Shred technical trails with paddle shifters By the staff of Dirt Wheels
Since the release of the 2016 Yamaha YXZ1000R, we have tested the machine to its limits and found its strong and weak points. A UTV equipped with a five-speed sequentially shifted gear box and a foot-operated clutch was exactly what we wanted to see in the market. There is just something extremely satisfying about slamming through gears while shredding awesome trails that puts a giant grin on our faces. The Yamaha YXZ1000R has a lot of great features that make it fast and fun, but it isn’t meant for every driver.
Some people like the ability to shift gears yet not have to use a foot clutch, and with an engine that has to be revved pretty high to utilize its power, clutching a lot in technical trails is no simple task. Dealerships started seeing basically brand-new Yamahas that already had roasted clutches from driver abuse. That made for a lot of unhappy customers in rocky and wooded states. Fortunately, for 2017, Yamaha provided an answer to our shifting prayers—the 2017 YXZ1000R SS (Sport Shift). It has the same thrills of the YXZ1000R, yet with no clutch pedal to use and paddle shifters to change gears.
The Yamaha YXZ1000R SS comes with a triple-cylinder, four-stroke engine that is liquid-cooled, electronically fuel-injected and has 998cc displacement. It still has the same engine characteristics as the 2016 model in terms of the powerband. The engine can be lugged down low, but that is a struggle for it, and it is much happier past 6000 rpm. The transmission is still a sequentially shifted five-speed with a clutch system, but now the Yamaha’s computer actuates the electronically activated hydraulic clutch system.
The YXZ is shaft-driven to all four wheels through a transmission with three drive options. You can operate the machine in 2WD, 4WD or 4WD with the front differential locked. Steering gets harder to turn in diff-lock mode, but isn’t overbearing by any means. You can change modes via a switch on the center console.
The introduction of the YXZ1000R SS brought more excitement to the Yamaha YXZ line than the manually clutched model. Paddle shifters mounted to the steering column and the absence of a foot clutch are exactly what Yamaha needed. With this UTV you now get the great sensation that shifting gears brings without stressing over clutching properly. We found it quite interesting that the YXZ1000R SS model was actually designed before the regular YXZ.
Piloting the Yamaha became much easier yet still kept the fun factor alive. There is a three-position shifter on the Yamaha dash that switches between drive, neutral and reverse. Once you put it in drive and release the parking brake, all you have to do is have a blast shifting with the ergonomically mounted paddles. You can shift the YXZ1000R SS at full throttle if you want to. The electronically actuated clutch will allow shifting at any speed.
Some drivers want to be competitive while driving their UTV, and the one thing that an electronically actuated clutch usually won’t do is let you ramp up the rpm and drop it to grab the holeshot against your buddies or other racers. Yamaha knew this would be an issue, so they programed a launch mode into the YXZ.
At a dead stop, if you hold the brake, pull in both paddles and hold them until the dash-mounted light goes on, let go of the brake, give it full throttle and release the paddles. The Yamaha will rocket off the line. The system takes time to get used to, but it’s a great feature and a lot of fun.
HANDLING AND SUSPENSION
The Yamaha 2017 YXZ1000R SS model comes with the same suspension setup as the 2016 YXZ. The front offers 16.2 inches of wheel travel, utilizing Fox Podium RC2 coil-over reservoir shocks through dual A-arms. The rear has a hybrid suspension setup with part trailing arm and a part A-arm design. It has 17 inches of rear suspension travel through Fox Podium RC2 shocks.
The YXZ enjoys standard electronic power steering to help it turn easily. Turning is one of Yamaha’s strong points, and the EPS helps out a lot. In tight terrain or driving fast, you have to saw the wheel back and forth a lot, and Yamaha’s EPS system makes that an easy task.
You will like the cabin of the Yamaha. The stock full doors are protective, the seats are comfortable, the steering wheel is arguably the best stock one around and the gauges are easy to read. The driver seat is adjustable, and the steering wheel is as well. The paddle shifters are connected to the steering column, just like the gauge cluster.
Yamaha added a few new parts to improve on the existing YXZ. The digital meter of both 2017 YXZs has a black background and a new coolant temperature gauge included. The 2016 axle CV boots were prone to getting holes in them at the rear of the machine, so Yamaha designed protective plates to keep rocks from puncturing them. Thankfully, increased heat shielding has been added to reduce engine heat in the cabin.
The handling characteristics of the YXZ1000R SS are the same as the R. The suspension comes stiff from the factory to handle high-speed driving. We had hoped they would make some changes to it for the SS, and fortunately they have, but only for the special-edition versions that come with Fox X2 shocks. They are the most adjustable stock shocks on the market.
Shifting with the paddles is very easy. When driving the machine in tight terrain or turning consistently, we would have figured missing the column-mounted shifters would be a consistent action. However, they are so well designed and positioned that not being able to grab a paddle with our fingertips was rare. Not having to utilize a foot clutch in rough, rocky and tight terrain was quite nice. You could focus a lot more on tackling the trails ahead than making sure you are clutching right.
While driving the Yamaha, if you slow down close to a stop, the machine will automatically shift back into first gear. This only happens if the vehicle is going at a slow-enough speed. If you lock the brakes and release them at higher speeds, it won’t shift down to first. Don’t get us wrong about the original YXZ; if you love shifting gears and using a clutch, it’s always a blast to drive!
Everything about the Yamaha YXZ1000R SS is mainly the same as the YXZ1000R, minus a few upgrades and the Sport Shift system. The suspension remains unchanged, as does the interior of the machine. However, we like how the Yamaha drives, even though it could use shocks that are set up for less than full-throttle running. It has great handling at higher speeds. The Sport Shift function takes the cake in all forms of slower-speed driving, especially in wooded terrain. Driving the YXZ is much easier without worrying about manually clutching the machine, yet it’s still just as exhilarating as the original. The orange SS base model starts at $20,599, the blue and white model goes for $20,799, and the SS SE model comes in matte black and red with better suspension for $22,399.
2017 YAMAHA YXZ1000R SS
Engine DOHC, triple-cylinder 4-stroke
Bore and stroke 80.0 x 66.2mm
Fuel system EFI
Fuel capacity 9.0 gal
Transmission 5-speed sequential paddle shift w/ auto clutch w/ reverse
Final drive Shaft
Front Dual A-arm/16.2”
Rear Dual A-arm/17.0”
Front Dual hydraulic disc
Rear Dual hydraulic disc
Ground clearance 12.9”
Claimed weight 1512 lb.