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June 16, 2017
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— The extreme-performance UTV market continues to see huge leaps in performance, and manufacturers are bumping the rev limiter up to produce machines with broader capabilities. Yamaha’s revolutionary YXZ1000R, with its triple-cylinder engine and sequential-shift manual five-speed transmission, has set the racing world and dune scene on fire, but it’s high-strung in stock form for tight trail work. Yamaha unveiled the Rekluse EXP 3.0 slipper clutch at the YZX introduction and developed the GYTR Torque-Assist Gear (TAG) kit to make the 1000R more trail- and mud- friendly and allow upgrades to 30-inch tires. Polaris did the same thing with the Gold Matte LE RZR XP, adding a 55-percent-lower low and a whole slew of upgrades for tackling tight trails and rocks. We got the two specialized UTVs together at the King of the Hammers UTV race to see which is the better tight-trail, rock and overall-performance UTV.

Which is a better desert sled, rock crawler and all-around trail machine—the Polaris RZR XP 1000 Gold Matte Metallic LE EPS or the Yamaha YXZ1000R SE EPS with GYTR Torque-Assist Gear kit, Rekluse clutch and EFX 30-inch Motoclaw tires? We tackled the King of the Hammers to find out.



First off, the standard RZR XP 1000 EPS got an $800 price reduction for 2017. As was the case last year, XP1Ks make 110 horsepower and have Polaris’ variable-assist electronic power steering (EPS) and 2.0 Walker Evans Racing piggyback front shocks. One thing 2017 RZR XP 1000s don’t get is WER 2.5 remote-reservoir rear shocks; instead, all get WER 2.5 piggyback needle shocks to match the WER 2.0 front shocks. These needle shocks have a large aluminum needle that’s stepped to progressively limit fluid flow during travel to fight bottoming. They still have dual-rate springs but no cross-overs and 16-position compression-damping adjusters with large knobs. New for 2017, the XP1K is available in three limited editions—the Velocity Blue High Lifter Edition, the Velocity Blue Ride Command Edition and the Gold Matte Metallic Edition. Only the Ride Command LE and XP Turbos get the high-end Fox IBP rear shocks with large remote reservoirs.

Yamaha’s TAG kit reduces overall gearing by 30 percent and first gear by another 40 percent for a 70-percent-lower total. This kit is now available for the Sport Shift, too, with revised electronics for the various modes. The 30-inch Motoclaw tires are 9 percent taller for a 21-percent overall reduction in top speed.


On the Gold Edition, 30-inch Pro Armor Crawler XG tires on four 14×10-inch aluminum beadlock rims provide the rock, desert or tarmac traction, and the high-clearance front A-arms, front brush-guard bumper, UHMW skid plate, rock sliders, 4500-pound winch with synthetic line, high-clearance link rods, high-visibility front fender flares, and close-ratio On-Demand AWD front diff arm it for battle. The 55-percent-lower low range is the same as on the High Lifter Edition, as is the gear-driven reverse, and it also has an exclusive gated shifter and stronger front-axle half-shafts. The Rock Crawler Edition also gets six-point harnesses with automotive-style retracting shoulder straps, quick-release chest and lap retainers, and a rear-view mirror. All other RZR XPs get the 2016 High Lifter Edition’s dual-row chain-driven reverse. And, whereas the XP Turbos get a new 1.5-turn steering rack, the Gold LE actually gets a rack with slower turning than standard XP 1000s.

As for the revolutionary Yamaha YXZ1000R, it got few changes for 2017. CV boot durability was increased with a new clamp, and CV size was reduced by 9mm. The L-shaped rear A-arms got a CV guard like the front A-arms to prevent boot pinpricks from cross-roost. New console heat shields lower console heat by 15 percent. A new GYTR Torque-Assist Gear kit ($999.99) and Rekluse 3.0 EXP slipper clutch ($814.99) are available for rock crawlers, mud boggers and tight-trail enthusiasts, as are 30-inch EFX Motoclaw tires ($225.99 each).

Rear travel is 18 inches on the Polaris and 17 inches on the Yamaha, and both have a 300-pound bed capacity and a stout rear torsion bar. The Yamaha has full-on engine braking, even with the Rekluse clutch, and the RZR has none. Trailing throttle only slows the rear wheels on the RZR on steep downhills.



