Review and Photos | Marc-André Quessy
Last September Yamaha finally revealed its latest creation in the UTV scene: the YXZ1000R. This machine is equipped with a three cylinder powerhouse of an engine capable of revving to 10,500 rpm, a Fox RC2 long travel suspension and something we have never seen before except in our wildest dreams: a foot-clutch-driven 5 speed manual sequential gearbox! That’s something that’s sure to wake up the testosterone in any sport UTV enthusiast!
I just could NOT wait to get my grubby little paws and ride that car like it was designed: fast and furious! So a call to Yamaha Canada was in order to try… and I mean try and get one for a test ride… François Morneau, my main man at Yamaha, tried his best to find a solution but the press machines were all on the show circuit for the next few months… that’s life! Then, one morning while surfing Facebook and drinking my wake up coffee I happened to stumble upon a Yamaha dealership’s videos of a brand- spanking-new YXZ1000R SE being ridden hard by the dealership’s owner François Bernier. My kinda guy! You know where I’m going with this aren’t you? Called Frank, and I just blurted out that I wanted to review the Yamaha and since he has a demo I thought we could work something out. Turns out he owns the bike. It got off the trailer and he bought it right then and there to replace his last personal UTV. So, two days later - a three hour ride to Moto JMF in Thetford Mines, Quebec. Our test car is a Special Edition trim (SE). Painted racing yellow, white and black to commemorate Yamaha’s 60th birthday, it’s just gorgeous to look at. Also, being a fan of motorcycle racing with white whiskers on my chin, this brings me back to the time when Kenny Roberts Sr. was riding the wild 750 two stroke superbikes… But that’s another story on its own.
First thing you notice when walking towards the YXZ is the impression that it’s really small compared to the Wolverine parked beside it. Our test UTV is 100% stock from the showroom floor without any accessories installed. Ok, so the doors and roof are included? Yup! Typical to Yamaha the paint is perfect and body panels are assembled with precision; nothing is loose or flimsy. The Fox RC2 shocks are massive and the way they protrude from the hood up front makes the whole bike look the business. The headlights are tucked in right under the sloping nose and look like they are out to kill something with that predatory frown. Unique to the SE package are those nice looking bead lock aluminium wheels that will keep the tires in check when hitting a rut sideways. And believe me, you will!
The Yamaha’s seating arrangement makes you feel like you’re in a desert sand rail or a rally car, everything is accessible and the layout is proper. We see about this later in the article.
Ignition on, turn the key and the 998cc 3 cylinder mill will immediately remind you that you are not in Kansas anymore Toto… Seriously, the sounds this engine makes are superb, an absolute delight for my mechanically tuned ears!
Redline starts at a sky high 10,500 rpm and I kid you not, this motor likes to rev. Power is surprisingly linear from 3,500 rpm with a kick in the pants starting around 7,500 where the 110 horses show up without delay. It’s very hard for me to describe the exact feeling I get from this engine. It’s just so unique in the UTV world. My only reference is a three-cylinder motorcycle from Triumph, a hooligan bike called the Speed Triple. The rush of this motor to rev is just so very cool, you’ve got to listen to one to understand. Right now in UTV land, there’s absolutely nothing to compare it to.
Technically this motor is kind of a Frankenstein affair. Take the upper end of a Yamaha 3 Cylinder snowmobile engine, give it an 11:3 to 1 compression ratio, stitch it to a five speed manual sequential gearbox and then transplant the huge clutch assembly from the Yamaha V-Max power cruiser and voila! You got the YXZ1000R engine package. For the weight of this UTV it’s a monster of an engine that reacts instantly to throttle demand in every gear. It’s a Yamaha engine, flawless fueling, surprising smoothness even when revving to the moon, and that sound, that beautiful sound! It shows that Yamaha also makes musical instruments eh? I still get goosebumps when I think about it - pure delight.
It’s not as powerful as a Turbo Maverick or RZR and I’m sure that a drag race in a straight line would result in the Yamaha finishing a close third place, but the throttle response is where this motor makes a statement and throws down the gauntlet. Mated to the manual gearbox this three cylinder mill can overcome the Can-Am or Polaris on a technical track and that’s something to say about this UTV.
Say goodbye to belts and hello to a fully manual sequential gearbox with a foot driven clutch!
