Last September, a little more than five years to the day after the release of the YXZ, Yamaha announced, by surprise, the release of the Wolverine RMAX for 2021. This is undoubtedly Yamaha’s most important SxS model for several years and one of the most interesting of 2020. At the beginning of this summer, I had the chance to test ride the 2021 RMAX2 1000 EPS SE for a little over 300 km. Here are my impressions on this vehicle.
Kawasaki’s strategy last year was to upgrade the TERYX to the KRX 1000 to compete with its rivals on the market, for example the Yamaha YXZ. Yamaha’s strategy with the RMAX is quite similar, a logical evolution of the Wolverine, but also a direct response to BRP’s Commander and Polaris’ General. Compared to the first generation of the Wolverine, the RMAX is a complete overhaul to today’s standards. In Canada, Yamaha is offering four versions of the RMAX, the base model as well as the SE (Special Edition) in two-seat (RMAX 2 1000) or four-seat (RMAX 4 1000) versions. The Americans will also be entitled to the ‘Limited Edition’ version which is the most equipped model of all.
On paper, the general characteristics of this vehicle are very interesting. To begin with, Yamaha offers a brand new engine, a 999cc two-cylinder parallel engine. This engine has a high compression ratio that can revolutionize up to 8500 rpm. Yamaha did not reveal any figures on the power of this engine, but some sources say that it is around 108hp, which makes it one of the most powerful naturally aspirated engines in the industry. The RMAX is equipped with the Ultramatic transmission, one of the best CVTs in the industry. It’s worth noting that Yamaha is so confident in its transmission that the timing belt is guaranteed for 10 years. The RMAX is taller, wider and longer than the Wolverine X2, but in addition, the whole chassis structure and its components are much stronger than its predecessor.
The vehicle is also heavier with a net weight of 1876lbs. It is very high on the ground, offering a big 13.8 inches of clearance and an impressive 14.2 inches of wheel travel in the front and 16.9 inches in the rear. The vehicle sits on a FOX QS3 suspension. In addition, the test vehicle is equipped with 30-inch Maxxis Carnivore tires of the same size front and rear and a 4500-lb winch. The RMAX2 1000 offers 2wd, 4wd and locking differential, but Yamaha also added three riding modes: Sport, Trail and Crawl. The vehicle can put 600lbs in the bed and has a good towing capacity of 2000lbs: it won’t leave us alone when it’s time to work. The RMAX is equipped with full doors, a roof and a full skid plate under the vehicle.
I really like the aggressive look of the RMAX 2 1000 SE with its LED lights, green and black color scheme and gold wheels. As soon as I open the door of the vehicle and sit down for a ride, I realize that Yamaha has paid special attention to the entire vehicle, which makes the whole experience more enjoyable. The doors close easily, the seats are very comfortable, they offer good support. The riding position is high with good visibility in the lower part of the doors. It has a seat, a steering wheel and an adjustable belt that is comfortable and not cumbersome.
However, it goes much further than that, the quality of the plastics used inside is exceptional. The steering wheel is comfortable to the touch, the central armrest is comfortable as well, the LED lights and backlit buttons in the vehicle allow us to see well inside at night. The buttons are all within easy reach and the vehicle beeps if you forget the handbrake. The same goes for the exterior, for example, the hooks on the front for easy transport, the standard rock sliders on the bottom of the doors, the location of the air filter and battery under the front panel.
From my very first kilometers, I was amazed by the comfort and ride of this vehicle on both road and trail sections. It’s flawless and better than any side-by-side I’ve tried to date. The cabin isn’t too hot, but more importantly, I don’t hear any annoying transmission noises, door slamming, etc. Steering response is very quick, direction is precise, power assist is excellent at all speeds, and the side-by-side is confidence-inspiring. All the performance is well delivered by the CVT and the engine. Acceleration is good and the engine sounds exhilarating. Engaging the CVT with the lever is easy. Although it is a utility vehicle, it performs well enough to easily make me forget about the rear dump box and the speed limit. The vehicle has a sturdy chassis and the FOX QS3 three-way adjustable suspension is not the most capable but certainly my favorite in the industry, it does a flawless job on this vehicle and adjusts in less than two minutes.
Yamaha made a great effort in mass centralization, I did not notice any understeer or oversteer, although in some situations the vehicle tends to dive forward a bit. The three driving modes bring a nice complicity to the vehicle. To give an example, the Crawl mode allows you to go on rocky trails, but I used it on grass with my small trailer and I didn’t do any damage because the acceleration is well controlled. I also used this mode in a good ten inches of mud to get over a tree about eight inches of diameter with no problem. I didn’t lose traction, but the height and travel of the wheels meant that I went over the obstacle with ease. The normal mode is less abrupt than the sport mode and is effective on rides where you are not pushing the vehicle. Obviously, when you put the vehicle in sport mode, it becomes much more nervous, even to the ear, you can hear the sound of the engine change thanks to the electronic throttle opening. The three driving modes also make a big difference to the engine brake.
Of course, I did find a few small negative points. We have a nice multifunctional display that unfortunately does not show the engine RPM. Also, I found that the brake pedal is really too hard and I don’t like the calibration. Another disappointing thing for me is that you have to open the doors from the inside or you have to open the door on the right to add fuel. I understand that this is to make cleaning easier and not to snag them, but on the other hand, it is impossible to fill up if the vehicle is in an enclosed trailer or tight space. Also, taller people will get hung up in the shoulder rack when entering the vehicle and it is also awkward for them while driving, but I personally didn’t have that problem. I also wish Yamaha would have produced the “Limited” version in Canada as it looks great in blue and has a standard SSV radio, FOX IQS 2.0 adjustable suspension at the cockpit and a detachable Adventure Pro screen.
In conclusion, I think Yamaha waited a long time and did their homework very well before releasing this vehicle. It’s the attention to all the little details, the build quality and finish, the capabilities of this vehicle for fun and work that make it a great choice. I haven’t tested the new BRP Commander or the Polaris General, but the only comment I can make is that Yamaha has set the bar high with its RMAX. If I had to buy a side-by-side, no matter the category or the price, this one would definitely be one of my first choices for its versatility, I literally fell in love with it. At almost $27,000 before taxes, this is definitely a luxury model that gives you a lot of bang for your buck.
Thanks to Yamaha Canada and infoquad.com for this test ride.