What it’s like living with the newest YXZ on the block.
By Cody Hooper
We first started our journey with Yamaha’s unique YXZ1000R back in 2016. As soon as the unit was released, we snagged a fresh blue and white manual-shift version from the late, great Art Wood at Bert’s Mega Mall in Covina, California. If you’re a UTV Guide reader, you’ll recognize this car, as it has been the basis of many YXZ-related stories over the past few years. Since 2016, this car has racked up a little over 2,000 miles, and has taken us along some of the greatest trails in California, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona.
NEW FOR 2019
Fast forward to December of 2018, when we purchased yet another new YXZ. This time, we opted for a metallic blue 2019 YXZ1000R SS Special Edition. We have been driving the car hard for over 3 months now, and with 650+ hard dirt miles on the odometer, we believe we have a relatively complete understanding of the car’s highs and lows. First, let’s cover the major differences between the first generation (2016-2018) and second generation (2019 & up) YXZ.
Yamaha really listened to customer, media, and racer feedback when they were developing the 2019 YXZ1000R. While it isn’t an all-new unit by any means, it features a host of updates both small and large that make the 2nd Gen YXZ an overall better car to live with. A short list of those features includes:
- Transmission gearing: New middle gear is 7% lower, so 1st through 5th is 7% lower. 1st gear is reduced an additional 16.6%, making the overall first gear reduction nearly 24%.
- Tires: 8-ply, 29-inch Maxxis Bighorn tires. The power steering system has been readjusted to provide more assist with the taller tires.
- Wheels: New wheel bolt pattern is 4/156, same as the RZR models.
- Radiator: Relocated behind the seats to reduce cab heat and keep radiator cleaner. New 32% larger radiator with cooling intake routes keep the 2019 YXZ cooler than previous models in extreme conditions, with up to 300% more airflow provided by the dual radiator fans.
- Shocks: Available with dual-rate springs with adjustable crossovers. All-new settings for all shock packages with a noticeable difference in ride quality.
- GYTR Turbo: Engine comes with turbo-ready rods making GYTR Turbo install easier. Other small internal engine updates improve overall durability.
- Cage: New design eases entry/exit from vehicle and enhances styling. Standard roof is now a flatter profile and includes a front drip rail.
- GPS: Pre-wired for incorporating the all-new Yamaha Adventure Pro GPS powered by Magellan.
- Clutch: Improved clutch durability, and updated ECU tuning for the SS models.
- Brakes: Larger twin-piston calipers with 255mm rotors and a larger master cylinder. Stainless steel braided brake lines now come stock.
- Driveline: Upgraded drive components and differential mounting for increased durability.
What does this all equate to from behind the wheel? In essence, the 2019 YXZ1000R is a better car in every tangible aspect. It accelerates harder, shifts quicker, stops shorter, rides smoother, runs cooler, makes less drivetrain noise, and looks better. The feel from behind the wheel of the 2019 is immensely satisfying, and the harder you drive it, the more it rewards you. Now, let’s elaborate on some of these changes!
We have always loved the YXZ’s handling feel. Its steering ratio is a little slower than the RZR, but its accuracy is second to none. The front end on the first YXZ was great; the 2019’s is magic. This car seems to be hard-wired to your brain synapses, delivering all of the pertinent information about what the front tires are doing through the steering wheel while filtering out the noise. Steering feel is light with the stock tires, and perfect with a set of 30’s. Currently, we are running System3 Offroad’s 30x10R14 RT320 tire, and the YXZ absolutely loves them.
This car goes where you point it, every single time. The front suspension soaks up mid-corner chop with incredible stability, allowing you to plow into corners way faster than you should without detriment. Speaking to Yamaha’s engineers, it is clear that they really spent a lot of time tuning the Fox shocks to deliver a plusher ride and keep the tire’s contact patch more firmly planted on the ground in rough chop. It worked- the shocks have adopted a lighter spring/heavier damper feeling compared to the first-generation cars, and it really pays dividends in ride quality and poise.
