2015 Arctic Cat XR ATV Review- The New Cat Is Out Of The Bag Hot
Do you smell that, that new ATV smell? That new smell in the air is the brand new Arctic Cat XR ATV family, which is the latest and greatest addition to the Arctic Cat lineup. 2015 is proving to be a banner year for Arctic Cat as it delivers updates to current product families as well as breaking ground on new ones, and it is popping out the “new” the way ……. Arctic Cat shot me an email to come join them for a day of seat time aboard this new XR ATV in Moab, Utah, and who was I to say no! I had no idea what to expect as I caught the plane to head off on this adventure, but I was excited to get to know the newest member of the family of ATVs from this innovative off-road company.
There is so much “new” to the XR series of ATV that it resembles my nephew smothering his ice cream with chocolate syrup. The new is everywhere. In fact, the XR series is a completely new ATV. Arctic Cat has carried over features from its other product lines, but the it started the XR from scratch with the intent on making everything better, which can only be done by starting over. The obvious items start with a complete departure from the XR’s brother and sister ATVs in the looks department, but that is just the beginning. The chassis is new and is the result of years and hundred of hours of research, testing, and changes to provide a better riding position as well as ride. There is a new suspension geometry, digital instrument cluster, front and rear racks, closed-loop EFI, rear storage compartment, foot well space, EPS control, driveline, and more. This symphony of “new” comes together to form the best Arctic Cat ATV I have ever swung my leg over, and arguably sports some features which lead the industry. Talking with the product manger that developed the XR series convinced me that Arctic Cat goes to incredible lengths to build a durable, reliable, and comfortable ATV which also includes a fun factor to enjoy the ride.
Let’s face it, the XR looks good, it just does. The body is big with sweeping lines and a bold front grille that catches your eye. Arctic Cat did a great job giving the XR a rough and tough looking that catches your eye and draws attention in a crowded room. The XR sits high exposing the springs and suspension components, giving you a feeling of comfort that you can go over whatever you encounter on the trail, though the center of gravity has been dropped in comparison to years past. The front lights on the XT and Limited model have an LED-lighted bar which runs along the outline of the headlight casing, and it looks sharp when the XR comes to life. When you look at the XR, something stirs within you making you want to take it out for a ride.
So anyone can say they have put all of this research and development to work to provide an outstanding ATV, but the proof is in the ride. Of the 500, 550, and 700 engines available, Arctic Cat brought 550 and 700 models for our group to ride. Climbing aboard the a XR 700 XT, I was happy, as this Cat is large and in charge. With a quick turn of the key and push of the start button, the XR rumbled to life with a low grumble of the exhaust, which Arctic Cat has nailed on every one of their ATVs I have taken out for a spin. I threw it into gear, gave it some throttle, and my XR 700 XT began to carry me forward. The Rapid Response clutch engaged perfectly with no jerking or lurching forward, but offered a responsive engagement to my thumb giving it the go-ahead. Right away I was zooming along a dirt road in the beautiful Moab area trying to take in both the XR and the incredible rock formations jetting out of the ground and filling the sky. We started out with a little high speed road work. The change in the rider position became evident immediately, as I was leaning more forward on the ATV. The XR also sports a new steering post angle and a 2-inch narrower foot position. These changes give a feeling of being more in control of the ATV, which, of course, is a good thing. The suspension on the flat winding dirt road was tight and plush, offering good feedback and a comfortable ride. The power steering offered a plethora of assist at slower speeds, and little-to-none at higher speeds. Despite its high stance, the XR proved to be tidy in the higher speed corners, leaving me feeling in control and not like I was on the ragged edge.