While the standard White Lightning or Titanium Metallic 2017 XP 1000 with EPS is $19,499, the fully equipped Gold Edition is $23,999. The High Lifter Edition is $22,699 ($800 less than in 2016), and the Ride Command LE is $20,999 with front and rear cameras. Yamaha’s YXZ1000R is $19,999 to $21,599, while the YXZ1000R Sport Shift is $20,599 to $22,399. With the GYTR TAG kit, Rekluse 3.0 EXP clutch and 30-inch Motoclaw tires, the as-tested cost would be $22,718 for the Yamaha Blue and White YXZ with Fox RC2 shocks. Our YXZ1000R Special Edition with the GYTR additions has an as-tested price of $24,317. The 2017 Can-Am Maverick 1000R X mr is $21,199, while the Maverick 1000 X xc is $18,599. The Maverick 1000R Turbo is $20,499, while new X3 Turbos are $20,999 to $26,899. The 2017 Wildcat 1000X RG Pro EPS is $18,499, and the Limited RG Pro 1000 is $19,499.

The Yamaha YXZ1000R SE comes with an OEM roof, 16.2 inches of front travel with super-adjustable Fox 2.5 Podium X2 shocks, front anti-sway bar and fully locking front diff. The Polaris Gold Matte Metallic LE has 16 inches of front travel with compression-only adjustable shocks and OEM winch, mirror and high-clearance arms.



With its higher rev limit (10,500 versus 8,500 rpm), the YXZ1000R accelerates harder in each gear, and the GYTR TAG kit adds torque. That said, the Polaris jumps out of the hole quicker, loses ground midway through and gains a bit back as it hits the rev limiter around 78 mph. It really depends on the skill level of the driver with the Yamaha, as messed-up shifts or short-shifting negates the rev-range advantage. The Gold Matte RZR is easier to drive up to a limit, and the Yamaha pushes way past that in the hands of a pro. Also, the GYTR YXZ and Motoclaws ripped up a steep dune that shut down the RZR and Crawler XG tires. Redline revs matter!

The GYTR TAG kit, slipper clutch and tires made a huge improvement in the YXZ1000R, but it’s hard to beat the ease of driving the Gold Matte Metallic RZR XP in extreme rock crawling. The Yamaha’s full doors, lower seating, center of gravity and sight line down the sloped hood add confidence in off-camber sections.



With its 55-percent-lower low and gear-driven reverse, it’s hard to beat the Gold Matte RZR for ease of driving in pure rock crawling; however, time is lost stopping to shift to low for big hills and high at the top, as we saw several RZRs grinding between gears in the heat of battle at the KOH. We also saw bandoliers of sparte belts on several RZRs. YXZs suffer neither dilemma. Conversely, Yamaha over-engineered the YXZ drivetrain, but abusive drivers can cook the Rekluse clutch plates. Many racers and rock crawlers maintain a steady throttle to keep the CVT engaged and modulate speed with the brakes, which is hard on the belt. The Rekluse clutch doesn’t work with this technique, as steady throttle keeps the plates engaged and applying brakes stalls the motor. The GYTR Yamaha requires more skill but is more durable overall.


The Yamaha, by far. We had hardpack conditions and deep sand with plenty of moisture underneath, and the YXZ1000R turned in much better and cornered tighter and more predictably. The lower seating position and overall center of gravity (CG) have a lot to do with the Yamaha’s turning prowess, as does the wheel offset. The Gold Matte LE’s beadlocks have very little offset, and that combined with the tall CG and seating position makes the RZR bicycle when pushed in turns. It also pushed more in deep sand and wanted to climb out if the driver lifted. On high-speed whoops, our test drivers liked the Polaris at first, until we dialed more high-speed compression (one turn) and rebound (half turn) damping into the rear shocks to compensate for the heavier 30-inch tires. With these tweaks, the YXZ quit bucking and flew straighter and faster in whoops. The harder you push it, the better the YXZ works.

Both 1000s have twin-piston front calipers and OEM CV-boot guards. We like the traction the GYTR EFX Motoclaw 30-inch YXZ tires have over the Pro Armor Crawler 30-inch XG tires on the RZR. The GYTR YXZ front A-arm guards take away some ground clearance, while the high-clearance XP arms don’t need guards.



