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Adventure Machine Review: Hands-On With Yamaha’s 2022 ATV & UTV XT-R Lineup

2022 Yamaha YXZ1000R SS XT-R2022 Yamaha YXZ1000R SS XT-R; (photo/Yamaha)
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Expanding its off-road lineup for 2022, Yamaha debuts a half-dozen exciting XT-R series ATVs and UTVs.

Yamaha has been designing, engineering, and building ATVs and UTVs for decades, and they just get better every year. For 2022, Yamaha updated and re-engineered almost every ATV and side-by-side the company offers. They have more power, better suspensions, more robust off-road capability, refined driver and passenger amenities, and a large leap forward when it comes to technology and electronics.

Its most recent batch of new or newly upgraded vehicles for 2022 featured the XT-R performance-enhancing suite of accessories. This includes the Yamaha Grizzly EPS XT-R, Yamaha Wolverine X4 XT-R, Yamaha Wolverine X2 XT-R, the Yamaha RMAX4 1000 XT-R, Yamaha RMAX2 1000 XT-R, and the Yamaha YXZ1000R SS XT-R.

We tested the full lineup of 2022 Yamaha XT-R models in Arizona; (photo/Yamaha)

We spent some time putting these new Yamaha off-road vehicles through their paces in the rugged terrain near Prescott, Ariz. Here’s what we learned.

2022 Yamaha XT-R Off-Road Upgrades

All of these most recent new releases from Yamaha were outfitted with its XT-R off-road performance package. What’s XT-R all about?

The XT-R treatment is Yamaha’s all-out off-road accessory package that delivers specialized equipment and components to enhance the terrain-conquering capabilities of the ATV or UTV graced with the XT-R package.

2022 Yamaha YXZ1000R SS XT-R
2022 Yamaha YXZ1000R SS XT-R Warn winch; (photo/Yamaha)

The essentials of the XT-R off-road package include Warn winches, with maximum line-pull capacities varying depending upon vehicle application. For instance, the 2022 Yamaha Grizzly XT-R sports a Warn VRX 25 Powersports winch with a maximum line-pull rating of 2,500 pounds. That’s plenty of pulling power for the 783-pound Grizzly XT-R.

The other side of that coin is the 2022 Yamaha RMAX4 1000 XT-R, which weighs in at 2,050 pounds. The RMAX4 1000 XT-R gets a Warn VRX 45 Powersports winch — rated at a 4,500-pound line-pull capacity — with more than enough guts to get it and you out of a sticky situation.

Aside from the self-rescue confidence that comes with a winch, the other major component of the XT-R off-road package designation — depending upon the vehicle — are upgraded suspension systems featuring FOX or KYB shocks that maximize the off-road terrain-handling characteristics and ride quality of the Yamaha ATV or UTV it’s bestowed upon.

2022 Yamaha Wolverine X2 850 XTR
2022 Yamaha Wolverine X2 850 XTR; (photo/Yamaha)

Lightweight yet sturdy aluminum wheels wrapped with aggressive Maxxis Carnivore, Maxxis ‘Zilla, or GBC Dirt Commander tires increase the XT-R vehicles’ grip and ability to churn through dirt, sand, mud, or snow.

XT-R models also get other custom touches, such as the Tactical Black/Carbon Metallic painted bodywork, special XT-R body graphics, and XT-R patterned seating upholstery.

Gears in Common

While each of these newly introduced Yamaha ATVs and UTVs are quite unique in their purpose, performance, appearance, and abilities, there are some similarities. All but the Yamaha YXZ1000R SS XT-R share the Ultramatic CVT-style transmission. The Yamaha YXZ1000R SS XT-R offers a five-speed manual with paddle shifters.

The Yamaha Ultramatic V-belt transmission features a gated shifter with dual-range (Hi/Lo) forward, reverse, and neutral positions. But the real story on this CVT drive system is its automatic centrifugal clutch that works to maintain constant belt tension for reduced wear and tear.

Yamaha is so proud of the Ultramatic that it offers a 10-year belt warranty. Doubling up the performance of that CVT is a secondary sprag clutch that does a fantastic job of delivering all-wheel engine braking.

During our test sessions, we experienced quick reflexes and a stout power transfer from all the vehicles equipped with the Ultramatic. It also offered a natural off-brake deceleration curve that helped slow the vehicles in a predictable and manageable fashion. Steep downhill sections on loose terrain, especially those with off-camber turns at the bottom, were remarkably easy to negotiate.

