Yamaha's high-powered sport quad continues to impress
When the Yamaha Raptor was introduced to the riding public back in 2001, quad riding enthusiasts everywhere were enthralled by the Raptor’s aggressive styling and the most torque they had ever experienced in a sport quad – needless to say, the Yamaha Raptor was an instant favorite of the masses. Over the last eight years, the Raptor’s following has only grown bigger and more loyal, and the folks at Yamaha have done a great job of keeping the Raptor looking and handling as great as ever through the years, while tweaking only the things that really needed to be changed every so often.
For 2009, Yamaha has done it again by continuing to produce the Raptor in all of its high performance glory, and has added a few more changes to keep things constantly progressing. The 2009 Raptor now comes in two different models, the standard ‘09 model and color scheme, and the new Special Edition model that is sure to please many a future Rappy owner. The most obvious difference between the two is found in the color option available for the SE – with its black metallic plastics and blood red, translucent, marble design front shroud, the SE Raptor will turn heads no matter where it goes. At home in the dunes, the Raptor 700 is also a great trail and race machine, and the new adjustable shocks that come standard on the 2009 machines will certainly please even the most aggressive riders with their more elaborate tuning abilities.
Along with the bold SE color scheme, the 2009 Raptors also come in factory Yamaha blue as well as the ever popular white and red. While there have been a few cosmetic changes to the Raptor over the years, the overall look of this machine has remained distinctively “Raptor-esque”.
New for 2009, the Yamaha Raptor has become the first sport quad to come standard with a fully functional, digital meter. Along with a speedometer, the meter can also display two separate trip meters, a clock, warning indicators (including a gas gauge) and the standard forward and reverse indicators. The rugged looking gauge is mounted where it can be easily seen and is easy to read in most circumstances.
Probably the most notable new feature for the 2009 Raptor is its newly updated, SOQA piggyback style shocks. While earlier Raptor models handled the whoops and rough stuff just fine, the 5mm longer SOQA’s with their 9.1 inches of fully adjustable travel in the front and 10.1 inches of travel in the rear give the 2009 Raptor the most comfortable ride yet; with the new, updated tuning knobs making adjustments even easier.
Similar to the YFZ450R, the ’09 Raptor also received an updated thumb throttle design, which makes the throttle action even smoother and more comfortable for those longer rides.
Also new for 2009, the Special Edition Raptor now comes with the same wave-style rear brake rotor that the YFZ450R boasts, which provides excellent brake feel and stopping power. The Special Edition Raptors also come with black aluminum heel guards and a matching black front bumper.
Powering the 2009 model is the same performance driven 686cc engine that was introduced when the Raptor 700 first made its debut. With its forged, lightweight piston and dual counter balancers, the Raptor motor has a very smooth feel while still boasting some serious torque! The digital TCI with its 16-bit electronic control unit keeps the Raptor’s fuel injection system running smooth and reliable – allowing for easy throttle response and eliminating tuning worries at different elevations.
The Yamaha Raptor’s steel/aluminum hybrid, race inspired chassis remains unchanged for 2009, which gives it its excellent ergonomics and sporty feel. With a curb weight (weighed with all fluids filled) of 422 lbs, the Raptor’s thoughtful engineering keeps it feeling nimble and quick in any riding environment.
Completing the sport quad package is a pair of YFZ450 30 watt headlights and a great looking LED tail light which illuminates the night for those riders who like to ride when the sun goes down. Throw in the Raptor’s 2.9 gallon fuel tank, and you are set for hours of fun without having to worry about having enough gas or running out of daylight during those longer rides.
While looks are always important to consumers, it really all boils down to performance and handling. A quad can be the coolest looking machine out there, but if it’s a dog in the sand and can’t hang on the trails, no one will actually want to plunk down their hard earned cash for it. Fortunately, consumers can have the best of both worlds with the Raptor, which not only looks awesome, but handles just as well. The Raptor just looks like a beast – and its aesthetics are a great reflection of what lies underneath – a lean, mean, duning machine.
