ATV TEST: 2022 YAMAHA RAPTOR 700R
A sand-specific test on one of the best-ever sport quads By the staff of Dirt Wheels
Two issues ago we told the other half of this Oregon tale, which featured an evaluation of the YFZ450R. It wasn’t our usual southern California ride by any stretch. Yamaha transported us to renowned Winchester Bay, home to the famous Banshee Hill and some epic sand forest trails. Having the event there felt nostalgic being that it’s the home to a hill named after one of Yamaha’s most recognizable machines.
We spent the first day hammering sandy trails and power-sliding dunes on the YFZ450R. By the time we threw a leg over the Raptor, we had a good feel for the trails—the advantage being that we could easily spot the differences between the two machines. Both machines were without paddle tires, which made sliding through flat corners easier but meant some of the technical climbs were more demanding.
MAKING IT WORK
While the scenery was hard not to revel in, we had a not-so-unpleasant task of learning as much as we could about the Raptor 700R. Yamaha kindly brought along former Red Bull athlete and multi-time quad champion Dustin Nelson to lead the tour of the park trails. This was not only fun but a big help, because he helped us push the Raptor harder than we knew we could. Turns out the Raptor has many advantages to consider if you’re torn between Yamaha’s two premier sport quads.
Nearly 45 horsepower pumps out of the single-overhead-cam, 686cc, fuel-injected big-bore engine. Yamaha designed the Raptor engine light and with a strong forged piston, connecting rod and crankshaft. Dual counter-balancers quell vibration and aid in that smooth power delivery we mentioned.
You get a five-speed transmission with a reverse gear, which is very handy on the trail. This transmission has built a reputation of being almost indestructible. The Raptor’s strong electric starter allows you to start the Raptor in any gear if you pull in the clutch, which, again, in the heat of battle is a nice feature.
Obviously, 700cc is a good chunk of displacement more than 450cc, but the peak power output is close when comparing the YFZ450R power to the Raptor 700. Where the Raptor differs is in its ease of use. Ample torque is available from idle to high rpm where the power finally flattens out. Screaming the engine doesn’t work well. For 75 percent of the time we could leave it in third gear for the riding that covered the park. Although, when we went through the gears in the dunes, it never seemed to stop pulling us forward.
The Raptor has more overall horsepower than the 450, but the important thing is that the 700 has effective motivation at any rpm. That means shifting isn’t as crucial as it is on a 450. In the deep sand we needed to slip the clutch less on the Raptor. You might think 700cc is a bit too much, but both quads have more than enough power. Despite the much larger engine, the Raptor’s power is easier for less experienced riders to manage while having plenty for advanced riders.
The initial hit off the bottom of the powerband isn’t as bold as the YFZ450R. Instead, it’s a manageable torque that continues through the entire powerband. Because it’s not quite as punchy, it requires less precise clutch and throttle work. We felt that torque and added flywheel effect of the Raptor helped it maintain traction through sand whoops. The ability to be relatively close to the meat of the powerband most of the time helped limit the rear wheels breaking loose.
Oregon gave us a variety of hills, including off-cambered, straight drag-style and steep climbs with twisty turns that would rob momentum if you let off the throttle for even a moment. The Raptor did great in the midrange meat of the powerband, as opposed to the 450s needing to be revved flat out to make it up certain climbs. If you’re not comfortable with, or irritated by, maintaining continuous high rpm, the Raptor is much more user-friendly.
Since the Raptor is nearly 3 inches narrower and about that much taller than the YFZ450R, the two naturally don’t rail corners the same way. The Raptor did great on banked rail berms if we didn’t push our limits of speed. If you do, you’ll feel the inside wheels start to lift. That said, it wasn’t enough of a difference to squash our fun. In fact, we were expecting it to be less planted than it was. Of course, on the motocross track it would be more of a disadvantage.
There were a few times we would’ve benefited from having the YFZ450R’s wider track. That was only when we were pushing our personal limits, and other than that we feel the Raptor better suits the average rider in most situations. And, for all-day riding, it is just more comfortable. If you want it wider, the aftermarket has that under control.
