2016 Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec Review- A New Animal Hot
The 2016 Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec is a different animal, pardon the unintended, yet perfect pun. There is nothing out there quite like it, in its own category, or in any other side-by-side category. The masses have been anxiously awaiting Yamaha’s entrance into the sport/recreation segment of the side-by-side, and with the Wolverine’s unveiling, the wait is over. Some have squawked at the fact the Wolverine sports a 700 class motor, but having the fastest sport model is no skin off Yamaha’s nose because that is not what the Wolverine is intended to be. The Wolverine R-Spec is firmly pointed towards the recreational side-by-side market, engineered and built for the trail riders and hunters out there. If you like to trail ride, then you will find the Wolverine R-Spec is a side-by-side that will scratch your trail riding itch in a way other side-by-sides will not. Throughout the day of seat time on this new Yamaha side-by-side in the heavily treed Brimstone riding area of East Tennessee, the Wolverine R-Spec left me marveling at its ability to scamper through the tight trees with ease, and climb couch size ledges…in the rain and mud…effortlessly. The Wolverine R-Spec is not just another recreation side-by-side, but a Yamaha recreation side-by-side with a masters degree in giving the driver comfort and confidence to go anywhere.
It is amazing what the Wolverine R-Spec will tackle in stock form.
Control & Purpose
The Wolverine R-Spec is a Yamaha, and that statement alone carries weight to it, in the realm of the way you hear the word Congress and immediately equate that with not accomplishing anything. Yamaha leaves nothing to chance…ever. Yamaha engineers, tests, improves, engineers, tests, and improves until a perfectly engineered and purposed bouncing side-by-side comes into the world. Everything on the Wolverine R-Spec serves a purpose, and the driving force behind this side-by-side is a recreational machine that offers riders a controlled trail-riding experience with confidence. Every system aboard the Wolverine is optimized towards this purpose, and offers the driver precise control of the happenings of the machine. As a recreational trail-riding side-by-side that offers control and confidence to the driver, Yamaha has hit the bullseye.
The new 708 cc engine provides plenty of power for whatever you have the guts to try to climb or go over.
Trail-Eating Animal With Power Included
Trails come in all shapes and sizes, from tight to rough, and everything in between. The Wolverine is built to consume them all and want more at the end of the day. If it is a trail, then Yamaha wanted the Wolverine to tackle it in control and comfort. You will not find a 100-horsepower engine in this side-by-side, no sir, because it is useless 99% of the time on the trail. What you will find is a new 708cc, dual-overhead cam, single-cylinder motor, offering useable power with plenty of torque ideally suited for trail riding. Now, I know some of you just rolled your eyes, and felt disappointment in your heart, but the Wolverine is not about flat-out speed, so get over it. The power flowing out of this engine is more than enough for you to climb, claw, traverse, and conquer whatever trail you find yourself on. Of course the Wolverine sports the Ultramatic transmission with a clutch that maintains constant belt tension, and a sprag clutch ensures natural-feeling engine braking. The engine braking on the Wolverine is excellent and is applied without the jerk found in many side-by-sides.
The suspension setup is a "shinning" star on the Wolverine R-Spec with substantial adjustability.
If I had to pick one feature on the new Wolverine R-Spec that blew my socks off, it would be the suspension. The suspension is the shining star of the Wolverine, and brings the “wow” factor to the party. So the specs of the suspension come to independent double wishbone front suspension with 9.7 inches of travel and independent Double Wishbone rear suspension, with 10.6 inches of wheel travel. That is a bunch of travel for this class of side-by-side, but what brings the “wow” factor home is the highly adjustable KYB piggyback shock residing on all four corners. These shocks can be adjusted for high and low speed compression, droop, rebound, and preload, and that means you can absolutely tailor the ride to your liking. You should experience the ride from this stock suspension, because it is not like anything I have driven before. You feel like it is a long-travel suspension underneath you, and it feels like you float over the trail at most reasonable speeds. When getting into the more serious obstacles, the Wolverine crawls over them, keeping most of the tires on the ground, and offering astounding traction for this class of side-by-side. The articulation of the Wolverine is truly impressive. Add to that the OnCommand 4-wheel-drive system with diff-lock, that allows the driver to choose what drive mode they want to use, and the Wolverine can utilize wheel traction to pick the line and stay on it.
I spent the day aboard this suspension, while being tucked into the cab, and all I can say is “wow”. The trails we hit were tight, rocky, and technical with incline thrown in for good measure. We even crawled up and over some rock ledges the size of your living room couch, and the Wolverine’s suspension kept enough tires on the ground to make it effortless. To make things even more crazy was the fact it rained the entire day turning everything slick and muddy, but even with the added slickness the Wolverine carried on, offering traction and confidence.
When the going gets tough the On-Command 4WD button saves the day!
