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2018 YAMAHA WOLVERINE X4

Taking a closer look at this smart new woods machine --

 

Yamaha put in a great deal of effort to ensure the Wolverine X4 is a comfortable, quiet and smooth-riding platform to get up to four people out in the woods on trails.

 

When we got word that Yamaha had something super secret and all new to release, our imagination took flight—YXZ with a supercharger! YXZ four-seater! Grizzly 1000! Honestly, we never considered that Yamaha would perform such an extreme rethink and redesign of the Wolverine, but the reasoning is sound. If you are squeezing between trees or other obstacles, then your list of important UTV features will be very different than that same list for a driver heading to the dunes or driving miles of desert whoops. The new Wolverine X4 is directly aimed at drivers looking to wheel in the woods or other technical and tight conditions.

Special Edition models have a painted exterior, color‑matched interior, over-fenders, and LED head- and taillights. The SE models look great.

 

Depending on what numbers you look at, 70 percent of the UTV market is taken up by machines with a cargo bed—machines that can camp, hunt, explore and work. Yamaha put serious effort and resources into researching this market segment. According to Yamaha market research, drivers of these types of machines typically have many years of ATV experience and several years of UTV experience. These are not beginners. They are experienced, educated enthusiasts with specific wants and needs for their UTV experience. Among the priorities are off-road performance, reliability and, perhaps surprisingly, comfort.

The left side of the engine bears more than a passing resemblance to 2009-and-earlier Yamaha YZ450Fs, but this one has an extra cylinder on there for 847cc.

 

CLEAN-SHEET DESIGN

Yamaha was looking for a new sort of Wolverine that had a lot more motor and carried four in comfort, but without a long wheelbase to make the car problematic in the woods. Remember, this is the same company that builds the limo-like six-seat Viking with the massive wheelbase. In direct opposition to the Viking, the Wolverine X4 is a revelation in compact design. It has a small overall footprint, being just over an inch longer in wheelbase than the existing Wolverine 700 two-seater. Despite plenty of legroom for all four passengers, the X4 is a mere 6 inches longer than the two-seater. The X4 is about 1.5 inches wider as well.

Yamaha employed helical- and spiral-cut gears in the transmission and drivetrain to cut mechanical noise.

 

In the case of the X4, “comfort” is defined as more than mere seating luxury and legroom. Market research showed the cab noise, cab heat and vibration were all factors that are important to potential buyers, so significant time and engineering were spent to make sure the Wolverine is quiet and insulated from heat and vibration.

There is ample under-body protection on the Wolverine X4, even though it has almost 11 inches of total ground clearance.

 

MOTOR STILL MATTERS

Thank a new 847cc, parallel-twin engine and accompanying peripherals for much of the reduction in sound, heat and vibration. A twin is generally smoother than a big single, but Yamaha added a counterbalancer while designing the compact DOHC engine. It is set up with dry-sump oiling, which means that most of the oil is carried in a separate oil tank for cooling and to shorten the engine as much as possible.

 

The SE models have the fancier colors for interiors, but all X4 models have a well-appointed interior that is supportive and comfortable for all four passengers.

 

That engine is rubber-mounted with bigger mounts to better isolate the engine rumbles from the frame, which in turn keeps them from reaching the floor and steering wheel. As an added bonus, the new powerplant rewarded Yamaha well for adding an extra piston and roughly 140cc more displacement. Torque is up a whopping 47 percent over the Wolverine’s 708cc single. That allows the CVT to be set to shift at a lower rpm to keep the machine feeling calm. A larger-than-normal muffler and improvements in the air intake system also help quiet things down. Helical and spiral gears also lower mechanical sound, and both sound and heat are battled with an insulated center console.

 

Right, the X4 has a drive-by-wire system called Yamaha Chip-Controlled Throttle (YCC-T). It includes an under-hood key that limits the X4 to 25 mph.

 

To quantify the improvement, Honda’s always-smooth and quiet Pioneer 1000 is (claimed to be) 2 decibels louder. According to automotive aftermarket company Quiet Ride Solutions, “Sound reduction is based on an algorithmic scale. An easy way to understand that sort of sound is to think of 100 decibels as being the sound that a chop saw emits as it rips through a two-by-four. A reduction of only 10 decibels is a 50-percent reduction in sound that the human ear can detect.” Considering that Yamaha is comparing the Wolverine X4 to the already-quiet Honda (with no CVT to make a racket), this is a significant difference. We welcome the efforts to reduce sound and heat in the cab.