Keeping the front end light through the endless sand whoops was easier on the Raptor. It didn’t force you to skim, blitz or hammer them to go fast like the YFZ450R does. Instead, the suspension travel of the Raptor allowed us to lean back and float through them without feeling any harsh bottoming.
WITHOUT A PADDLE
Since this was a rare chance to do a sport quad test specifically in the dunes, we found it interesting that Yamaha didn’t run paddle tires. As it turned out, we’re happy they didn’t. It proved once again that a completely stock Raptor 700 is one of the most versatile sport quads in history.
Truthfully, the stock tires were a lot of fun in Oregon. The dunes are not massively tall like you would find at Dumont or Glamis, but we have run other Raptor 700s on stock tires at both those locations. The powerplant of the Raptor was more than enough to easily sail to the top of what the Oregon dunes had to offer. There were a few times where paddle tires would’ve made the steep, twisty climbs easier, but we honestly didn’t need to go any faster through those sections. The YFZ450R, on the other hand, required more focus and commitment. And sure, if we were going to spend our weekends at Glamis, paddles would probably be the ticket.
CHASSIS AND COMPONENTS
A hybrid steel and aluminum frame, along with a cast-aluminum swingarm and aluminum subframe, make for a robust yet lightweight platform. Yamaha outfitted all the test quads with GYTR nerf bars for us to ride with. They do not come stock on the machines. It would most definitely be the first aftermarket purchase for us considering their ability to protect the rider’s feet and legs. Plus, they do offer some added leverage if you use them to put your feet on when cornering.
Up front you’ll find independent double-wishbone suspension with 9.1 inches of travel. The rear shock and linkage provide 10.1 inches of travel, and like the front shocks, it utilizes a piggyback reservoir for added performance. Front and rear suspension both include high- and low-speed compression, rebound and threaded preload adjustment.
Adding to the comfort is a generously padded seat that we prefer over the YFZ450R for longer rides. Adding to the lightweight theme are aluminum wheels, which are fitted with Maxxis 22×7-10 up front and Maxxis 20×10-9 in the rear. And, braking is done with dual hydraulic discs in front and a single disc in the rear.
WHO IT’S MADE FOR
The Raptor isn’t the premier choice for motocross tracks. However, it is plenty capable on the track. However, the majority of people are not riding quads on moto tracks, and the Raptor should be considered first for anyone not planning on riding at the track. It’s more comfortable in general, and the power doesn’t require as much skill to get the most out of what it has to offer.
Life expectancy is an often-overlooked aspect when comparing a big-bore 700cc compared to a 450cc. In general, the bigger motors will have to work less in their life than what they were designed to endure, whereas 450cc machines will tend to be used to their potential more often, whether it’s a running a race or attempting a hill-climb.
Raptors have been utilized in many ways, but the stock design actually fits the needs of more people than the YFZ450R. Power is endless but not violent, which makes it much more friendly on the trails. Yamaha, as always, designs aggressive, modern-looking plastics that live up to what a sport quad should look like.
Updated color schemes are what gives them a unique personality from year to year, and this year you’ll get a white or yellow and black option. For many buyers, having a reverse gear on the Raptor seals the deal. A reverse gear on dirt trails through the woods or desert hills (as opposed to the dunes where there is always room to turn around) is extremely beneficial and arguably safer. Finally, the ergonomics of the Raptor are more universally friendly. You’re not forced into an aggressive position like the YFZ450R, but it can still tap into that aggressive side when you want to.
YAMAHA RAPTOR 700R
Engine Liquid-cooled, SOHC 4-stroke, 4 valves
Fuel system YFI (Yamaha Fuel Injection)
Fuel capacity 2.9 gal.
Starting system Electric
Transmission Five-speed w/ reverse
Final drive X-ring chain
Front Independent double wishbone w/ piggyback high-low-speed compression, rebound and threaded preload adjustment/9.1″
Rear Cast-aluminum swingarm w/piggyback high-/low-speed compression, rebound and threaded preload adjustment/10.1″
Front Maxxis 22×7-10
Rear Maxxis 20×10-9
Front Dual hydraulic discs
Rear Hydraulic disc
Seat height 32.7″
Ground clearance 9.5″
Wet weight 422 lb.
Colors White, yellow and black
MSRP Starting at $9399