Ok so it is just a 700 but power hungry sport drivers will soon get treat with a very fast full-sport Yamaha Side x Side to come out this September, hinted as being faster than a RZR 1000, in a teaser video now spreading all over the web. We talked about this new 2015 Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec side-by-side vehicle a few issues back. We actually made it a cover story even if we were yet to sit in the driver’s seat and test it, which says a lot about how important we considered this all-new Yamaha off-road vehicle to be. Soon after we were lucky enough to get an invitation from Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A. to try it in some of the toughest trails and conditions imaginable: Brimstone on a rainy day. Seriously! We were truly impressed with this vehicle.
Nobody ever wishes for bad weather before going out for a fun off-road trek but oddly enough I wasn’t at all bothered by the fact that the skies over Brimstone felt menacing. Nestled in the remote wilds of Northeast Tennessee and located in the Heart of Appalachia, Brimstone Recreation, LLC manages and promotes the recreational use of over 19,196 acres. They have over 300 miles of amazingly fun and challenging OHV trails and roads with numerous overlooks and culture exploration points of interest. Offering the adventure seeker the ultimate outdoor experience, Brimstone had just recently been honoured by Huntsville’s mayor for their commitment to preserving nature through good stewardship and sharing nature with thousands of outdoor enthusiasts and we felt privileged to be able to enjoy and explore the untamed feel of the wilderness of the Appalachian Mountains. Brimstone trails are colour coded for difficulty. Green trails are wide-open fun to ride on with just about any off-road vehicle and you can see some old Tennessee farms along the way. Blue and red trails are going to be tough for sport quads if it’s wet like it was on this great day. If you like technical riding, you’ll love it. For me, the more technical the better, if I am to get a true picture of how good an off-road vehicle is all-around. So I was actually really looking forward to this trip, as I was already familiar with how great Brimstone was, having tested a Kawasaki Teryx here a few years ago.
Ok and so we’re off! Our confidence level quickly rises and the pace quickens. I know fellow media guy Rick Sosebee to be an excellent rider and driver and love to pair with him whenever possible at these cool press events. I quickly got a temptation to twist the knob into the 4WD position. The entire trail was just one long stretch with about six inches of mud. The Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 tires were efficient enough in grip to move forward but at a “getting somewhat boring” pace. So I turned the big knob just left of the steering wheel to the 4WD position and the fun level shot right up. Now I could reach a sporty pace that told me great things about the Wolverine’s handling. Simply put, it is rock solid!
The transmission was almost invisible to any of my senses. Its operation is, as is the case with the car-like shifter, very decisive and seamless. We have used many Yamaha ATVs over the years; pulling logs, pulling other ATVs, etc., when out in all sorts of conditions and have had zero problems! The Ultramatic system is simply the best CVT setup you can get. So good that there is a good chance you will never have to replace a drive belt. I never hear of any problems with this system and the belts last a long time and don’t need adjustments. The magic is in the addition of an exclusive centrifugal clutch that allows the belt to remain under constant tension. No slipping means hardly any wear and tear. The one-way sprag clutch not only aids in durability but also provides a very natural feeling four wheel engine braking. All this meant a very nice feel of control precision at the pedal but I would have liked a heel pocket to help hold my foot in place. Being a tall dude, I also felt the rest for my left foot was a bit high. Other than that my only disappointment is with the fixed steering wheel. I find it odd that they would give us so much adjustment possibilities in the suspension and so little ergonomically. The seats do feel very comfortable though and all controls have a quality feel to them.
The 2015 Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec’s long-travel suspension offers more customization than any other model in its class with high- and low-speed compression damping, rebound damping and spring preload adjustability. It comes standard with KYB piggyback shocks, which would normally be an expensive but worthwhile aftermarket upgrade, mainly considered by racers or the more extreme terrain conquerors only. Drivers can tune the comfort and handling based on personal preference and terrain but finding their very own sweet spot might call for assistance from experienced folks. You can also look for an article we recently published on the subject on our website. For now the most important thing to know is that it drives very comfy and super stable at the factory settings which are right in the middle of the range of every adjustment. Another more basic Wolverine will be available without these highly regarded suspension units and EPS (Electric Power Steering) at a much lower price. ($12,999 instead of $15,399)
While at the controls of this vehicle, I couldn’t help but think that I should highly recommend it to hunters and explorers needing to conquer technical trails and extreme off-road terrain. Mostly those that have been until now stuck undecided in between two totally different classes of Side x Side vehicles, that are either too much on the utility side, with limited ground clearance and suspension travel, or rides that are too sporty and lacking storage space, with uselessly paid for power. This champion crawler is not powerful enough to scare its users at any point, yet it is nicely focused at the right spots for any to feel comfortable using it all. Its all-new 708cc DOHC, engine with optimized torque and power delivery, offers an engine character geared for fun, recreational driving and we loved how well-balanced it felt with the rest of this cool-looking ride.
