— Testing out the many new changes & improvements —

 By the staff of Dirt Wheels

Yamaha’s gearing change for the 2019 YXZ1000R SS SE and switch to 29-inch tires work well together. The YXZ is snappy and responsive to throttle input.

Yamaha is world famous as an innovative performance company, and it was critical that its first performance UTV have what the company calls “pure sport character.” Part of the pure sport concept is having an immediate, direct connection to the drivetrain and chassis. For Yamaha, a belt-drive machine would not meet its pure sport requirements. Even though Yamaha has very high standards for belt longevity and endurance, they knew that a fully mechanical transmission would be their winning ticket.

There are many advantages with a gear-to-gear transmission: immediate, directly connected response, instant and controllable engine braking, minimal power losses, good fuel economy and no belt to worry about. The original YXZ1000R was designed with gear ratios suited for 27-inch tires, and it had a clutch pedal and sequential stick shift. Later, the Sport Shift (SS) model was added. It remains a five-speed manual transmission, but has no clutch pedal, and shifting is accomplished with paddle shifters behind the steering wheel.

Preferred UTV tire sizes have been increasing steadily. Originally, 26-inch tires were the norm, but now enthusiasts are demanding tires between 29 to 32 inches. With a manual transmission, adding taller tires is the same as adding higher gearing.

The 2019 YXZ1000R looks better proportioned with the 29-inch tires. The rear radiator mounting is clean and well-designed, and the flatter roof line aids forward vision.

Yamaha initially offered the TAG (torque-assisted gearbox) option that lowered the ratios to handle 30-inch tires with ease. As UTV accessories go, the TAG transmission kit is quite reasonable in cost, but 10 hours of labor for the install keeps it from being for every YXZ owner. For 2019 Yamaha has lowered all of the gear ratios 7 percent, but first gear is an additional 16.6 percent lower. When Yamaha’s new YXZ gearing is mated with the new-for-2019 29-inch tires, it basically equals the former ratios with 27-inch tires. Of course, first gear is 16.6 percent lower despite the increase in tire diameter. Yamaha still offers—and has improved with quieter gears—the TAG kit. On earlier machines it drops first gear 70 percent! Second through fifth dropped 30 percent. For the 2019 machines, the drop is 46 percent in first gear and 23 percent for second through fifth.


In addition to the gear ratio changes, Sport Shift (SS) models have a new Motor Control Unit (MCU) that offers 40 percent less clutch disengagement at slow speed. To improve SS downshifting, the new MCU shortens downshift half-clutch timing 50 percent. The changes made in 2019 for clutch-engagement control, shifting and downshifting have a side benefit of boosting clutch durability 230 percent!

On earlier YXZ models, the addition of a turbo or supercharger required new rods. Like the TAG transmission, stronger rods aren’t crazily expensive, but tearing the engine down to the crankshaft is not for the routine home mechanic. You can count on the stock 2019 rods to have good reliability up to 200 horsepower, so that makes adding a turbocharger or supercharger significantly more affordable without the 16.5 hours of labor to install stronger rods. Naturally, Yamaha has a fully dialed turbo kit for the machine. The Yamaha turbo kit is 50-state smog-legal for 2016 through 2018 models, and the application for 2019 smog legality is in the process.

When you get into tight and technical driving, you will appreciate the new lower first-gear ratio. The car is quite stable on cambers.


In addition to upgrading from 27-inch tires to 29-inchers, Yamaha chose to return to the original Maxxis Bighorn tire, but the YXZ comes with proprietary 8-ply Bighorns. Bighorns are known for their light weight and great overall performance in a wide range of conditions, but they are susceptible to pinch flats and sidewall cuts. The 8-ply tires weigh a bit more, but offer better flat protection. We tested on very rocky terrain without a single tire problem.

Larger, heavier tires put more load on the rolling chassis, so Yamaha upgraded there. The EPS system was designed for the new 29-inch Bighorns, but was also tested for the three 30-inch EFX tire models that Yamaha sells. The EPS is torque sensitive and speed sensitive. Those 29-inch Bighorns add 0.3-inch more ground clearance, and they live 33 percent longer. The tire size also prompted 10mm-larger brake rotors, the brake caliper pistons are 2mm larger in front and 3mm larger in the rear calipers. The master cylinder bore increased from 17.5mm to 19mm, and the brake lines are stainless steel.

Most owners don’t consider the added loads that larger tires put on suspension and steering components, but Yamaha does. For 2019 the front wheel bearings are increased from 55mm to 62mm. The wheels also require a larger bolt pattern. Older YXZ wheels will not fit the 2019. Other durability upgrades don’t relate to the wheel size but come from four years’ experience with the model. An improved transmission rear output shaft seal and a new rear gear case input shaft dust cover should help reliability and longevity. 2019 Special Editions are fitted with a UHMW-PE rear skid plate and rear A-arm guards.

The immediate handling and planted feeling have always made the YXZ a short-course weapon that has not been lost in the search for a wider performance envelope.


So how do you tell YXZ versions apart? The base models come in both manual shift and Sport Shift (priced the same at $18,999) in graphite-colored plastic bodywork. Both have standard seats, black cast-aluminum wheels and Fox Podium RC2 shocks with a single progressive spring. Yamaha’s $20,599 Special Edition YXZs in standard shift or Sport Shift have painted bodywork in Team Yamaha Blue with color-matched embroidered seats. They have black cast-aluminum beadlock wheels and Fox Podium RC2 shocks with dual springs. New for 2019 are plastic shock body protectors for the SE shocks. SE versions also have a rear-view mirror, SE Sport Shift models have aluminum throttle and brake pedals and an SE shift lever.

