Yamaha’s best-selling Sport ATVs
If you’re in the market for a new Sport ATV, the best and only options you have are on the floor at your local Yamaha Dealership. The Yamaha Sport ATV lineup, YFZ450R, and Raptor 700 are currently the only Sport ATVs in production and likely won’t be seeing competition anytime soon. Depending on what type of rider or type of terrain you ride in, each of these machines could be considered the best Yamaha Sport ATV for completely different reasons.
I was recently invited by Yamaha to a ride at the Umpqua Dunes Area in Winchester Bay, Oregon, giving me the perfect opportunity to test each machine back-to-back. Since I’ve been to this riding area numerous times over the years, I knew what to expect as far as the terrain. The dune complex at Winchester Bay has long fast straights, and some impressively steep dune climbs, but what makes this riding area unique is that it is also in a forest. Unlike other West Coast dune locations, like Pismo Beach, Glamis, or Dumont Dunes, these dunes have fast, tight twisting trails that are filled with whoops, and in some places weave in and out through thick bushes and tall trees.
With a ride area that provides so much varying terrain, it would give each model the opportunity to show where they shine in power, handling, and comfort.
Race Inspired Design and Styling
As a 450 enthusiast, I was quickly drawn to the Yamaha YFZ 450R when given our choice of steeds out in the dunes. Available in standard or as a Special Edition (SE) that comes in two color/graphic choices, and features a GYTR front grab bar, each sharing a sporty body on a frame that was built for performance. Powered by a 449cc liquid-cooled, 5-valve, Yamaha Fuel Injected (YFI) engine, the YFZ450R has a very linear power delivery that pulls hard from the bottom and only gets better as the engine is allowed to rev. The 5-speed, wet clutch transmission also features an assist-and-slipper clutch that reduces clutch pull effort and reduces the effect of engine braking for faster cornering and improved rear suspension action while braking.
As for the chassis, the YFZ450R is the closest thing you can find to a race-ready motocross ATV as they come. Measuring 50” wide, the YFZ450R is one of the best handling and most stable Sport ATVs you can find. The aluminum frame features narrow front A-arm mounting points that allow for increased a-arm length minimizing camber change as the suspension cycles. A wider axle provides the increased width in the back to increase stability as well. To help the YFZ450R soak up bumps of all sizes, KYB high-performance piggyback shocks are mounted front and back and feature high and low speed, rebound, and compression adjustments providing 9.8” of travel in the front and 11” in the rear.
As for rider comfort, the Yamaha YFZ 450R features oversize handlebars, mounted to clamps that offer 4-different mounting positions to optimize rider control positioning. To ensure that riders have a solid platform to stand on, the YFZ450R features 2.6” wide footpegs that keep the rider planted and offer plenty of leverage when extreme body positioning is required for hard cornering. Finally, the body of the YFZ450R has a sporty look and feel that allows the rider to comfortably move around. A convenient feature found on the bodywork is the use of quick-release fasteners so that all the fenders can be removed without any tools. This makes cleanup quick and simple after a muddy moto or trail ride.
Ready To Rip The Dunes
When it’s time to ride, simply turn the key on and press the start button to bring this 450 Yamaha Sport ATV to life. Now, in all honesty, this was not my first ride aboard this machine. When Yamaha last made major updates in 2014, I was able to test a unit on a local MX track and even took a unit to compete in a 12-hour endurance race in La Tuque, Canada. Sitting on the YFZ 450R again was like a reunion with an old friend. This ATV just felt comfortable as I took my seat, with only a few minor adjustments to the controls to feel perfect to me.
As I rode down the access road to the open dunes, it gave me a chance to get reacquainted with the feel of this high-performance Sport ATV. The throttle and steering were every bit as snappy as I remembered them to be. As our group got to the open flats of the dunes, I could easily push the thumb throttle and start clicking through the gears. The YFZ450R pulled hard and easily soaked up the choppiness of tracks left from other duners in the wet sand. This high-speed test run didn’t last long as the leader of our ride dove right into the serpentine track that ran along the base of the tree line.
This is where the high-speed agility of the ATV could be tested as the trail would go through long straights of deep whoops and then make sudden left and right turns through the tall grass in the sand. Just like my previous experiences, the harder you pushed the limits of this stock machine, the better it seemed to soak up the rough terrain. The 50” width of the YFZ450R helped to keep it tracking straight as long as I was into the throttle. The width also helped with the stability in the corners as I carved the sand under power, easily throwing the machine around under my body for the best positioning and control. I also feel the need to note that the radial Maxxis tires from the factory provide excellent traction and steering characteristics that help the YFZ450R feel as good as it does when ridden hard.
