When representatives from various off-road editorial outlets gathered in Newnan, Georgia, for the unveiling of Yamaha’s new Wolverine R-Spec, there was the usual speculation about what exactly we were about to see.
Some, like us, were hoping that it would be something fully race-ready to rival Polaris’ 1,000cc RZR. Others weren’t so sure, given Yamaha’s history of being the scapegoat of every (mainly unwarranted) lawsuit that came down the pike regarding side-by-sides and that Yamaha usually markets products like this to the widest customer base possible. We know it’s hard to believe, but not everyone wants to race their side-by-side. So when the cover was ultimately pulled off and the Wolverine R-Spec finally saw the light of day, there was a collective … sigh.
Rather than taking on the RZR XP, Yamaha chose instead to go after the 700cc Arctic Cat Wildcat Sport. Displacing an odd 708cc, the Wolverine R-Spec features fuel injection and dual overhead cams along with a healthy compression ratio. While Yamaha didn’t give us an exact number, we figure it has to be in the 60hp range.
That engine is coupled to their “Ultramatic” fully automatic CVT transmission that uses a one-way sprag clutch to eliminate freewheeling. Yamaha made maintenance easy thanks to the air-cleaning element being located beneath the large center console, which requires no tools to remove and access holes for engine and transmission drain plugs.
The Wolverine R-Spec features what Yamaha calls their “On Command” four-wheel-drive system. There’s a knob on the dash that allows riders to choose between 2WD and 4WD with a limited slip, or 4WD where the differential is fully locked.
Other nice items on the Wolverine R-Spec include a narrow(er) chassis along with a sloping hood that allows for better forward view. It’s easier to miss those rocks when you can see them. Speaking of rocks, there’s a full skidplate that runs the entire length of the unit.
Another way that Yamaha aided in clearance was to bow the front A-arms. They are higher near their center mounting points and then angle down at the wheels. This allows for 9.7 inches of suspension travel up front while still keeping the frame clearance high at 11.4 inches. The overall wheelbase for the two-seater is 81 inches.
The overall weight is kept down thanks to the molded plastic bed, rather than the steel unit on the Yamaha Viking. Just about every other body piece found on the Wolverine, including the standard equipment suntop, is also made from the tough, injected-molded plastic in-house at their factory. In fact, the entire unit is produced at their Georgia, U.S. factory.
One of the few choices that a customer can make is to decide whether they want power steering or not. Yamaha offers the model with either a speed-sensitive EPS (Electric Power Steering) or not. We’d opt for the EPS, but we’re kind of lazy that way.
Though this was strictly a reveal and we couldn’t actually drive the Wolverine R-Spec, it looks like it has everything that one could want in a well-equipped side-by-side: It has a good amount of wheel travel, and the shocks are quality units. The fit and finish is typical Yamaha; it appears well-made and attractive, its twin seats are comfortable and come with three-point harnesses and there’s plenty of legroom; it even has a power plug for accessories and a pair of cupholders. What more could you want?
Will it beat a RZR HP? No. But the Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec looks to us like it will be a blast to drive, and we’re sure that there will be many aftermarket folks making plenty of performance parts to enhance any perceived shortcomings.
All in all, it appears to be a very worthy ride. Speaking of which, we’ll be getting to drive one pretty soon at the Glamis dunes; look for an update when that happens.