We test out the versatile Wolverine among the rocks in Arizona
Power: 108 HP
L x W x H: 119.3" x 66.1" x 77.8"
Front Suspension Travel: 14.2"
Rear Suspension Travel: 16.9"
If you are shopping for a pure Sport Side-by-Side, the Yamaha YXZ1000R is an excellent option, but that high performance model might lack the utility needed for the average UTV owner who wants to go hunting or fishing. That is where the 2022 Yamaha Wolverine RMAX2 1000 Sport comes into play, offering a combination of utility and performance driving characteristics like few machines on the market today.
I recently traveled to Arizona with the team from Yamaha to drive the new RMAX2 1000 Sport. We spent more than seven hours driving across some of the harshest desert terrain imaginable, climbing into the steep hills around Phoenix. In every situation, the newest RMAX shined bright, making for an incredible day of off-road fun.
Key Details on the 2022 Yamaha RMAX2 1000 Sport
The Sport trim level is the newest addition to the Yamaha Wolverine RMAX2 1000 lineup, focusing on performance without the pricey interior amenities of the XT-R and Limited Edition models. In addition to the black-and-blue racing-inspired livery inside and out, the RMAX2 Sport package adds a unique suspension featuring dual spring Fox 2.0 shocks at all four corners along with beadlock wheels wrapped in GBC Terra Master tires.
Those Fox 2.0 dampers offer full low- and high-speed compression adjustments, with 25 low-speed settings and 26 high-speed settings, along with front and rear pre-load adjustments. The shocks are adjusted with basic tools, with distinct “clicks” for each increment of adjustment, so you don’t have to mark the adjustment hardware and count rotations when making changes. This system isn’t as high tech as the change-on-the-fly electronic suspension setup in the RMAX2 1000 Limited Edition, but the Sport suspension system allows for precise adjustments.
A set of beadlock wheels help to keep the 10-ply GBC tires in place when battling the roughest terrain, while the unique tires – developed jointly with Yamaha – offer incredible traction on all surfaces. These tires have a different tread design on the inner and outer portions of the tire, allowing the buyer to select which position works best for their needs. “Side A” is what is mounted facing out from the factory, offering the best grip in softer footing while “Side B” is ideal for those drivers who spend more time on harder surfaces. Since we were driving mostly in loose footing, we were using the factory-equipped Side A. By simply flipping the tires on the wheels, the Side B option will allow better grip for those who drive more on hard surfaces.
Likes its siblings, the Yamaha RMAX2 1000 Sport is powered by a 1,000cc liquid- cooled dual overhead camshaft engine that delivers 108 horsepower with a redline of 8,500 rpm. Power is sent to all four wheels by means of the Ultramatic V-Belt transmission with Low, High, Neutral and Reverse gears with help from a three-way locking differential with rear-drive, four-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive with full differential lock. This model also has D-mode, with unique drive characteristics for the Sport, Trail and Crawl settings.
The Testing Area
Our seat time with the 2022 Yamaha Wolverine RMAX2 1000 Sport in the Phoenix area began at the “Great BLM Staging Area” by Lake Pleasant. We took what locals consider the “back way” to the town of Crown King and headed back to the staging area on the crude road that serves as the normal route to the small, secluded town. During our drive, which spanned some seven hours, we utilized local trails such as the Desoto Mine and the Senator Highway. If you are familiar with the area, all of those names may mean something, but if you have never been to the area, we spent the day covering some of the roughest terrain that I have seen on a public trail.
We started off on groomed trails that were varying levels of packed sand, but as we climbed towards Crown King, there were long stretches of the path that were comprised entirely of angled rock, jutting sharply out of the ground. Really, the majority of our route was either this sharp rock, loose sand or a combination of the two, with the occasional large rock pile or wall serving as the most aggressive obstacles. There were spots where we were essentially traversing stairs of solid rock, climbing or dropping a couple feet with each step.
We drove around 100 miles during the course of the day, with sections of high speed fun and sections of careful rock crawling, and in every situation, the 2022 Yamaha Wolverine RMAX2 1000 Sport performed beautifully.
Sport Features at Work
As mentioned above, the key attributes of the new RMAX2 1000 Sport are the Fox 2.0 suspension system and the asymmetric GBC tires – both of which play a major role in this Yamaha Side-by-Side being so great in every situation.
First up, the GBC Terra Master tires took an unbelievable beating during our drive and there was not a single flat tire in the group. The sharp rocks that made up much of the trail on the climb to Crown King would have easily destroyed an average off-road tire after a short period of driving, and we spent hours crossing those rocks at speed. Not only did the GBC tires stand up to the rocks, but they provided perfect control over all of the rough ground. At the same time, when we hit the loose, sandy portions of the trail, the tires did a great job of digging in and allowing us to use all of the available power. Whether we were on rock, sand or even the small amount of mud that we ran across, the GBC tires provided great grip in every case.