Moving the weight of the radiator and cooling system to the middle of the car (just behind the seats) also had a huge impact on the car’s handling feel. This UTV truly feels like a mid-engine sports car in the way that it handles corner entry and exit. Trail-braking into a corner sticks the front tires and loosens up the rear, allowing you to start your pivot in such a fluid manner that rolling back on the throttle mid-corner feels instinctual. It’s a wonderfully rewarding experience to hustle the YXZ1000R down a windy road in 2 wheel drive, as it only takes a twitch of your throttle toe to adjust the car’s line mid-corner.
Another area Yamaha focused on was the binders, and they made a big improvement here. Our resident 2016 YXZ is equipped with a Packard Performance supercharger kit, an HCR long-travel suspension system, and STI Chicane 31” tires. The stock brakes on the 2016 car are a little underwhelming in this state of modification, but they really weren’t that stellar to begin with. In the 2019 YXZ, however, the brakes are incredibly strong, linear, and as far as we can tell, imperceptible to fade. Well done Yamaha- this car will stop on a dime and give you 9 cents change.
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION
The 2019 YXZ1000R’s gearing changes are a welcomed improvement over the first-gen car. We fitted our 2016 YXZ with Yamaha’s accessory TAG gearing kit, as first gear was far too tall with larger tires. That car transformed with the gearing change, and the 2019 YXZ feels even better. Gear spacing is spot-on, with a low enough first gear for nearly any terrain. Rock crawlers will still want to opt for a lower first gear, and Yamaha already has the kit available to do it. For an all-purpose UTV, the 2019’s gearing is darn near perfect.
While Yamaha doesn’t claim a power increase for the 2019 car, the engine’s internals have been beefed up in order to handle the boost supplied by Yamaha’s accessory turbocharger kit. We plan to add one soon, but in the meantime, we ordered up Alba Racing’s SBD performance kit. It made a whopping difference in power for well under $1,000- and it is worth every penny. The full scoop on the Alba kit can be found here.
In stock trim, the YXZ runs well, but it’s better everywhere in the RPM range with the Alba SBD kit. Turning 30 inch tires is a breeze, and the car lights them up with a flick of the throttle. In its stock form, the YXZ is a very well-balanced car in terms of handling, acceleration, and braking.
Running through the gears in the 2019 YXZ1000R puts a smile on our face every time. The car shifts when you want it to, and gear changes happen faster in the 2019 than in previous models. Low-speed clutch engagement is also much improved, eliminating a lot of the bucking and on-off clutch engagement that the first generation SS cars exhibited. Launch control is insanely easy and quick to active, so we find ourselves using it often. To this day, we have yet to break a single driveline part in one of our YXZs.
COMFORT & INTERIOR
It’s no secret- the first-gen YXZs got HOT inside the cab. With the radiator positioned under the dash, all the hot air was directed through the heat exchanger and forced right through the plastic center console. While it’s nice touch on cold winter nights, it makes for a leg-baking good time in warmer weather. Our fix on the 2016 model was to add some heat-reflective sheeting to the inside of the tunnel and install soft door bags on the side of the tunnel. This made the 2016 car much easier to live with, but the 2019 car doesn’t need these modifications. With the radiator now positioned behind the seats, you get a cooler cab, but slightly less bed space.
Yamaha’s new ROPS system (roll cage) on the 2019 YXZ looks light years better than previous models, and the side rails are raised up to reduce the chance of you whacking your helmet against it while getting in and out of the car. Interior space in the YXZ has always been plentiful, as it has one of the widest cabs in the segment. Shoulder room is great for taller riders, and knee/leg room is plentiful. This is a very comfortable cockpit to spend time in, both from a driver’s and passenger’s perspective. The wraparound grab bar is also a favorite with our co-pilots, as are the full doors with complete plastic inner door panels. Our one gripe is that we wish the doors opened the other way- it would make getting in and out of the car slightly easier.