Moab is known for being incredibly beautiful right alongside being known for having big, ominous rock formations offering steep and rugged inclines and declines that challenge any ATV or UTV’s abilities and engineering. The fact is the Arctic Cat XR shined bright in the environment at Moab, and the more I rode the XR the more confident in the XR’s abilities I became. Suspension travel, machine balance, engine braking, clutching, and four-wheel drive are the name of the game in traversing the rocks. The XR sports an almost 50/50 balance between the front and rear weight distribution, which allows for things staying manageable whether going up or coming down the rocks. That balance could not have been more clear during the times I was riding up or down some of these incredibly steep rocks. There were some formations that I looked at and thought “no way”, and then one of the Arctic Cat riders would just point the XR forwards and walk right up the rock, making it look particularly easy. Though the 4-wheel drive system has a 2WD, 4WD, and 4WD diff-lock setting that the driver can choose, the XR didn’t seem to need the diff-lock. Keeping the wheels on the ground was 10 inches of travel both front and rear, allowing the wheels to follow the roll of the rocks, and offering great traction and a comfortable ride. The engine braking particularly shined as the belt stayed engaged using the wet clutch in the transmission, and allowed the XR to “walk” down inclines you would not want to hurry down concluding with your demise! Some of the declines I walked down had a “pucker-factor” I can not put into words, and I rarely even used the brakes at all. The EBS engaged comfortably when letting off the throttle at higher speeds, so I was truly impressed with the XR’s EBS. I can say with confidence that I rode over “hill and dale” on the XR, and returned with a smile on my face.
The XR family of ATVs come in a choice of three different engine choices: 700, 550, and 500. All of these engines are a single-cylinder EFI setup offering reliable performance no matter the conditions. There is also the “closed-loop” EFI which includes an O2 sensor to help in calculating the right amount of fuel and air mixture. This helps, not only with performance, but also with efficiency, making sure you get every mile possible with every ounce of fuel. The XT and Limited XR’s come wrapped with the 550 and 700 engines on board, and I spent time with both of these engine choices. Power is plentiful from stop to the top of the power band making sure the job of climbing, towing, and accelerating gets done. Throttle response is noticeably good, and both the 550 and 700 I spent time on offer acceleration which puts a smile on your face when you “hop on it”. The Dramatic CVT transmission has a wet clutch that makes sure the belt stays engaged no matter what, and that means outstanding acceleration and engine braking. I spent most of my day on the 700 XT taking on rocks, dirt roads, tighter trails, and even some deeper snow. Power was abundant to handle wherever I pointed the handlebars.
It was clear to me, while talking to the engineers behind the XR ATVs, that many many hours of thought went in to this new ATV family, with the engineers working hard to check off all the boxes people want in this class of ATV. The ease of maintenance is strikingly good, with access to everything from the engine to the fuses within an easy reach. Storage is plentiful and purposed with under-seat and rear storage to carry several things without the need of using the racks themselves. The racks offer a high-grade composite construction on top of a tubular steel structure. The racks tie-down points are on par with the choices of soda on the market, so there are plenty to choose from. The racks are compatible with both the SeedLock and SpeedBuckle accessories, which are also plentiful. The name of the game is getting accessories on and off quickly, and Arctic Cat has joined the camp of being able to do just that. There is also a new digital powersport gauge on the XR family showing everything a rider wants to be aware of and more. The digital gauge is placed in front of the handlebars in a sort of pod that adds to the sleek look of the XR family. It was easy to read throughout the time I was aboard the ATV.
It is hard to find many things to improve upon with the XR ATV’s from the time I spent riding them, though I have a couple. I would move the gear shifter from the left side to the right, so it would be opposite of the brake lever. Since they are both on the left side, you can’t keep all four brakes engaged without reaching across your body to change gears. This may sound like a minor thing, but over several shifts where you need to keep the brakes engaged, it is very noticeable. The second item is squeezing a bit more power out of the 700 class engine. It seems like it tops out on the slower side of this class of engine. It is not slow, but I wish it had a little more “oomph”.
The proverbial good elephant in the room when it comes to the XR family of Arctic Cat ATVs is how obvious the level of engineering embodied in the XR’s really is. I am truly impressed with the level of detail and purposeful engineering that has gone into these machines. The items that are important in a 500 and 700 class utility ATV used for both utility and fun are engineered into the XR family. The XR family is not for the speed demons….yet, though there is every indication Arctic Cat will be adding all the engine choices to the XR family soon. The XR family is for those wanting a good all-around ATV for trail riding, work, or both, and it looks fantastic. Arctic Cat has covered the spectrum from work to play, and, in my mind, has brought a well-engineered and well-built “next level” ATV to market. The XR family is one to consider if you are looking for this class of ATV.