Our first stop to regroup was at the base of Banshee Hill, which back in the day earned its name for its difficulty and required a strong high revving engine to make it to the top of this dune through a winding trail in the trees. Nowadays the trail has been widened by UTVs frequenting the climb, but still needs the power to crest the top. One by one, riders in our group blasted from the base of the dune and I jumped in the line making my way to the top. With a solid run from the bottom, I clicked 4th gear, and as the climb steepened dropped down to 3rd and held the throttle to the top. Again, that high revving engine just pulled without missing a beat.
We stopped for a few minutes taking in the beautiful sight of the Pacific Ocean crashing down on the beach from atop Banshee Hill, and then got right back to charging the trails. This time we were led down a dune into a thick clump of trees where there were endless lines twisting and turning throughout. It was in these tight trails where I could really appreciate Yamaha’s Assist-and-Slipper Clutch. Many of these trails featured climbs out of hard corners, meaning shifting was critical to stay in the power to climb the damp power robbing sand. Those that were unfamiliar with the engine occasionally found themselves stuck on that climb, and having to dismount to pull the front end around to give the run another shot.
If you’re used to riding an ATV with a high revving engine, you know where and when to shift to enjoy the ride. Having to shift a lot can wear on the hand, and the light pull of the clutch lever never caused any kind of hand fatigue, and when coming into a corner the rear end didn’t feel like it was “packing up” and kept the rear end from hopping around.
Five Star Performance
All in all, the Yamaha YFZ450R does just as well in the dunes as I remember it performing on the track. Its race inspired design allows it to handle everything from high speed stutter bumps to endless deep whoops like a champ. As previously stated, the harder you ride it the better it handles as long as you’re up to the task. Power from the high-revving 4-stroke engine seems endless, and just know that there’s even more to be had when you make upgrades to the “Big 3”, but in stock form it’s likely plenty for the average ATV rider on sand or dirt.
Yamaha’s Best Selling Sport ATV: Raptor 700R
The title above should say it all. While the Yamaha YFZ450R has some excellent features, not everyone wants or needs an ATV that has been designed for excel on the track as well as the trail. That said, the Yamaha Raptor 700R is no slouch when compared to the YFZR. At the heart of this monster is a 686cc, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected engine that produces gobs of torque that is cradled in a hybrid steel aluminum frame that features a controlled-fill aluminum sub-frame and paired with a cast-aluminum swingarm. What this amounts to is an extremely powerful motor with a frame that is the strongest and lightest in its class. The Raptor 700R, like the YFZ450R, also features aggressive styling for top-notch looks and great rider comfort.
Measuring 45.5” wide, the Raptor 700R could be considered the perfect trail machine for its nimble handling in such a tight package. The A-arm front end is paired with a set of YZ-style piggyback shocks that feature high and low speed compression, rebound, and preload adjustability, similar to that found on the performance-built YFZ450R. To ensure that this beast of an ATV is capable of stopping on a dime when necessary, twin aluminum-piston disc brakes with drilled discs provide maximum stopping power.
In the rear, the cast aluminum swingarm is paired with a similar YZ style piggyback shock with high and low speed compression, rebound, and preload adjustments providing 10.1” of wheel travel. Ensuring maximum traction, Maxxis tires are also used on the front and rear of the Raptor 700R with lightweight aluminum wheels that enhance the suspension performance due to their light weight. To provide a solid footing for riders, race-inspired 450mm wide serrated footpegs are there to keep boots planted.
The body styling of the Raptor 700R is sporty with a narrow seat giving riders plenty of space to move around for optimal body positioning while riding. The Raptor 700R is available in both a standard model, and also available as a Special Edition (SE) with two different color options, and extras like GYTR heel guards and front bumper. For those looking to save a few extra bucks, or that have plans on completely discarding the stock suspension for upgraded components, the Raptor 700 (non-R) is available with pre-load only adjustable shocks.
Putting The King To The Test
Just like with the YFZ450R, this isn’t my first rodeo aboard the Raptor 700R. I’ve had a few opportunities to ride this beast of a machine in a few different terrains. One being hard packed 50” ATV trails in Eastern Oregon, and in the tall dunes of Glamis. Riding at Winchester Bay on this machine is new and would be a combination of my two previous experiences in one area. On our ride in the dunes, we had both the YFZ450R and Raptor 700R units on hand, so I made sure to ride both back-to-back so I could give a true comparison of the two. While I had a pretty good idea of what to expect, I will say that there were some aspects of this machine that did surprise me on this trip.