Yamaha has stacked the deck with many design features that make the Wolverine R-Spec so trail-worthy and prepared for off-road adventure. The body lines are optimized to offer outstanding line-of-sight in front of the side-by-side and to the sides. I found the hood to offer excellent views of the trail even at steep inclines. The view out of the side of the driver’s seat also allows for effortless view of tire position. The middle of the chassis sports a small footprint and is tapered to the sides a full two inches to maximize clearance and minimize the chance of getting hung up on trail obstacles. The approach and departure angles are tapered on both the sides and bottom to offer more clearance. Even the A-arms are wide-arc to provide maximum ground clearance on more of the vehicle. Speaking of ground clearance, try 11.4 inches, though it felt like substantially more than that. Did I mention a full-vehicle metal skid plate, which I can say with absolute confidence, can take abuse. Though I didn’t hit the skids nearly as much as I was expecting, considering the terrain, when I did I was so glad they are steel and run the entire underneath length and width of the Wolverine. The wheelbase at 81-inches is long enough to offer a impressively smooth ride, while being short enough to allow the Wolverine to move in and out of tight spots on the trail. We maneuvered through tight trees all day, and I found it took little time to pick up on how to pick my spots through the tight trees and rocks. So as a trail side-by-side, the Wolverine R-Spec is designed from top to bottom to take all kinds of trails from easy and open to tight and technical with total abandon and driver confidence.
The cab is minimalist and comfortable, with everything being where you would think it would be.
There is a passenger grab handle to give passengers that "warm fuzzy" feeling.
The cab is typical Yamaha in that it is minimalist and utilitarian, with controls in their logical places. There is room for two people in the contoured high-back seats with the driver seat adjustable to three settings. The seats are pulled in towards the middle of the cab with space between you and the edge of the door, giving you a feeling of being kept safely on top of the trail but not on the edge of it. This also lends itself to a better ride as well. The driver position offers an excellent feel for the Wolverine and an equally excellent front and side view. Storage is abundant in the large glove box, gigantic center console, and dashboard, meaning you can bring along a bunch of stuff. The instrument cluster is easy to read, and keeps you informed about the Wolverine, from what drive mode you are in to what time it is. Yamaha has done a good job at laying out the LCD screen in such a way that critical information can be had at a glance rather than a stare. There is plenty of foot room, and a dead pedal on both the driver and passenger footwells to make it easy to steady yourself on the trail. The dead pedal is positioned perfectly so it is comfortable to keep your foot in that position throughout long rides. Of course there is an adjustable passenger grab handle to keep the passenger feeling safe and secure. The roof comes standard on all Wolverine R-Specs, and that is a great thing because who doesn’t spend the money for a roof on their side-by-side? Seat belts are easy to operate, and they don’t lock up just because you go over a bump in the trail. The interior on the Wolverine gives a feeling of being tucked and protected inside the cab, but still being in control and on top of the trail.
Control & Confidence
Yamaha wanted the Wolverine R-Spec to work as an easy-to-control side-by-side thus providing the driver with confidence when tackling the off-road, so every system on the Wolverine R-Spec is optimized to provide the driver control. The throttle control is precise and throttle is applied in direct response to throttle input. The power steering assist is directly linked to steering wheel input, and so the CVT engagement. In other words, the Wolverine R-Spec is engineered to respond to the driver in every respect, with no surprises. This machine/driver marriage goes back to what Yamaha wanted the Wolverine to evoke in the driver: control and confidence. Confidence in the Wolverine R-Spec’s ability to perform off-road and put the driver at ease during the experience. As a whole, I think this rings true with the Wolverine R-Spec, as the systems and engineering do give you the feeling of being at one with the Wolverine. Throughout the entire day, I found it easy to become one with the Wolverine, and know exactly how it is going to perform in different situations. The Wolverine makes average drivers feel like experts as it goes over things you can hardly believe, with little to no effort. The Wolverine R-Spec simply has excellent “terrainability", which means it is going to go where you point it, and keep you safe during the journey. This allows you as the driver to enjoy your time off-road, and as I recall, enjoyment of the ride is the point.
Room For Improvements
Like any side-by-side I find myself noticing a couple of things I would “tweak”. I can’t believe I am saying this, but I wish there was just a little less assist with the EPS at slow speeds. I admit I am being extremely picky with this, as most people will not notice. Steering is truly effortless. The more noticeable item is that the amount of wheel rotation to wheel turn should be less. I found myself having to rotate the wheel more than feels natural to me. I will say that the wheels turn in tune with the amount of input from the driver; I just wish I didn’t have to turn quite so far to get the desired wheel travel.
The Wolverine R-Spec is a great recreational side-by-side.
Bringing It Home
Good for Yamaha for taking the time to get a recreational side-by-side right, and with the Wolverine R-Spec they have got it right. This is an exciting and fun side-by-side to drive. Do not write the Wolverine R-Spec off just because it has a single-cylinder 708 cc engine, because that would be a mistake similar to throwing the baby out with the bathwater as the saying goes. No, if you like to trail ride, the suspension alone is worth a hard look at this side-by-side, but the list of other features is long and distinguished. The feel of the Wolverine sticks with you long after the key is turned off. It is easy to learn how to have fun with the Wolverine, and it will take you up and over anything you have the guts to try to conquer….really. If having a recreational side-by-side you can move into quickly, gain confidence in, and rely on for years to come is what you are looking for, then you should take a look at the Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec because you will not be disappointed or regret it. I am ready to drive one again already.