Not Like the Others

2022 Yamaha YXZ1000R SS XT-R
2022 Yamaha YXZ1000R SS XT-R driving selectors; (photo/Yamaha)

The YXZ1000R SS XT-R is the hot rod of the group. It features a five-speed sequential manual transmission that benefits greatly from Yamaha’s Chip Controlled Shift (YCC-S) technology. The YCC-S system operates the clutch, via a set of paddle shifters, to best match the driver’s throttle input and what’s happening at the tires.

During slow acceleration, the YCC-S system applies the clutch slower and softer. At wide-open throttle, the electronic shift-control system engages the clutch very quickly and as hard as possible. It monitors pedal position and clutch energy, and it reacts to what you’re doing with the gas and the load being placed on the transmission and engine. 

On-Command 4WD

2022 Yamaha Wolverine X2 850 XTR
2022 Yamaha Wolverine X2 850 XTR On-Command 4WD system; (photo/Yamaha)

Yamaha’s On-Command 4WD system is one of our favorite bits of new technology and it’s found on all the XT-R line vehicles. The three-position On-Command 4WD system lets you switch between 2WD, limited-slip 4WD, and a fully locked differential 4WD with the simple turn of a knob. The system includes an override button that allows the engine to reach maximum rpm in full differential lock mode.

Some wide open testing grounds in Arizona; (photo/Yamaha)

Our test track consisted of approximately 2.5 miles of sand washes, silt beds, steep rocky climbs and descents, and some sketchy off-camber sections, set up for us on the Gunsite Academy property.

Switching up the drive modes in the On-Command 4WD system to best navigate each of the multiple terrain conditions presented during our test drives proved just how valuable selectable locking differentials are on any off-road vehicle.

2022 Yamaha Grizzly EPS XT-R

2022 Yamaha Grizzly EPS XT-R
2022 Yamaha Grizzly EPS XT-R; (photo/Yamaha)

The only ATV in the bunch was the 2022 Yamaha Grizzly EPS XT-R. Some of the important things to know about the Grizzly EPS XT-R are that it offers a big-bore 686cc liquid-cooled SOHC four-stroke engine with power curves optimized for recreational riding.

It also features a high-capacity radiator with fan assist to keep things cool during slow-speed technical riding, and a high-mounted air intake to keep mud and water at bay. Speed-sensitive electric power steering helps turn the 27-inch tires and keep your arms from turning into jelly by the end of the day. 

2022 Yamaha Grizzly EPS XT-R

The Yamaha Grizzly sports an independent double-wishbone suspension system using nitrogen-charged shocks with five-way preload adjustability. The suspension system offers 7.6 inches of wheel travel up front and 9.1 inches at the rear end.

A healthy 11.8 inches of ground clearance and full-length composite skid plates gave us the confidence to maintain momentum over even the roughest sections of the test track.

Riding the 2022 Yamaha Grizzly ESP XT-T was less of a struggle than anticipated. It had been a while since I was on an ATV, but once muscle memory engaged, the necessary riding body language came back. The Grizzly proved to be a powerful machine that was comfortable to operate and control.

It also delivered the power, traction, and predictable handling characteristics needed to tackle the multiple challenges presented on the demanding test course. It did, however, feel a bit heavy and required full throttle when dealing with deep sand and steep hills.

2022 Yamaha Wolverine X2 850 XT-R & X4 850 XT-R

2022 Yamaha Wolverine X2 850 XTR
2022 Yamaha Wolverine X2 850 XTR; (photo/Yamaha)

I’ll admit I was happy to be back in something with a cage around me that I didn’t need to stand on much of the time or lean from when negotiating off-camber sections of the trail — like the Grizzly ATV. The next vehicles to ride were the 2022 Yamaha Wolverine X2 850 XT-R and the 2022 Yamaha Wolverine X4 850 XT-R. 

2022 Yamaha Wolverine X4 850 XTR
2022 Yamaha Wolverine X4 850 XTR; (photo/Yamaha)

The X2 and X4 share Yamaha’s 847cc parallel-twin, liquid-cooled, DOHC four-valve engine. They also have the Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle (YCC-T) drive-by-wire system that helps improve throttle response and control.

The Ultramatic V-belt CVT enhanced with engine braking streams power to the tires and wheels through the On-Command three-way locking differential system that provides 2WD, 4WD, or fully locked 4WD.

Yamaha’s On-Command 4WD system operated flawlessly in the Wolverine X2 and X4, as it did in all the Yamaha vehicles that featured it. A turn of the On-Command 4WD system dial quickly changed drivetrain modes to match the multiple terrain situations we encountered on the test course, with no loss of power or momentum during changes.  

The X2 and X4 also feature the same independent double wishbone suspension system with an anti-sway bar and fully adjustable KYB piggyback shocks. This setup delivers 8.7 inches of travel up front and 9.3 inches in back. Self-leveling rear shocks adjust for changes in vehicle and passenger loads to deliver the ideal chassis performance for the task at hand.

