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YAMAHA YXZ1000R SS SPECIAL EDITION TEST

— DIRT WHEELS UTV TEST: How do Yamaha’s GYTR parts transform the YXZ? —

 

Yamaha’s YXZ1000R SS has always been capable of dropping down sections like this, but with the TAG lower-ratio kit, it can drive back up.

 

You have to hand it to Yamaha. When the company set about creating a pure sport UTV, it didn’t build the same old thing every other brand was building. With the all-new YXZ1000R, there was a lot to like, and the basic YXZ platform got even easier to enjoy with the release of the auto-clutch Sport Shift models. Then came the Special Edition versions with fully adjustable Fox X2 suspension. Despite being impressed with the high-rpm, high-speed performance of all of the YXZ variants, we have not been nearly so excited about threading tight, technical climbing terrain with a Yamaha.

Then Yamaha invited Dirt Wheels to Stony Lonesome, Alabama, to evaluate the GYTR TAG (torque-assisted gearbox) in highly technical woods loaded with diabolical roots, logs, rock ledges and queasy-inducing cambers. The TAG kit includes some transmission gears and various parts, including a CNC-machined transmission case half that allows clearance for the larger gears. For the SS models, the kit includes a brain box that modifies the shifting behavior to suit the new ratios so the cost is a bit higher. With the TAG kit, first gear is a whopping 70 percent lower than standard, and the other four gears are 30 percent lower than standard.

Once we arrived, we asked for a list of the differences between our matte black and red SS SE and the blue and grey SE 2 in ‘Bama. The list was surprisingly short.

The differences are limited to the color scheme, billet brake and throttle pedal surfaces, a rear-view mirror, interior lighting, and a grey roof. Wait? What about the TAG transmission? It turned out that Yamaha chose to fit our SE 2 test units with roughly $4200 worth of Yamaha accessories that included beefy, eight-ply, 30-inch tires on the stock beadlock rims; rugged bumpers with a Warn winch; a heavy-duty rear plastic skid-plate portion; UHMW plastic suspension protection; and the TAG gearbox. Labor for installing the accessories is not included in that price tag. Installation is well within a hobby mechanic’s skill set for most of the parts. The TAG gearbox kit install is said to be easier than splitting the cases on a motorcycle or ATV engine, and many owners do the work, but the book calls for up to 10 hours of shop time for the job.

 

 

SHIFTY

Very few UTVs have a transmission that is of unit construction with the engine. Most CVT drive systems are attached in close proximity to the engine; in fact, literally fastened to the output shaft of the crankshaft. Yamaha’s YXZ does things a little differently. The crankshaft is attached to an external flywheel and driveshaft, and the sequential manual transmission is located away from the engine.

While the Yamaha YXZ1000R Sport Shift has no clutch pedal, it does have an electronically controlled clutch, and it is mostly shifted manually with the column-mounted paddles, so it is considered a manual transmission.

 

This wide mirror comes stock in the grey SE SS model, and it simply reinforces our belief that all UTVs should have good mirrors.

 

TAKE MY MONEY

At this point none of the YXZ editions come standard with the TAG ratios from the factory, but we think at least one standard model and one SE should come with the TAG kit’s lower gearing. The YXZ’s electronically fuel-injected 998cc triple is no torque monster in standard form. Crawling slow, technical trails in a stock machine takes a superior driver. Lowering the gearing overall and much more in low gear transforms the machine into a true technical trail ninja.

As we mentioned, the transmission remains sequentially shifted with Yamaha’s computer actuating the electronically activated hydraulic clutch system. But instead of the car resisting, leaving a stop on a grade or lurching up a trailer ramp, it accelerates smoothly and picks up each gear easily, pulling right into the meat of the power rather than waiting for triple to wind up to a “happy” rpm.

 

Monster tires, A-arm protection and stainless steel brake lines combine with the grab bar and winch to dial the front of the car in for rough country.

 

OPTIONS

The stock gearing is tall enough that we are reluctant to put taller or heavier tires on any YXZ. With the TAG kit, Yamaha fit our Stony Lonesome weapons with EFX 30x10x14R MotoClaw eight-ply tires that weighed over 15 pounds more than the stock Maxxis Bighorns. Normally, that would kill the response of the machine and ruin slow-speed driveability, but not with the TAG kit.

Like other SS paddle-shift machines, 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 give a quick pull on the appropriate paddle. You can shift the YXZ1000R SS at full throttle if you want to. It actually shifts far better under a load at high rpm than it does going slow. You see, if you forget to downshift, or the Yamaha computer thinks you forgot, it downshifts for you. Usually, that means that the YXZ shifts to first when you slow too far or stop. As we grew accustomed to the feel, we noticed that we could be in third gear, slow only slightly for a turn and the YXZ downshifted automatically to second.