Plus, I cannot stress strongly enough how impressed I am that there was not a single flat tire in our group of nearly a dozen Yamaha vehicles, as the rocky portions of the path were treacherous. Even when traveling at low speed, there were a few spots where I was really concerned about the tires. This included some areas where were we dropping a few feet onto the sharp rocks, but the tires never faltered.
Next, the unique Fox suspension system of the RMAX2 1000 Sport did a great job of cushioning the blow from every type of driving surface. The sharp rocks that posed the greatest risk to the tires also created an incredibly rough surface, but the Fox dampers did a great job of keeping the vehicle pointed straight ahead. In some cases, very hard, choppy surfaces will cause the vehicle to begin bouncing enough that it will shift slightly in its path, leading to control issues, but that was never an issue with the new RMAX2 1000 Sport.
I should point out that I spent the entire test time with the suspension at the factory settings. I admittedly do not have the experience with UTVs to feel qualified to make decisions on how to adjust the suspension, so I stuck with the factory settings. That offers the best mix of ride quality and dampening, and with there being so much variance in the footing during our drive, keeping the suspension at the mid-point in its tuning range seemed to be the best idea. In doing so, the Yamaha Wolverine RMAX2 1000 Sport handled the smoothest surfaces and the roughest surfaces very well, providing a smooth ride and great control across the entire range of speeds.
Using Power with D-Mode
Like many other vehicles on sale today, the 2022 Yamaha Wolverine RMAX2 1000 Sport has a drive mode system, called D-Mode. In most vehicles, drive modes make slight changes to various systems, but in reality, they really don’t do much. That is not the case with the Yamaha D-Mode system, as switching from one mode to the next gives the vehicle a completely different personality.
The RMAX2 Sport has 108 horsepower and weighs a little under 2,000 pounds, so on a smooth road, it is capable of hitting speeds up around 70 miles per hour. I found that in the right conditions, the RMAX2 Sport in Sport mode will quickly get up over 60 miles per hour, with the tires offering great grip for acceleration and turning. Throttle response is very sharp and it doesn’t take much pedal pressure to get to full power. That is great when you are on an open part of the trail, but I quickly found that in tight spaces, the throttle response and power delivery of Sport mode is simply too much for me.
When you are crossing loose footing at lower speeds, Sport mode causes the tires to spin way more than I prefer, but with a turn of the D-Mode knob, the Trail setting backs the throttle pressure down to the point where you have to apply far more throttle to spin the tires. The beauty of this system is that Trail mode (and Crawl mode) change the throttle response and power delivery, but they don’t reduce power. You still have access to full power, but it comes on at a later throttle position in each mode, with Crawl mode requiring you to put the pedal to the floor for full power.
I found that Trail mode was the best for the majority of our driving, unless I wanted to spin the tires more. In every area where we were climbing at any real angle, Trail mode provided enough power to keep up the pace, but the power delivery was gentle enough that we weren’t always spinning our tires in the sand and loose rocks. Once we got into the steepest, rockiest climbing sections, Crawl mode provides just the right amount of power to ease up over the toughest obstacles with little concern of spinning the tires.
The 2022 Yamaha Wolverine RMAX2 1000 Sport also offers engine braking in every mode, so in situations where we were coming down a steep incline, whether it was loose sand or hard-packed rock, there was no concern with losing control. In fact, the engine braking function is strong enough that in some low-speed situations, you have to apply throttle to go downhill. One great example was a section of the trail where we were basically dropping from one sloping rock ledge to the next. We had to apply some throttle to get the front end to drop over the edge, but as the rear tires followed, the engine braking kept the RMAX2 Sport from building speed.
Finally, while the key cockpit components – the seats and steering wheel – are similar to the other models in the lineup, it is worth mentioning the level of comfort. We spent more than seven hours driving across grueling terrain with only a short break in Crown King for lunch. With some vehicles, seven hours of rough trails would leave you sore all over when you are done, if you weren’t growing uncomfortable during the drive. Thanks to the comfortable driver’s seat and the Fox 2.0 suspension, I could have easily driven another seven hours. Our test vehicles were also equipped with the optional folding windshield, which I would consider an essential for every buyer. I have driven Side-by-Sides without a windshield in similar conditions and I spend the day scraping debris off of my helmet visor, but the Yamaha windshield keeps pretty much everything off of the driver and passenger. Just a quick stop once in a while for a quick wipe with a microfiber shines it right up, whether you are wiping away dust or mud. Of course, you still get dusty, but the glove box on the passenger’s side and the center console storage box both keep everything inside dust-free.
If you want a UTV that will rocket across a smooth surface just as well as it will climb a steep rock pile with a comfortable cabin and a roomy cargo bed, the 2022 Yamaha Wolverine RMAX2 1000 Sport is a fantastic option. Yamaha engineered this vehicle to be a great all-around vehicle for trail riding while offering more utility and comfort than a pure performance model – and they hit a home run. The RMAX2 1000 Sport is a ton of fun in the woods, on the rocks and on the open road.