When Yamaha released the original Wolverine UTV several years ago, we were impressed. This two-seat adventure machine was fun to drive and like its namesake mammal, it had attitude. Yamaha has always had a habit of introducing new machines to us in extreme environments, and the original Wolverine was no exception. We first drove it in wet, muddy conditions with extreme hills and tight trails. Much fun. Still, that machine was powered by their 700-class single-cylinder motor. We’re not complaining, as that motor is still a lot of fun to drive. However, when Yamaha unleashed the all-new Wolverine X4 last year with the 847cc parallel twin engine, we listened carefully when the Yamaha engineers mentioned that the engine “could” show up in another machine soon. That machine was the all-new Wolverine X2, and we’re here to say that it is definitely worth the wait.
Like Yamaha did with the previous Wolverine, the X2 comes in multiple models. There is a base X2, which costs less and has steel wheels and simpler suspension components. Unlike the previous Wolverine base models, however, all X2 machines come standard with Yamaha’s excellent electronic power steering. The X2 R-Spec comes with aluminum wheels, a sun top and piggyback KYB shocks. The R-Spec SE model has special graphics and a color-matched interior. When Yamaha called us up and asked if we’d like to take a spin through the snow with a Wolverine X2 R-Spec SE, we couldn’t resist.
The Magic Motor
Yamaha surprised everyone by coming out with the new motor for the X4. What surprised us isn’t that they came out with an 850-twin, but how smooth and quiet they made the motor run. Yamaha wisely put the 847cc, liquid-cooled parallel twin engine in the Wolverine X2 and it is just as amazing as it is the X4. The motor makes usable, torquey power and was designed using technology from Yamaha’s motocross bikes. The engine sits low in the frame, and is compact, yet has a long stroke giving the X2 one of the best power curves for recreational use, even a little better than the X4. There is always power on tap and it is near perfect in delivery. It is reminiscent of an electric motor in that it has instant power and torque. Touch the accelerator and you move. Some people, and we think they way off, have complained, saying that the Wolverine isn’t on par with the competition because they don’t have the horsepower numbers. This is one of those situations where numbers do lie. We’ll simply say this. We drive a lot of machines and we drive often. We found the power output on the X2 to be impressive and perfect in application.
The X2 is easily the quietest gas-powered, two-seat UTV out there. It’s a good match to the quietest four-seater, the X4. These machines are so quiet that you think you’re doing something wrong when you gas it. You simply don’t hear the motor like you expect to. It takes some getting used to. The motor mounts are an all new design. Every piece of the drive train was engineered to reduce vibration. They didn’t just stop with the motor either. Yamaha looked at every aspect of the Wolverine X2 to see where they could reduce noise. When we drove the X4, we talked about how we could hear the tires rolling on the trail over the sounds of the motor. With our X2 and it being a winter ride, we heard the snow crunching while we were cruising the trails. When we came to corners, a liberal application of throttle and we would see the snow flying.
The throttle response is important. Yamaha runs Mikuni fuel injectors with YCC-T (Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle), a drive-by-wire system that gives you incredible real-world throttle control that is much more reliable and crisp than cable-controlled throttle assemblies. The system controls twin 36mm throttle bodies that are fed with a high-flow airbox and a dual-density air filter. The system is inputted through a high-tech servo motor that gives you extremely fast response to input from your right foot. The recent move by manufacturers to digital throttle assemblies is very cool, especially from that standpoint that it allows more tuning options for throttle mapping and power delivery. While we are very happy with the power delivery of the X2 as it is, we can see more potential from the platform and the engine.
