Between maintenance issues, flight delays, and general airport buffoonery, my chance to test out Yamaha’s 2022 Wolverine RMAX 1000s almost didn’t happen.
Instead of piloting offroad machines through the gorgeous landscapes of Gunnison, Tin Cup, and Taylor Park, I was stranded in Denver, taunted by the beeps of passenger carts and staring down the barrel of a night at the Comfort Inn.
But sometimes miracles happen. And, thanks to another invitee, a rental car was procured to carry us into the mountains. Which brings me to the “full disclosure” statement — Yamaha paid for my travel, lodging, and food on this chaotic excursion.
But after the nightmare in the bowels of B-Terminal and the 2 a.m. drive through Cottonwood Pass, I felt maybe I’d earned a little fun. And let me tell you, the RMAX 1000 delivered.
In short: Yamaha’s Wolverine RMAX 1000s are some of the most capable, rugged, and joyful vehicles I’ve driven. With their aggressive styling and excellent cabins, these side-by-sides romped like thoroughbreds over all manner of terrain. And with Yamaha’s 10-year CVT belt warranty, you can afford to push them to the edge.
2022 Yamaha Wolverine RMAX 1000s
The morning began at 9,000 feet. Fog had rolled in during the 4 hours I’d slept, so there was little to see as we made our initial walk around the vehicles. Yamaha had brought two species of Wolverine for testing: the 2022 RMAX2 1000 XT-R ($24,399) and the 2022 RMAX 1000 Limited Edition ($24,899).
On the surface, these vehicles are very similar. Both are powered by a 999cc, naturally aspirated four-stroke, with liquid cooling, dual overhead cams, and four valves per cylinder. Each features an 86.7-inch wheelbase housing a 9.2-gallon fuel tank, a cargo bed, and dual hydraulic front and rear disc brakes to bring the action to a halt.
In the two-seater configurations, Yamaha puts the RMAX’s wet weight at 1,876 pounds (9 more pounds for the LE), rolling on 30 x 10.00R-14 Maxxis Carnivore tires.
Suspension and chassis details were discussed, all of which can be found on Yamaha’s site. But after a quick safety briefing, I was ready to lay hands on the wheel. So, I donned a helmet, strapped in, and followed the pack out into the fog. Soon the trail, and then the world, opened up.
Day One: The Rocks
Our elevation may have started at 9,000, but it didn’t stay that way for long. The Yamaha team guided us through fields, woods, and then up onto some challenging, technical trails.
Now, my experience level is far less than that of your average side-by-side enthusiast. But that didn’t matter to the black XT-R and its new Beadlock wheels. They chewed through rocks and boulders like so much breakfast cereal.
Like most vehicles of this type, the RMAX includes settings for 4WD, 2WD, and Hi and Low. But it also includes the Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle (YCC-T), with three settings for power delivery: Sport, Trail, and Crawl. Each of these offers access to the engine’s full power band, but smooths or sharpens the throttle response as designed.
The reps on hand encouraged us to cycle through these options but noted the vehicles were perfectly capable of tackling the entire ride on 4WD Hi and Sport.
The morning topped out at 12,500 feet. In the chaos of the ascent, I was impressed by the comfort of the RMAX’s cabin.
The shoulder bolster and hip support were welcome, though I would have liked a bit more padding around my knees. But — and I mean this in the most complimentary way possible — I didn’t think about the seats all that much.
After just 30 minutes in a CRJ-200, my legs begin to cramp. In the RMAX, I rode 6 hours through aggressive terrain without a trace of soreness.
After the climbing and crawling of the first day, the Yamaha team had something different in store. Words like “faster” and “speed” were thrown around the breakfast table. There was also a telling bit of info on the vehicles themselves.
“All of these are demo units,” one rep said. “They’ve been driven all over the country.”
I’d been harboring some guilt from the previous day, when I’d flogged the RMAX more than I would if I’d paid the $25K to put one in my own garage. But knowing I wasn’t the first to put these through their paces gave me a license for a little mayhem.
In that spirit, I also decided to test out the factory-installed SSV stereo system. I linked up my phone and, once we’d left the camp area and the convoy spread out, I queued up a little AC/DC. Because come on, you’re roaring through dirt and puddles at high speed. What else was I supposed to play?
The rock climbing of Day One was illuminating, and the vistas were incredible. But the long trails, hills, and tight curves of Day Two amounted to perhaps the most fun I’ve had behind a steering wheel.
For this second ride, I’d upgraded to the Matte Silver and Pearl White Limited Edition. Other than some minor interior differences, the star of the $500 upgrade is that little switch, just below and to the left of the GPS screen.
That, folks, is the FOX Intelligent Quick Switch. It allows users to change their suspension settings on the fly, with options for Comfort, Medium, and Firm. I spent a good portion of the morning cycling through the trio, each proving its relative strengths over a variety of terrain.
And speaking of terrain, the onboard GPS system proved to be incredibly useful. The Yamaha team mapped out both days’ rides, and a quick downward flick of the eyes was all it took to keep me on the right path. These are the latest iterations of Yamaha’s Adventure Pro system, housed in a removable tablet that can be easily disconnected from the dash.
In fact, the entire cabin gives off this wonderful sense of “sports sedan.” And, with the knowledge that thrashing was allowed, I put the spurs to the R-MAX. At no point did the vehicle falter or appear out of its depth.
The growl of the engine and the forward leap of its CVT — with a 10-year warranty on its belt — were intoxicating, and the suspension bailed me out in the half-dozen times I drove a bit over my head.
2022 Yamaha’s Wolverine RMAX 1000: Conclusions
By the time the second ride was done, I wanted an RMAX. Though you may at first question the nearly $25,000 price, consider how much some folks spend to buy, maintain, and fuel an offroad Jeep.
Even with my toe perpetually dipped in the throttle, two full riding days went through less than a full tank of gas. And our group experienced no mechanical issues of any kind.