Backwoods bandit By the staff of Dirt Wheels
Nothing says you are ready to rip through the elements like a machine equipped with a winch, beadlock wheels, added LED lighting and some aggressive tires. Adding all of these products to your machine is much less of a hassle when the manufacturer offers it in stock trim, and that’s exactly what Yamaha did to please tight-trail tamers. We lovingly dubbed the 2020 Yamaha YXZ1000R SS with the XT-R package the “Backwoods Bandit” due to its sinister color scheme and well-equipped features that make it ready to get rowdy in the tight trees.
Yamaha’s YXZ1000R is a driver’s UTV. We don’t say this without reason. The Yamaha offers the most connected engine and transmission feeling on the sport market, similar to how we feel a Ferrari would react. When you slam through the sporty gearbox, you feel and hear the crisp and hard connection as each gear locks into place and the athletic engine lays down aggressive torque and horsepower.
The YXZ has a 5-speed sequential transmission that is paired to the triple-cylinder four-stroke engine. The Yamaha’s 998cc engine is fed fuel out of a 9-gallon tank through electronic injection, and the cylinder head is a dual-overhead camshaft design. This motor revs high and channels most of its power at the higher end of the rpm range. The 2020 model contains updated gearing, first seen as a stock feature on the 2019 model, which gave the YXZ enhanced lower-end torque to turn the 2-inch-larger tires. Yamaha designed a launch-control system that allows the machine to rocket away from a dead stop, by building rpm and releasing the corralled engine power to the wheels for quick starts. Yamaha updated the connecting rods in 2019 to make the GYTR Turbo kit a bolt-on.
This YXZ1000R is a Sport Shift (SS), which means gears are selected through steering-column-mounted paddle shifters. An auto clutch is computer-operated and -actuated, taking the foot pedal out of the equation. Neutral, reverse and park are controlled through a center-console-mounted shift mechanism.
All four wheels have shaft drive. The front differential is lockable, while the rear remains fully locked at all times. You can select between the three modes: two-, four- and four-wheel drive with diff-lock. A twist dial on the center console lets the machine switch between each mode.
Yamaha designed the YXZ1000R lineup with sport-style suspension. The front end utilizes double-wishbone suspension arms and offers 16.2 inches of wheel travel. The independent rear suspension also uses dual A-arms, unlike most other manufacturer sport UTVs that have a trailing-arm design. Rear travel comes in at 17 inches, and all four corners of the YXZ have Fox Podium 2.5 RC2 shocks with dual spring rate and adjustable cross-over rings. The shocks are high- and low- speed compression-adjustable and have the ability to adjust the spring preload and rebound settings. That is competition-style tune-ability in stock trim!
Electronic Power Steering (EPS) is a standard feature and is self-adjusting dependent on your speed. The steering wheel is ergonomically designed to keep you from wrapping your thumbs into the wheel so you aren’t as susceptible to hurting them if you catch a big rock or tree with a tire on the trail. You will hopefully be able to prevent that by ceasing your momentum in time with the Yamaha’s powerful four-wheel, hydraulic, twin-piston-caliper disc brake system. The YXZ1000R has a parking brake as well.
The cabin has remained virtually unchanged for the 2020 models. The seating position is still a bit laid-back, with a roomy footwell that allows tall drivers to obtain a comfortable position. There are cup holders on the floor on the passenger side, along with a grab bar and dash-mounted storage. The fit and finish are close to automotive quality, and the controls are all easy to reach. Full doors come standard on the Yamaha, and added side-body protective plastics are hard-mounted inside the cab. A hard plastic sun top and GYTR convex mirror are installed on the XT-R edition.
Early models of the YXZ came with the radiator mounted in the front of the machine. Customer feedback let Yamaha know that the cabin would get awfully warm inside on hot days due to the radiator’s location, so it was moved to the cargo bed in the rear. This instantly cut down cabin heat and placed the radiator in a location that was less susceptible to mud and debris clogging or damaging it. The cargo bed can still hold up to 300 pounds, and Yamaha offers some trick trunks and storage solutions through their accessory catalog.
Yamaha offers many YXZ models with beadlock wheels, and the XT-R comes with them, too. This version has 29-inch-tall Maxxis Carnage tires wrapped around the color-matched 14-inch wheels. These tires have a more aggressive tread design and a closer tread-block spacing than the Maxxis Big Horn 2.0 tires that come on the other models. The Carnage tires are specifically designed to tackle terrain in wooded and wet areas, but they aren’t specific to mud crawling by any means.
A custom winch-ready front bumper replaces the standard version, and a Warn VRX 4500-pound-capable winch is mounted to it from the factory. A set of centrally mounted accessory LED lights compliment the standard four main headlights that have high- and low-beam function. The XT-R package is rounded out by a new color scheme of Titanium Bronze/Tactical Black-painted bodywork with color-matched, contrast-stitched seats.
We spent time on the dense forest trails of Alabama for our test of the 2020 Yamaha YXZ1000R SS XT-R, which suited this Yamaha. The Maxxis Carnage tires were great on the differing terrain of jagged rock climbs, tacky dirt and dusty hard-pack trails. They dig deep in ruts and pull the YXZ out of corners with ease. There may be a bit of a sacrifice with ride comfort due to the beefier tire choice, but you have a wide range of tune-ability with the Fox 2.5 Podium RC2 shocks to smooth things out. Yamaha spent a lot of time getting the shocks right on the 2019 model, and that transferred over to 2020. The machine doesn’t buck as much as the first-generation models, and the UTV is smoother and more controllable.
Engine output remains as sporty-feeling as ever. Go off the bottom is reasonable, but the pull from mid to top is where the Yamaha shines. In tighter terrain you will be shifting through gears quickly at fast paces, but that is exactly what we love about this machine. It feels like a sport car would. You can feel the pull from the front tires through the steering wheel, along with every change in terrain ahead. If you like to feel like you are really driving fast, the YXZ1000R is the right machine for you. If you prefer a muted feeling or like to cruise in comfort, you may want to stray away from the Backwoods Bandit. It is pure sport driving at all times!
The XT-R model starts at a price of $21,699. If you don’t need the winch and bumper, accessory lighting, sun top, and Maxxis Carnage tires, you can step down to the YXZ1000R SS SE for a grand less, but we think you’d be crazy to pass on all those benefits for only a little bit of extra coin! Base models start at $18,999. Go to
www.yamahamotorsports.com to check out the entire Yamaha ATV and UTV lineup, or go to your local Yamaha dealer to look them over in person.
SPECS: 2020 YAMAHA YXZ1000R SS XT-R
Engine Triple, DOHC, liquid-cooled, 4-stroke
Bore x stroke 80.0mm x 66.2mm
Fuel system EFI
Fuel capacity 9.0 gal.
Transmission 5-speed sequential, auto clutch, paddle shifted
Final drive Shaft
Front Dual A-arms w/ 16.2”
Rear Dual A-arms w/ 17.0”
Front Dual hydraulic discs
Rear Dual hydraulic discs
Ground clearance 12.4”
Curb weight 1,624 lb.
Payload capacity N/A
Cargo bed capacity 300 lb.
Towing capacity NA
Colors Titanium Bronze/Tactical Black