2016 Yamaha YXZ 1000R Ride Review
By Rusty Baptist // UTVUnderground.com
A few weeks ago I got a call from my boy Joey D. at UTVUnderground asking me if I could attend a press event with Yamaha in Gordons Well, CA, a popular dune riding area south of Glamis to test ride the all new 2016 Yamaha YXZ 1000R sport UTV. My objective was going to be to drive the new Yamaha YXZ1000R in the dunes and write a review for UTVUnderground.com. Now, let me make sure you understand, I’m being asked to drive a UTV as hard as I can all day long in the dunes, I don’t have to pack a trailer, set up a camp or even pack a cooler. My job is to shred all day! To say I was excited was a total understatement. This Yamaha has been the most anticipated release to hit the market in years and I was pumped to get to drive it!
Yamaha had us all dialed in and set us up with rooms at the Quechan Casino about 15 miles east of the dunes. The pool area of the resort was converted into an outdoor dining area with YXZ 1000R’s on display. Our friends at Camp Chef were brought in to handle the food and these guys always go all out! They had their new pellet smokers, cook tops and grills set up and the food was top shelf. After dinner Yamaha engineer’s and marketing staff came in to give us a presentation describing the new machine in detail. It was your standard graphs, charts and diagrams presentation that tends to overload you with all sorts of information. A few things caught my eye but all I could think about was riding!
I make it out to the dunes once a year with my family and friends on average, usually heading to Glamis. What many don’t know though is that I was raised in the dunes. I spent my entire childhood in the dunes with my mom and dad. My family never took a vacation to anywhere else but to Glamis and in 1990 alone I went to Glamis 52 times. I have 36 years of duning experience thanks to my parents.
Like most of the long term readers here at UTVUnderground.com, I started with a 2005 Yamaha Rhino 660. Like many young adults excited for a brand new toy from a dealership I ended up paying too much for it, then over the next few years I would spend more money trying to make it something it was never designed to be. Looking back, the UTV market was trying to build the YXZ 1000R the whole time. Modify the suspension, chop up the chassis and lower the seats, build the motor, modify the clutch and exhaust. When you were finished you had a $35,000.00 Rhino with 55hp, a top speed of 63mph and 14” of wheel travel. Today you can walk into a powersports dealership and pick up a YXZ 1000R with 112hp (allegedly), top speed of 80mph and 16” of wheel travel for $21,500! The Yamaha SXS has evolved a lot in 10 years, I for one am very happy about that.
I was not holding too high of expectations as it pertained to styling or interior. To me, I look at the YXZ like its a race car and it does not need any frills. But everything should have a purpose and of course there will be a lot of people that will buy this based off how it looks and feels inside. From the outside the YXZ isn’t the most appealing UTV on the market. Now don’t get me wrong, the machine looks unique and is totally different then anything else in the industry but it does look like a giant Yamaha sport quad with its big rear fenders and sloped front hood. While I see the one side that will say that it fits in the Yamaha lineup of powersports offerings, I also see and understand why a lot of people aren’t too hot on its looks. in this case all I really cared about was that it had a large tach, a shifter and a clutch!! To me, thats what this Yamaha is all about, performance.
When it comes to sitting in the Yamaha, its all good! The seating position is the best of any UTV I have driven. At first you feel like you are leaning back maybe too much but then you quickly fall in love with the position and enjoy the comfort of the seats themselves. You still have a standard automotive style seat belt which I think is a total joke in any UTV, in my opinion every UTV should have some sort of 4 to 5-point harness, but its something we are used too. I like the overall interior, the styling on the switches and of course I love the feeling of grabbing a REAL gear selector / shifter.
When I finally was able to get behind the wheel of the Yamaha YXZ 1000R, I just wanted to get a feel for the machine and make some initial mental notes. I also wanted to get a ride in with all the factory shock settings so that I had a good understanding of the machine and how it will arrive to the dealers. One thing I noticed right when I got it into the dunes and the bumps was how the front end felt less nimble than I was expecting. It looks so agile from the outside so I returned to camp and asked the engineer from FOX to remove some rebound from the front shocks to see if this would help get the front end up and help it float over the whoops versus packing which is what it felt like it was doing. Even after the adjustments it still felt heavy in the front end but I started to realize that the feeling I was getting was actually caused by the hood or lack there of. It was more of a mental thing, perception if you will, of not being able to see the hood move thus giving me the feeling that the vehicle was nose diving when in reality it was in fact working perfectly! I know it sounds weird but I am so used to driving UTVs that have some level of hood, but the design of the YXZ is totally unique and takes a little getting used too but once I did I was in love! The shifting was amazing to me, but I’ll touch on that more in a minute.