With the turn of a key and the push of a button, the Raptor’s 686cc engine comes to life with a great sounding, throaty growl, and the motor produces a strong, confident pull in any gear. The stock pipe, while restricted and corked up, still has a sound that reveals a hint of what is possible when an aftermarket system is installed and the Raptor is opened up for maximum performance.
Immediately noticeable on the Raptor 700 is it’s comfortable ergonomics, both while sitting and while standing; however, just by the way the Raptor is designed, it entices it’s rider into a sitting position more than an aggressive stance – perhaps this is why the Raptor is often referred to as the “Cadillac of the dunes.” With its comfortable, YZ inspired seat and it’s newly updated SOQI piggyback shocks, one can spend hours tearing up the trails and dunes with a minimal amount of effort. The stock foot pegs are serrated and at 45 mm wide, they are very comfortable and placed well, which makes the transition from sitting to standing almost effortless.
Another thing we noticed after just a few minutes of putting the Raptor through its paces was its ability to lug extremely well in third gear. Someone mentioned casually as we were about to head out for a dune run, that you could just “put it in third, and have fun!” – and that was a surprisingly accurate statement. We could leave it in third gear and come almost to a complete stop, pull the clutch in and head up a hill without having to downshift and without the motor bogging down too much – so for us lazy shifters, the Raptor is right up our alley. Speaking of shifting, the YZ-spec ratchet shifter on the Raptor has a very solid shift “feel” to it – the shift lever action is smooth and confident, as is the clutch feel, without being “notchy” or popping out of gear.
The steering on the Raptor is easy and extremely responsive, allowing the rider to charge hard into the corners and feel confident that when the bars turn, the quad will go exactly where you point it. In the high speed rough, while the bars can feel a little twitchy, the Raptor still tracks straight – allowing its suspension and powerful motor to keep you moving forward with confidence.
The unit we tested was a completely stock Raptor, straight from Yamaha’s warehouse, so we were able to see how well the stock Dunlop radials performed in several different scenarios. Like all of Yamaha’s sport quads, the tires and their tread patterns were chosen to benefit a majority of the riders whose demographic was targeted for each particular machine. The 21×7 front and 20×10 rear radials on our test machine worked very well, providing plenty of traction and clearance, while remaining tough and able to handle a variety of terrains. They turned well, jumped well and gripped just fine for most casual and fun riders; however, there are a variety of aftermarket tires and sizes available for riders who want to additional performance.
The only complaint we encountered while putting some time on our test unit was a minor one, but it was still annoying. While riding the Raptor in an aggressive stance, we kept hooking the bottom of the right rear fender plastics onto the top of our boot, making things a little interesting when jumping or having to maneuver quickly from one side of the machine to the other. This could just be attributed to our particular riding style or choice of boots, since this is something that has happened on other machines as well. Had we spent a little more time with the Raptor, we are sure we would have found a solution to this small annoyance.
The more time we spent on the Raptor 700, the more comfortable we became with it, and the more we found ourselves pushing both our limits and those of our machine. Which did we find first? Well, we aren’t telling (hint: Raptor 1 – Us 0!), but we are happy to report that Yamaha has only continued to improve upon a machine that has been putting smiles on faces of sport quad enthusiasts for many years. The fit and finish and attention to detail are ever-present, as is Yamaha’s assurance that even if you don’t ride fast, you will be riding a machine that looks fast just sitting still. The 686cc motor with EFI has been proven to be a solid runner, and for those of you who travel to different elevations, the elimination of jetting is definitely a bonus.
If you want a quad that is at home and hard to beat at the dunes; a trail machine that will most likely keep you ahead of the pack; or even a quad that you can race with, the Yamaha Raptor is a great choice, and has sealed its place in the hearts of thousands of quad enthusiasts everywhere.