There is a final SE model with bodywork painted ultra white for $21,799. It is available only in Sport Shift. It has all the features of the blue SE versions, but adds contrasting blue beadlock wheels with machined highlights, a sun top, interior LED lighting and auxiliary LED light pods inside the hood opening. There is a performance difference as well, thanks to Fox Podium X2 shocks with dual springs with plastic body protectors.

Yamaha chose to outfit the YXZ1000R with more suspension features than nearly all other UTVs. Few UTVs have rebound damping adjusters, but Yamaha has them on every YXZ model, and the X2 shocks on the Ultra White SE have the Fox bypass damping system with high- and low-speed compression and high- and low-speed rebound adjusters.

While not all are visible, there are a lot of changes here: larger wheel bearings, a different wheel-lug bolt pattern, refined and higher torque power steering and improved shock settings and spring rates.


Rear-mounting the cooling system is a priority with the most serious UTV racers. The practice gets the vulnerable radiator out of the mud blast from machines in front, and it reduces in-cab heat as well. Yamaha didn’t simply throw it up on the roll cage, but mounted it above the bed floor. They started the project with a 32-percent-larger radiator, then added two fans that increase airflow 300 percent. The radiator has air intakes on the front, sides and behind. We found that impressive forward-thinking to be ready for all common accessories. For example, if the front intake was the only one, adding a windshield could have an ill effect.

Any of the Yamaha accessories like the bed-mounted cargo box are all designed to install without compromising the cooling.

Yamaha’s three-cylinder, 999cc engine has proven itself in the YXZ and as a snowmobile powerplant. It likes to rev.


Discussing all of the optional equipment that Yamaha offers would require another entire story. We would mention the Adventure Pro GPS, though. It is a separate large-screen GPS with Yamaha-exclusive features that let you test changes to your machine. This advanced GPS system offers a wide network of trails as well as on- and off-road navigation. It also allows machine diagnostics and social connectivity to access community-based routes and information.

This climb is steep and slippery with no run-up at all. You just make a hard left and climb. The 2019 YXZ handled it easily with great control.


In open country the 2019 YXZ1000R SS SE is every bit as impressive as we expected it would be, with the upgrades to the wheel size, steering and suspension. Our Team Yamaha Blue unit features the piggyback twin-wall Fox 2.5 Podium X2 shocks with lighter spring rates than in 2018, but more compression damping and less rebound damping. The more comfortable setting and the larger tire diameter pay dividends in ride comfort and control at speed. You can run the YXZ hard and not sweat the handling. It will go where you point it and stay in line.

With the new gear ratios, the engine picks up each gear cleanly and pulls with a lot of authority with no lag or hesitation. An older model with 29- or 30-inch tires would not be able to do the same.

Our local trails are not really typical of SoCal. They are packed earth and loaded with both loose and planted rocks and ledges. In other words, conditions much like the rest of the country. One of the goals for this model was to make it more attractive to buyers all over the U.S., and after hitting our trails, we’d say they have done the trick. First gear is low enough to be effective at negotiating abrupt, technical stair-step climbs. It manages without hopping or jerking, or forcing you to power through hoping you hit a good line. Rather, you are able to select lines you like and hit them with ease. It helps that the YXZ has front diff-lock when you choose the mean and ugly lines.

The rear radiator mounting is protected, shielded from mud and it has intakes from the front, rear and sides. It has impacted the cargo floor space.


We drove the same trail sections with the Teixeira Tech YXZ GNCC-winning replica. It had smaller-than-stock 26-inch tires, and the 2019 with 29s was at least as controllable and happy in slow- and technical-going.

In all types of driving, we enjoyed the new roll cage shape. Yamaha opened up the front-view area and lowered the cage at the rear (and rear of the roof if the car has one as our machine did). In all, the 2019 YXZ1000R is a large and pleasant improvement over the 2018. Despite the many and varied upgrades and improvements, the pricing is basically the same. That is good value.

The car is easy to enter and exit, and the interior has a very nice feel. Seating splits the difference between Polaris upright and Can-Am’s sports-car recline. We appreciate that choice. Driving with the Sport Shift’s auto-clutch and paddle shifters is easy. You have great engine braking, solid acceleration and definite connection with the performance that a CVT car does not enjoy.

Using paddle shifters mounted behind the steering wheel is—pardon the pun—handy. Shifting is easy, quick and totally natural after a few minutes.


Yamaha is keeping the YXZ platform fresh and competitive. As normally aspirated UTVs go it is a fairly light package with crisp handling, inspiring acceleration and excellent build quality. It remains a great-looking machine, and one that inspires loyalty among owners. Our wish list still includes a low range, but our desire is not as burning as it once was. The desire to have one in our garage remains strong, though.

Having a flatter roof line and larger tires has changed the look of the YXZ, but we like the look of both changes. The rear radiator mounting is unobtrusive.


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

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”


Front 29×9-14 Maxxis M917-8PR

Rear 29 x 11-14 Maxxis M918-8PR


Front Dual hydraulic disc

Rear Dual hydraulic disc

Wheelbase 90.5”

Length/width/height 123.9”/64”/69.8”

Ground clearance 13.2 in.

Payload capacity .300 lb.

Towing capacity N/A

Curb weight 1,554 lb. (wet)

Colors Team Yamaha Blue (painted)

MSRP $20,599

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.