By Dan Kidder
Getting off the pavement and hitting the trail can be a bumpy and dusty activity. There isn’t much that can be done about the dust, but the 2015 Yamaha Viking has the bumpiness sorted out. Offering independent wishbone suspension with 11.8 inches of clearance, the Viking is one of the smoothest driving OHVs I have tested.
On rough terrain, the suspension compensates for jarring and if you hit a rut or a rock, you don’t have to worry about the steering wheel being ripped from your hands. On uneven terrain, the Viking will remain upright, even when tipped to a severe angle. You can tip over any OHV, but we never felt like we were in danger of going over, even on steep, sideways, down-hill angles.
The Viking features a roomy three-passenger front seat with seatbelts for each passenger. Plenty of overhead room allows riding with helmets without smacking your head on the hard top. A full roll bar enclosed driver’s compartment adds additional safety for riders.
There is ample legroom for all three occupants. A padded handhold bar extends to accommodate both passenger seats and the springs and padding in all three seats, as well as the five-degree tilt making this setup the most comfortable seating for long rides.
The Viking is equipped with Yamaha’s most powerful 686cc engine with a broad, usable powerband. Four-valve head with 10.0:1 compression delivers optimum torque for virtually any workload and up to a 30% gain in fuel efficiency.
Electronic fuel injection ensures peak performance in nearly all conditions and elevations, along with instantaneous cold starts. The new air injection system burns the un-combusted elements in the exhaust, resulting in even further reduced emissions. All told, the Viking offers tremendous power to tackle any type of terrain or load.
The Ultramatic transmission with dual-range (Hi/Lo) drive and reverse is the most advanced drive system available. An automatic centrifugal clutch maintains constant belt tension for reduced belt wear and uses a sprag clutch for all-wheel downhill engine braking in 4WD mode and reverse. The three-position On-Command 4WD system lets you dial between 2WD, limited-slip 4WD and fully locked differential 4WD for rapid adjustment of traction as terrain changes.
An easy tilt stamped steel dump bed can quickly be tilted from either side with just one hand and is rated for up to 600 pounds of payload. Simple latching levers quickly connect and disconnect for ease of use. A standard center-mounted, heavy-duty 2-inch receiver hitch can tow up to 1500 pounds.
Large diameter front and rear wheel disc brakes provide unsurpassed stopping power and the dash-mounted parking brake is simple and convenient to use.
The two latching rotomolded doors help keep out dirt, mud, dust and water, so you don’t end up wearing the trail.
The biggest drawback many side by side OHVs have is steering response. Not an issue with the Viking. The power steering is absolutely first-rate and very responsive. It also provides amazing feedback while driving and it is amazingly easy to control and navigate through even the gnarliest terrain. No jumping, jerking or loss of control as you navigate over rocks, stumps and other obstacles.
The Viking is designed as a hybrid, which makes it ideal for farm and ranch work, as well as hunting in the backcountry. It is also stable enough that younger drivers can safely handle it, with proper adult supervision of course. Kids, adults and even my 60 year-young mother had a lot of fun driving an OHV with this much power, but it never feels like it is getting out of control. The hyper-responsive brakes, coupled with the engine braking, mean that you always stop quickly without lurching forward. Just let off the gas and the engine begins to slow you down and a tap on the brakes will quickly and smoothly bring you to a stop.
The Viking is a workhorse for those who need it, a tough mudder for those who are looking to get far off the beaten path and a big funmobile, for the whole family. Powerful, controllable, comfortable and easy to use is the best summation for the Yamaha Viking. It is supremely versatile and will meet a wide variety of requirements, making it a useful addition to any family off-road fleet. The only feature I wish it had is a locking gas cap, so when it runs dry the kids will have to stop driving it long enough for me to get a turn.