By Dan Kidder
Whether you are looking for speed, utility, or the ability to tackle rough terrain, the Wolverine R-Spec EPS from Yamaha has you covered in spades.
We took the Wolverine on 498 miles of rugged offroad to put it through its paces, and it easily conquered anything we threw at it.
We put it up against some of the toughest offroad rigs designed specifically for rally-type offroading, and despite being designed as a utility OHV, it kept pace with everything out there.
It all started at Richfield, Utah’s annual ATV Jamboree. Over five days, we hit some of the toughest dirt tracks available, keeping pace with four-wheelers and performance side-by sides. These are racing machines, with low centers of gravity, four point harnesses, specially built suspensions, and all terrain tires, specifically designed for tearing up dirt tracks like an Indy car destroys pavement. What they don’t have is the utility of a cargo bed and ample ground clearance. Despite the differences, the Yamaha Wolverine matched them every step of the way without hesitation and in many ways, outperformed machines that had been significantly customized for this type of event.
Whatever the terrain, the Wolverine easily conquered it, slinging dust behind it with ease. The 708 cubic centimeter engine had plenty of power, but it was more than just raw horses that got us where we needed to go. The raw muscle is enhanced with dual overhead cams, high volume air intake, fuel injection, and the Ultramatic transmission combined to give you plenty of acceleration without any lag. You step on the gas, and you go. Now! And the acceleration is very smooth, more like a performance sports car than offroad vehicle.
In a world dominated by the Polaris Razor-S, some looked down their noses at the more utilitarian Yamaha Wolverine, when compared to their supposed high performance machines. That was until it easily conquered terrain that made their machines shudder. With its impressive 11.4-inches of ground clearance, and moon rover-like suspension, even with rider and gear in its ample bed, the Wolverine cleared road obstacles, rocks, and deep ruts like they weren’t even there. On slippery loose rocks, the Wolverine tackled anything I could throw at it, and in two particularly slippery spots, a quick switch into four wheel drive with the On-Command system easily put all four wheels into gear to get the job done. With a simple spin of the dial, I was able to quickly shift into 4WD, and another click locked the differential for super climbing ability up extremely steep and loose surfaces.
And coming downhill was even better. The Razor-S behind me had all but burned up his brakes trying to keep from rear-ending me because I was cruising down a serious grade without touching the brakes, thus not activating the brake lights. The driver incredulously asked me if my brake lights were out, because it appeared that I hadn’t used my brakes down the incline. Fact is, I never did. In low gear, the one-way sprag clutch slowed the machine on the downhill to the point where my brakes were very seldom needed. And when they were, a slight tap on the pedal activated the large diameter disc front and rear brakes and twin pistons for an excellent, and predictable, overall brake feeling. The drilled rotors increase cooling and reduce noise for very smooth braking and prolonged life. A sealed wet parking brake gives positive engagement and is protected from the elements for use in all kinds of weather and wet environments without slipping.
Where the Wolverine really performed is in the clearance and suspension. While I had about 100 pounds of emergency medical gear in the bed, because I was the only one with the training and the cargo room to haul it, I was concerned that the added weight of the oxygen tank and supplies would cause me to bottom out on some of the hairier landscapes. While I watched several of the lower and sportier side-by-sides smack rocks and other obstacles as they passed, I never once bottomed out this machine. The skid plates on the bottom angle upward toward the wheels providing an additional 2-inches of clearance at the tires. The KYB fully adjustable piggyback shocks with 9.7 inches of travel in the front and 10.6 inches of travel in the back deliver excellent suspension and rider comfort when hitting the trails. Adjustable suspension settings include high and low speed compression damping, rebound, and preload adjustments. This system makes the ride very smooth, even over super bumpy trails. To give you an idea of how smooth, my riding companion was my canine partner Diogenes. While he did have a harness to prevent him from flying out should we somehow flip, he was able to ride along the entire trip in the passenger seat. This is not a mean fete considering he couldn’t grip onto the passenger “Sweet Jesus” handle, as he has no thumbs. I was concerned that the ride would be too “ruff” on him, but the smooth suspension had him ready to go each morning as we headed out. He would quickly leap into his seat and wait for me to strap him in. I am pretty certain he enjoyed the ride even more than I did.
The body of the Wolverine is designed with utility in mind. It includes a 3-foot 4-inch wide by 2-foot long by 1-foot deep bed designed to be configured in multiple ways. Slots in the middle allow the tailgate to be slipped in and divide the bed in half, or to be moved to the very front for storage when not needed on the back. It will handle up to 300 pounds of cargo, plenty for hunters seeking to get off the beaten path and use it for hauling out their meat and hides. Six steel tie downs give you plenty of versatility for securing your gear.
Rotomolded half doors on each side help keep out mud and water and a suntop helps keep off the sun and rain. A fully integrated roll cage protects you should you manage to roll over. The hefty engine and transmission system combine to give you more than just speed, allowing the Wolverine to tow up to 1,500 pounds, and a 2-inch hitch tube provides you a place to connect a ball hitch.
The Wolverine comes standard with exclusive 26-inch Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 tires to provide optimum traction, durability, comfort and steering precision. The EPS stands for Electric Power Steering, and the speed-sensitive steering system provides even better responsiveness at low speeds and when in 4WD with differential lock.
Comfortable, high-back, sedan-like seats accommodate heavier riders with full gear and provide three-point seatbelts. Ample legroom makes riding comfortable for full-sized men, even for long periods of time. Interior storage is also plentiful with dual cup holders, a sizeable glove compartment and a center console storage compartment. A digital HUD is centered for easy and instinctive use and displays speed, main odometer, hours of operations, clock, and two resettable trip odometers, all at the push of a button. The electronic unit is sealed and waterproof. The Wolverine also comes with a full compliment of head, tail, and brake lights so it can be used on-road in localities where side-by-sides are street legal.
Overall, the Yamaha Wolverine is a smaller version of its big brother, the Viking, measuring in at 116.9 inches long by 60.6 inches wide by 72.4 inches tall. It has a shorter wheelbase, and will get into tight corners that the Viking and other larger machines can’t. It manages to keep up with and outperform the leading offroad rally type OHVs with all of the utility of a good farm truck. She has plenty of power, and also an out of this world suspension that will handle some of the toughest trail you can throw at her. If you are looking for an OHV that can do it all, then the Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec EPS is the rig for you. And she even comes in Realtree Xtra camo for those of you who really want to get off road and disappear. Check it out at your local Yamaha Motor Sports Dealer or go to www.yamahaoutdoors.com.