Ergonomically, everything in the YXZ is right where it should be. The shifter, parking brake lever, light controls, and 4WD switch are easily controlled without having to look down, and the reverse lever in the SS model is on the correct side of the wheel to engage while shifting down past first gear. The gauges and LCD display are clear and easy to read, and the programmable shift light is probably the best feature of the interior. You can set the shift light to come on earlier if you’re a little slower at reacting to it, and it will keep you from banging the inline triple off its 10,500 RPM rev limiter like an amateur- although sometimes we do it just for fun.
It is worth mentioning that the YXZ’s electrical system layout makes it incredibly easy to install accessories that require power. The battery is located under the center console and requires no tools, and the 2019 YXZ is now pre-wired for GPS, accessory lighting, and more. Yamaha even added mounting tabs to the front of the frame for their accessory pod lights.
SHOULD YOU BUY ONE?
While we realize that the YXZ1000R isn’t a car for everyone, not a single reason comes to mind NOT to buy one. If you’re only going to be riding in the dunes, and big power is your thing, one of the turbo UTVs on the market may be a simpler choice for you. You can get a brand new YXZ1000R and have the dealer bolt on the GYTR turbocharger kit for roughly the same cost as a mid-level RZR Turbo or Maverick X3, but you’ll have less suspension travel. The kicker is that the GYTR turbocharged car will leave either stock RZR or X3 in the dust, as it’s tuned to deliver over 180 horsepower in full-warranty trim. If you spend your time on trails, in the woods, or exploring backroads, it’s hard to imagine a more satisfying car to drive than the 2019 YXZ.
WHAT HAVE WE CHANGED?
We have already added a few aftermarket components to our 2019 model. Most are standard items we add to every car- Rugged Radios 60W radio and RRP660+ intercom system, Rugged fresh air pumper system, PRP RS seats and 4 point harnesses, Assault Industries convex mirrors and fire extinguisher kit, and the upgraded 30” System3 Offroad RT320 tires. We also added a Yamaha rear storage box, which is worth its weight in gold considering the diminished bed space on the 2019 car. A Yamaha/Magellan Adventure Pro GPS system was also added, and we will be providing a detailed writeup on that very soon. This is a great addition to the car, as it not only gives you live GPS capability with downloadable custom maps from other users, but interfaces with the YXZ’s ECU and gives you a full readout of just about every engine parameter you can think of, including gear position.
Future plans for the YXZ include a GYTR swinging spare tire mount, GYTR turbo kit, an aftermarket roll cage, and a few other small performance tweaks.
WHAT ARE THE DOWNSIDES?
While few and far between, there are a few things that came up. First and foremost is the reduced bed space on the 2019 cars. Understandably, moving the radiator rearwards eats up a lot of room, and Yamaha did a great job of minimizing the affect it had on the size of the storage area. However, the bed on the first-gen YXZ is noticeably larger, as is the Yamaha accessory storage box that fits in it. Also, the fuel tank is relatively small at 9 gallons. Aftermarket tanks are already available, and the YXZ is still good for 120+ miles of range at normal pace. The interior also lacks sufficient storage area for small items, but adding a set of door bags and a nifty center console bag eliminates this issue.
Other gripes: cupholders are in an odd place (passenger floorboard), and the doors open the wrong way for an offroad car. Besides that, we can’t find much to whine about!
We thoroughly enjoy every minute spent with this car. In a day and age where seemingly every marketing team is throwing out the biggest numbers they can to gobble up car sales, Yamaha seems intent on building a car that is more fun to drive and easier to live with. To us, that speaks volumes. The sport UTV driving experience should be about the whole package- how the car handles itself in rough situations, how easy it is to drive hard, and how well it holds up when you’re really giving it hell on your favorite trails. In all of those aspects, the 2019 YXZ1000R truly delivers. Don’t believe us? Click here to find a Yamaha demo day near you, and get behind the wheel of one. You won’t be disappointed!
The YXZ is so poised on rough, uneven terrain that it makes you want to set a lap record on every trail. Here it is in its natural habitat, enjoying some of the greenest California scenery of the year.