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TEST: YAMAHA WOLVERINE R-SPEC EPS

July 25, 2017
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Yamaha’s Wolverine line grew to five models for 2017, with the original $10,999 base model and $12,199 R-Spec ($12,799 for the Camo version) being joined by the new Wolverine EPS, R-Spec EPS and R-Spec EPS Special Edition.  The Wolverine R-Spec EPS gets the same high-end Kayaba shocks with high- and low-speed compression adjusters, plus rebound in the Special Edition for $1300 less. Let’s check it out!

Cornering is fun and very predictable with the Wolverine R-Spec. A low center of gravity, rear torsion bar and centralized mass provide great balance, and engine braking helps set up slides into turns, especially in 2WD. Darrin Hoeft demonstrates.

 

WHAT’S A WOLVERINE R-SPEC?   

Wolverines utilize a Viking lower-end with 5-percent-lower gearing, and the new DOHC top end has a 103mm piston and 85mm stroke for 708cc. The CVT has the normal Yamaha sprag clutch with EBS, and the rear transfer case now 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 the vehicle is in gear. The Wolverine frame is 5.5 inches narrower than the Viking’s, and the engine sits 5.8 inches farther forward for centralized mass. The sides are upswept 2.36 inches for better ground clearance. Longer A-arms and high-end, dual-speed, compression piggyback shocks provide full adjustment and 9.7 inches of front and 10.6 inches of rear travel. The non-tilting bed holds 300 pounds and has a removable and stowable tailgate. A large console with an airbox underneath replaces the Viking’s center seat.

The multi-function digital meter has easy-to-read speed, fuel-level, clock, odometer and two trip meters, and the three buttons on the left also select an hour meter, voltage and error-code displays. The unit has lights for range selected, parking brake and diff-lock. A new buzzer sounds if the parking brake is on or the driver’s seat belt is off.

 

HOW DOES PRICE COMPARE?

The Wolverine R-Spec EPS starts at $13,199 (Hunter Green, steel wheels) and jumps to $13,499 for Alpine White or Yamaha Blue with aluminum rims. Realtree Xtra Camo is $13,799. The base Wolverine is still $10,999. The Wolverine EPS is $11,999, and the R-Spec EPS SE is $14,799. Kawasaki’s Teryx 800FI EPS starts at $12,999 and goes to $14,999 for the LE. Arctic Cat’s Wildcat Trail 700 is $11,999. The Trail XT is $12,999 to $13,499, and the LTD is $14,499. The Wildcat Sport XT is $14,599, and the Sport LTD is $15,999. The 2017 Can-Am Commander 800 starts at $11,999 without EPS and $13,149 with it, while the high-end 800 XT is $15,599 to $15,449. Defender HD8s are $10,999 to $21,699 for the enclosed-cab XT.

Yamaha developed the DOHC top end specifically for the Wolverine, and the 708cc single is also used in the Grizzly and Kodiak ATVs. The Wolverine has lower CVT ratios for the extra weight and sits in the frame backwards. A stout rear torsion bar fights body roll.

 

HOW FAST IS THE R-SPEC?

It’s fast enough to be big fun. The big single reacts instantly to the throttle with a predictable EFI map and quick CVT engagement. It launches smoothly and builds revs at a decent pace until it hits the throttle limiter. Top speed is 52 mph in high and 33 mph in low, and it has the torque to drift the rear end out in turns.

WHAT ABOUT CVT/4WD DELIVERY?

No surprises. The gated range selector is very slick and easy to move, and the 2WD/4WD/diff-lock switch is way better than the old two-button Rhino setup. The CVT is the industry standard, with a sprag clutch keeping constant belt tension and delivering true all-wheel EBS. The CVT clutch engages very smoothly and quickly, and it’s very easy to manipulate for technical obstacles.

High-end KYB shocks and long A-arms deliver 9.6 inches of front travel, and width is 60.6 inches. Front 26-inch Bighorn 2.0s are two-ply, while the rears are four-ply. Only the hood and front fenders are white, blue, green or camouflage; all other body panels are black with coarse grain, while the front bumper, cage and frame tubes have a tough crinkle coat.

 

HOW DOES THE WOLVERINE HANDLE?

Quickly yet predictably. The wheelbase is almost identical to the Polaris General’s at 81.3 inches, and centralized mass gives the R-Spec a great combination of turning prowess and straight-line stability. It’s a blast to drive on twisty forest-service or power-line roads, and it drifts into and powers out of turns very predictably. Engine braking in 2WD sets up drifts nicely, and it doesn’t push or try to spin out. It gets a bit busy on rougher trails compared to UTVs with more travel and doesn’t like deep whoops, but it’s an awesome trail, woods and mountain machine.

Rear travel is 10.6 inches. The non-tilting bed holds 300 pounds, and towing is up to 1500 pounds. Two-piston rear-brake calipers are backed up by a multi-disc parking brake from the Rhino days, plus the CVT’s industry-standard sprag clutch with EBS.

 

HOW GOOD IS THE R-SPEC SUSPENSION?

Really good. Front travel is only 9.6 inches and rear is 10.6, but it’s high-quality and highly-adjustable travel. Front/rear balance is excellent. Standard settings are 1 1/4 turns out (of 2) on high-speed compression at all four corners. Low-speed compression is set at 12 clicks out (of 18) all around, and rebound is 13 clicks out in front and 14 in back. Backing off of high-speed compression (to 1.5–2.0 turns out) helps the KYBs soak up rocks, roots and other trail junk while still resisting bottoming on water bars and whoops.

