All hail the kings!
We were fortunate enough to be invited to the Imperial Sand Dunes (AKA Glamis) in southern California for Yamaha’s annual Special Edition media event, where we got to spend two glorious days putting as much seat time as possible on the newest 2015 Special Edition Raptor 700R and the YFZ450R.
Since the days of the Banshee, Yamaha ATVs have peppered dune landscapes all over the country. Today, both the YFZ450R and Raptor 700 can be found tearing up the dunes just about everywhere you look. While it would be nice to own both, most of us can’t and we are left with the great debate of “which one is the best?” That is a tough question, and it definitely depends on your own unique riding style and preferences.
2015 SE Raptor 700R
The Raptor has long been touted as King of the Dunes, ever since the 660 was released with that incredible low-end torque that never seemed to end no matter how hard you pressed the throttle. Over the years, the Raptor has been tweaked and refined into the great-handling, highly capable Sport machine it is now. Borrowing chassis design elements from its close cousin the YFZ450R, and with this year’s addition of slightly larger front tires and a better-feeling shock setup, the Raptor has pretty much been perfected for the type of terrain you will find in Glamis.
The 2015 Special Edition Raptor 700R is easy to differentiate from the regular model by its snappy black, white and red color scheme. A blood-red chassis combined with black wheels and a black GYTR front bumper complete the overall effect of setting this machine apart.
COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2015 Yamaha Raptor 700R
The 686cc liquid cooled, fuel injected engine produces more than enough power for just about anyone, yet it’s so controllable that the Raptor is one of the best trail Sport ATVs you’ll find anywhere.
2015 SE YFZ450R
Our personal favorite, due to its race-bred heritage and low, aggressive riding stance, is the YFZ450R. Who can help being drawn to a quad that looks fast and capable while it’s just sitting still? The cool thing about the YFZ450R is that its performance and handling absolutely back up its great looks, and it rides the way you think it should – like a race machine! Yet, with some tuning of the fully adjustable KYB shocks, this sport quad can offer a pretty plush ride through the rough stuff, making it a dual-purpose machine that appeals to a lot of consumers. With 9.8 inches of travel up front, and 11 inches of travel in the rear, not only can the YFZR handle the short, choppy dunes, but if you happen to find a good jump face, it can also handle some pretty impressive air!
This year’s Special Edition model features the same, sharp-looking black, white, and red color scheme as the SE Raptor, including the black graphics and red frame. The dealer-installed GYTR black front grab bar looks great, and the quick-release fasteners that hold the plastics on make it very easy to remove them and service your machine wherever you happen to be.
COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2014 Yamaha YFZ450R + Video
All black, aluminum wheels with an inner rolled lip complete the overall effect, and the OEM, specifically designed Maxxis tires all around hook up even in the softest sand. As a matter of fact, the YFZR is the only quad we have ever bought and just left the OEM tires on it until they were worn out, even when racing competitively.
Which One Is Best?
So which one is best? This is the million-dollar question (or at least the $8,999 one). That answer will depend entirely upon whom you are asking, but we can certainly break down the best qualities of both machines and explore that answer a bit more thoroughly.
The Raptor’s strengths lie in its power delivery and overall comfort. Because of its gobs of low-end torque, this is a machine that can be lugged around in just about any gear and any RPM and it will still pull through a variety of terrain. This translates into less time spent shifting to keep it in its happy place, and more time spent taking in the view or concentrating on other things, such as avoiding rocks and trees, navigating steep dune transitions, or negotiating tricky desert terrain.
The comfortable seat on the Raptor also lends itself to being sat on, which makes the Raptor a very comfortable and capable machine to ride while in a more relaxed, seated position. This is not to say that you can’t ride it in a more aggressive stance, because the Raptor is designed in such a way that the transition from sitting to standing is pretty effortless, but most people find themselves sitting on the Raptor more than on the YFZ450R.
The Raptor handles very well, and for such a formidable-looking machine, it can be downright nimble. This is due to its YFZ-inspired chassis design and sport-tuned, piggyback shocks, which make it a great choice for all-around riding with plenty of power on tap. It can tackle a tight, winding trail just as well as a wide open stretch of sand and feel great doing it.
The YFZ450R has its own set of strengths, besides it being the most technologically advanced sport ATV on the market. If you enjoy performance, handling, and speed all wrapped up in one low, wide and aggressive package, then the YFZR takes your cake.
Unlike the Raptor 700, the YFZ450R encourages an aggressive riding stance, and feels the best when being ridden like it is being raced – hard and fast. On the track, the YFZ450R feels completely at home. It corners like it’s on rails, and the low center of gravity gives it incredible stability in the turns. The fully tunable, long-travel suspension makes the YFZR a competent jumper, and it is balanced so well that making any type of corrections in the air feels perfectly natural.
The YFZ450R thrives in the higher RPMs, and this makes it fun and somewhat busier to ride. We do find ourselves shifting this machine more often than the Raptor 700R, which can be a good thing for those who enjoy controlling every RPM of their powerband, but it can be seen as too much work for some who prefer to just cruise and enjoy the ride. We feel it is important to note that the YFZ450R can also be ridden slow and easy, but the very nature of it makes you want to push it and play with the limits of the machine as well as the rider.
Okay, so which one would we choose? The politically correct answer would be that we spent an equal amount of time on both machines, but that wouldn’t exactly be telling the truth. Given our racing background and love of high-performance anything, we found ourselves gravitating towards the YFZ450R on most rides, because that is the machine that we have the most fun on. We did enjoy the Raptor 700R, because that torque and power is just hard to stay away from, but the YFZ450R gave us the high-performance, responsive ride that we have become accustomed to.
That being said, we think the best way to solve any decision-making issues between the Raptor 700 and the YFZ450R would be to have one of each parked in your garage!