April 29, 2015
There are two kinds of ATVs that hunters buy — the utility type machines for working on food plots and hauling heavy loads, and the recreational machines designed for going places so far off the beaten path where you don't even bother with a cell phone because there is no chance of a signal.
The latter is the market Yamaha had in mind for the new 2016 Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec UTV. If this machine was any more adventure minded in design, it would come with a fedora and a bull whip. It could easily outrun the natives and their poison darts, too.
Let's Go Hunting â€“ Sort Of
Yamaha wisely chose to use the Brimstone Recreational Park near Huntsville, Tenn., for our initial rides on the new Wolverine.
With ample hills, tight trees, creek crossings and mud, it was as good of place as any to showcase just what the machine could get a driver with an adventurous spirit could get into and out of on the trail.
Plus there were enough turkeys running around gobbling to make the hunters on the ride get sweaty palms and itchy trigger fingers.
The Big Single
Yamaha put a lot of thought into the new Wolverine. They identified that for the hunting, recreational and adventure market, buyers favored reliability and maneuverability over pure speed.
Bucking the trend, Yamaha built the machine around a new 708cc DOHC single-cylinder four stroke engine. While other manufacturers have employed V-twin engines, Yamaha's big single makes a tractor-trailer load of torque that is as smooth as anything you'll find.
Combined with Yamaha's tried and true constant-tension CVT transmission and you get an ultra-reliable drivetrain that has power when and where you need it, and the best engine braking to be had. We drove the Wolverine down some ridiculously steep hills and never had to touch the brakes.
Suspension is another area Yamaha researched well, using remote-reservoir, piggy-back shocks that are very similar to their sport ATVs.
The Wolverine has 10.6 inches of wheel travel out back and 9.7 inches in the front. It's not just the amount of suspension that is significant to outdoorsmen and women â€“ it's the action.
There is a ton of adjustability to the shocks, so the driver can set it up to how he or she likes it. There was a lot of engineering that went into the shocks and all of the settings, but the reasoning is pretty simple.
The suspension is designed to take the beating that normally would translate to the driver, meaning that when you get to your top-secret hunting spot, you're not going to be as fatigued as you would be on another machine.
The suspension is also set with nearly two inches of sag. Sag is another important part of the suspension and one you may not know about. Basically sag is negative travel.
We always talk about the amount of travel in a shock, in this case, the 10.6 inches in the rear is pretty impressive. If you had the Wolverine up on a lift, you'd see the amount of sag. It helps keep your wheels on the ground and grabbing traction.
When your trail involves some tricky terrain, having the tires connecting with the dirt can make the difference between making it to deer camp, or taking a trip to the emergency room. I'd rather go hunting, myself.
Grip and Grin
The trails were steep, slippery and sloppy. In other words, they were tough. I'm not going to lie, there were a few times on the ride when I wasn't sure I was going to be able to make it.
Yamaha's four-wheel drive system is pretty flawless. You have 2wd, 4wd with a limited slip differential that sends power to the wheels getting traction, and then a true locking differential that can claw up some pretty crazy stuff. Add to that a transmission with a high and low range that works very well.
For tires, Yamaha went with Maxxis Bighorns, an industry standard for traction and control. What sets Yamaha's Bighorn tires apart from others is the design and construction of the tire is specific to Yamaha.
The sidewalls and tread pattern are optimized to work with the machine. I don't know all the science behind it. All I can say is, I didn't get stuck and I never saw anyone with flat tires. With all the jagged rocks and tight ruts, the tires all stayed inflated.
That's pretty comforting if you're headed into the back country for a mule deer or some other adventurous hunt.
No Dumping Allowed
You may have noticed that the rear cargo box on the Wolverine is smaller, compared to some other machines. It doesn't dump either. Now don't go getting into a tizzy here.
You can haul 300 pounds of gear in the bed, like tents, sleeping bags and coolers. There is also a 2-inch receiver with a 1,500-pound towing capacity.
From the Seat
The Wolverine has excellent sight lines, letting you see where you're going. It is very comfortable to drive with an excellent seat and a great layout. I'm over six feet tall and I felt right at home.
There's plenty of storage and even two deep, well-placed cup holders. They are available now at your local dealer. A blue or green machine will set you back $12,199 for a non-power steering model, or $13,199 for one with power steering.
You can add another $600 for one in Realtree Xtra camo. If you're going to drive it in the types of places Yamaha had in mind, you're going to want to opt for the power steering. I know I would.
Looking for a reliable machine that can go over terrain that would make a Billy goat tremble? Take a serious look at the Wolverine.
I know my next back country adventure will be on one.