LUMP’S BRIEF HISTORY OF SPORT UTVS
WILL THE NEXT-GEN CAN-AM HAVE A 300-HP RXT-X MOTOR?
I’ve been blessed to ride a wide variety of factory dirt bikes, but the one that stood above all the rest was Stephane Peterhansel’s XTZ850R. In the early 1990s, I was in Paris for the Bercy Supercross, and I got a chance to visit the Factory Yamaha Dakar race shop and shoot the works 10-valve parallel twin. The planned photo shoot was rained out, and I ended up riding the XTZ850R on dirt roads on the outskirts of Paris, in the rain. The dirt was perfect, and the unending, smooth power of the big twin was awesome. I rode endless wheelies in an almost-religious experience – pure rapture! The works bike would spawn the Super Tenere’ Dakar Rally bike and Adventure Bike craze.
Yamaha had to make 15 of those beasts to meet Dakar rules, and they sold for $140,000
Francs! Better yet, Yamaha engineers basically cut the XTZ850R engine in half to make the 5-valve 1997 YZM400F, which Doug Henry would ride to the win at the ’97 Las Vegas Supercross finale. That works bike would spawn the 1998 YZ400F and start the four-stroke revolution. I loved the YZ400F so much that I bought Dirt Bike Magazine’s 1999 YZF loan unit and tricked it out with Yamaha’s titanium bolt kits and Lightspeed carbon-fiber air box with the Henry velocity stack. It’s my most-prized possession. Yamaha followed with the YZ250F in 2001, and the four-stroke revolution soon changed AMA Supercross and Motocross forever.
Honda, The Motor Company, knows how to take advantage of two new markets that Yamaha created, so engineers produced the CRF450R and CRF250R. Honda was first with the Africa Twin in 1988, which was originally a V-Twin until 2016 when Honda unleashed the CRF1000L. The CRF1000L is important to us UTV fans because the parallel twin had both the CRF450R’s and CRF250R’s Unicam top end and the Dual-Clutch Transmission that went into the Pioneer 1000 and then the stellar Talon 1000R. But, I’m getting ahead of the main subject, almost 20 years ahead.
When Yamaha was developing the sport-changing YZ400F, it was about to change the UTV world forever, turning “Utility Task Vehicles” into “Ultimate Terrain Vehicle” sport machines. Yamaha partnered with a military contractor (All Terrain Vehicle Corporation) to turn the Grizzly 660 4×4 ATV into a military side-by-side (SxS) dubbed the “Prowler.” I saw it on display at the Marine Expo at Camp Pendleton in January 2008, and Yamaha would make its own version, the 2004-2012 Rhino 660/700. You see, when the Humvee replaced the Willys Jeep, the military needed an Ultra-Light Tactical Vehicle (ULTV) that would fit inside helicopters, Ospreys and cargo planes, and several manufacturers answered the call. We shortened ULTV to UTV, and the sport UTV war for civilian market share began.
When the Rhino came out, Hardcore Racing converted its CNC machines from making titanium parts for Traxxis T-Maxx radio-controlled trucks to long-travel suspension for the Rhino 660. Kawasaki jumped in and designed the Teryx 750 around the Brute Force 750 ATV V-Twin engine. Weller Racing stuffed the Yamaha R1 road-racing motor into the Rhino 660 and created a new spec-racing class – Weller SR1 – for the Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series (LOORRS). HCR Racing moved to Utah and started making Rhino and Teryx long-travel kits. Polaris answered with the 2008 50-inch RZR 800 designed around the Sportsman ATV motor, and Can-Am countered with the Commander and later Maverick UTVs, with the 976cc V-Twin motor option being the most popular. Arctic Cat unleashed its own Prowler and then Wildcat 1000, using the Thundercat ATV mill.
Polaris expanded its line of RZRs, Aces, and Rangers and took a huge chunk of market share, upgrading its ATV/UTV engines with the 2015 ProStar ETX 325, 40-46 Hp 570, 77-89 Hp SOHC, 60-75 HP 900, and 110-Hp XP1000 engines. Can-Am turbocharged the Maverick 1000R for 2015, and the UTV horsepower war has been escalating ever since. Polaris countered with the 925cc ProStar Turbo RZR.
Stuffing ever-bigger motors into existing or new platforms escalated sport-UTV evolution big time. Yamaha took its 900cc triple snowmobile engine and mated it with a five-speed sequential-shift transmission to create the 2016 YXZ1000R, the first high-performance production UTV without a CVT. Yamaha has been dominating short-course competition ever since and unleashed an auto-clutch, sport shift version of the YXZ1000R for 2017. Honda upgraded the CRF1000L DCT Africa Twin/Pioneer 1000 engine to create the 2019 Talon 1000R and 1000X.
BRP took its 900cc SeaDoo triple and created the Maverick X3 Turbo line in 2017 with both 64-inch and 72-inch wide versions. X3s would prove dominant in UTV short-course, desert, Ultra4 and Dakar rally worldwide, and it took major market share from Polaris.
Polaris countered with the 72-inch wide RZR Turbo S and then the Pro XP. Then Polaris upped the extreme-performance UTV ante by stuffing an upgraded Slingshot 4-cylinder, 2-liter Ecotech engine in a next-generation chassis with trophy-truck inspired suspension, creating the Pro R and a new class of UTV. They also unleashed the all-new Turbo R with the same suspension and driveline but with the familiar 925cc turbocharged ProStar twin for existing Pro Production Turbo classes.
So, what is Can-Am going to introduce to take on the Pro R and Turbo R? Rumor has Can-Am coming out with an all-new car with next-level suspension, frame and driveline, and BRP already has the engine to take on the 225-Hp Pro R. SeaDoo’s RXT-X and RXP-X personal watercrafts sport a 300-Hp, 1630cc Advanced Combustion Efficiency (ACE) triple that’s configured much like the X3’s ACE 900 motor. Kawasaki also has a 300-Hp Jetski motor, a super-charged 4-cylinder beast. Since Polaris shattered the 1000cc limit for UTVs, the sky is the limit on this new class of UTV!