First look: Yamaha 2004 lineup
June 30, 2003
Filed under Features
With some unexpected new models, Yamaha Motor Corporation is clearly taking aim at certain segments of the ATV and off-road market. With that aim, the company has some definite targets in sight — namely the Polaris Ranger, Kawasaki Mule and John Deere Gator, along with Honda’s Rancher 350 ATV.
Yamaha is entering new territory with its Rhino 660 vehicle, which is not quite an ATV, yet obviously not a utility “truck” either. The vehicle borrows many parts from the popular Grizzly 660 ATV, but fills a new category that Yamaha is calling Side x Side.
The Rhino offers a measure of performance never seen in a vehicle of this type. The engine is from Yamaha’s powerful Grizzly 660 ATV. Its five-valve, four-stroke configuration provides plenty of torque and horsepower. The engine is mounted between the seats and under a console, which helps centralize mass for a stable ride. Due to engine location, additional cooling is added in the form of a bigger radiator and an added oil cooler. Yamaha will govern top speed at 35 or 37 mph, controlled by a new system that runs smooth. Prior versions of speed control were ignition based, which made the engine cut out at speed, rather than running smooth. According to ATV Product Manager Mike Martinez, the new system remains smooth at all speeds.
The transmission is fully automatic, with high and low range, reverse and neutral selections. The on-demand 4WD system features push button control, with 2WD, 4WD and full-lock 4WD as drive options. Final drive is shaft for easy maintenance. From engine to drivetrain is Yamaha’s “Ultramatic” CVT with four-wheel engine braking.
Rather than follow the competition with a solid rear axle, the Rhino utilizes a fully independent suspension. A-arms and preload adjustable shocks suspend all four tires, which makes the machine more capable in rugged terrain than its competition. Front and rear travel are listed at 9.3 inches. Fitted with the stock 25-inch tires, ground clearance is 12.1 inches.
Overall dimensions are 122.2 x 54.1 x 73.6 inches, making the machine exceed the 48-inch width maximum enforced in some state trail systems. Some National Forests also may take issue with the machine, as it won’t carry an ATV designation.
Payload is 900 pounds, which allows for a pair of 250-pound riders and 400 pounds of cargo. Towing capacity is 1,200 pounds and the machine comes standard with a 2-inch-square receiver hitch. A latching dump bed has a drop gate for easy unloading.
Ergonomically, the machine is comfortable, even for tall riders. There is plenty of leg room between the seats and foot pedals. Two bucket seats with three-point seat belts are comfortable and have a more secure feeling than a bench seat.
To hit its price point, Yamaha opted to forego gauges, deciding on a series of idiot lights on the dash. An electronic gauge pod is available through dealers as an option, a pre-wired harness is ready for plug-and-play installation. Controls are simple and resemble a car, which Yamaha hopes brings in customers who might be intimidated by the handlebar controls of an ATV. The only controls are the steering wheel, four-wheel differential lock on the dash, the auto-style gear selector and emergency brake mounted on the console between the seats.
The first season, Martinez estimates 80% of units will be hunter green, as the development team finalizes camo patterns. Camo should be more readily available in late winter of 2004. The Rhino will sell for $8,499.
New ATV Fills Gap
The new Bruin 350 Automatic 4x4 and Bruin 350 Automatic 2x4 ATVs fill a niche that Yamaha has been missing. The goal? A full-featured, price-point friendly, automatic-transmission machine at $3,999 for the 2WD model and $4,999 for the 4WD model.
These two models fill a gap in the lineup between the Kodiak 400 automatics and the manual BigBear 400s. Both machines feature a new 348cc air/oil cooled engine, and are fitted on the same full-size chassis as the top-of-the-line Grizzly. Aside from the difference in engine size, Yamaha equipped the machines with all the same features as the Kodiak models.
The transmission features the Ultramatic system with push-button four-wheel drive. Both the 2WD and 4WD models have front disc brakes, shaft drive and full-size racks. The suspension has adjustable preload to tune the ride for the conditions. The 2WD Bruin is available in steel blue, red and hunter green. The 4WD version adds High Definition Hardwoods camo to the color options.