Both models are graced with Yamaha’s exceptional Electric Power Steering (EPS) system that helps keep the Wolverine’s 27-inch GBC Dirt Commander tires pointed in the right direction with much less effort and greater control.

2022 Yamaha Wolverine X2 850 XTR
2022 Yamaha Wolverine 850 XTR cockpit; (photo/Yamaha)

The X2 features a tilting cargo bed. Offering hydraulic tilt-assist, a tailgate, and a sturdy locking system, the bed can be used to haul as much as 600 pounds of cargo. That’s mighty handy for a UTV that could easily fulfill duties as a farm/ranch runabout during the week and then a playful sport vehicle on the weekend.

The Yamaha Wolverine X4 XT-R is a four-seater. While it also has a 600-pound bed capacity rating and rear seats that can be slid forward a few inches to free up some cargo space, the X4 four-seater is really designed for passengers rather than cargo.

2022 Yamaha Wolverine X2 850 XT
2022 Yamaha Wolverine X2 850 XTR in the rocks; (photo/Yamaha)

Both were perfectly capable of handling the multi-terrain test course with flying colors. However, the upright seating positions, design and styling, and overall performance of the Yamaha Wolverine X2 850 XT-R and X4 850 XT-R broadcast a more utilitarian than recreational character.

2022 Yamaha Wolverine RMAX2 1000 XT-R & RMAX4 1000 XT-R

2022 Yamaha Wolverine RMAX4 1000 XT R
2022 Yamaha Wolverine RMAX4 1000 XT-R; (photo/Yamaha)

The Yamaha Wolverine RMAX2 1000 XT-R and RMAX4 1000 XT-R are souped-up versions of the X2 and X4. They are powered by the exceptionally responsive 999cc DOHV eight-valve parallel-twin engine that delivers a performance difference we could really feel after getting out of the X2 or X4 models. Yamaha’s Ultramatic V-belt transmission backs up the engine in the RMAX2 and RMAX4.

2022 Yamaha Wolverine RMAX2 1000 XT R
2022 Yamaha Wolverine RMAX2 1000 XT R; (photo/Yamaha)

The RMAX suspension system pairs wide-arc A-arms, an anti-sway bar, and FOX 2.0 QS3 piggyback shocks. This setup is good for 14.2 inches of travel in the front and 16.9 inches (RMAX2) or 13.3 inches (RMAX4) of rear travel.

The FOX 2.0 QS3 shocks are state-of-the-art devices that can be switched — without tools — into any one of three custom positions to best tailor their performance for easy dirt-road driving, rougher trail riding, or maximum damping for fast sport driving.

2022 Yamaha Wolverine RMAX2 1000 XT R
2022 Yamaha Wolverine RMAX2 1000 XT -R 30-inch Maxxis Carnivore tires on 14-inch aluminum beadlock wheels; (photo/Yamaha)

The two RMAX models share the electric power steering system. However, the RMAX2 offers 30-inch Maxxis Carnivore tires on 14-inch aluminum beadlock wheels, while the RMAX4 gets 29-inch dirt-digging Maxxis Carnage rubber. They have the same turning radius (236 inches) and the same track width (64 inches), but the X4 has a slightly longer wheelbase at 90.2 inches.

RMAX and X models both feature the smooth and positive selectable four-wheel-drive On-Command system, but Yamaha’s revolutionary selectable D-Mode drive system is exclusive to the RMAX XT-R models. Working in synch with D-Mode, Yamaha’s Chip Controlled Throttle (YCC-T) delivers power in appropriately corresponding levels for each of the D-Mode’s three-position settings.

2022 Yamaha Wolverine RMAX2 1000 XT R
2022 Yamaha Wolverine RMAX2 1000 XT R; (photo/Yamaha)

In Sport mode, the D-Mode system delivers a wide-open power response that makes roosting sand under high-spirited driving easy. Trail mode is characterized by smooth acceleration and linear throttle response, ideal for exploring off-road two-tracks. Crawl mode is where you want to be when tackling technical boulder-strewn sections.

The best thing about D-Mode is that it doesn’t cut engine power. It controls the amount of time it takes to get to a chosen power level. If you want full throttle, it will give you full throttle. It will just happen in different lengths of time; slower in Crawl, faster in Sport, and something in between in Trail — a very linear power curve — mode. The power curve maps are different, so each mode will feel different right off idle.

Favorable power, traction, and stability technology aren’t all we found in the Yamaha RMAX XT-Rs we tested. The two-seater RMAX2 offers a dump bed with 600 pounds of capacity. The RMAX4 is a four-seater that performs like a two-seater and can still carry some cargo when necessary.