Remove the center console with two large bins to access the airbox, and unsnap five clips to remove the large oiled-foam air filter. It draws air from under the hood. To access the engine-oil dipstick, remove the passenger-seat base and the rubber cover surrounding the seatbelt latch.

 

ARE MUD AND ROCKS ON ITS DIET?

Yum, yum. The fenders, doors and roof keep water and mud out of the cabin, and the Wolverine has an under-hood engine intake, high CVT inlets and marine-grade electrical connections for wet work. No-slip diff-lock and massive torque keep the 708cc churning until the ruts get deeper than 11.8 inches. Rocky riding is also aided by the 4WD system with EBS, upswept frame sides, a full skid plate and low range. It articulates well in rocks, too, despite the heavy-duty rear torsion bar.

Remove the driver’s seat base to adjust the seat for smaller drivers. Remove four bolts with the tool kit’s 12mm wrench and position as desired. The tool kit and air gauge are under the passenger’s seat. Seat belts can also be lowered for shorter people.

 

HOW ABOUT THE BRAKES?

They’re overqualified for most jobs. Two-piston calipers squeeze 207mm rotors at all four corners, and brake lines are stainless steel for a good pedal feel. They’re backed up by the EBS and full-time 4WD or select 2WD to set up drifts in turns. The parking brake is a multi-disc unit on the rear transfer case from the Rhino. It has a new alarm buzzer if the driver attempts motion while engaged.

WHAT ABOUT TRAIL COMFORT?

It’s top-shelf, like the YXZ1000R. The seats are comfortable, and the side bolsters and low-boy half doors add security and confidence. The large glove box and center console hold a lot, and the padded passenger grab bar is adjustable. Although the steering wheel doesn’t tilt, it’s shaped well and padded with nodules for thumbs-up driving (recommended and illustrated in the manual). All the controls are very easy to use. Vibration levels in the cabin are low but could be lower, and there is a lot of belt whine while underway. The standard sunroof comes on all R-Specs but not base Wolverines. It keeps rain and roost out but also keeps engine and CVT noise from escaping. Bed cargo is easy to secure via six metal tie-down loops too.

Yamaha won the National Rifle Association’s 2016 Bull’s-Eye award with the Wolverine, and the Wolverine R-Spec EPS has been added to the Wolverine family for 2017. It could well be the ultimate UTV for exploration, adventure and hunting.

 

WHAT’S OUR FINAL ANSWER?

Yamaha not only designed, built and tuned the Wolverine R-Spec well, it named the machine aptly too. The Wolverine is agile, sure-footed, and ferocious in the woods and mountains. It does everything well and inspires confidence doing it thanks to the stout torsion bar and stiff suspension. Big hills pose no problems, and four-wheel engine braking helps the solid brakes on descents. Comfort and durability rank high too. The tighter and more technical the trail, the better the Wolverine R-Spec works. 

2017 YAMAHA WOLVERINE R-SPEC EPS 4X4

ENGINE/TRANSMISSION

Engine type Liquid-/oil-cooled, 4-valve, DOHC 4-stroke

Displacement 708cc

Bore x stroke 103.0 x 85.0mm

Compression ratio 10.1:1

Lubrication system Wet sump

Additional cooling Auto fan

Induction Yamaha EFI w/ 44mm body

Starting/back-up Electric/none

Starting procedure Turn ignition key

Choke location N/A

Air filter:

  Type Washable foam

  Access Tool-less, lift center console and undo 6 clips

Transmission Dual-range CVT w/ reverse

Reverse procedure Move range selector to “R”

Drive system Selectable 2WD/4WD w/ diff-lock & EBS

Final drives Shafts

DIMENSIONS/CAPACITIES/WEIGHTS

Fuel capacity 9.7 gal.

Wheelbase 81.3”

Overall length/width/height 116.9”/60.6”/74.2”

Ground clearance 11.8”

Claimed wet weight 1,311 lb.; SE, 1,404 lb.

Bed weight limit 300 lb.

Hitch 2” receiver

Towing limit 1,500 lb.

ROLLING CHASSIS

Frame Steel round tube

Suspension/wheel travel:

  Front Dual A-arms w/ prel./hi-lo comp./reb. adj.

shocks/9.7”

  Rear Dual A-arms w/ prel./hi-lo comp./reb. adj.

shocks/10.6”

Brakes/actuation:

  Front Twin-piston hydraulic discs/left-side pedal

  Rear Twin-piston hydraulic discs/left-side pedal

Parking Lever on console

Tires:

  Front 26×8-12 Bighorn 2.0 2-ply

  Rear 26×10-12  Bighorn 2.0 4-ply

ELECTRICAL

DC outlet Console

Lighting:

  Front 2 30W Krypton headlights

  Rear Dual 21/5W brake/taillights

DETAILS

Instrumentation Fuel-sight gauge, 4WD indicator lights

Colors Steel Blue, Hunter Green, Alpine White,

Realtree Xtra, SE Matte Silver

Minimum recommended operator age 16

Suggested retail price $12,199–$12,799;

EPS, $13,199–$13,799; EPS SE, $14,799

Contact Yamaha Motor Corp., (800) 962-7926

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