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2008 Yamaha 700 FI Rhino

Bed Toys

Howard J. ElmerPhotographer, Writer

The second generation of the Yamaha Rhino debuts into a very different market than the one that greeted its predecessor in 2004. The side-by-side vehicle is no longer an anomaly. With several competitors since launching models of this type, it may easily become the dominant body style in the years to come. The "why" of this is obvious; the easy-to-drive automotive style appeals to everyone-it carries two comfortably and costs almost the same as a single-rider machine. And, no one has to take a backseat to the driver.

For 2008, the new Rhino still shares its architecture with the Yamaha Grizzly as it did in 2004-engine components-but the changes that have occurred in this update make the new Rhino just that much better than the original. The new Rhino 700 powerplant moves from 660cc to 686cc in displacement, which adds additional power through the entire rev range, most notably in low- to mid-range areas. It also has a new forged piston; a new aluminum cylinder body with composite coating; and new roller rocker arms, which are said to reduce friction in the valvetrain. These are some of the changes that have added durability and shaved weight in this engine, says Yamaha.

Riding the backcountry in the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee is where the truth in this last statement surfaced. Navigating long twisting uphill trails requires torque-but torque that is calibrated and controlled. With many of the grades covered in rocks, stumps, and protruding tree roots, getting over and around them was an exercise in gas-pedal finesse, not too-the-floor excess. Spinning wheels get you in more trouble than not.

This better torque control on the new Rhino is the result of a combination of upgrades, such as new fuel injection. The Yamaha Fuel Injection (YFI) system improves throttle response throughout the powerband. It also detects and compensates for changes in altitude, which means better fuel delivery. YFI also eliminates the need for a choke and improves cold-weather starts.

Two other new items found on the Rhino speak directly to rider security. For 2008, Yamaha has added a set of tough polyethylene doors and a center-mounted grab-handle. But, these upgrades have also been engineered to attach to any year Rhino and Yamaha is going as far as offering these free, including installation, to any Rhino owner for the asking.

The creek bottoms and hilltops we crossed during our testing required a thoughtful approach to traction, one that made use of the three drive settings on the Rhino. With a high- and low-range on the floor-mounted shifter, it's possible to pick what amounts to the torque required to get over, through, or around an obstacle. Use this in combination with Yamaha's On-Command selectable four-wheel-drive system, and the traction tools at your disposal multiply. Rhino offers a two-wheel-drive setting (which makes for the easiest steering effort), an automatically engaged four-wheel-drive system (which kicks in when slippage occurs), and a "locked" 4x4 setting.

Another concern, particularly in hilly terrain, is "freewheeling." A condition common to CVT beltdriven machines (reduced rpm going downhill causes the belt to go slack, allowing the machine to run free with gravity). Not true with Yamaha's new Ultramatic system that keeps constant tension on the drive belt. The Ultramatic system consists of a sprag (one-way) clutch and centrifugal clutch, which together helps avoid unnecessary belt wear on startup as well as dealing with freewheeling. It did a good job of braking the 1,124-pound machine on the downhills.

For 2008, the original three-disc system has been upgraded to four full-disc hydraulic brakes with dual piston calipers. Also Yamaha has left the shaft-mounted disc from the original design as a parking-brake-only disc. This improvement is significant. Braking is aggressive when pushed, and the center-mounted parking-brake will hold the machine easily even on the most sever grade.

Additional toughening on the '08 Rhino comes in the form of larger, heavier axles and stronger CV joints. But, as many side-by-side riders know, good CV joints mean nothing if the rubber boots don't keep the dirt and water out of them. So in addition to the new CV design, Yamaha has added a new boot material that is more resistant to impacts and tearing. For 2008, rear A-arm guards were added to match the existing front set, which block debris from getting to the boots.

The size, height, and turning radius of the machine remain the same (and for those who have never checked, the Rhino's footprint is scarcely larger than that of a conventional ATV. It just seems bigger.)

A standard 2-inch receiver means you can use the same hitch as the one in your pickup truck to tow up to 1,200 pounds. There is also an optional front hitch receiver available-good for driving your boat into the lake. The cargo bed, which will support 400 pounds, features tilt levers on both sides of the bed-a convenience when unloading your blind, game, and equipment.

The new Rhino is also available in a multitude of models with customized options. For instance, the 2008 Rhino 700 FI Automatic 4x4 will be available in Hunter Green, Red, and Realtree AP HD Camouflage. Along with the standard Rhino will also be four special-edition models available. These feature a combination of options that should appeal to a variety of users. Prices start at $8,299 for the 450cc Rhino, and top out at just over $12,000 for the decked-out 700cc FI Auto 4x4 Sport Edition.

The area we were riding is a collection of properties called Brimstone Recreation LLC. This company manages and promotes the recreational use of more than 45,000 acres in the remote wilds of northeast Tennessee, right in the heart of Appalachia. It's a wonderful area for outdoor enthusiasts to explore, and the property offers a wide array of recreational activities, including more than 300 miles of ATV trails. For more information, call 800/BRIMSTONE, or visit www.brimstonerecreation.com.

Model: '08 Yamaha 700 FI Rhino
Engine Type: SOHC 686cc four-stroke, liquid-cooled with fan
Compression ratio: 9.2:1
Aspiration: Yamaha Fuel Injection (YFI), 41mm
Ignition: 32-bit ECU
Starting System: Electric
Transmission: Yamaha Ultramatic V-belt
Engine braking: All-wheel
Drivetrain: Yamaha On-Command pushbutton three-way 2WD, 4WD, locked 4WD
Suspension, f/r: Independent double wishbone, 7.3-inch-travel shocks/Independent double wishbone, 7.3-inch-travel shocks
Brakes, f/r: Dual hydraulic disc/Dual hydraulic disc
Tires, f/r: AT25x8-12 NHS/AT25x10-12 NHS
Length (in): 113.6
Width (in): 54.5
Height (in): 73
Wheelbase (in): 75.2
Turning radius (in): 153.5
Ground clearance (in): 12.1
Fuel capacity (gal): 7.9
Dry weight (lb): 1,124
Bed Capacity (lb): 400
Towing Capacity (lb): 1,212
Towing Capacity (lb): 1,212