The mid-sized performance UTV category is growing. In the last year, both Yamaha and Arctic Cat developed machines to go against the Polaris RZR S. Unfortunately for them, Polaris upped the cc on the RZR S to 875cc, making it even faster. Furthermore, Kawasaki has increased the power and suspension action of the Teryx to try and keep up. We see this category as a group of machines in the $15,000 price range that still needs to fit on 60-inch-wide trails, be hauled in the back of a pickup, and not necessarily used for work. On the good side, there are plenty of decent machines in this category for you to choose from. We are going to show you four of them and let you know which one is better than the others in certain areas, then you can decide which is best for you.
Three of our shootout contestants don’t have a dump bed. Those three machines are the Polaris RZR S 900, the Arctic Cat Sport 700 and the Yamaha Wolverine 700. The one that does, the Kawasaki Teryx, has a small dumper and two large water-resistant storage boxes, so it’s aimed at the adventure-seeker.
When you talk price, the RZR is the highest at $16,499. Looking at the suspension specs and the extra 150cc advantage, it may warrant the additional expense to some. Yamaha’s Wolverine is the lowest-priced machine in this group at $13,199. Furthermore, Yamaha has versions of this machine without EPS or adjustable shocks that are even cheaper at $11,000. Our camo Kawasaki is priced at $14,299, while the Arctic Cat is $15,699 as tested. Each manufacturer has different versions that cost $500 to $1000 more or less depending on options. All of our test units have EPS and the best suspension available for that model.
Since we have tested all of these machines individually and gone into detail about the specifications, we won’t waste your time in this article and get right to the driving comparisons. You can turn the page to the spec chart and see all the pertinent info you need to know. We started our test loop on a long, straight, easy road and got a good feeling of comfort, control placement and engine noise. The Polaris RZR is the quietest of the group. Its twin-cylinder engine purrs going down the trail. The Kawasaki Teryx is the loudest in the cabin. It’s not unbearable, and Kawasaki has improved its tone in recent years to our accolades. The Yamaha Wolverine and Arctic Cat Sport 700 fall right in the middle as far as noise levels are concerned, with the Wolverine being the quieter of the two.
As far as cockpit comfort goes, the Wolverine has the most shoulder and leg room. The controls are wellplaced and very well thought out. The center-storage console is a nice revision from the Viking and Rhino machines and goes well with the big glovebox and other cubbyholes. As far as on-board storage is concerned, the Kawasaki has the best with its two huge boxes situated right behind the seats. They are watertight and large enough to hold helmets. The Kawasaki has the highest seating position and the Wolverine the lowest. At the end of the day, when we asked our group of passengers which cockpit was best from the right seat, they said the Arctic Cat was the most comfortable. In the Arctic Cat, there is a passenger grab handhold on both sides of the seat. One is a rigged post to the inside, and the other is a small grab handle on the door. However, we suggest you remind your passengers not to hold on to any outside handle in a tip-over situation. The other three machines have very good handholds that make passengers feel secure as well.
Our next task was to descend a steep, slippery, rutted trail. Here we noted braking, plus we got a good feel of tire traction and engine braking. The Wolverine had tons of hold-back in high or low range. You could crawl down the steep hills at 5 mph without touching the brakes. The Kawi was almost as good, but only in low gear. The sportier RZR S and Arctic Cat 700 didn’t really have
any engine braking that would be useful in a big descent. However, the standard brakes worked very well on all the machines, with the Yamaha doing the best job coming to a stop.
Once out of the mountains we found a long, wide trail that we could do a little drag racing and check top speeds. The 875cc RZR S 900 reached the highest mark at an even 70 mph. The Arctic Cat was a bit slower at 62 mph on this test day. Even further back was the Wolverine at 53 mph, and the Teryx brought up the rear at an even 50 mph. Those results were mirrored in the drag race. The closest fight was between the Teryx and the Wolverine. The Wolverine would get a slight jump off the line, then the Teryx would start to overpower it until its speed limiter hit 50 mph, and only then would the Wolverine inch by. Going up long, gradual hills, the Teryx showed it had more torque and could carry a 5–10-mph advantage over the Wolverine. The Arctic Cat and RZR were even faster.
In the chop, the Teryx was a little jarring. We played with its shocks the most, trying to smooth out the ride. The stiffest setting seemed the best. In Kawasaki’s defense, they did revise the shock steering on the Teryx for the 2016 model year. Our test unit is a 2015 model. The Wolverine was as plush as the long-travel cars, but would definitely find its limits earlier in the whoops. If you stay away from big bumps in the Wolverine, it gave a very plush ride. The Arctic Cat handled the big bumps slightly better than the RZR S, but the shocks provided a lot of feedback and clunking noises when driven really aggressively.
