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First Impressions: Driving a Stampede


(7/10/2017)

First ride on a Textron Stampede. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

If first impressions are truly meaningful, then the hour-or-so test drive I had on a couple Stampede side-by-side models (as well as a Recoil iS electric vehicle) are a good omen for the future of Arctic Cat dealers and riders.

The ride took place at Country Cat, who became a Stampede dealer last year, long before there was any public inkling that Textron was interested in purchasing Arctic Cat.

Not long after that purchase finalized this spring, P.J. Wanderscheid invited me to get acquainted with the brand by taking a Stampede 2-seater and XTR 4-seater for a brief test ride on the property surrounding their dealership in Sauk Centre, Minn.

This was not a definitive test by any means. I'd characterize it as an introduction, a chance to form a few impressions. I will spend A LOT more time on Stampede models in the future -- along with Wildcats, Prowlers and Alterras -- and more in-depth analysis will soon follow.

For now, here's what I noticed upon my first brush with Textron Off Road's first foray into the side-by-side world:

- They're quiet, both in terms of engine sound (intake and exhaust) as well as mechanical sound from the drivetrain. Call me old, demanding or something unprintable, but I'm getting far less tolerant of loud machines, especially the ones that I spend considerable time with. Both Stampede models were well within my range of what I think is acceptable in terms of sound level and sound quality.

- Take-off is smooth, with a very linear response/progression from between the gas pedal and the engine/drivetrain. There was no annoying lurch upon take-off, nor was there too much engine braking. One of my biggest irritations about so many side-by-sides is that getting on/off the gas feels like a light switch until you master "feathering" of the gas-pedal. For many people this "mastering" occurs within five minutes of owning one, but for other people it's a skill that remains elusive no matter how many times they've snapped their heads back into the headrest.

"Linear and smooth" best describes the Stampede's response to throttle input.

- Good power from the 80-hp parallel twin engine. It's all power I'd need for a utility SxS.

- Shifting between H-L-N-R-P is solid and deliberate. I had no "false" lever positions that require finding the intended gear.

- Suspension felt smooth and planted. I'm a fan of swaybars on utility machines, which the Stampede has on both the front and rear.

- Stampede set itself apart from other SxS options with its extended cab, which provides a dedicated storage zone between the back of the seats and the front of the box. It was perfect for tossing my camera bag and not having to worry about strapping it in to keep from sliding around the box. I can imagine enjoying this space for all kinds of stuff (for starters, I'd love it for installing snowmobile trail signs and brushing trail in the fall, where I'd keep the sledge hammer, lopers and chainsaw apart from all the signs that would stay in the box).

- Nice dash layout, including the gauge; like the dual 12v and USB outlets.

- The doors swing open with the hinge on the forward portion, just like an automobile. Maybe it's because I'm used to Wildcats, but I found myself wishing the Stampede had "suicide" doors that were hinged at the back.

- Easy-access air filter and an automotive battery...nice!

- In general, these machines gave me a feel of high quality. These guys/gals did their homework to produce such a machine as their first entry into the SxS market. I'd run one of these against anything else I've spent time with, including Prowlers and HDX models.

- Most Arctic Cat dealers are (or will soon be) carrying Stampede models as part of their product mix. If you get a chance to test ride one, I'd love to hear your comments/impressions about it.

 

First ride on a Textron Stampede. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

First ride on a Textron Stampede. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Talking with P.J. Wanderscheid (left) during the test drive.

 

First ride on a Textron Stampede. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Automotive battery and easy-access air filter, located underneath the front bench seat.

 

First ride on a Textron Stampede. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

First ride on a Textron Stampede. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

First ride on a Textron Stampede. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

First ride on a Textron Stampede. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

First ride on a Textron Stampede. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Dave Wanderscheid (black hat) talks about the Stampede's features in between brief sessions in which he, P.J. and I traded driving/passenger positions in both machines.

 

First ride on a Textron Recoil iS. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

I spent a total of 5 minutes playing around on this Recoil iS electric vehicle, which impressed impressed me greatly. Silent, quick to accelerate and with a real suspension (and tires), this machine would be REALLY handy to a lot of people.

 

First ride on a Textron Stampede. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

P.J. (left) and Dave, with two Stampede models parked outside the original building location for Country Cat. Big thanks to both these guys for allowing me to put some time on the machines.



