Yamaha has played a substantial role in the growth of the UTV industry. We first saw this when the Rhino trampled onto the scene in the early 2000s, quickly making itself known as one of the most versatile machines around.
But now, they’ve taken that versatility a step (or one gigantic leap) further. The RMAX 1000 raises the bar for everything a recreational UTV should be: capable, comfortable, and confident.
This beast of a machine prowled onto the scene late this summer, when Yamaha’s 2021 lineup made the news. The announcement included mostly familiar faces, including updates for the Wolverine X2/X4 and the Viking. But one new name stood out among the rest: the Wolverine RMAX 1000.
The two-seater and four-seater models (the RMAX2 and RMAX4, respectively) each boast a 1000cc engine—a first for the recreational UTV category. But having the highest power in its class isn’t the only thing that makes the RMAX stand out.
The Wolverine RMAX 1000 offers a full serving of adventure with a side of utility. Some say it will contend with the likes of the Polaris General and Honda Talon 1000X, but upon closer inspection, it seems the RMAX in a league of its own.
The RMAX is entirely brand new from the ground up. It’s available in three models—standard, XT-R, and Limited Edition—all manufactured at the Yamaha facility in Newnan, Georgia. Each one features a new chassis, engine, body style, and cab.
Most models also come with Yamaha’s D-Mode variable throttle control system. It’s the first time ever putting this technology in a side-by-side. (Don’t worry—we’ll talk more about that later.)
With an impressive power-to-weight ratio and massive suspension travel, you’re guaranteed a smooth and comfortable ride every time you get behind the wheel.
The first thing we wanted to find out was how powerful this thing is (which then tells us how much fun we can have behind the wheel). And when it comes to power, the RMAX doesn’t disappoint. All models feature an all-new 999cc parallel twin engine that pushes out a class-leading 108 HP. Yamaha claims a top speed of just under 70 MPH, but we haven’t had the chance to test that out for ourselves (yet).
The RMAX’s driveline was engineered for smooth and quiet operation. The transmission has been dubbed the exclusive “Ultramatic Automatic Transmission” and is Yamaha’s most advanced and durable continuously variable transmission (CVT) to date.
Something else that’s totally unique to the RMAX lineup is the front differential. All models are capable of running three different modes: two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive with limited slip, and four-wheel drive with full differential lock.
Yamaha’s proven electric power steering (EPS) system delivers balanced feedback and light-effort steering, which reduces driver fatigue. They’re also offering a 10-year drive belt warranty, which is something no other manufacturer has done.
For the first time, Yamaha’s D-Mode drive system (also known as the Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle, or YCCT) lives in a side-by-side.
You’ll find this feature in both the XT-R and Limited Edition models, where switching from one mode to another is as easy as turning a dial on your dash.
D-Mode lets you choose between three drive styles: sport, trail, and crawl. Each one offers a unique level of throttle sensitivity, depending on what kind of terrain you’re tackling. Your engine braking also adjusts from mode to mode. Turning the dial determines how much the throttle body is going to close when you let off the accelerator.
Here’s a breakdown of what you get in each mode:
It’s important to note that you still get 100% power in all three modes. You’re not sacrificing any of those horses in the name of drive style—the D-Mode system just alters how that power is delivered.
All RMAX models feature a solid, powder-coated frame. The A-arm suspension is made up of fully boxed control arms, double angular contact wheel bearings, and larger ball joints. You’ll also find forged steel sway bar end links (in place of the standard welded tubes) and thick tie rod ends.
Superior contact-to-ground feel is delivered by Fox 2.0 shocks—standard and XT-R models use QS3s and the Limited Edition features iQS shocks.
What’s the difference, you might be wondering? Both types are adjustable, but one is a little (or a lot) more convenient. QS3 shocks can be adjusted externally, while Fox’s Intelligent Quick Switch (iQS) technology lets you make adjustments on the fly from the comfort of your cab.
You’re probably wondering what kind of tires and wheel travel this vehicle is rolling on. The RMAX2 comes with 30” tires—GBC Dirt Commanders on the standard model and Maxxis Carnivores on the XT-R and Limited Edition. For the four-seater, you’ll find 29” GBC Dirt Commanders on the standard model and 29” Maxxis Carnage Tires on the others. All tires are mounted on 14” wheels.