My statement on this machine having “gobs” of power still stands. The 686cc engine is a torque monster. This is very apparent as soon as you fire up the engine, click into first gear and start rolling. Just give a few quick blips of the throttle and the Raptor 700R just lurches forward. The one thing about the Winchester Bay Dunes is that you have plenty of twisty trails at your disposal, and I’m pretty sure we hit every one of them on these units. The nice thing about the suspension on the Raptor 700R is it’s designed for performance. The piggyback shocks do soak up the big bumps fairly well when you’re charging hard, but this is a big machine to muscle around.
Where the YFZ450R felt easier to skim the tops of the whoops, the Raptor 700R required more muscle and aggressiveness to keep it in line through the ever increasing deep whoops. Where I felt the suspension really shine was the handling in the tighter trails that wound through the trees. With so many people (we weren’t the only ones there) riding in damp sand on the tight trails, there were some good grooves to carve through, but you also had to stay on your game to not blow out of the groove and end up sliding down the side of the dunes. The narrowness of the Raptor 700 tracked fairly well, unless riders were overly aggressive on the throttle in the corners making the unit push. Most of the time this could be corrected with a little dragging of the front brake, but I preferred to back off the throttle and allow the engine braking to slow me down. This also dropped the front end allowing it to stay in the ruts.
This is also where the biggest noticeable difference between these two Sport ATVs really stood out. As I previously mentioned, the YFZ450R required a lot of shifting to keep the engine revving for maximum power delivery in the sand. With the Raptor 700R, I could pretty much keep the transmission in 3rd gear and use the torque of that big-bore engine to pull its way out of anything. Sometimes I might have needed to work the clutch a little to get the revs up, but for the most part, the engine produced enough torque that I could cruise in one gear through the tight stuff all day long. Even on some of the longer dune climbs, I purposely upshifted early into 3rd gear and just rolled onto the throttle allowing the motor to do what it did best and easily pull the Raptor 700R to the top without any strain or unnecessary over revving.
Through the few days of riding I had at Winchester Bay, the weather was wet and windy causing plenty of chatter across the flat open sand. I had taken the YFZ450R across these areas and could feel the feedback of the rough terrain through the bars when just wanting to cruise. The Raptor 700R was a totally different beast and seemed to soak them with ease. I won’t say that roughness was completely eliminated, but it definitely wasn’t as much as I felt on the 450. This is a great machine for someone that wants a well handling ATV that delivers tremendous power and rider comfort. It may not be bred for performance on the track like the YFZ450R, but not everyone is looking for that, and quite honestly it shines in a place where that machine might not be for some riders.
And The Winner Is….
At the end of my trip to Winchester Bay I took time to reflect on my experience on both machines, each very different. The YFZ450R is a light, nimble machine that likely suited my riding style best. Did it require an aggressive riding style to enjoy its full potential? Sure, but I’m ok with that. It’s likely because I’ve always felt more at home on smaller ATVs since they’re light and easy to move around. It was more work but I think that also adds some adrenaline factor to the experience. I have nothing negative to say about this machine.
As for the Raptor 700, there I don’t have anything negative to say about this either. It shines in low end torque and allows you to ride a little more lazy for lack of a better term. Again, this isn’t a negative, but if you’re looking for an ATV that you can cruise trails or dunes on, yet still have plenty of power on tap when you want it, the Raptor 700R has the advantage. The narrow frame makes navigating tight trails easier with a tradeoff of stability at higher speeds, just means that you need to be ready to compensate with aggressive body positioning.
What it really comes down to is what are you looking for in a Sport ATV. Are you looking for that E-ticket ride on a machine that is bred for racing and requires a little for finesse in the saddle, the YFZ450R might be just what you’re looking for. If you’re more of a cruiser who wants a comfy ride but would like smooth power that will easily get you up any hill you point the front end at, the Raptor 700R just might be the better choice. Either way, I don’t feel you can go wrong since both are proven platforms and will only get better as there is always R&D going on for these machines.
If you’re on the fence for getting one of these extremely fun and capable machines, but aren’t sure what can be done to further enhance their performance we’ve got you covered. You’ll want to check out our lists of Best Yamaha YFZ 450R performance parts or Raptor 700R products buyers guides. We list everything from exhausts, controls, safety items and more that only enhance the performance and ability of these Sport ATVs.