightly difficult to get in to. The full doors are paneled on both sides and do provide adequate protection once inside, but as a larger driver, the angled bodywork at the bottom of the door opening seems to trip me up at times. Not a deal breaker, but worth noting.
Now once inside the 2019 Textron Wildcat XX, it’s a different story. At first, the seats felt a little forward positioned and harder than I am used to, but once I drove the first hour it was not even a thought in my mind. Seated down in the cab it becomes comfortable and seat placement is optimal. The driver seat is also on a slider for all size drivers to adjust. Everything inside the cab is easily sighted and feels natural from the driver seat.
Getting out on the trail for our ride we were introduced to some slightly nasty sections of whoops and rocks that would in my mind be a great high-speed trap for any off-road rig in this category. Stepping on the gas the Wildcat XX’s power delivery is smooth and climbs through the RPM range quickly and as the speed picked up the car seemed to settle down more and more. Hitting whooped out desert ruts at intense speed became easier and easier as we learned to trust the machine. It seems to get up on top of the ridges and dance along with control and little effort. The Wildcat XX’s suspension makes me feel like a better driver without a doubt. It is also a big confidence boost for someone who may have never tried to conquer rough terrain at speed. I also had a chance to crawl around a little in the bigger rocks and found that the linear delivery of power proved the Wildcat XX a worthy component to this slow adventure as well.
We had a great day out on the trails on the 2019 Textron Wildcat XX and I was impressed with what Textron Off-Road is offering the consuming public. The $20,499 price tag is well within reach for most who are looking for this kind of vehicle and I would say it is worth that price any day of the week.