At 64” wide (technically 66.1” with some fender overhang), the RMAX2 and RMAX4 are on the wider end of what you usually see in recreational side-by-sides. Let’s take a look at some other measurements:
|Wheelbase||Height||Front Wheel Travel||Rear Wheel Travel|
You’ll notice that both models are pretty similar in terms of wheelbase, with the two-seater measuring only 3.5 inches shorter than the four-seater. But how do these measurements compare with other machines in the same category?
Here’s one example: the RMAX2 is longer than the two-seater Polaris General XP 1000, which makes it more stable. But the RMAX4 is quite a bit shorter than the four-seater General XP 1000, which allows you to navigate between trees more easily. So whichever model you’re looking at, there are definite pros to the length (or lack thereof).
That’s enough about what makes this machine tick—let’s talk about looks for a little bit. After all, its appearance is one of the main things setting the RMAX 1000 apart from other Wolverine models (or all other side-by-sides, period).
When looking at the RMAX head-on, it’s not hard to squint and imagine that you’re staring down a real-life carnivorous predator. The headlights are lower than on other Wolverine models, and above them sit new signature marker lights. These “evil eye” accent lights contribute to the unique, stealthy, and downright menacing look of this machine.
Some other exterior features to note are the muscular, flared hood and new color options. The standard model comes in sleek Armor Gray, the XT-R comes in rugged Covert Green, and the Limited Edition sports a smooth Cobalt Metallic. The standard two-seater is also available in Alpine White, although this option doesn’t apply to the four-seater.
All in all, the RMAX 1000 isn’t shockingly different—you can still tell it belongs in the Wolverine family. But it has enough new characteristics to have its own unique, aggressive look.
The RMAX 1000’s cab is arguably what most sets it apart from other recreational UTVs. The newest member of the Wolverine pack has one of the best-looking and most comfortable interiors in the off-road industry. We’re talking about luxury features that most of us don’t even have in our daily driver.
All RMAX models have strategically placed soft touch points near the knees and center console. Those points, paired with rubber dash panel mats, are a nice deviation from the standard hard plastic you find in side-by-sides. The passenger grab handle is also cushioned and adjustable.
Speaking of adjustability, the steering wheel offers 17 degrees of tilt adjustment. Further adding to the convenience level are the adjustable seat belts and a sealed glove box and center console.
In the XT-R and Limited Edition models, the dash is equipped with Yamaha’s Adventure Pro GPS technology. The touch screen Android tablet is dash mounted and functions as a media center hub. The fact that the tablet is removable adds a nice versatile touch.
Some other features you’ll find throughout the RMAX lineup are USB charging ports, cup holders (up to six of them in some four-seater models), LED interior lighting, and backlit rocker switches. Exclusive to the Limited Edition is an integrated SSV Works stereo with 6.5” door speakers.
Overall, the interior of the Wolverine RMAX 1000 looks more like something you would find in a new car, rather than a UTV. But we’re not complaining.
There’s a reason Yamaha classifies the RMAX as a recreational machine—somewhere in the crossover UTV zone between sport and utility. For all of its fast and fun features, it doesn’t back down in the face of hard work.
All models have a two-inch receiver hitch, 600-pound bed capacity, and 2,000-pound towing capacity. The two-seater boasts a hydraulic dump bed and the four-seater’s second row slides up to allow for flexible hauling and storage. And if you go with the XT-R or Limited Edition, you’ll get a factory-installed 4,500-pound Warn winch.
While the RMAX would certainly make a capable farm hand, we’re not sure we would want to put in too many working hours behind the wheel. With 108 horses ready to be unleashed and three different terrain modes, our focus would definitely be on fun over utility. But the fact that this machine is equipped for both is a definite selling point.
Just based on the specs, the RMAX seems to be a strong contender with the Honda Pioneer 1000 and Polaris General. And when it comes to looks and cabin comfort, it’s in a league of its own.
The RMAX2 1000 and RMAX4 1000 are available now at Yamaha dealers nationwide. The standard model starts at $19,799, the XT-R starts at $21,999, and the Limited Edition starts at $23,299.
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