The 2015 Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec certainly gives us a peak into Yamaha’s intentions for a healthy and highly competitive future in this ever-growing Side x Side world. The word is out! Another, much sportier Yamaha Side by Side is soon to come tempt our right feet. A few teaser videos are surfing the waves of the web; one little clip only shows part of a wheel and another shoots a Polaris trying to keep up behind it. Some have voiced disappointment in Yamaha for having only put this new single 708cc engine in the Wolverine. I say it is important to give it a chance with a test drive before you judge the vehicle’s proper power. You can easily find the Yamaha ATV/SSV that best suits you at one of Yamaha’s Conquer Dirt Demo events traveling across Canada. This demo tour gives riders an opportunity to test ride many of Yamaha’s new ATVs and SSVs, all under the guidance and support of Yamaha and their dealers. The schedule is updated often, so check back regularly to confirm dates and locations. They work on a first come, first served basis. Full riding gear is required and not supplied and you will of course also need a valid driver’s license. Then it is also important to compare the Wolverine with the right apples; a Kawasaki Teryx, Honda Pioneer, Can-Am Commander, John Deere Gator RSX860i, to mention a few. I’m sure that after comparing drives, prices and features, the Wolverine will come out somewhere at the top of your list.
Some of the trails marked difficult at Brimstone can be a real challenge, and can get you into trouble real quick if it has been raining. Trail 75Y in particular, (Some say the “Y” means: Why am I on this trail?) is the most difficult trail there and has claimed a few ATVs and Side x Side vehicles. To tell you the truth, I couldn’t tell you what trails we took, as I was way too focused on the task at hand: staying efficient and safe, while keeping up with the group. One particularly tricky climb prompted the Yamaha guys to stop us and offer a chicken route or coach each of us into switching the easy to spot and use big knob on the dash into 4WD with the differential lock engaged, not pressuring anyone into something they weren’t comfortable with, while making sure the ones that did, understood the importance of staying focused, committed and at an assured pace. This is one of those trails that you do not want to attempt on a 2-wheel drive sport quad. Actually, I don’t think I would have even tried it with any straddled ATV. The wide stance and 81-inch wheelbase are just perfectly set on that chassis’ sweet spot, creating an unsurprisingly high level of stability in any tricky situation. This combined with the excellent suspension providing 9.7 inches of travel in front and 10.6 inches of travel out back, makes it obviously capable of harnessing a lot more power.
Never before had a manufacturer displayed such confidence in the conquering ability of their product at such an event. Well for me anyway. During one particularly tough climb, the media dude in front gave himself a bit of a scare and after a front tire gripped a little to much to the side of a boulder, I witnessed his unplanned wheelie, close call to a tumble back down towards me. He was placed a few vehicle lengths in front of me and so I had the reflex of rolling right up and close to him once I realized he was just tethering there at the limit angle. I figured very quickly that if he did roll back down the hill towards me end over end, it was best to get hit from up close and maybe I could help protect both of us in the process. I quickly pulled the automotive-style hand brake and luckily with a little coaching about what his tires would encounter when backing up, he managed to manoeuver back onto four wheels and go again without incident. This entire time I’m paying attention to all the small details of how the vehicle achieves its level of effectiveness in conquering such tricky challenges. The 11.4″ of ground clearance, the wide-arc A-arms and full-length skid plates and the whole belly of the vehicle in a V shape maximizing this ground clearance for great terrainability, as well as durability, the new, exclusively designed 26″ Maxxis Bighorn-2.0 tires, all join together to achieve excellent terrainability. Terrainability is a term coined in the research community and related to locomotion in the field of mobile robotics. Its various definitions generically describe the ability of the robot to handle various terrains in terms of their ground support, obstacle sizes and spacing, passive/dynamic stability, etc.
We battled some of the worst weather Mother Nature could dish out and in this case it simply made everyone happier. If there was one vehicle we needed to have at our disposal on a challenging day like this one, here in those really tough Brimstone trails, it was the 2015 Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec.
For more information on the above mentioned models, please visit the Yamaha Motor Website