Highly Evolved

Editors from across the United States and Canada descended on
southern Missouri to catch a glimpse of the latest all-terrain
technology from Arctic Cat. CE traveled to Dogwood Canyon for the 2006
press launch and got the opportunity to test drive a variety of
go-anywhere machines.

I considered myself uniquely suited for the assignment. Unlike many
women my age, I actually had some experience driving ATVs. Granted,
that experience was limited to tooling around on the three-wheeled
Honda Big Reds on my grandfather’s farm, but I figured that ATVs
couldn’t have changed that much since then.

Oh, how far we’ve come. The machines I thought were so familiar have
evolved, becoming faster, stronger and more efficient than ever. Arctic
Cat released its first ATV in 1995. Eleven years later, the company’s
2006 line features 21 machines total. Also in 2006, Arctic Cat will
launch its first utility vehicle — the Prowler XT.

The press launch started with a brief tour of Dogwood Canyon. Owned by
Johnny Morris of Bass Pro Shops, Dogwood Canyon is 10,000 acres of
private property that straddles the Missouri-Arkansas border. It is
open to the public for activities such as hiking, biking, kayaking,
fishing and horseback riding, and serves as both a nature park and a
conservation area.

“There are a couple of reasons why I chose Dogwood Canyon,” says Kale
Wainer, Arctic Cat’s media relations specialist. “I think the
combination of steep hills, corners and straight-aways gave an editor a
firm feel for what our machines are capable of in terms of motor power,
cornering abilities and high and low speed handling characteristics.”

With Arctic Cat’s 2006 fleet spread out before me, I decided to start
with a gentle ride along some of Dogwood Canyon’s level trails. For
this, I selected the 400 4×4 LE Automatic. It’s one of Arctic Cat’s
larger ATVs, with a width of 47.5 in., a height of 49.3 in., a length
of 84.5 in. and a dry weight of 712 lbs. The machine has a 376-cc, SOHC
four-stroke, four-valve engine and comes with either manual or
automatic transmission and differential lock — a system that allows an
operator to transfer engine torque to both front wheels for added
traction. Like the other utility ATVs in the Arctic Cat line, the 400
LE has a towing capacity of 1,050 lbs. It retails for $6,599.

Although the 400 LE is not by any means an excessively large machine,
it felt much bigger than what I was used to. I soon discovered,
however, that Arctic Cat had not sacrificed maneuverability in its
design. The machine moved smoothly and handled well in general. As with
all of the Arctic Cat vehicles that I tested, the 400 LE was extremely
powerful, going up some steep hills with absolutely no problem. Once I
had used the machine to get a feel for the line’s stability and
handling, I decided it was time to move on to a vehicle with more
practical applications for CE’s readership. With that in mind, my next
ride was on the 500 4×4 TBX.

The TBX is definitely geared toward commercial applications with its
rear dump box, a 300-lb carrying capacity and 1,050 lbs of towing
capacity. It has a 493-cc, SOHC four-stroke, four-valve engine and
automatic transmission, as well as other utility features like side and
tank storage, a 2-in. receiver hitch and hydraulic brakes. The TBX
comes in a 400 and 500 edition. Both editions come with an automatic
transmission and both retail for around $7,149.

It’s obvious just by looking at the TBX that it was built for utility
work, mainly because of the dump box on the back. As such, I was a
little concerned that it would not be able to brave the trail as easily
as the LE had, possibly being a bit slower or less responsive than the
other machine. It wouldn’t have been a surprise or even a
disappointment — after all, I reasoned, it was a machine built for
work, not for fun.

But the TBX was every bit as easy and fun to drive as the LE, taking on
the course with just as much agility as the other vehicle. The handling
and steering felt even

better than that of the LE, and this fact should not be discounted. An
easily driven machine makes it more accessible to more people, allowing
the machine to be used by people of all skill levels. The TBX was also
fast on straightaways — something that could come in handy when you
need to get home quickly (or just want to have some fun at the end of a
long day).

There is one aspect of the TBX that could prove confusing, especially
to first-time operators. The vehicle has a fairly high ground clearance
— 12 in. — that can cause an unsettling tipping sensation on certain
ground conditions. I came to the conclusion that the problem was more
perception than engineering, but first-time operators should still be
aware of the issue and get used to the feel of the vehicle before
taking it through more challenging terrain.

Clearance and stability issues aside, the TBX seems like an excellent choice for those

interested in a utility ATV. Its combination of speed, power and
agility makes it ideal for completing work in hard-to-reach areas on
farms, jobsites or multi-acre estates.

Models like the TBX are one-person-only vehicles, which can prove problematic for those who want to bring someone along for the ride (like a
co-worker). That’s what makes the company’s new TRV series so exciting.

The TRV’s specs are similar to the other Arctic Cat ATVs, sharing the
same engine type, approximately the same size (it’s 93 in. long
compared to the TBX’s 98 in.) and the same towing capacity. There is
one thing, however, that sets it apart from the other 2006 models — it
utilizes the versatility of extra seating.

The TRV machines (which stands for Two Rider Vehicle) feature an
interchangeable back seat that can either be removed or replaced with a
back bed. Like other Speedrack attachments, it is just a matter of
sliding and pinning the parts in place, and the adjustment probably
takes less than a minute. The unit retails for $7,599. The TRV features
an automatic transmission and a 1,050-lb towing capacity.

Accompanying the excitement of the new TRV launch, Arctic Cat released
its new Prowler XT UTV to the family as well. Arctic Cat’s Prowler XT
is a switchable two- and four-wheel drive UTV with differential lock.
The vehicle features rack-and-pinion steering, 12-volt outlets, a
reverse override switch and a 600-lb rear cargo box with a latched tail
gate and dumping feature. In addition, the unit has a 25-lb storage
area that can be drained, making it easy to use as an ice chest. It
retails for $9,499.

The Prowler has a fast, sporty feel that makes it fun to drive, which
of course contributes to its all-around fun factor. While I can easily
see the vehicle becoming popular for grounds or estate maintenance,
there were a few issues I felt had to be addressed before it could be
truly ready for severe off-road duty. The steering was not as
responsive as I would have hoped. Although the vehicle was not
exceptionally difficult to steer, it had a go-cart quality to it that
would probably not serve well on tight turns or in commercial
applications. It also seemed to have more trouble powering up tough
hills.

That’s not to say that the
Prowler is not a good vehicle, just that this first generation of the
machine may not be truly ready for more rigorous outdoor commercial
applications. Before taking it out on the trail, I drove the Prowler
through some of the more level, manicured areas of Dogwood Canyon and
was pleased by its comfort and speed. In addition to a smooth
suspension, the Prowler also had

comfortable, supportive bucket seats that offered a welcome rest from the rigors of the day.

And as someone focused on ATVs for primarily utility and commercial
uses, what impressed me most about Arctic Cat line was its standard
Speedrack system. Using a system of connection points and pins, riders
are able to clip on a wide variety of custom attachments that range
from gun sheaths for hunting to a dump box for farm or construction
work.

All in all, the Arctic Cat press launch was a great opportunity to
experience the company’s product line, and I wasn’t the only one who
thought that the event was a rousing success.

“I heard many positive comments on our product. I was very pleased with
how smoothly the launch went,” says Wainer. “I am very proud of our
ATVs. We have come a long way in terms of fit, finish and quality since
our first ATV was released in 1995. Arctic Cat ATVs are not sitting
still. We are on a mission of growth that encompasses sales, marketing,
engineering and new product development.

We plan to maintain the status of fastest growing ATV company in the business.”

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