We were on the phone the other day with a buddy who lives in Michigan. We were talking about some of the recent developments in the industry and he was laughing about how some dealerships carry only one brand. He made a joke about how if the dealership was a Yamaha-only dealership, they’d go out of business soon because once they sold a machine, it’d never come back for service. There’s some truth to that, especially when looking at the Yamaha Ultramatic Transmission. In the X2, an automatic centrifugal clutch maintains constant belt tension for reduced belt wear on the V-belt. Yamaha belts never seem to wear out. Ever. Most mechanics agree that they’ve only replaced Yamaha belts when the owner requests it, even when they don’t need it. That, or the operator of the machine has done something drastic to cause the belt to wear, and even that takes a lot. We’ve talked to the R&D guys at Yamaha and even they admit that to get a belt failure, you’ve pretty much had to intentionally force it.
The transmission gives you a lot of confidence in your control of the X2, as well. A sprag clutch delivers natural all-wheel, engine braking too. Yamaha has long had some of the best engine braking in the industry, and we found that the X2 works very well. It’s a nice touch to not have to get on the brakes when going down steeper hills when riding in the snow and winter. Even a little braking from the four-wheel 207mm vented, dual-piston disc brakes can get you a little squirrely on slippery trails, regardless of the machine.
One of the things that impressed us the most of the X4 was how nimble the chassis is. Yamaha developed a four-seat UTV that came in under 60 inches wide and couple really tear up the tight trails. Coming on the heels of the original Wolverine UTV, the new X2 picks up the ball and definitely runs with it. The new X2 is actually narrower at 59.1 inches compared to the previous 60.6 inches wide. It’s shorter too, at 115-inches compared to 116.9. Here’s where it gets fun, though. The wheelbase of the X2 is 82.7 inches compared to 81.3. Yes, Yamaha managed to make the machine narrower, and shorter but still boost wheelbase by almost an inch and a half. They did this by moving the wheels further to the corners by adjusting the suspension geometry. The X2 has an 11-inch ground clearance, too.
Speaking of suspension, Yamaha’s R-Spec trim adds some serious muscle to the machine. Our test unit came with 8.7 inches of wheel travel up front and 8.9 out back. The shocks are piggyback KYB shocks developed using technology from Yamaha’s motocross bikes. They are fully adjustable and the action is amazing. Big hits, drop-offs, uneven terrain and other rough conditions are handled with ease. Yamaha adds in anti-sway bars front and rear to keep you planted when cornering. While the suspension action in the X4 is really good, with Yamaha’s self-leveling rear shocks, the X2 R-Spec is really good. If you don’t need the extra passenger space, it’s the way to go.
A couple last notes on the Wolverine X2 chassis. It has a 2,000-pound towing capacity with a 2-inch receiver. The dumping cargo box, yes, a dumping cargo box, will hold 600-pounds of cargo, too. It makes the machine even more capable.
Driving the X2
We’re lucky. We admit this. We get to drive all the cool new machines and have a lot of fun doing so, even though we do take this stuff quite serious and treat it like work. Even still, having the opportunity to blast down some wintery trails in the X2 was not what you could call an ordinary day in the office. The only part that wasn’t fun, to be completely honest with you, was trying to run through the snow between phot locations while staying ahead of the machine while the guy driving got to whip it through snowbanks and around sweeping curves. I’m not as young as I once was.
The ergonomics of the X2 are exactly what we expected. The X4 was a blast to drive and the X2 is even better with the improved R-Spec shocks. Compared to the previous Wolverine models, there is improved handling and overall performance across the board. Yamaha has put a strong focus on adventure with their lineup and this may very well be the most adventure-craving machine from the company yet. There are a few machines out on the market that have achieved a near cult-like following among users, mostly due to the various machine’s ability to go into remote areas. We can totally see the new X2 achieving that same level of following.
This is one of those rare machines where we can’t see anything major that needs to be addressed. Are there little things we’d like to play around with to see if we can tailor it to a specific need or desire? Sure. We do that with any machine. Yamaha uses specially designed Maxxis tires that do well, but we’ll undoubtedly play around with different combinations for various terrain types like mud and snow. And there’s always fun to be had with playing with the aforementioned mapping software. Still, we’re very impressed with the X2 and are 100-percent certain that you would be too. Good job, Yamaha!