We reported on the Yamaha 660 Rhino in the January 2006 issue of Off-Road. If you missed it and don't know what a Rhino is, it's Yamaha's entry into the hot 4x4 side-by-side market, a market that's exploding with enthusiasts and vehicles. The Rhino has a 660cc four-stroke single with a Continuously Variable Transmission (beltdrive automatic), a high and low range, a spool in back with an electric locking differential up front, a dump bed and two seats that sit, yes, you guessed it, side-by-side. It also has a fully independent suspension with coilovers at all four corners.
We've been having lots of fun with the Rhino, especially exploring places trucks and Jeeps can't fit. With the low range and locker, it's able to go pretty much anywhere, the limiting factor being its breakover angle. We've hung up a few times trying to climb steep ledges and catching in the middle after getting the front wheels over the top. Yamaha offers a 3,000-pound Warn winch for the Rhino, which is something we plan to add soon. With the winch, we'll easily be able to drag the Rhino over places it gets hung up.
OMF sent us a set of its aluminum beadlock wheels, and we mounted a set of Maxxis Big Horn radials on them. The Big Horns afford superb grip in all situations, with rock and dirt traction being their strong point. They work in the sand better than the stock tires do, but we think another of Maxxis' tire designs would work even better in the dunes. We added Yamaha aluminum A-arm guards front and rear and an aluminum driveshaft housing cover to add protection underneath. We also installed an aluminum top from Yamaha Accessories to add protection topside.
Based on the Yamaha Grizzly ATV, but weighing almost twice the Grizzly's weight, you'd think that the Rhino's performance would be lackluster at best. That's not how it works out though. The Rhino's performance is impressive. It certainly doesn't feel like a porky Grizzly - the throttle response is good and there's plenty of power on tap to tackle just about any kind of terrain. The 40-mph speed limiter/governor could go away, in our opinion, but other than that we have little to complain about.
The number of Rhinos at the Sand Sports Show and the Off-Road Expo proves that this little 4x4 is taking North America by storm. We'll continue to report on our experiences and do a few trail features with ours. The Rhino doesn't handle like an ATV, nor does it drive like a Jeep. It is a superb vehicle that, as we get used to driving it, just keeps getting better and better!