By Bob Balunda,Factory UTV
The Yamaha Rhino is truly the grandfather of the UTV sport world as we know it today. Sadly frivolous lawsuits and people unwilling to take responsibility for their own actions really hit Yamaha hard and stifled it’s progress in Sport UTV development. The rumor mill has been churning out speculation about a new Yamaha sport UTV for several years now. While the Viking and Wolverine were fine versatile machines in their own right, they left the pure sport UTV enthusiast wanting and knowing Yamaha was capable of so much more. Finally on September 1st 2015 Yamaha unveiled the YXZ1000R, a no holds barred, assembled in the USA, full on sport UTV.
Yamaha YXZ1000R Unveiling on September 1, 2015
I knew we had to have one and put a deposit down immediately. We took delivery of the first YXZ1000R to hit town at PCP Motorsports in Sacramento CA and wasted little time making it out to Sand Mountain Nevada for a full shake down run.
Yamaha really blew the lid off conventional UTV design with the YXZ. This machine features several industry first concepts including it’s 10,500 rpm Inline Triple Cylinder 998cc engine, fully manual 5 speed sequential shift transmission and hydraulically-actuated foot-pedal clutch. Yep, you read that correctly, blown CVT belts will never be an issue with the YXZ1000R.
YXZ1000R Engine and Transmission are Unique to the UTV Market
A quick walk around the vehicle shows quality components and well thought out design features everywhere. Massive FOX 2.5 Podium Shocks with 16 of travel in front and 17 in the rear come standard on the YXZ. The shocks offer compression, rebound and preload adjust-ability and utilize FOX Bottom Out Cup technology adding additional support at the limits of shock travel. Yamaha obviously took the styling cues directly from their line of sport ATV’s and used them on the YXZ design.
Special Edition 60th Anniversary Yamaha YXZ100R
Ours is the Yamaha YXZ 1000R SE, or Special Edition 60th Anniversary model which features yellow painted plastics with traditional Yamaha Racing black and yellow graphics. As well as yellow color matched suspension arms and upgraded 14 inch SE beadlock wheels. The standard YXZ will be available in both Blue/White and Orange/Black versions without the beadlock wheels or painted plastic. All 1000R’s will come standard with full doors and roof’s. Besides it’s flimsy plastic skid plate, what really stuck out for us on the YXZ was the attention to detail everywhere we looked. Zerk fittings, properly routed wires, lines and cables, the fit and finish on this machine takes it to the head of the class from the get go. We hope Yamaha’s legendary dependability is also part of the package, but only time will tell that tale.
Color Matched High-Back Seats
Before jumping in to take a spin we familiarized ourselves with the YXZ’s cockpit surroundings. We were impressed with the color matched doors with inset handles and automotive type latch. The high back bucket seats are very comfortable and the drivers side offers full adjust-ability through a latch mechanism under the front of the seat. A nice passenger grab bar provides a nice secure handle for co-dogs. An air intake is mounted centrally up high between the seats and provides the big triple abundant clean air through it’s dual element air filter system. Once seated in the cockpit, you really get the feel of being down low in a sport car. The YXZ provides ample leg room and a really stout feeling adjustable steering wheel. Right up on top of the steering column is a digital-analog multifunction meter featuring a speedometer, tachometer, programmable shift light, with digital readouts for 4WD mode, gear position, fuel level, trip meters, hour meter, coolant temperature warning and a clock. On the center of the dash is an empty storage tray we anticipate will eventually house switches or a GPS for many YXZ owners and to the right of that is a locking glove box. On the doghouse you’ll see two knobs, one that control’s the 2WD, 4WD, and 4WD with full locking differential mode and the other the vehicle lights. A hand operated auto style parking brake and that glorious transmission shift lever finish things off.
When the big triple fires to life you are greeted by the sweetest exhaust tone in the industry. The YXZ1000R really sounds fantastic! Clutch feel is very light thanks to hydraulic assist with a relatively short throw. We shifted the Transmission into first gear with a push forward on the lever, then grabbed the reverse lever near the steering wheel and gave the shifter one more nudge forward to engage reverse gear. Really an easy task reaching reverse as we were easily able to disengage reverse and come right back to it with little effort. After backing off the trailer and clicking the lever into 1st gear we promptly pulled that all-rookie move and stalled it. The YXZ1000R requires some RPM to get underway with gearing that seems good for 100 MPH top end. Personally I’d give up 10 MPH up top to have a slightly shorter first gear.
As I took off and ran through the gears I really felt like a newbie with a bunch of herky jerky shifts that betrayed many hundreds of thousands of miles on the road behind a shifter. The good news here is that it didn’t take long before I was banging through the gears channeling Mario Andretti in his Formula 1 Ferrari. Once I got the hang of it, I found the YXZ to shift as easily and positively as any manual transmission I’ve ever operated. Shifting just required use of the clutch pedal with a short positive nudge of the lever one way or the other, overall very slick. We had zero issues with missed shifts and the only real problem we experienced shifting was in the beginning getting used to the forward and backward thing. Several times I shifted up while wanting to shift down and vice versa. Once you get some seat time in though, that will become as second nature as it is for those who’ve spent time shifting gears on a street bike. By the end of the day I was running up and down through the gears like a pro.
