Queenstown wasn't turning on the charm weather-wise, giving us a wet and windy day in late March for the launch of the latest side by side from Yamaha, the all-new Wolverine X4.
UTV's and side-by-sides, increasingly popular over the last five years, transport people safely and have good carrying capacity. Their ROPS frames protect occupants in crashes.
Many machines of this type emerged from the North American leisure market and were built for performance rather than utility use.
The Yamaha Wolverine X2-R looks to offer both, with Yamaha reckoning it will appeal to a range of sectors: farming taking about 40% of sales, recreation 30%, commercial use 20% and hunters 10%.
Power comes from a parallel twin of 847cc in a robust, well-protected steel frame; the liquid-cooled, fuel-injected 4-stroke delivers 52hp and 81Nm torque, offering plenty of low-end grunt, and potent mid-range and top end get-up-and-go.
Interestingly, a ‘drive by wire’ set-up monitors speed, throttle position and other parameters to eliminate throttle pedal ‘bob’ resulting in the ability to maintain constant speed in rough conditions.
Engine power is converted into drive using the Ultramatic CVT with constant belt tension, said to prolong belt life, particularly in low-speed, high-torque situations; an integral sprag-clutch gives positive engine braking at all four wheels when the throttle is released.
Operators get the choice of high, low, neutral and reverse selections, and a top speed of 80km/h.
Traction is enhanced by the On-Command 4WD system, available on the fly and delivering 2WD, 4WD with limited-slip differential, or fully-locked 4WD, so all terrain is easily dealt with, especially in changing conditions.
Described as a compact side-by-side utility, the X2 is very manoeuvrable in tight conditions. The 2050mm wheelbase is longer than most in this category, with excellent stability in undulating ground.
The real stand-out of the X2 is the suspension, with a set-up that could readily be described as class leading. Its KYB twin-tube, gas-filled shocks with external reservoirs offer 5-way pre-loaded adjustment, with further individual adjustment for spring pre-load, rebound damping and high or low-speed compression damping. The result is the ability to deal with sudden changes of direction or terrain, even at speed, without any noticeable change in body position.
The feeling of security is further enhanced by high-backed bucket style seats with three-point safety belts. About 225mm of suspension travel combines with 290mm of ground clearance to provide an excellent ride quality, helped by the fitment of 12-inch alloy wheels fitted with grippy 26-inch Maxxis tyres.
The low-slung dashboard and sloping hood make it easy to pick a safe course.
In open country or tight situations, electronic power steering (EPS) comes to the fore, with steering during direction changes being light and predictable; feedback from hitting big dips or humps is well filtered out.
Weight is 720kg, fully fuelled. The rear work tray has a single-handle tailgate, with gas strut assistance to tip the maximum load of 272kg.
Operator enhancements include lower stable-type doors at the entry points, storage ahead of the passenger and in the central armrest and a comprehensive dashboard.