 

To maximize cargo room, you tip up the rear seat base, then slide the seats all the way forward. You are left with a good-sized cargo area rated for 600 pounds.

 

MORE KINDS OF PERFORMANCE

Honda and Kawasaki are the primary manufacturers that offer a compact-wheelbase UTV that can handle four (five for the Honda) passengers without resorting to a stretched chassis. Kawasaki handles that like Yamaha with four comfy seats, but cargo room is very limited. Honda has the option of seats that fold up out of the cargo bed floor. You have full cargo-bed room when the seats are stowed, but they pop up in seconds when needed. As laudably comfortable as the stowable seats are, they are no full-bucket seats like the Kawasaki Teryx4 and the Wolverine 4 offer. Yamaha puts the rear seats on long tracks that let them push forward when not in use. The result is almost as much cargo room in the bed as the Honda with far better seat comfort.

The bed is rated for 600 pounds, and the Wolverine X4 can tow 2000 pounds. A standard 2-inch square hitch just needs a draw bar to get to work towing. If you are carrying the full capacity, rest easy about stopping fully loaded. The Yamaha Ultramatic CVT has a one-way sprag clutch to allow four-wheel engine braking. There are disc brakes on all four wheels and a fifth on the drive shaft as a parking brake. With all of the added engine performance, it is nice to know that Yamaha gave the Wolverine X4 on-command selectable 2WD/4WD with differential lock.

 

Note that the rubber-mounted muffler is longer than normal. The hitch is rated for 2000 pounds. The suspension is self-leveling to make up for cargo and passengers.

 

Some UTV cabs are pretty Spartan for comfort, but Yamaha has made extra effort for the X4. It has tilt steering with 12 degrees of up and down adjustment, adjustable and supportive front seats with 4 inches of adjustment, and tall doors to keep mud, water and other brands of nature out of the cab. The doors have interior latches, so if the doors have kept the mud out, you don’t have to reach outside to open the muddy door. There is a center-console storage, dual 12-volt DC outlets and six cup holders.

If you need more luxury, there is an optional full hard-cab enclosure with an automotive-style glass windshield, sliding door windows, an integrated windshield wiper and washer, a gas lift-assisted rear window, and locking doors and windows. Side mirrors, a light bar and a headliner with integrated speakers are options, as is a cab heater and defroster.

For long-term reliability, the chassis is fully submerged with an automotive-style E-coat before it gets a full powdercoated final paint. This prevents rust inside and outside the frame. Go to www.yamahamotorsports.com to learn more about Yamaha’s Wolverine X4 and the entire lineup.

This blue unit is one of the standard models. It has the aluminum wheels and the over-fenders. Only the base model has steel wheels and no over-fenders.

 

YAMAHA WOLVERINE X4 & X4 SE

Engine Inline-twin, liquid-cooled, 8-valve, DOHC

Displacement 847cc

Bore x stroke 82.0mm x 80.2mm

Fuel system EFI

Fuel capacity 9.2 gal.

Starting system Electric

Final drive Yamaha Ultramatic V-belt with all-wheel engine braking; L, H, N, Yamaha On-Command 3-way diff-lock; 2WD, 4WD, full diff-lock 4WD

Suspension/wheel travel:

  Front Independent double wishbone w/ anti-sway bar/8.7”

Rear Independent double wishbone w/ anti-sway bar, self-adjusting shock absorbers/8.9”

Tires:

  Front AT 26×8-12 Maxxis MU75

  Rear AT 26×10-12 Maxxis MU76

Brakes:

  Front Dual hydraulic disc

  Rear Dual hydraulic disc w/shaft-mounted parking brake

Wheelbase 82.7”

Length/width/height 122.0”/62.2”/77.2”

Ground clearance 10.7 in.

Payload capacity 600 lb.

Towing capacity 2,000 lb.

Curb weight 1,666 lb. (wet)

Colors Graphite; Yamaha Blue w/aluminum wheels ($16,499); Realtree Xtra w/ aluminum wheels ($16,899); (SE) Matte Carbon w/ aluminum

wheels; (SE) Matte Silver w/aluminum wheels

MSRP $15,999; SE, $17,249

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