— If you like taking on challenging trails in comfort in a machine that’s fun everywhere and can even earn its keep doing chores, it’s hard to beat the Kawasaki Teryx and Yamaha Wolverine. We improved these two recreation machines with suspension upgrades from Shock Therapy and compared them to see which is better.
HOW DOES COST COMPARE?
The 2017 Kawasaki Teryx starts at $12,999. Our Teryx LE test machine is $14,999. Four-seat Teryx4s start at $15,799 and go to $17,199 for the Teryx4 LE. Prices are the same for the mechanically unchanged 2018 Teryxs, but there are new color choices. Prices for the 2017 Yamaha Wolverine start at $11,999. The Wolverine R-Spec EPS we used for this shootout is $13,199. For 2018, the price for the base Wolverine is $10,999, and the Wolverine R-Spec EPS is $13,499. The new four-seat Wolverine X4 starts at $15,999 and ranges to $17,249 for the Wolverine X4 SE.
WHAT POWERS THEM?
The Teryx has a 783cc, eight-valve, single-overhead-cam V-twin. The Wolverine is powered by a 708cc double-overhead-cam single.
WHAT KIND OF TRANSMISSIONS DO THEY HAVE?
Both use fully automatic, belt-type continuously variable transmissions. Both also have a centrifugal clutch on the primary clutch, which protects the belt in demanding conditions, makes clutch engagement more even and predictable, and provides engine braking in off-throttle situations. The shift levers on the Kawasaki and Yamaha also have impressively smooth, positive action. They’re both among the best you’ll find on UTVs, but the Yamaha’s is a touch slicker than the Kawasaki’s.
WHICH IS FASTER?
Both machines top out at 50 mph, but the Teryx accelerates quicker despite being 278 pounds heavier than the Yamaha. The Kawasaki comes to the fight with 77 more ccs, four more valves, an extra cylinder, and more top-end power, which is enough to gap the Yamaha slightly in a 100-yard drag race.
WHICH HAS BETTER POWER DELIVERY?
Both are excellent with an outstanding combination of crisp throttle response and precise controllability, but the Teryx is more fun to drive because of its stronger top-end pull. Both are amazingly tractable when you really need it. You have to get into some really tough spots to find out how capable these vehicles are. Slippery rock steps and muddy, rutted trails are where they shine. We conquered obstacles on both that looked unmakeable. These machines aren’t super fast, but they pull well at typical trail-riding speeds. Both have enough snap to slide around turns and enough muscle to handle seriously challenging hills, mud, rocks and other obstacles.
WHICH HAS BETTER SUSPENSION?
They’re both very good for tight, rough trails in stock form, but both could use some help at higher speeds. The Kawasaki’s compression and spring preload-adjustable Fox Podium X 2.0 shocks offer 8 inches of travel up front and 8.3 in the rear. When stock, it rides comfortably but goes through the travel excessively when you push for more speed on rough trails. Adjusting the compression damping to fight bottoming makes the ride harsh. Shock Therapy’s Ride Improvement System ($650 at www.shocktherapyst.com) retains the stock shock springs and revalves the stock shocks to add bottoming resistance and retain the plush ride.
The Wolverine’s KYB shocks have adjustable high- and low-speed compression, rebound and spring preload. They’re good for 9.7 inches of travel up front and 10.6 inches in the rear. These shocks are very tunable, but the stock springs are too soft, which causes the shocks to ride in the harsher final inches of travel. Firmer springs from Shock Therapy ($300) let the shocks use their full travel for a much smoother ride with less bottoming.
Once modified, both suspensions were gloriously plush and far more resistant to bottoming. You still can’t blitz whoop sections like you can with machines with far more travel, but you can maintain a faster trail pace without backing out of the throttle to avoid bottoming on big bumps and G-outs. With more travel and adjustability, the Yamaha’s suspension is the better performer of the two, though its sealed shocks can’t be serviced and rebuilt like the Kawasaki’s Fox dampers.
WHICH HANDLES BETTER?
In tight, technical terrain, the Wolverine by a nose. The Yamaha is lighter and shorter, and it feels more nimble and maneuverable on the tighter, tougher trails where these two machines work best. Its longer suspension travel also helps it in slow and fast terrain.
The Teryx is agile, stable and handles very well overall, but more weight and a wheelbase 4.5 inches longer than the Wolverine’s slows things down some on twisty trails. In more open country, the Kawasaki’s handling is calmer and more composed.
WHICH RULES IN RUGGED TERRAIN?
The Yamaha works better on the worst trails, though these machines are two of the best of their kind if your favorite trails are more like an extreme enduro course. Both have amazingly tractable, controllable power and outstandingly rugged transmissions with smooth engine braking to all four wheels in 4WD. Both also have effective 4WD systems with front differential lock. The Kawasaki has more obstacle-conquering power, but really challenging terrain reveals that it is longer, lower and heavier, and its single, oil-bathed, multi-disc rear brake doesn’t bite like the Wolverine’s dual hydraulic rear discs.
WHICH IS MORE FUN TO DRIVE IN THE REST OF THE WORLD?
The Kawasaki. Most of the world isn’t made of menacing boulder piles, mud-slick switchback trails with axle-deep ruts, vertical climbs and deadly downhills. The Teryx is nearly as great as the Wolverine on that stuff and more fun on normal trails, thanks to the Kawasaki’s extra power and more relaxed handling.
WHICH OFFERS BETTER COMFORT AND DETAILS?
Before we start nitpicking, you should know that these are two of the most comfortable vehicles out there, with roomy cabs and comfortable, supportive, upright seats that are super easy to get in and out of. If you look closely, you’ll also see that both are extremely well built and finished. As it turns out, each has its comfort and detailing strong points.
The Teryx’s padded, tilt-adjustable steering wheel has a nicer feel than the Yamaha’s non-adjustable wheel, and the weather-sealed storage bins behind the seats provide more storage than on the Yamaha. The Kawasaki’s three-year warranty beats Yamaha’s six-month warranty. Getting to the Kawasaki’s air filter and battery is easy. You have to unbolt the driver’s seat to check the oil, though, which is lame.
The Yamaha has more comfortable seats and a large, convenient center console storage area that the Kawasaki doesn’t. The console storage box lifts out for easy access to the oil dipstick and air filter, and the battery and coolant tank are easy to get to under the hood.
WHAT IS OUR FINAL ANSWER?
If price is a priority for you, get the Yamaha Wolverine. It’s nearly two grand less than the Kawasaki, handles most really ugly trails better and the price gap grows when you modify the suspension like we did. For us, overall performance wins shootouts, and we found the Teryx nearly matches the Wolverine in tough terrain and pulls ahead in regular riding with more power, more relaxed handling and more convenience features.