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Tackling Rocks, Sand, Trails, and Ledges in the New Yamaha RMAX 1000

Could this be the king of recreational side-by-sides?

Yamaha recently introduced us to its all-new entry into the recreational UTV class: the 2021 Wolverine RMAX 1000. This new vehicle features a whole host of class-leading features including a new 999cc parallel-twin engine, entirely new chassis, and state-of-the-art cockpit. You can read all about the new vehicle in our First Look deep dive here.

Unfortunately, due to the current state of the world and the COVID restrictions that are still in place, we weren't able to get behind the wheel of an RMAX 1000 as soon as we would have liked. Thankfully, the Yamaha team wanted to get people into the vehicles as badly as we wanted to drive one. When a last-minute opportunity arose, we jumped in the truck and drove from our home base in Los Angeles to the gorgeous Sand Hollow State Park in Hurricane, Utah. Because there are still travel restrictions in place, and due to the last-minute nature of the opportunity, we rolled out solo with no photo or video support. Still, we made the best of what was given to us and had an absolute blast during our five hours behind the wheel.

Yamaha brought out both the RMAX2 (two-seat) and RMAX4 (four-seat) models of the Wolverine RMAX 1000, and we got equal time behind the wheel of both. Admittedly, we're a bit green when it comes to the world of UTVs. However, we know off-roading quite well, and right from the start the RMAX impressed. What we thought was going to be a day of light trail riding quickly turned extreme as we headed high in elevation through narrow canyons with steep rock shelves. If you're familiar with the terrain of Moab, Sand Hollow feels very similar.

The RMAX 1000 has the ability to run in two-wheel drive, however for our day of adventuring we kept the vehicles in four-wheel drive. It's also worth noting that the rear features a full-time locking differential. For the steepest ledges we shifted the vehicles into low range and even had a few chances to utilize the electronic locking front differential. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, we didn't have a chance to test out the RMAX 1000's integrated Warn winch.

Despite running at an altitude ranging from 3,000 to 4,000 feet above sea level, we never had any inclination that the RMAX 1000 was underpowered or struggled. It felt a little slow on the uptake off the line, however that feeling could just be our greenness to the segment showing. Once underway the RMAX 1000 never felt lacking for power. Whether climbing steep grades or cruising wide-open dunes, there was plenty of torque on tap. We noticed a maximum speed of about 45 mph in the sand dunes, and the vehicle certainly had plenty left to give.

The suspension on both the RMAX2 and RMAX4 worked phenomenally well in all circumstances. With loads of wheel travel and Fox dampers there was no reason to have suspected it wouldn't. We did notice that we could feel the additional rear wheel travel of the RMAX2 over the RMAX4 (16.9 inches versus 13.3 inches) while blasting through open trails and sand washes, but while crawling up rocks they felt very similar. The RMAX4 also sports a rear anti-sway bar where the RMAX2 doesn't, and again we weren't really able to tell a difference in performance between the two machines, which means the sway bar was doing its job on the taller and heavier RMAX4.

Speaking of the Fox shocks, we were able to sample both available varieties during our time with the RMAX 1000. The RMAX4 was fitted the fox iQS system, while the RMAX2 had the standard Fox QS3 units. What's the difference? With the iQS system the driver can switch the dampers between three settings on the fly via a dash-mounted rocker switch, while the QS3 dampers feature reservoir mounted adjusters. The difference in damping between Comfort and Firm was quite noticeable, and with the iQS system we found ourselves switching between the different settings quite frequently. Since the QS3s are externally adjustable, as opposed to on the fly, we would tend to leave them in the firmest setting to best suit our driving style.

On the topic of adjustability, the pair of RMAX 1000s that we tested were fitted with Yamaha's D-Mode drive system. This system offers on-the-fly selection of three different throttle maps: Crawl, Trail, and Sport. Much like the terrain modes found in trucks and SUVs, these three settings alter the feel of the throttle input based on the desired outcome. Trail is the standard setting, with a very linear throttle feeling. Crawl dampens throttle input to allow for a more controlled application of engine power, and Sport gives instant power and fantastic throttle response. We loved the ability to switch between the different modes, as the difference in throttle application was quite noticeable. Naturally, we used Crawl when ascending steep rock shelfs and switched to Sport for wide-open dune riding. D-Mode is standard on all trim levels except for the base model, which comes set at the Trail setting. Fortunately, all of the hardware is present for D-Mode on all models, so base model owners can add it at any time.

Yamaha went to great lengths to make the cockpit comfortable for all occupants. We loved the adjustable seats and adjustable seatbelts on all seating positions. Soft-touch material is present in all contact points, and the steering wheel is a soft material, as well. We found the RMAX 1000 to be extremely comfortable during our five hours in the driver seat, and figure we could comfortably keep going for a long time more. A stereo is optional, and we had one in the RMAX4. We could see this being a very nice feature when tooling around the ranch, but for the type of sport riding we were doing (with helmets and all), it's not really necessary. We also really enjoyed using the Adventure Pro GPS and telemetry unit that mounts in the RMAX 1000s dash. Before you ask, yes, the Adventure Pro is waterproof and can be left in while riding in the rain or when washing the vehicle.

While our time with the new 2021 Yamaha Wolverine RMAX 1000 was relatively brief, we left incredibly impressed. We took these mighty machines places that not even Jeeps dare venture. And we did it with a fair amount of speed and agility. The RMAX 1000 is just as comfortable as it is capable and can easily be used in the farthest reaches of the forest or to haul hay on the farm. After sampling almost the full lineup of vehicles, we'd make sure that our model was optioned with the D-Sport drive mode system, the Fox iQS dampers, and Yamaha's Adventure Pro unit. Sure, it was fine driving without them, but the Limited model with all the bells and whistles was mighty impressive. We hope to get some more wheel time in the near future, but until then we'll keep regaling anyone who will listen with tales of our adventures in Sand Hollow with the all-new RMAX 1000.