The problem is descending. If you are in first at the top of a hill, you will still be in first gear at the bottom, no matter how many times you attempt to shift. If the hill allows adding a burst of throttle, you can get the machine to upshift, but not while trailing throttle on a downhill.

 

Logs and mud didn’t faze the YXZ at all. Water dripping down through the hood did soak our feet, but no water came up through the floor.

 

HANDLING AND SUSPENSION

The Yamaha 2017 YXZ1000R SS SE 2 comes with the same suspension geometry as the 2016, with 16.2 inches of wheel travel utilizing dual A-arms. The rear has a hybrid suspension setup with a part trailing arm and part A-arm design. It has 17 inches of rear suspension travel. Massive piggyback twin-wall Fox 2.5 Podium X2 shocks offer mammoth adjustability, including high- and low-speed compression-damping adjustments, and, unique in the UTV world, high- and low-speed rebound as well.

We did our initial testing with the suspension settings stock, but soon made adjustments to Yamaha’s “comfort” setting. For the slower speeds we experienced at Stoney Lonesome, the softer setting was a boon to comfort and added performance. Drivers who were more aggressive in the open portion of the area started to feel that the comfort setting was too soft. There is plenty of adjustment between the two settings that you can play with.

NEW DETAILS

We like the Yamaha cabin. The stock doors are protective, the seats comfortable and the steering wheel is pleasant. It has nice legroom, especially for the left foot. The driver seat and steering wheel are adjustable. 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 is 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.

 

You wouldn’t think that billet pedals would make a difference, but they did seem to offer good shoe traction in the wet and the mud.

 

THE TEST

Frankly, we are shocked at how pleasant and effective the Yamaha SS SE 2 is driving in technical woods conditions. We repeatedly praised the taller tires and would have been stuck a number of times without them. We also gave all the under-body protection items a solid workout.

Obviously, the TAG gearbox kit’s lower ratios were the star of the show. We could literally crawl across climbs with abrupt, slippery ledges and logs littering terrain that was plenty rutted and cambered. A few times we simply relied on sliding the side of the plastic roof along a tree to ensure we could maintain the camber safely. In addition, we hit deep and slippery mud. The YXZ handled it all.

 

Yamaha’s GYTR grab bar with winch mount protects the front of the machine and provides a solid mount for a powerful and capable winch.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

For now you must choose between the stock gearbox and the torque-assist gearbox. We prefer the lower ratios, even for our driving in the western U.S. Certainly, we would like the option. The best choice, if it could be made reliable, would be to add a low range. Just know that a lower gearing completely transformed the Yamaha YXZ1000R SS into an amazing technical trail hound. The blue and grey Special Edition starts at $22,399.

 

We were able to pick our way through obstacles in the woods that would have caused serious drama with the stock gearing. Too bad it doesn’t come stock.

 

YAMAHA YXZ1000R SS SE 2

Engine Liquid-cooled, DOHC, inline three-cylinder w/ 12 valves

Displacement 998cc

Bore x stroke 80.0mm x 66.2mm

Fuel system EFI

Fuel capacity 9.0 gal.

Starting system Electric

Final drive Sport Shift, paddle shift with auto clutch; 5-speed sequential with reverse

Tires:
  Front 30×10-14
Rear 30×10-14

Brakes:
  Front Dual hydraulic disc
  Rear Dual hydraulic disc

Wheelbase 90.5”

Suspension/wheel travel:
  Front Independent double wishbone w/ anti-sway bar, fully adjustable Fox 2.5 Podium X2 shocks/16.2”
  Rear Independent double wishbone w/ anti-sway bar, fully adjustable Fox 2.5 Podium X2 shocks/17.0”

Length/width/height 122.8”/64”/72.2”

Ground clearance 12.9”

Payload capacity 300 lb.

Towing capacity N/A

Curb weight 1,554 lb. (wet)

Colors Matte grey w/ blue accents (painted)

MSRP $22,399

Genuine Yamaha accessories installed:

GYTR torque-assist gear kit for

YXZ1000R SS $1,299.99

EFX MotoClaw tires $225.99

GYTR stainless steel front and rear brake lines $199.98

Trail front grab bar with winch mount $299.99

Trail rear grab bar $229.99

Front A-arm guards $179.99

Rear A-arm guards $179.99

Helmet hangars $39.99

Interior padding kit $69.99

Vantage 3000 winch by Warn $349.99

Winch wiring kit $103.99

Price as tested (plus labor) $26,296.84

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