By Jon Crowley
After our first ride at the Yamaha Wolverine X2 media ride (see Yamaha Wolverine X2 – First Ride Impression), we acquired a demo unit for more thorough evaluation. My first trip was a quickie on the Rubicon Trail in Northern California (see Wolverine X2 Rock Crawling Review). After these two rides, we knew the Wolverine X2 was a keeper, so I wanted to do some customization to personalize it to my particular taste and also increase functionality for future Adventure Rides.
In stock form, the Wolverine X2 isn’t your 80MPH fly through the desert or dunes type of vehicle. It is more of a recreation-utility class type UTV that is something like 75% recreation and 25% utility. It is able to very comfortably explore the backwoods trails all over the United States, while also capable of doing work around the ranch or farm. It is quiet and nimble and the bed is big enough for camping gear for a weekend in the woods.
Wolverine X2 Phase 1 Buildup
Our first trip to the Rubicon, proved to me that although the Wolverine X2 isn’t the best out-of-the-box rock crawler, it was still very capable. The biggest change that I wanted to make was to increase ground clearance and the best way to do that is with larger tires and wheels. It comes from the factory with 26-inch Maxxis tires that are very small for my taste. They are very light and help keep the 847cc Twin-Cylinder Powerplant as potent as possible. But for rocks and also desert, I prefer to keep my skid plate further off the ground. I decided to go on the big size and hope I could stuff a 30-inch tire on without any sort of lift or replacement arms.
After tires and wheels were handled, I knew I wanted to have car-to-car communication handled, plus GPS, spare tire carrier, winch, and figured a bumping stereo system would be fun on rides and also around camp (or in the garage for that matter). Here are the details on our Phase I Wolverine X2 buildup.
GMZ 30-inch Tires mounted on HiPer Falcon Beadlock Wheels
Ground clearance is key when rock crawling so I went as big as I could with our Wolverine X2. The 30x10R14 Kahuna Tire an all-terrain DOT approved tire developed by GMZ Race Products and is 8 ply radial construction. We have the Kahuna tires mounted on HiPer Falcon beadlock wheels. The Falcon is a Flow Formed beadlock UTV wheel providing optimal performance and value. These are 14×7 with a 4+3 offset.
We have only had these on the Rubicon, and they do rub at full turn up front. At high speeds in rough terrain, they may rub elsewhere as well so this size is not ideal. If you are worried about rubbing, you are probably better off with a 28-inch tire.
Yamaha Adventure Pro GPS System powered by Magellan
This off-road ready mobile Android-based Magellan TRX7 tablet boasts GPS mapping and navigation, online trip planning and storage, social sharing and front/rear camera for all users. With over 115,000+ Pre-Loaded Trails and Waypoints, the Adventure Pro will help you get off-the-beaten trail, and that is what I love to do.
The Wolverine X2 comes pre-wired for Adventure Pro installation, so installation is a breeze. With direct vehicle integration, you also get vehicle feedback including speed, RPM, trail timing, coolant temperatures, and more. Vehicle safety warnings are also built into the interface, with seatbelt alerts, overheating, and engine check warnings for confidence-inspired adventures.
Yamaha Spare Tire Carrier
This Spare Tire Mount allows the transport of a spare wheel and tire in the bed of the Wolverine X2. While it does take up some valuable bed space, it still allows the bed dump and it can be used in conjunction with a Yamaha Rear Cargo Box
The Warn Pro Vantage 3500 winch was specially outfitted for the Wolverine X2. With a 3,500lbs capacity and a fully sealed, three-stage planetary gear train, all-metal gear housing and gears, this winch is a perfect fit for the recreation and utility nature of the Wolverine X2.
SSV Works Audio System
Yamaha and SSV Works have collaborated on designing an audio solution for use with the premium headliner’s integration points on the Wolverine X2. The base kit includes a 200W amplifier and two A6 Powersports 6.5″ marine-grade speakers. We opted for the full system which also adds a powered subwoofer for additional sound and rich bass utilizing the Premium Top Speaker Expansion Kit and Powered Sub Woofer. Audio functions are all controlled by a SSV Works MRB3 bluetooth audio controller.
Rugged Radios Intercom and Radio
Ability to communicate with other vehicles in your group is key for adventure rides and Rugged Radios is where to get all your radios and intercoms. We chose a 25-Watt Waterproof Dual Band Amateur Mobile Radio combined with RRP660 PLUS intercom that allow you to talk with your passenger or other vehicles that have radio setups. Alpine Designs did the installation and fabricated the bracket for inside the console.
KC HiLiTES Flex LED Lights
Adventure rides don’t always end during daylight, so it is always nice to add more light. KC FLEX™ Dual LED feature bright CREE LEDs in a spot or spread beam pattern inside a compact, rugged Aluminum housing with precision reflectors. We have these mounted on our a-pillar using Axia Alloys clamps. They are simply wired to come on when the high beams are selected.
Phase 1 Buildup Test Run
I decided to head back to the Rubicon Trail and do a more thorough ride and evaluation now that phase 1 was complete so we could see how well the Wolverine X2 performed.