“Compared with its closest competitor, the (Honda) Rancher, it has a lot of features the Rancher doesn’t have,” said Yamaha ATV PR Manager Steve Nessl. “From the Ultramatic transmission all the way down to turning radius and rack capacity, it pretty much beats it in all categories, including price.” The Bruin is $600 cheaper than the Rancher 350 ES at $4,999 for the 4WD model and $3,999 for the 2WD machine. It also has disc bakes and selectable 2WD/4WD, which the Rancher doesn’t have, plus a full length skid plate and more suspension travel.
More NEW Models
Beside the Rhino and Bruin, Yamaha will bring four additional new models to its line for 2004. First up is a race-ready sport quad based on the hugely popular YZ450F motocross bike. This machine has all the goods to make it ready for the racetrack, without spending the huge money that has become requisite to be competitive. Yamaha doesn’t intend to make this machine into a replacement for the 660R Raptor. In fact, both the Raptor and two-stroke Banshee stay in the 2004 line. Both will see a $300 price decrease as well.
In stock trim, the YFZ450 weighs less than 350 pounds, according to Yamaha. The engine is choked down 10cc from the bike, for a total displacement of 439cc. This makes the ATV AMA legal for racing. Intake and exhaust timing have been altered slightly from the motorcycle timing to accommodate the additional demands of a quad’s weight and traction. A 39mm FCR flat slide Keihin carb mixes air and fuel. At launch, Yamaha promises to have 16 GYT-R hop-up parts ready to go, including a jet kit, high performance exhaust system, A-arms, nerf bars and skid plates.
Kayaba KYB shocks up front are preload, compression and rebound adjustable. A fully adjustable Showa unit is fitted on the rear. Travel is rated at 9.1 inches up front and 10.1 in the rear. Price on the YFZ450 is $6,899.
Yamaha is back in the Youth 6 category with the Raptor 50. This model mimics the top-selling Raptor 80, with a 49cc automatic engine and the requisite 6-foot tether cord for parental control. The machine uses the same chassis as the Raptor 80, with full floorboards and 16-inch tires. It’s available in Yamaha blue or candy red and white.
Other new models are utility carts called the Pro Hauler 1000 and Pro Hauler 700. Both models use the same 347cc engine as Yamaha’s golf carts, with pedal-activated starting. The 1000 can handle 500 pounds in the bed, plus two 250-pound passengers, while the 700 will haul 250 pounds in the bed. The beds have a locking tilt mechanism and a gas-charged lift assist to help tilt heavy loads. The rear gate also flips down. A standard 2-inch receiver hitch is fitted to the frame, though towing capacity is not yet available.
The suspension has coil-over shocks and 22-inch tires. The front is an A-arm system, while the rear uses a trailing arm design. The body is dent-resistant thermoplastic and the bed is roto-molded plastic. Pro Haulers are only available in a new steel blue color. Pricing is $5,999 for the 1000, $4,499 for the 700.
Tweaks for the rest
The remaining ATV lineup returns mostly unchanged. The Grizzly 660 received a differential lock override button, which should allow riders to get unstuck easier. The machine also receives a clicking “automotive-style” gas cap design that prevents over tightening and adds vents to prevent vapor lock. Color changes include a new limited-edition metallic red and two camouflage schemes, Advantage Wetlands and Realtree Hardwoods High Definition.
The Kodiak 450 4x4 gets the diff lock override button and is now available in steel blue and Hardwoods HD camo as well.
It’s possible that the Kodiak 400 might be on its way out, but it will stick around for 2004. Changes are graphic only, both the 4x4 and 2x4 are available in steel blue, and 4x4 also comes Hardwoods HD.
There are no changes to the the Kodiak 400, Big Bear 400, Wolverine 350 4x4, Beartracker 250, Breeze 125 or Raptor 80 other than colors and graphics.