The Yamaha. The YXZ1000R has slightly less rear travel than the RZR, but the Fox shocks are much more tunable for conditions and comfort than the WER needle shocks, which only have adjustable compression. Even the base-model YXZ’s Fox 2.5 Podium RC2 shocks are more tunable than the RZR’s, and the as-tested difference in price between the GYTR YXZ SE and Gold Matte XP LE is $418 (the price of a roof). The Yamaha tracks much straighter at higher speeds, but the L-shaped lower rear and front A-arms definitely require Yamaha’s accessory HWMPE guards ($179.99 a pair) in rocks. The Gold Matte LE’s lower link rods and front A-arms are high clearance and stout.

The Gold Matte Metallic LE has Click-6 harnesses and adjustable bucket seats, and we like the gated shifter with easy-to-find reverse. The passenger bar is adjustable, but it isn’t as comfortable as the Yamaha’s padded bar, and the driver has to look offline to see the speedometer and digital readouts.



The Yamaha. Although the RZR XP has dual-caliper pistons squeezing 248mm discs on all four corners, grippy 30-inch Pro Armor Crawler XG tires, the Yamaha stops quicker. The YXZ1000R has 245mm rotors and dual-piston calipers, and they’re backed up by a bona fide engine braking system (EBS) with 11.3:1 compression. The Yamaha also has a parking brake for e-brakers, and GYTR accessory brake lines are $99.99 a pair.

Yamaha’s cabin is much more plush and comfortable, and the lined full doors keep confidence high and roost out. Reverse is harder to find than the RZR’s, but we like the console’s light and 2WD/4WD/diff-lock switches, parking brake and shorty shift lever. The speedo and instruments are easier to read too.



The Gold Matte RZR LE. The lower gearing, 30-inch Crawler XG tires and high-clearance arms combine to make an intermediate rock crawler look like an expert. The GYTR TAG kit, Rekluse clutch and EFX 30-inch Motoclaw tires greatly add to the YXZ1000R’s rock-crawling prowess. It still takes more driver skill to tackle extreme obstacles; however, the Yamaha inspires confidence with its lower seating position, less tippy feel, full doors and sloped hood with better sight line.

The Polaris ProStar twin makes 110 very usable horsepower via two 93mm pistons with 11.0:1 compression, longish 73.5mm stroke, two 48mm EFI throttle bodies and dual-range CVT with 55-percent-lower low range.



Yamaha again. Although we like the convenience of the Click-6 harnesses for access to the RZR glove box or drink holders, they allow too much movement at speed for comfort. They’re an improvement over the Yamaha’s shoulder belts, although Yamaha has new four-point GYTR harnesses ($299.99 a pair). We do like the Yamaha’s standard roof (even on the base YXZ, Wolverine and Viking), full doors, seats, center-console controls, tilt wheel with tilting instrument panel, cushioned passenger grab bar and seating position better. Our GYTR YXZ was fitted with the accessory interior padding kit ($69.99), which further cuts console heat over the 2017’s added shielding. Also, the full doors keep mud out of the cab, although those who encounter a lot of mud on rides will want fender extensions ($249.99).

The Yamaha makes 112 horsepower with a redline some 2000 rpm above the Polaris. Three 80mm pistons ride on a short 66.2mm stroke with 12-valve head, 11.3:1 compression, three 41mm EFI throttle bodies, and a five-speed, sequential-shift transmission with hydraulic actuation for the GYTR Rekluse EXP 3.0 slipper clutch.



While the Polaris Gold Matte RZR XP 1000 LE has rock sliders, high-clearance arms, lower low range, and 30-inch Crawler XG tires that make it a great mount for extreme rock crawling, it also feels sketchier on off-camber terrain. It’s the clear choice for those who ride mostly on rocks and extremely tight trails, especially at sedate speeds. On the other hand, the GYTR Torque-Assist Gearing kit, Rekluse clutch, 30-inch Motoclaws, and other guards and accessories make the YXZ1000R a very capable rock crawler too. The far-revving engine, great suspension and handling package, turning prowess, brakes and cabin comfort all add up to a great ride, and the YXZ1000R works better the harder you push it. It’s the clear choice for those who like to “get up on the wheel” and test their driving skills. And, the sound of that screaming triple seals the deal. 



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