I found the shift light on the multifunction display to really be a most useful device as I made runs at Sand Mountain’s long steep sand faces. Much easier to use than tracking the tachometer, I found the performance of the big triple to be optimum when I hit all my gear changes on time according to the shift light and kept the motor singing that beautiful high RPM tune. The engine has such a powerful surge at the upper end of the rpm range that it fools you a bit into feeling like it has a limited all top end power-band. Purposefully lugging the thing down though showed very decent torque throughout the RPM range. The engine was as happy lugging as it was screaming if not quite as exhilarating. Carburetion was spot on with nary a hiccup off idle through the 10,500 RPM red line. The big triple is pure magic in the YXZ running super smooth and strong, wailing out an exhaust note I will never tire of hearing.
I found the suspension to be pretty stiff on the YXZ and because it was a one day trip, we didn’t take time to fiddle with any of the adjustments. No doubt that some more break in time and the suspension adjustment’s the YXZ offers will give us the opportunity to find a more supple feel to the suspension. As it was off the showroom floor, we found the harder we pounded through the whoops the better things worked for us. With a nice low center of gravity and both front and rear anti sway bars, the YXZ1000R exhibits very little body roll and gives a real confidence inspiring, planted feel. We had a field day throwing the YXZ sideways for some great 2 wheel-drive power slides out on some desert roads.
The Yamaha Electric Power Steering worked flawlessly giving us excellent feedback through the wheel with a very light effort required to turn the machine. The brake pedal offers excellent feedback and real stopping power, including bringing things under control really well on those high speed runs down the face of Sand Mountain. We found the front and rear dual hydraulic disc brakes to be up the the task of whatever we threw at them. The Yamaha YXZ1000R is one great handling UTV right out of the crate.
We found some rough technical sections to climb around in and test the Yamaha’s front locker differential which worked flawlessly. We really appreciate the ability to go full front locker at the flick of a switch. Make no mistake, in stock form the Yamaha definitely requires more skill and effort to operate in the slow gnarly stuff than a UTV equipped with a CVT transmission. I have a 68 Jeep Commando, so manual clutching my way through a rock bed is not a new experience for me, but I can see where it will be a problem for some inexperienced drivers. Yamaha offer’s a Rekluse clutch option for the YXZ and I believe this will be a very popular add-on.
Yamaha YXZ1000R Rekluse Clutch Kit
The Rekluse will allow you to crawl through a rock bed or up slow technical hill climb without using the clutch pedal at all. Like an automatic transmission and a CVT, you can idle in gear without the clutch pedal depressed and the engine will not stall, gas it and away you go. Going down steep hill climbs the Manual Trans really shines over the competition. Instead of that completely UN-instinctive requirement of having to actually gas it to engage a CVT going downhill, the YXZ let’s you ride that engine braking going down long steep hills. I can’t emphasize enough how much better the YXZ handles downhill runs with it’s manual transmission, it’s a huge plus.
You wouldn’t think just adding a manual transmission could have such an effect on the driving experience, but you’d be wrong. Shifting is a huge part of what makes the YXZ so much fun to drive and make no mistake, Yamaha’s flagship sport UTV is a seriously fun machine to operate. After a couple sessions in the car, my son Bruce really said it best, driving the YXZ1000R really made me feel a complete part of the machine. Our XP and Maverick give more of a ride along feel while the YXZ makes you feel that you are the center of the experience. It’s hard to quantify, but I think Bruce comes really close. I can tell you that I have never had as much fun driving a UTV as I did playing rally car racer in the YXZ and the more I drove it the more I liked it. The YXZ is a platform that the aftermarket engine guru’s will have an absolute field day playing with as we’re already seeing 155 horsepower bolt on turbo kits. Is it a game changer? Absolutely 100% yes it is. There is nothing out there like it and the YXZ1000R continues the rapid progression of the sport UTV. Two thumbs up Yamaha!
More: Yamaha YXZ1000R Review
About Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A.
Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A., (YMUS), a leader in the motorsports market, makes the toughest, most capable and versatile ATV and Side-by-Side vehicles. The companys ever expanding product offerings also include motorcycles, outboard motors, personal watercraft, snowmobiles, boats, outdoor power equipment, accessories, apparel and much more. YMUS products are sold through a nationwide network of dealers in the United States.
Headquartered in Cypress, Calif., since its incorporation in 1976, Yamaha also has facilities in Wisconsin and Georgia, as well as factory operations in Tennessee and Georgia. For more information on Yamaha, visit www.yamaha-motor.com.