2017 Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec Review + Video

Rick Sosebee
by Rick Sosebee
Fast Facts

MSRP: $13,199

Seating Capacity: 2
Engine: 708cc Single
Power: 47 hp
Bed Capacity: 300 lbs
Towing Capacity: 1,500 lbs

We had a chance to spend a few days riding the 2017 Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec in the tight woods of Georgia and came away impressed at this UTV’s capabilities.

If there is one thing that we have here in Georgia it is tight trails and some unmolested mountainsides to venture through. We found the Yamaha Wolverine is a great tool for doing just that. Over a period of four days we had the chance to get to know this 708cc single cylinder powered off road vehicle as it was meant to be used. Our testing grounds had seemingly just wide enough pine laden trails blazed throughout steep hills and rocky terrain with a mix of light mud and downed trees to add some interesting riding.

If you own a Yamaha Wolverine then you already know how nimble the 60.6-inch wide machine can be. But even with its narrow width the machine felt stable to us in many situations where other UTVs in its class might feel a bit tippy. Tucked down into the cab inside the high back semi-bolstered seating it is comfortable and the elements inside the cab gave us plenty of control within reach of the driver.

From time to time we would invite a passenger along and the passenger hand hold bar was a confidence booster for the times when our driving might not have been. You do feel cradled in the machine, which builds driver confidence as well. With a lower seating position, the 2017 Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec still provides great visibility over the sloped hood. You can easily see the driver-side wheels (front and rear) without much leaning out of the side.

2017 Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec Interior

One item in the cab that gets your attention during tight woods is the multi-position gear selector which, is a gate-style system and very easy to move between gears. There is ample room for footing in the floor area and as a larger rider we did feel it was comfortable even in the precarious off camber situations when our size 10.5 clogs were searching for placement.

Another simple yet sometimes overlooked feature that we fell in love with is the parking brake. It is a wet brake meaning that it is completely enclosed in the rear differential, free from any debris on the trail to restrict its operation. This gave us the confidence that it would work when we needed it. The handle moves very slightly back when applied and grabs hold of the Wolverine like a set of gator jaws.

2017 Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec Action 2

Storage in the cab is also pretty good when you consider the size of the machine. The glove box, of course, is great for many items, but we found the center console to be our favorite – at least from the driver’s seat. It’s deep and partitioned in a way that I could drop my cell phone, car keys or snack in the front of the box and then a hat, spare gloves or small firearm in the rear. We like being able to find things when we need them and this makes it possible. From a service standpoint the air filter is right under the inner console, so when you get ready to clean or change this filter it’s a non-issue.

Some of the things we also became even more familiar with were the front and rear of the Wolverine’s approach and departure angles, which allow you to crawl over rocks and up or down steep banks. You can explore uneven terrain and still not tear the framework off the belly in the process. There are even small tubular flares at the front of the rear wheels to keep the rear tires from taking on impacts and they help gently guide the rear wheels around tighter trees. During our testing it was evident that the chassis was slim and although we tried to avoid contact with the exo-skeletal framework it was refreshing to find that we would not tear the plastics off the machine when we did get into those situations.

2017 Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec Action 1

We understand the premise of the 2017 Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec and its natural spot in the world of Side-by-Sides is to be an explorer; however, it would be nice to have a dumping bed with a hinged tailgate. Obviously, every machine cannot be everything to everyone, but a bed that can hold 300 lbs sure would be a tad more useful if it dumped. Although fixed in place the bed of the Wolverine has six steel tiedown points and is made of a very rugged material that took our abuse day in and out. This space also worked great for our cooler and gear for the trail. The exploration of the uncharted trails revealed that the tapered sides of the bed also proved worthy as one steep off-camber bank side tried to reach out and get a souvenir from the Yamaha.

2017 Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec Bed

As mentioned above, the 2017 Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec is powered by the 708cc dual-overhead cam four-stroke mill with fuel injection. The power is then delivered to Yamaha’s tough-as-nails Ultra-Matic transmission that is historically a very reliable system. During the slower sections from our adventure that required finesse from the throttle, we noticed just how stable and linear the pedal delivery or feel was when crawling across very rocky terrain. The Wolverine’s engine will lug steadily forward, and you don’t feel that choppy throttle that might cause an uneasy feeling for less experienced drivers. As the speed picked up on our rides it was clear to us that this powerplant is just what this chassis is set for and seemed to deliver on its end goal of confidence and fun. Having too much power can be tiring on the trail and we did not find that in our ride time.

When it comes to comfort from the suspension or ride the 2017 Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec has the KYB Long travel shocks to stifle the blows from the trail. The extra length in travel also gives more drop out when scaling down steep ledges and helps keep the tires in contact with the vertical earth longer. These shocks are fully adjustable as well for that discerning driver and during our ride we played with the adjustments just a little to find our own setting for comfort. The stock setting for our riding situation seemed a bit stiff, so with a little tuning we had softened the ride and it was easier than we had imagined.

2017 Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec Shock

These KYB shocks are fully adjustable to exceed most drivers’ understanding and should be looked at closely before money is spent to replace them. If you do happen to buy aftermarket shocks, just send us your stockers. We’ll hide them on a shelf for future projects!

Combined with the long travel shocks, high clearance wide-arc A-arms also give the 2017 Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec the ability to clear trail debris of most any kind. The available ground clearance up front is 11.4 inches, but the clearance is not limited to the center of the frame and a little preload adjustment will get you a bit more if needed. These wide-arc arms spread the love almost all the way across the front. With ruts getting deeper by the hour on several trails, the built-in drop out of the Wolverine’s control arms became so natural that we started finding places to try and test it.

2017 Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec Action 3

Our time in the Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec, although limited to four days, was very refreshing and seemed to enlighten us on many items that often get overlooked. The Yamaha Wolverine is a great exploration ride and we found it to be very capable as well as pleasantly surprising in many very tight riding situations.

Rick Sosebee
Rick Sosebee

Whether he is in Mexico covering the Baja 1000, building ATVs for local racers, or out enjoying the trails, Rick’s passion shows in his stories. Learning to wrench his own machines from his grandfather, Rick also has an undying appreciation for the mechanics of off-road vehicles. Do not let the dirt and mud fool you, though, as Rick also has a deep love for street cars.

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