When it comes to suspension the Yamaha YXZ 1000R utilizes a traditional dual a-arm set-up in front, a design we are all familiar with. The arms sport OEM ball joints and are made of mild steel. Bracing is laced through out providing a durable design. For shocks, The YXZ comes from the factory with fully adjustable FOX 2.5” Podium coil overs. The shocks are more than adequate for a vehicle this size and it’s clear Fox and Yamaha have worked closely together in tuning the suspension. Fox actually had engineers on-site with us at Gordons Well to not only explain the shocks but also help us adjust them to get our ultimate ride experience.
The unique rear suspension design is like nothing I have seen before. The lower arm is much like a trailing arm but unlike what you see on a RZR or Wildcat it also has an upper control arm which really helps the rear of the car to stay stable and planted to the ground. You can have all the horsepower in the world but if you can’t hook up it’s a waste. The rear suspension works perfect right out of the box, keeps the wheels planted and keeps the body roll to a minimum. I could see why a lot of people are going to say the ride is stiff, and it is. The ride in a Porsche is stiff when your cruising town also. This car is designed to perform and unlike many other UTVs on the market which come from the factory with a shock set-up that is designed to be good for “everyone” this Yamaha set-up is designed for the desert rider. We love that about the Yamaha. Its a sport machine with sport tuned suspension, I don’t ride over logs so I don’t care about a “plush” soft ride. Never once while I was driving the YXZ did I drop into a bowl thinking I was going to G-Out at the bottom. This machine handled everything I could throw at it.
Since the YXZ 1000R was released the Internet was fixed on the HP numbers. The forums lit up with “It’s not enough power” “Let’s see a drag race” “Wait till the turbo comes out” “I will take 144hp all day”. Well I am here to tell you if you want to drag race buy a drag car. If you want to wear a permanent smile on your face and have some fun in the dunes, crack the throttle on the YXZ and let it do work. The torque to me felt great; shifting allows the driver to deliver the power where they need it and while it can be tricky to remain in the right gear, once you master it you can control the YXZ unlike any other UTV on the market. As you start to open the throttle the tack immediately starts to climb and you get a real sense of what this 3 cylinder beast is capable of. The engine loves to live on the chip and you really need to run it up in the RPM to get the most of it, especially in the dunes. The shift light comes on at 9500 rpm, but keep it pinned because redline is at 10,000 rpm. Just before you hit 10,000, grab a gear and repeat until you either run out of fuel or your fun meter is pegged!
For me, shifting never got old. The 5-speed gear box was what I was most impressed with on the YXZ. I had been expecting a very loose feeling shift and weak clutch but what I got was a real performance minded feeling of a tight shift and instantaneous engagement. While Yamaha does want you to use the clutch, I did bang some gears without it and it only enhanced the driving experience. With that said I was far from easy on the machine knowing the readers at UTVUnderground want the real scoop. The gearbox never missed a beat. I have spent so much time driving a CVT machine I forgot what it’s like to actually drive and the YXZ gave me the sensation that I used to love when riding bikes.
I never had a problem with the clutch despite how hard I was driving it. I would rev it to the moon, dump it then fly up the hills. You can down shift and double clutch in the apex of your turn for maximum roost. I even cruised the flats in 5th gear at 20mph to see if it would stall out and it was fine. I did notice when idling in neutral with the clutch the throw out bearing is loud and first gear is really tall. I do worry about the fact that you can’t really up the size of your tires without drastically reducing your performance. That is the one downside to a more standard transmission and clutch vs. CVT. The Yamaha is very limited as it pertains to setting up for other types of riding, it was designed to be a pure sport desert machine and thats just the fact of the matter.
Overall the machine delivers on many levels. While it will be tricky to drive for the average Joe, for anyone with any sport or performance driving / riding experience, they will love the YXZ! Its a bit down on power when comparing to the RZR or Maverick Turbo’s but thats to be expected when comparing Turbo’s to a N/A machine. There are already numerous turbo kits and even a Recluse clutch kit out there that can increase power and make your YXZ an automatic! When it came to quality its hard to beat a Yamaha, or any of the Japanese companies. Fit and finish is awesome, styling is fantastic and you can see the quality in the construction of the chassis and components. On top of that they seem to be extremely reliable. We drove 20 plus units with over 500 miles on them and not one machine was towed in or broken at the end of the day. That to me is a major achievement. This is not a Utility Terrain Vehicle; this is a pure sport Unlimited Terrain Vehicle. No cup holders, no low range and no apologies. Strap in, clutch in and launch into a driving experience like no other SXS can offer.
Thank you to Yamaha for not only designing a kick ass machine but for also inviting UTVUnderground.com out to be a part of this fun ride event! We look forward to getting our hands on a demo unit and really uncorking the machines potential!!