Did Yamaha take a peek at my mechanical dreams? I swear I’ve dreamt about this… The YXZ1000R is unique in the UTV world not only because of that dreamy motor but also because of its 5 speed transmission, gearbox and drivetrain. Ever see inside a WRC rally car video? Well you’d recognise the way they are driven in the YXZ. Gearshift is sequential and the shift pattern is just like a motorcycle: R-1N- 2-3-4-5 through a lever in the center console. No buttons or fancy paddles just the pure unadulterated fun of shifting gears up or down, doing your own rev matching and feeling like Ken Block when taking turns, jumps or whoops.
All that power is transmitted to a huge clutch like previously mentioned which was taken from the V-Max 1800 power cruiser. Clutch engagement is precise and easy on the leg and foot muscles. You will have to learn how to launch it though, because the first gear is excruciatingly tall and needs careful modulating of the clutch and throttle to get it right. It’s not hard but it’s not like a Toyota Corolla either. You WILL stall it at first; don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it soon enough. Once on your way you can almost forget the clutch for upshifting: foot off gas, shift, foot on gas; it’s as easy as that. Downshifting requires the clutch not to break anything, so use it. Reverse is like Yamaha sport ATVs: get into first gear and press again and that’s it! Simple.
What’s even cooler is that the beast can behave when on touring duty to the point of being quite civilised. Fifth gear can be used as low as 50 kph without lugging the engine all day long. For those who aren’t comfortable with clutches, Yamaha offers a clutch modification kit from Rekluse. This modification consists of installing a clutch modulation system witch activates the clutch mechanism automatically when needed making the YXZ semi-automatic. It’s virtually impossible to stall the machine even when stopped on a steep hill. Take my advice on this and get this kit installed, the $1,269.95 MSRP price + labour is money very well spent. Apart from the long-ish first gear the thing is near perfect!
The 4X4 system works flawlessly like other Yamahas, but there is one interesting feature that the Yamaha engineers added to the front drive system: a torque regulator that eliminates rough hits to the front drivetrain. It protects against damage by dampening the front differential input shaft without harming performance. We never felt it even if we beat on Frank’s machine pretty hard.
Yamaha is well known for precise steering and excellent handling suspensions. Our test ride earlier this season of the Wolverine R-Spec already confirmed that they can handle sport riding and the YXZ is no exception. The huge Fox RC2 shock’s adjustability speaks volumes with damping, rebound and preload adjustments that are very precise. A few clicks and turns and you can feel the difference and make the YXZ1000R exemplary, but the suspension’s geometry technology is also very important.
The double delta arms with front and rear torsion bars are huge. We can clearly see that Yamaha has not cut corners for weight savings here. Impeccable workmanship. The tie-rods are also made of burlier stuff than the competition. This is nicely overbuilt for a change.
With a maximum suspension travel of 17 inches, the YXZ’s handling is composed even when the trail is not. The 27 inch Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 tires are quite at home on this beast and handle pretty much everything you throw at it with precise handling and tracking even in the rough stuff. The tires’ only fault is the lack of a bit of sidewall stiffness. Stiffer sidewalled radial tires in 28 or 30 inches would make the YXZ’s ride even more precise for the more aggressive riders out there especially in closed course conditions.
It can’t be all perfect, nonetheless… The rear coil springs are way too stiff for my liking and under very rough conditions can make the rear end buck at the worst possible time.
This also causes the nose to take a dive when all four wheels leave the ground. Remember that this is a transversally mounted engine. So once in the air you cannot change the pitch with throttle inputs to correct a dipping front end, sometimes making landings quite hard on the front end on the longer jumps. We decreased preload to the minimum setting which partially cured the issue but, if you love getting air, you’ll need to look to the aftermarket for softer rear springs. It’s not that bad, but I had to bring this up for all-around fairness.
The EPS power steering is probably the best on the market right now. It will stiffen up at speed and slow maneuvers are made with two fingers. The unit itself is small, lightweight and mounted fairly high in the front cowl when compared to the competition. This still boggles my mind as to how they made this EPS so small and so darn good.
With all this power, a flawless braking system is a must and Yamaha did not let us down with the YXZ’s brakes. Huge double piston calipers grab 245mm discs on all four corners. The pads used on these are simply the biggest I’ve seen on a UTV to this day: medium size performance, sedan size! Braking is precise and powerful even when pushing the 1541 pound beast very, very hard with absolutely no fading, lap after lap. Pedal feel is firm but very easy to modulate without wheel lock. These are THE best brakes I’ve ever tested on a UTV by a long margin. Just perfect!