FIT AND FINISH
You can tell Yamaha has put the most thought into the Wolverine. It has an exposed bottom frame rail that won’t destroy its bodywork when it high-centers. Plus, small kick-outs at the back of the frame prevent the rear tire from connecting with trees. The seats are low, as is the center of gravity, and it’s the easiest to get in and out of. The new dual-overhead cam engine is much quieter than the Viking. However, there are a few issues we have with the Wolverine: One is that you cannot unbolt the skid plate. The entire center section is welded in place. You can only remove the plates directly below the differentials. Our second issue is that it’s very hard to access the CVT drain plug, and removing the cover for a belt change is even harder. The belts
on the RZR and Arctic Cat are easily accessible. The Teryx belt is a bit tough to change as well.
The RZR S has proven to be very durable. Our test unit has over 2500 miles on it and is still using the same belt. The only thing we have changed is the air filter and the tires so we would have newer ones for this test. Those GBC tires are the best of the group. The Kawasaki and Yamaha both use Maxxis Big Horn tires, which are a good all-around tire.
The Arctic Cat has the sparsest cabin with no glovebox door (just mesh), but it does have an underhood storage box, which is nice. It’s the only car with a full door, but they open awkwardly, and the plastic levers look like they will break; how ever, they haven’t yet after 800 miles. Speaking of mileage, during our 120-mile evaluation, we noted fuel consumption on each of the four machines. The Wolverine and Arctic Cat Sport 700 used the least amount of fuel at 7.7 gallons each, with the RZR very close at 7.8 gallons. The Teryx used the most at 9.4. Unfortunately, the Teryx has the second-smallest gas tank at 7.9 gallons. The Arctic Cat has slightly less at 7.4 gallons. Both the Wolverine and RZR have an extra 2 gallons at 9.7 and 9.4 gallons, respectively.
The new Yamaha Wolverine is definitely the best bang for your buck, as long as you are not riding on rough, whooped-out trails. Logging roads and typical slower-speed, marked trails are a blast to ride in the Wolverine—the tighter and technical, the better. It turns the sharpest, although you have to do a little more hand-over-hand driving. At $13,200 fully loaded, that’s a bargain. Furthermore, Yamaha has already announced an even sportier UTV that is coming this September that should satisfy the guys who ride the whooped-out trails in the Southwest at higher speeds.
The Kawasaki Teryx is a great machine, and we love the storage it has, along with the big dump bed. If your riding is slow-paced or you need to haul some extra gear, the Teryx can do it for you very well. The four-seat version is just as good, so you have that option as well.
We like how well the Arctic Cat Sport 700 stacks up to the Polaris RZR S 900. It’s almost as good, even with the smaller engine, but we don’t think the $700 difference is enough to keep us away from the RZR. When Polaris introduced the S 900 as a replacement to the old 800, we were very happy. It has a much better engine. The suspension is refined, as is the cockpit, along with the fit and finish. The RZR S 900 gets ridden more than any machine in our stable, even compared to the RZR 1000. It fits in the back of most pickup trucks and on more trails than the 1000. If you want a machine in this price range to drive fast, the RZR S 900 will put the biggest smile on your face. However, if highspeed driving and big bumps are not in your future, we say save $3000 and go for the Yamaha Wolverine.
ARCTIC CAT SPORT 700…KAWASAKI TERYX 800…POLARIS RZR S 900…YAMAHA WOLVERINE 700
Engine…DOHC, twin-cylinder, 4-stroke…SOHC, V-twin 4-stroke…DOHC, twin cylinder 4-stroke…DOHC, single-cylinder, 4-stroke
Bore and stroke…76.9mm x 75.3mm…85mm x 68mm…93mm x 64.4mm…103mm x 85mm
Fuel capacity…7.4 gal…7.9 gal…9.5 gal…9.7 gal
Transmission…Fully auto CVT…Fully auto CVT…Fully auto CVT…Fully auto CVT
Front…Dual A-arms w/ Elka/ 12.2″…Dual A-arms w/ Fox/8″…Dual A-arms w/ Fox/ 12.25″…Dual A-arms/9.7″
Rear…Dual A-arms w/ Elka/ 12.6″…Dual A-arms w/ Fox/8.3″…Dual A-arms w/ Fox/13.2″…Dual A-arms/10.6″
Front…Dual hydraulic disc….Dual hydraulic disc…Dual hydraulic disc…Dual hydraulic disc
Rear…Dual hydraulic disc…Dual hydraulic disc…Dual hydraulic disc…Dual hydraulic disc
Claimed weight…1074 lb. (dry)…1573 lb. (wet)…1228 lb. (dry)…1311 lb. (wet)
Cargo bed capacity…300 lb…600 lb…300 lb…300 lb