Product test: Yamaha ROVs

Product test: Yamaha ROVs

There’s no denying the increasing demand and popularity of recreational off-road vehicles (ROVs, UTVs, SxSs, or any of the other names they go by), not only as workhorses on the land and in the bush, but also as fun recreational and racing machines.

Australia has been slow to the ROV party, mainly because access to public land and beaches for such (non-registered) vehicles is limited. That could change with a push for recreational-vehicle permits in some states, but many buyers just can’t wait.

Yamaha is a company that isn’t sitting around waiting for bureaucrats to make the call. It has just launched two exciting all-new models for its ROV range and has updated its quads and sports quads line-up. Yamaha showcased its 2016 line-up of vehicles and dirt bikes at a bush bash held at a motocross track outside of Mackay in North Queensland.

In the interests of preserving old bones, 4x4 Australia stuck to the four-wheeled machines and had plenty of fun on the new Yammies.

Yamaha YXZ1000R
The hero of the new Yamaha ROV range is the company’s first ever sports ROV, the YXZ1000R. It’s set to compete with the likes of the Can-Am Maverick and Polaris RZR, and after our recent run in the RZR racing championship, we were keen to sample the Yamaha beastie.

Yamaha YXZ1000R dirtThe YXZ doesn’t go on sale in Australia until early 2016 and, with only two of the buggies in the country, Yamaha wasn’t prepared to let us loose in one – much to our disappointment. They did, however, have Australian motocross legend and multi-Mr Motocross winner Stephen Gall suited up to take us for a blast around a tight little off-road track.

What makes the YXZ1000R different from its competitors is the sequential-shifting, five-speed manual gearbox and clutch set-up that’s used instead of the CVT that the others have. While this does add a bit more complexity to the driving experience, it also makes it more engaging and, most importantly, delivers a more direct drive to the wheels. A conventional manual gearbox should also prove more reliable than a CVT – which uses a belt to drive the transmission – but only time will tell.

Yamaha YXZ1000R jumpThe YXZ1000R is powered by a high-revving 998cc, three-cylinder engine backed by that five-speed manual ’box and a transfer case that offers 4x2, 4x4 and locked 4x4 drive options. The triple screams, but it would benefit from a more open pipe to let it howl out loud.

The drive is instant, a result of the manual gearbox, and the Yammie accelerates out of corners like a scalded cat. Over the bumps and jumps of the track, the long-travel, full-independent Fox Racing suspension soaked up the landings and allowed Stephen to get straight back on the power

Yamaha YXZ1000R turningIt was a short but exciting teaser of the YXZ1000R and we can’t wait for the chance to drive it when it arrives here next year. It will be interesting to see how the Yamaha goes against the other buggies of this ilk in events like the Finke Desert Race.

Pricing is expected to be around $29,999 for the blue/white model and $31,999 for 60th anniversary yellow YXZ1000R as seen in the pics.

The other exciting new ROV from Yamaha – this one we did get to drive – is the Wolverine. It’s a more traditional working buggy, but with a sporting character, and it’s the smaller sibling to the three-seat Yamaha Viking.

Yamaha wolverine rockIt has seating for two people in a spacious cabin, plus a cargo tray offering a 188-litre, or 136kg, load capacity. It’s more comfortable and relaxed than the high-performance-focused YXZ1000R and should appeal to hunters, anyone with property to explore, and those looking for a lightweight, capable off-roader.

The Wolverine is powered by a 708cc V-twin engine backed by a CVT and 4x2/4x4 and 4x4 locked transfer case. Suspension is again fully independent, this time using KYB piggyback shocks and 26-inch Maxxis Bighorn tyres to make clambering over obstacles easy. The underside of the Wolverine is flat with heavy-duty skid plates designed to allow you to ‘slide’ over rocks and such without damaging the chassis or other components.

Yamaha wolverine sideThe Wolverine is more than just a purposeful workhorse; it’s also a lot of fun and very capable in the rough stuff. We did more than our allocated share of laps on the dusty off-road course, where the buggy crawled over fallen logs, scampered up steep ascents, mowed through bulldust, and was very controlled on the downhills.

The Yamaha ROVs employ a clever system that gives positive engine braking on descents without having to use the throttle, unlike some other vehicles. Four-wheel disc brakes do a fine job, too.

The Wolverine R-spec is available in three levels: Yamaha Blue, $19,599; EPS (electric power steering) Yamaha Blue, $20,599; and EPS Camo, $21,599.

We also spent some time on the Yamaha quads, which are powered by the same 708cc engine and CVT found in the Wolverine. The Kodiak is the smaller of the pair and is available as a basic, non-power-steering model, or with EPS.

Kodiak Grizzly quads turningThe big Grizzly, however, offers more space and capacity and all of its three variants have EPS. All also have two- and four-wheel drive and locked 4x4 modes.

If you’re unfamiliar with the way quad bikes steer and ride, then it takes a bit more to get used to them than the ROVs, but it’s not rocket science. With a bit of practice you’ll soon get the hang of it; the key is to drive to your ability and keep the speed down. We were soon crawling over logs and manoeuvring around the tight, twisty track that was set up for us.

Kodiak Grizzly quads treeThe Kodiak and Grizzly are the quads for riding around the farm, but if you want a flat-out sports quad, the Raptor 700 takes fun to another level. The Raptor is the hoon in the quad range, as is the YXZ100R (compared to the other ROVs). It will take a bit more time in the saddle before we can master its capabilities and performance.

Kodiak: non-EPS Yamaha Blue, $11,999; EPS Yamaha Blue, $12,999; EPS SE Carbon Metallic, $13,599.

Grizzly: EPS Yamaha Blue, $13,999; EPS Camo, $14,599; EPS SE Carbon Metallic, $14,599.

Check out the full range of Yamaha ROVs and quads at your local Yamaha dealer or online at:

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