2018 YAMAHA RAPTOR 700R TEST
— Big power and big fun are always on tap, By the staff of Dirt Wheels —
Have you ever heard the expression, “Legends never die”? Well, that has been Yamaha’s sport quad mantra for years. Back in the 1990s they didn’t let the Blaster, Banshee or Warrior fall into the depths of despair like Honda, Suzuki and Kawasaki did with their sport quads. That was a hard time for sport quads. Even though big sales numbers weren’t there, Yamaha continued building them for the masses.
That is still the case. Yamaha is building the only straight-axle, 2WD performance quads with the Raptor 700 and YFZ450R. Not a lot has changed over the past few years design-wise besides some wicked-looking color schemes, but there’s another expression that comes to mind: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”
The SOHC, 686cc, YFI (Yamaha Fuel Injection), 44mm throttle-body-injected, big-bore engine produces approximately 45 horsepower to the crank. But, the torque is a more important factor than horsepower. A lightweight forged piston, connecting rod, and crankshaft are light and strong. Along with its 10.0:1 compression ratio, this combination creates a strong bottom-end hit, revs quickly to 9000 rpm, and the dual counterbalancers keep it smooth.
The race-bred, five-speed transmission, which includes a reverse, is a dream to ride with. The tranny is bulletproof, and the torque from the engine helps pull the quad through any sticky situation. With the reliable electric starter, you can start the Raptor 700 in any gear by pulling in the clutch, which is a lovable option if you kill the engine in a less-than-desirable spot. Servicing the Raptor 700 is easily done with an easy-to-reach oil filter and a tool-free air filter that will save time before the next ride.
CHASSIS, BODY & SUSPENSION
The 2018 model has a true hybrid steel and aluminum frame and aluminum sub-frame that give the perfect balance of strength and flex to help it in rough sections of the trail. It’s also only 22 pounds, heavier than its younger, more hyper brother, the YFZ450R.
Yamaha also took cues from the YFZ when building the suspension. It offers 9.1 inches of wheel travel in the front and 10.1 inches in the rear. Combine that with the high-/low-speed compression, rebound and preload-adjustable front and rear shocks, and it makes for a fully tunable ride. There is ample ground clearance at 9.5 inches and a plastic chassis skid plate to keep the bottom of the engine protected. The Raptor is 46 inches wide, making it able to rip through tight, wooded areas with ease. The 700R does have a high center of gravity and a short wheelbase, but it also has a comfy seat and ergonomic cockpit. The plastic and gas tank are comfortable to knee-grip, while the riding position works for aggressive riding or leisurely trail riding.
For 2018 they added stylish graphics and new plastic colors. The most cost-friendly version is the base-model Raptor 700 ($7999). The base model loses the “R” insignia, but the only things that change are the shocks and looks. The base model offers a graphite look (black and gray), and the shocks only offer preload adjustment, much like the shocks from a Banshee. But, it doesn’t lose any wheel travel compared to the R models.
The Raptor 700R comes in Team Yamaha Blue/White, has the fully adjustable shocks and, with those upgrades, retails for $8499. The Raptor 700R SE is the most expensive model at $9099 and has all the great features of the R-model and then some. It comes with a flashy metallic red, white and black color scheme that will have your friends green with envy. The wheels also get some stickers to match the color scheme and tie into the design very well.
We had our chance to test our 2018 Yamaha Raptor 700R in the Team Yamaha Blue and White model. All of our test riders agreed that this is one of the best color schemes we’ve seen come out of the Yamaha stables. It has a very clean and crisp look, but has the vicious styling to scare any competitor out of their rubber boots.
The Raptor is an amazing trail machine, plain and simple. Unlike a 450 model where we would be shifting in and out of gears all day long on tight trails, the 700R is easily lugged around in most gears, and with the short wheelbase, it rails even more of the treacherous trails with grace and style. Another reason we give it an A+ on the gearing is for the pure fact of having a reverse gear. When needing to turn around on a trail with a cliff on either side, it was nice not having to get off the machine and lift. We found ourselves using second and third gear in most situations. Don’t get it twisted, though, the Raptor 700R big bore’s broad powerband allows it to soar through the gears quickly with a powerful explosion. Although we didn’t get to test this beast in the dunes for our initial test, it’s one of our favorite machines to tear through the soft terrain on. The fuel injection made it easy to traverse the high elevations without a hiccup. No matter the gear you’re in, a stab of the throttle awakens the beast, and the powerful feeling is invigorating and addicting.
With the short wheelbase and big torque, the Raptor makes it easy to pull the front end up, and sometimes it’ll happen when you’re not trying to do so. Having that type of low-end grunt made it easier to ride through rough sections, like whoops and rain ruts, leaving us less fatigued than riding a 450cc sport quad. However, in the same sense, we did wish the Raptor 700R was a bit longer for those nasty whoop sections. This is where a 450cc sport quad like the Yamaha YFZ450R would be more comfortable.
WRANGLING THE RAPTOR
We noticed that the stock Raptor had a bit of dead feeling in the suspension. After speeding up the front shock rebound by two clicks, this woke up its sleeping legs and made it a more confident machine on water bars and rock sections. Being that the Raptor has a higher center of gravity thanks to that tall engine, we did feel more comfortable by implementing more body language in corners and tricky off-camber sections. At speed, the Raptor zipped through the winding trails with refinement, but at low speed, it lumbered a bit and took more clutch actuation, throttle and skill to turn it 180 degrees.
The stock Maxxis 22-inch front and 20-inch rear tires helped the big bore gain traction and offer less rolling resistance over large obstacles. The 700R has ample ground clearance, which cleared most of the prominent rocks we encountered. The twin-piston hydraulic brakes work extremely well to tame the speed. We were impressed with the braking when setting up for corner speed where the big Raptor would point and shoot anywhere we wanted to go with explosiveness.
Another trail-worthy quality of the Raptor is the effectiveness of its engine braking. The large crank and engine compression helps it slow to a crawl when we would let off the throttle, which meant less braking on downhills and tight corners. It doesn’t die easily when you get close to idle, either. Most of the time we could have very little throttle in first or second gear and just putt along, all the while enjoying the awesome scenery around us. The seat is ultra comfortable and offered a lot of grip to our riding pants.
With the wet weight of the Raptor 700R at 422 pounds, it loves to soar over jumps. The suspension handles the landings with a plushness and preciseness of a built desert quad, which had us scoping out different jumps to test the big bore on.
CONTINUATION OF GREATNESS
We applaud Yamaha for continuing to produce the only two production sport quad models in the ever-shrinking market. It seems like it’s dismal, but Yamaha has gone through this before with the changing of the times and always came out ahead of the competition.
The Raptor 700 remains the king of the sport quad jungle when it comes to reliability and engine dominance. It’s no wonder that it continually stays on our top-five-favorite sport quad list. The power is undeniable, the handling is equivalent to the 450 and the fun factor is unlike any other.
The 686cc, SOHC, liquid-cooled four-stroke engine packs a punch when you stab the throttle. It has great low-end torque that allows it to poke along on trails and sightsee along the way.2018 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 Team Yamaha blue/white
MSRP Starting at $8499