2022 Yamaha Wolverine RMAX2 1000 XT R
2022 Yamaha Wolverine RMAX2 1000 XT R cockpit; (photo/Yamaha)

The RMAX2 and RMAX4 XT-R also offer Yamaha’s Adventure Pro. Integrated into the dash with a removable and locking housing the Adventure Pro comes with GPS mapping and navigation, online adventure planning, 115,000-plus pre-loaded trails and waypoints, and social-sharing functionality.

2022 Yamaha Wolverine RMAX2 XT-R
2022 Yamaha Wolverine RMAX2 XT-R Adventure Pro system; (photo/Yamaha)

Yamaha’s Wolverine RMAX21000 XT-R and RMAX1000 XT-R are great choices for the UTV enthusiast looking for a very powerful multipurpose off-road machine. Both were a joy to drive, and we never would have stopped flogging them around the test course if there hadn’t been one more Yamaha UTV waiting for us.

While they are high-energy machines, their looks don’t convey that attitude. Instead, they have work vehicle looks and a ride and upright seating configuration that says ranch vehicle rather than race machine.

Yamaha YXZ1000R SS XT-R

2022 Yamaha YXZ1000R SS XT R
The exciting 2022 Yamaha YXZ1000R SS XT-R features a sporty five-speed sequential manual transmission with an advanced clutch system controlled with paddle shifters on the steering wheel; (photo/Yamaha)

The Yamaha YXZ1000R SS XT-R was definitely the sports car of the bunch. Although it’s not a drive-by-wire vehicle and doesn’t offer the D-Mode, this YZX1000R SS XT-R is one of the most exciting UTVs to come along in the last few years. 

2022 Yamaha YXZ1000R SS XT R
A rip-roaring 999cc inline-triple-cylinder DOHC engine with an 11.3:1 compression ratio and dry-sump lubrication powers the extremely fun-to-drive 2022 Yamaha YXZ1000R SS XT-R; (photo/Stuart Bourdon)

To begin with, the YXZ1000R SS XT-R is highly motivated by a 999cc inline-triple-cylinder engine sporting a counter-balanced DOHC head, an 11.3:1 compression ratio, and dry-sump lubrication.

Its vented rear-mounted radiator keeps the engine and the cabin cooler at low and high speeds, and its position keeps it out of the way of mud, dirt, and other debris. The inline triple pulls strong and steady all the way to redline at 10,500 rpm.

A five-speed sequential manual transmission combines the durability of a manual transmission with an automatic clutch system operated by paddle shifters. Working with Yamaha’s Chip Controlled Shift (YCC-S) system and the paddle shifters on the steering wheel, the transmission delivers gear changes as abrupt or seamless as the driver chooses.

It took a couple of laps to feel confident banging those gears where it wanted us to shift — around 9,000 rpm. Channeling all that power through to the wheels efficiently and rapidly enabled us to keep the Yamaha YXZ1000R SS X-TR flying across the test course.

2022 Yamaha YXZ1000R SS XT R
The 2022 Yamaha YXZ1000R SS XT-R suspension system (17-inch-travel rear pictured) features a double-wishbone design with adjustable FOX 2.5 Podium RC2 dual-spring shocks; (photo/Stuart Bourdon)

Suspension components are on the beefy side, too. Its independent double-wishbone suspension system is made up of spherical-joint double A-arms to maintain optimum castor angle and bump response throughout the travel range, and front and rear anti-sway bars to keep the body flat. The EPS system is mounted high on the rack-and-pinion system to protect it from dirt.

The 2022 Yamaha YXZ1000 SS XT-R ticked all the boxes for us. A laid-back seating position kept us low and snug, power was quickly accessed and easily directed, gear shifts were lightning fast or smooth as silk (depending on our needs), and the chassis and suspension were remarkably stable and responsive. Its aggressive styling made it look like the hot rod race-buggy that it is.

The only real gripe about the YXZ1000 XT-R was that you had to keep it revved up during gear shifts or the power would fall off. This was not a problem in most situations though, as this machine is all about getting after it and begs the driver to keep the right foot buried.

2022 Yamaha XT-R Vehicles: Higher Levels

We got all the new Yamaha machines very dusty in our Arizona testing; (photo/Yamaha)

These newly arrived Yamaha XT-R vehicles feature different engines, suspensions, seating positions, handling characteristics, creature comforts, and functionally to suit different needs. What they all have in common is they all do a very good job at what they’re designed to do.

These new XT-R models bring these Yamaha vehicles to a higher level of performance and capability. From big-bore ATV to ranch/farm utility vehicle and off-road warrior to powerful hot rod — all equipped to take on the toughest terrain — Yamaha’s new XT-R models are impressive off-road adventure machines.

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