Early this week we saw Yamaha bring a machine to market that is a complete reinvention of the Sport Side by Side. I was lucky enough to get a ticket to the worldwide unveiling of the Yamaha YXZ1000R Pure Sport side by side. Our contacts at Yamaha were talking in code and keeping any and all information about this new machine close to the vest. No one was going to let the cat out of the bag with this machine prior to the release. Leading up to the release on Tuesday, it felt like we were about to see a stealth fighter or definitive proof of the Loch Ness Monster.
The release was in Long Beach, CA, which I thought was an odd place for an off road vehicle release, as there is not a decent sized spit of dirt within a couple hours of the LBC. It was quickly apparent that Yamaha meant business when the press and dealer flotilla arrived at the dock where the event was to be held.
High, opaque fences surrounded the compound so that no passers by could sneak a glimpse of this new machine ahead of the 10 am embargo. The way that our hosts from Yamaha were squirming in their seats the night before with this secret that they all had let me know that this machine, whatever it was, was something exciting. As the press walked to the grandstand we caught a look at the track that had been built for this event. Yamaha trucked in dirt to create the best possible track to showcase their new machine's capability. High speed corners, a solid whoop section, and two table tops that were meant to be hit flat out.
Out on the track, the Yamaha YXZ1000R stunned many of the dealers and press that was in attendance. After my ride in the machine, the only word that kept ringing in my head was "Immediate." As many of my readers are probably very versed in the specs, I will save my words for the explanation of what it feels like. The drive line is not hampered with belt drives, and in place of that is metal linkage and a foot actuated clutch. How this translates the power from the triple cylinder engine is something that I have never felt in a UTV before. Where the power in other models is very gradual and smooth, the power headed out to the wheels gets there with the efficiency of metal. The pro driver at the helm dropped the clutch and all of the power went to the wheels savagely and without delay. It was special.
Along the back stretch of the track was a line of whoops that were designed to show how well the YXZ1000R could handle extreme conditions at wide open throttle. The suspension was not "soft," but it was explained in the media presentation that there were many trade-offs that were considered in the setup. Optimizing the suspension for comfort leads to poor cornering and handling overall. Head to the other end of the spectrum and you compromise comfort and probably a disk in your back. The engineers were driven solely by the idea of driver connection with the machine, and thus optimizing the YXZ1000R to be what is hopefully the best handling UTV on the market. Flat out through the whoops, the YXZ1000R stayed completely straight. No bucking left and right. This has been achieved with a ingenious blending of trailing arm and a-arm suspension setups. The shocks are not the biggest, or have the most travel available, but they have been designed to deliver the best feel to the driver possible.
The sound... Gimme a minute actually... Okay, now where was I? Ah yes... The sound of this 998cc triple. I don't know how much experience you all have with sport bike and snowmobile motors, but they rev. They rev a lot. This machine is no different and absolutely screams. It is not the lazy V-Twin that we are used to hearing echoing though the dunes and the pine trees. This machine revs to a stout 10,500 redline. It has the crisp, yet raspy sound of a triple. The stock can muffles the scream quite well, but you can tell that there is a delightfully overbuilt and rev-happy Yamaha engine on the other end of those tubes. I, for one, cannot wait to hear what the exhaust aftermarket is going to do with this setup.
The YXZ1000R has big discs on all 4 corners, and that is actually one of the major reasons that they went with 14" wheels. They needed that extra room to clear the calipers up front. I cannot comment too heavily on their performance as I didn't get to drive thing, but we did not find ourselves in the fences that surrounded the course.
After a few laps of the course, the ride was over. My knuckles white and my feet planted in the floorboard. I only mention this because I hate being a passenger in these things. Not being in control has never been my favorite. The foam covered and angled grab handle was nicely placed in front of me so that my hands naturally found it. The exaggerated bolsters held me nicely in the seat even with only the 3 point harness that the YXZ1000R is equipped with. Many of you will be swapping out for 4 and 5-point harnesses, but you wont feel that it is an immediate priority. The dead pedals on the right-hand side of the machine were placed nicely so that I could really plant my feet in the floor and brace myself in the seat. The addition of full, solid doors and the roof really gave a sense of encapsulation that was nice. This cabin is very confidence inspiring. It really feels like an X-wing fighter in there.
I am really excited to drive this thing because the driver looked like he was having a great time banging through that 5-speed sequential gearbox. Later, I ended up talking to Rick, the engineer who spent literally 2 years developing the ReKluse clutch and he said that it was "Perfect" at this point in development. In talking to him about maintenance and durability testing, he said that their clutch pack on many of the test machines never required any adjustment, and those were HARD miles. Rick said that in his opinion, the Rekluse should be added to every machine because it is just that good. I chatted with Rick for quite a while and he would never give me any endurance numbers, but he did say that they set new benchmarks with this machine and had to tow the competitive models out with the YXZ1000R *ahermPolarisaherm*.
I have a feeling that this machine is going to divide the SXS world into two factions. The manual transmission is not going to be for everyone at all. The insanely competitive and persons that really want to be in control over their machines will flock to it as the parasitic loss is reduced by eliminating the CVT. The flip side of that is that the machine is going to be harder to drive. The "point and mat the throttle" approach does not apply in the YXZ1000R. There is going to be a learning curve for many UTV drivers, but I feel like many will adapt really quickly and that the other manufacturers are going to be left scrambling to bump their performance numbers to keep up with Yamaha. It is going to take more horsepower to overcome the loss in the CVT. The Yamaha will be busy doing laps up and down the trail while the rest of the competition is busy changing belts.