First test of the Yamaha Wolverine RSpec SE

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August 26, 2016
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Yamaha is offering UTV enthusiasts several more choices with its 2017 sport, recreation and utility UTV line, from the YXZ1000R and Sport Shift Special Editions with Fox X2 shocks to the Wolverine and Viking Special Editions. We got a chance to try out the Wolverine R­Spec Special Edition at Arizona’s Gunsite Academy, a training facility specializing in pistol and rifle safety, accuracy and speed. Yamaha introduced the R­Spec SE there because the Wolverine excels in all three as well.

WHAT’S A WOLVERINE R­SPEC?
Yamaha built the original 2016 $10,999 Wolverine for adventure, exploration, trail riding and hunting, and the base Wolverine got EPS for 2017. Wolverine R­Spec’s add high­ end shocks for $1,200 and EPS for another $1,000. For 2017, the new flagship Wolverine R­Spec EPS SE gets trick new two­ tone cast­ aluminum bead­ lock wheels, additional chassis and A­-arm armor, over­ fenders, a soft­ grip steering wheel, under­ seat storage and Flat Silver bodywork with color­ matched bucket seats.

The Wolverine takes the Viking lower end and lowers gearing 5­percent, and a new DOHC top end has a 103mm piston and 85mm stroke for 708cc. Yamaha placed it 148mm forward in the frame for more centralized mass, and the seats are 2.76 inches closer together than the Viking. The Wolverine frame is 5.5 inches less wide than the Viking, and sides are swept up 2.36 inches for ground clearance. The new frame is kept narrow for longer A­arms, and high­ end dual­ compression piggyback shocks provide full adjustment and 9.7 inches of front and 10.6 inches of rear travel. A rear torsion bar fights body roll on the 60.6­ inch­ wide R­Spec, and dual­ piston hydraulic calipers squeeze four 8.15­inch discs. The CVT has the normal Yamaha sprag clutch with EBS, and the rear transfer case has a safety buzzer in case the multi­ disc parking brake is left engaged. There is also a new buzzer that sounds if the driver’s seat belt isn’t buckled when in gear.

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HOW FAST IS THE 708?
Fast enough to be fun. Top speed is 52 mph, but it does its best work in conditions way too tight for that. Yamaha uses the same DOHC single with 44mm EFI throttle body in the Wolverine, Grizzly and Kodiak 4x4s, but the Wolverine is tuned more for midrange grunt. It’s great from turn to turn and even better on clay­mud grease, like we experienced at Gunsite after daily monsoons. The worse and tighter conditions are, the more effective the Wolverine works.

HOW DOES THE WOLVERINE HANDLE?
Its namesake has a low stance, razor­ sharp teeth and claws, and no fear. The R- Spec EPS SE is like that with low center­ of­ gravity, centralized mass, variable­ assist EPS and RZR­ like 81.3­inch wheelbase. It has great cornering manners and good straight­ line stability, and it’s very predictable when flicked into tight turns. It will push like all full­ time 4x4s, but it’s a blast to drift into turns in 2WD. Servos quickly engage 2WD or 4WD, so confidence is high in turns (2WD) and steep, slick downhills (4WD) with the handy selector knob.

WHAT’S OUR FINAL ANSWER?
The Wolverine is a great price­ point performer for exploring, trail riding and hunting. EPS adds quicker steering with less effort, and the R­Spec adds highly­ tunable shocks. The Special Edition combines it all into a super­ comfortable, confidence­ inspiring, very­ agile package with great power delivery, handling, suspension, brakes and creature comforts. Let’s put it this way; Yamaha’s Gunsite Academy press events combine riding and shooting and even GPS target acquisition for the motorsports and shooting media. Lumpy passed up two primo rifle sessions to get in more riding time ­ with perfect dirt after daily monsoons in the Wolverine R­Spec Special Edition. It’s that special.

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