The Yamaha Rhino 1000…it’s almost here

We can credit Yamaha for the popularity of today’s UTVs. When the Rhino arrived in 2004, it suddenly caused more commotion than was ever bestowed on the already-existing John Deere Gators, Kawasaki Mules and Polaris Rangers. The previous side-by-sides were viewed more for utility use only, but the new Rhino added more flair toward the sporting recreation aspect of off-road travel. ATV riders began buying them and using them the same way they used a 4×4 quad.

The popularity of the Rhino triggered Arctic Cat to put more sport into its Prowlers, caused Kawasaki to develop its Teryx, sparked Can-Am to introduce its Commander, and motivated Polaris to hop-up its Rangers. In fact, the hot-rod RZRs have become top sellers in the Polaris lineup. People seem to be buying them as fast as Polaris can make them. Within the past couple of years, the Rhino has been taking a back seat to the more performance-minded RZR XPs, Commander 1000s and Wildcats. Yamaha has noticed, and their engineers have been working on the next generation of super Rhinos to regain the lead.


What we see here is one version of a prototype Rhino using a Yamaha four-cylinder, four-stroke, 1000cc engine. It’s not surprising that the factory would consider this powerplant, because many Rhino owners already have. Not long after the Rhino came out, they were already taking the engine out of Yamaha’s R1 street motorcycle and making it fit into their Rhino chassis. The manual clutch, six-speed gearbox and 150 horsepower were just the ticket for a fun day at the dunes.

Other Rhino owners were installing that same engine, which Yamaha puts into its 1000cc snowmobile. This proved to be an easier conversion because it uses a beefed-up version of the CVT system that the Rhino does. The belt transmission doesn’t allow manual shifting, but the snowmobile motor provides just as much power as the R1 and is an absolute blast of fun in a Rhino. To keep things less hectic for the driver, this Rhino 1000 prototype uses the auto tranny from the snowmobile, as well as the engine.


Yamaha’s Apex XTX is one of the fastest-performance snowmobile models you can buy. It’s fuel injected with 39mm throttle bodies for each one of its four liquid-cooled, 250cc cylinders. The big-bore, short-stroke pistons are fed by a total of 20 valves and operated by double-overhead cams. The exhaust system has a device at the collector that helps create better scavenging at a low rpm and then opens up to help increase power at a higher rpm. The total engine package allows for 12,000 rpm and generates 162 horsepower in the Apex XTX. The CVT system is designed to have less engine braking for the snowmobile, but Yamaha engineers can easily provide more for the Rhino if needed.

Our Dirt Wheels spies weren’t able to sneak off with official specs on the prototype’s chassis. We have only the photo for clues. First off, it does indeed have a longer wheelbase, similar to Arctic Cat’s new Wildcat. The front suspension appears to have double A-arms, and the rear seems to have a combination of trailing arms and A-arms to deal with more suspension travel than the current Rhino. The double shocks at each rear wheel would provide more suspension control, like a full-size racing buggy. We’ve also heard rumors that this new model could have “active” shocks, which the driver could switch from a softer cruising mode to a stiffer sport mode. The compression and rebound damping in the shock valving would change when activated by an electronic button at the steering wheel.

Based upon the info from our inside sources, we can tell you that this 1000 Super Sport model would not replace the current Rhino. It would simply be an additional model at the high end of the Rhino lineup. The main question is when—or if—Yamaha will choose to introduce it. There’s no question that Yamaha could easily offer a performance UTV that could compete with or beat the fastest RZR from Polaris; however, is that the direction Yamaha wants to go in today’s climate? We shall see.

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