Tires and Wheels
First thing I need to explain is moving from a 26-inch tire to a 30-inch tire is a rather large jump. On most other vehicles, a clutch kit would be and absolute necessity. But I knew from previous experience that the Wolverine X2, while not properly tuned would also handle the task with worry of slipping the CVT belt. For higher speed driving, I think a clutch kit would be much more important.
The tire swap made a huge difference for rock crawling. The extra ground clearance was very noticeable and while I could tell the clutch wasn’t quite as quick, it did a better job keeping the belt from slipping that some factory UTVs I have driven with stock tires! The only downside to the 30-inch tires other than needing to adjust the clutch for optimum performance is they do rub in the front at full turn. The tires hit on the plastic by your feet. The good news is the plastic is smooth at this location and it doesn’t catch anything. But over time the plastic will wear. I will probably use these tires and wheels for rock crawling and maybe try a 28-inch for faster rides.
I am very happy with the performance of the tires and wheels for the Rubicon. I was set at 12 PSI and I think I could have dropped to 8PSI for even better performance without any issues. On the HiPer Falcon beadlocks, I really like how the beadlock bolts are well protected. I abuse tires and wheels while rock crawling, and although scratched, the bolts were not harmed.
When we got to the Rubicon, I fired up the Wolverine X2 and up came the map at our location and the Rubicon Trail was pre-loaded! Very nice to have trails over 100K OHV trails already on the GPS. Plus I loved having the full screen of Wolverine X2 gauges just a quick toggle away. GPS speed, coolant temp and battery voltage are always key for me and they are in large format and very easy to read.
While I didn’t need to use the winch on this trip, I always feel better having one, especially while rock crawling. The Warn ProVantage 3500 fits like it was designed from the factory, because it was. Having a winch gives me the confidence to know I can get out of a bind if I get myself into a tricky spot, or even lift up the side of another UTV for a trail repair or to change a flat. Around the ranch, they are super helpful when stretching a fence line.
The SSV Works system is a Yamaha factory accessory that you can get from your local Yamaha dealer. It is designed to fit with the factory cage and really has a factory look and feel to it. That is until you turn it up! With the 4 6.5-inch speakers and a powered sub woofer, this system definitely rocks. Sometimes tunes on the trail just put you in a mood and really set the stage for a great day. Plus I love to use the Wolverine X2 as a portable entertainment system around camp or even in the shop while wrenching.
Radio and Intercom
While not quite as important on the Rubicon, car-to-car communication is super important for group rides. Rugged Radios has been designing communications systems for off-road and UTV for years, and I can tell you that group rides without good comms can be a nightmare. And even though the Wolverine X2 is one of the quietest UTVs out there, it is nice to have a conversation with your passenger without trying to talk over the wind noise with a helmet on.
While I applaud Yamaha for building a skid plate that completely covers the underside of the vehicle, as you can see above, steel just isn’t the right material for sliding across the rocks. I have dropped my Wolverine X2 off at Factory UTV to see what they can come up with for some UHMW protection on the bottom of the steel. With the steel backing it up, I think this might be the ideal solution for strength and durability.
The doors on the Wolverine X2 are hinged from the front so you enter and exit more towards the rear of the vehicle than a UTV with suicide style doors. The latch area for the door extends forward towards the middle of the seat. Getting out of the vehicle, I found myself sandwiched between the latch plate and the steering wheel a few times. There is plenty of room to exit if you do it sideways, but I am not used to doing it that way. Not a huge deal at all, but something that will take getting used to for me.
Front Diff Lock
The Wolverine X2 has a fully lockable front differential system. In normal 4-Wheel-Drive, the differential is “open” which means power is transferred to the tire that is slipping. Not a good situation for extreme rock crawling and this is why Yamaha has a Diff Lock mode. Turn the knob and the diff goes to fully locked. This is the ultimate in traction for the front tires. What I did find though is sometimes the differential took a little bit longer than I would have expected to full engage or disengage. Not a big deal unless you need full diff lock, right now. But something to be aware of.
I am really starting to like how our Wolverine X2 has turned out. With a few more tweaks, I am ready to hit some trails and explore more trails. The Wolverine X2 is very capable and I feel that it is a super dependable and stout vehicle. I love having extra room in the cargo bed for supplies, tools, ice chest, camping gear or whatever else.
The seating position is very comfortable for all-day on the trail and you have a very good field of view from inside the cab. I really enjoy how quiet it is as well, especially when i will be putting down 100+ mile days on the trail.
While the Wolverine X2 isn’t a sport UTV with 20+ inches of wheel travel, it does have a plush ride and will do well except when you hit big desert whoops. For normal trail riding and even on the Rubicon, the ride is real nice.
For this trip on the Rubicon, we camped about 3 miles from the trail head at Loon Lake. On Friday afternoon after our morning ride to Wentworth Springs, a friend bet me that I couldn’t get through Little Sluice and back in 2.5 hours. Yeah, I beat that by half and hour! I was actually thinking that it would be fun to try the Wolverine X2 at King of the Hammers, just to prove a point. I’ll have to stew on that thought for a while, because it was much more relaxing when I didn’t race last year…
Looking forward to my next ride in the Wolverine X2. I am planning to do a group desert adventure ride in October, so it will be great to experience it in a different terrain.