With optimal frame size the YXZ 1000R SE offers the best maneuverability in the UTV segment at this time. It’s stiff while being a little compliant when taking hits and lets the excellent suspension do its job. I cannot find a flaw or anything I don’t like about it and that’s good. The roll cage is ROPS compliant and does not hinder visibility. One very nice inclusion is the full underside composite skid plates that come at no extra charge. The composite plates are much better than aluminium because they will bend to take a hit and return to their original state instead of denting and gouging when going over rocks and other debris.
The body lines are very unique to the YXZ, so much so that you cannot mistake it for another UTV even at a distance of a thousand feet. The shock heads protruding from the hood’s V-line and the headlamps mounted very low give it a bird of prey look up front. My only gripe is the rear fenders that look like they are out of a Japanese manga cartoon. Some people love it and some people don’t, it’s a question of personal taste. Fit and finish is near perfection even after 1500 kilometers of hard riding with everything still solidly in place. That again says a lot for the YXZ’s design. Now, how about those doors! Finally! OEM doors that really protect the driver and passenger from flying debris and splashing muck. They are beautifully done and much to my delight open and close as easily as my wife’s Mazda 3. There’s no weird creaking noises or rattles in the cockpit while riding. Again, this unit has been ridden VERY hard by its owner and this is quite pleasing for prospective owners of the YXZ.
The cockpit is an example of simplicity. Every control, knob and button is within easy reach and can be used while wearing gloves. The adjustable seats are extremely comfortable for my 6’3” 220 pound frame just like my friend Raymond’s 5’10” 175 pounds. Perfect seating position for hours of fun! On the darker side, why is the seatbelt so hard to reach? You have to be a contortionist to get to the belt so you can fasten it… unacceptable when the rest is just so brilliant. That reminds me, automotive type seatbelts just don’t cut it with this type of super sport machine. A four or five point harness should be the seatbelt of choice in this rig.
A standard seatbelt will NOT prevent your body from flopping sideways in case of a rollover and could prevent injuries. Put this high in your aftermarket accessories list when your YXZ gets home. There’s a ton of good ones out there to choose from and they are not very expensive. I understood this the first time I flipped my first sport UTV a few years back.
Bold styling apart, it’s impossible not to notice the front shocks sticking out of the hood and this is not only a styling cue, it’s a function! This makes the front of the UTV disappear from the cockpit view to offer excellent forward visibility that makes the YXZ1000R SE signature look unforgettable.
Yamaha was late in the game of high performance UTVs and the first of the Japanese manufacturers to offer such a bold super sport machine. But hey, what a machine! They could have done it the easy way and slapped in an Ultramatic CVT and called it a day. But nope, they chose to do it rally style and went where no manufacturer dared to go until now. They brought a bazooka to a gunfight seeking supremacy in a very select segment of the UTV scene that is fairly new: The Super Sports. What it lacks in outright power compared to the turbocharged competition it makes up in handling and nimbleness. The cream on top is the manual transmission, such a joy to finally being able to shift gears, predicting terrain instead of reacting to whatever the CVT does. It’s a full on engagement of body and soul to drive this UTV to its full potential, but oh so rewarding when you do it right!
This machine will not suffer fools or overconfident beginners. The clutch is what it is, a clutch and it can be burned to a crisp in no time flat if the driver does not know what he or she is doing, just like on a manual car or motorcycle. It’s much more like a Ferrari and needs to be driven intelligently with finesse and know how. It’s not a rock climber or a mud machine, it’s a thoroughbred racing machine and needs to be driven like what it is.
The YXZ 1000R is so different from anything else on the market right now that I’m a bit lost for words without wanting to sound like a Yamaha fanboy.
CVT transmissions are very good, I have absolutely nothing against them and they are perfect for most ATVs and UTVs out there. But for a freak like me a full manual sequential gearbox is a godsend, so I can let my surplus testosterone evaporate in a sand pit. The simple fact that the YXZ can also be tame for trail riding proves that Yamaha has done this thing right!
Kudos Yamaha! Arigato! (Japanese for “Thank you very much!)
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