Comments (15):

Mike F says:
7/10/2017 8:37:00 PM

Since they are going to be built in TRF....they should have an AC sticker on them. Re branding everything as Textron is a fatal flaw.
Oldcrow says:
7/11/2017 8:13:00 AM

Ditto,
"Arctic/Textron Insider"??
Snopro says:
7/11/2017 10:24:00 AM

Yep, they took all of us cat guys and tossed us in the garbage can. Things are definitely different around here now. Reminds me of when a guys favorite dog dies.
JimR says:
7/11/2017 12:18:00 PM

It is just a name and you could put Cat stickers on it if that makes you feel better. Better than not being around anymore. Cant wait to get my 2018 ZR 6000!
I Bleed Green! says:
7/11/2017 2:46:00 PM

I like the quiet factor, my prowler 550 was a good machine, but too noisy, like most other sxs machines are. I wish it looked more like a Cat, but whatever. As long as it's manufactured in northern MN, then i am happy. Don't move to Mexico or Brazil or wherever.......
Snopro says:
7/12/2017 7:19:00 PM

When I hear guys bragging at the bar about their new Textron, then I'll believe it. This shows us how fast 50 years of work can be thrown away. One warm or dry January and what's next????????????????
Rustylizard says:
7/12/2017 10:02:00 PM

You guys can say the name doesn't matter but I have been an Arctic Cat guy since 1971. I am preparing to buy my first ever brand new ATV and I am only looking for leftovers. If it isn't an Arctic Cat in name and build I might as well look at all the brands. There are other machines that have great qualities and when the brand isn't there why should I continue to be loyal to it?

I could live with a Textron Prowler or Wildcat but what the hell is an Alterra? Might as well be a Toyota. The name matters.
Nepasnopro says:
7/13/2017 8:55:00 AM

Say what you want but I also had the opportunity to take a test ride and check over a stampede, and yes it is quiet and rides decent. But the rest is a lot to be desired it gives you the feel of a cheap Chinese knockoff. I mean the tail light is something you'd buy at tractor supply! These machines aren't cheap in comparison to the other utility offerings out there and if Textron wants to dominate this segment they have a lot of work to do! The fit finish and overall appearance on my Wildcat Trail are light years ahead of the Stampede! And as a die hard Arctic Cat loyalist since I first rode a kitty kat Textron made a huge mistake changing the name especially with this being their Flagship model!
Oldcrow says:
7/13/2017 4:58:00 PM

FYI, Alterra is a name first used by Arctic Cat
gbarchives67-72 says:
7/14/2017 7:52:00 AM

From reading these comments it sounds like someone should get into the graphics business real quick. I look at the Stampede the same way I looked at those Rupps and Kawasaki's Arctic built back in the 70's. It's a contract vehicle using manufacturing space to keep the company going. Which is good. They too were interesting but they were gone in five years. Let's hope history does not repeat.

I predict the Stampede will be morphed and merged into the Arctic, er, excuse me, "Textron" off road line up after a few seasons. I'd like a look at that new engine though. With emissions bedeviling sled makers that might wind up in a trail ZR before long as maybe a 4000 Four stroke???
Rustylizard says:
7/14/2017 11:40:00 AM

Oldcrow - I know that but it still sucks.
Oldcrow says:
7/14/2017 4:32:00 PM

RL - Yeah, I'm not too fond of it either.
I like my 1000 XT
Bulldog says:
7/17/2017 10:55:00 AM

You guys remind me of chicken little. The sky is falling, the sky is falling! Give them a chance to produce a machine with both AC and Textron engineers working together combined with Textrons buying power before you decide if this acquisition is a failure or a success. I am hoping for some really cool stuff in the very near future with DNA from both companies ingrained into it.
Mike F says:
7/18/2017 8:45:00 PM

@Bulldog....you have been consistantly wrong on these topics for a long time. Textron has nothing in the dirt world. They gutted a poorly performing BAD BOY BUGGY company when they bought it, because EZ-Go provided almost all of the parts. The TEXTRON Off Road brand they pulled out of their ass. Then they got rid of the Arctic Cat name which actually had some brand recognition. Then promptly crapcanned everyone at the new plant they had in Georgia to move to the cheaper plant in TRF. Most of the previous AC dirt people are now working 54 miles to the north or in Wyoming MN. That is the reality. That is how I roll, but only for the last 50 years. Hope like hell I am wrong....
peterw says:
7/21/2017 9:39:00 AM

...they should release a big wildcat or so in the near future or the will loose a lot customers changin over to polaris or can am !! :- /

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