Yamaha XT-R Experience at Top Trails in Alabama

Rick Sosebee
by Rick Sosebee
We test out the premium versions of the Wolverine and YXZ1000R

Yamaha XT-R premium trim packages are available for the Wolverine X2, Wolverine X4, YXZ1000R and Grizzly. We recently had a chance to try some of them out in Alabama.

2020 Yamaha ATV and UTV Lineup Unveiled With New XT-R Editions

Riding in Xtreme terrain is something that Yamaha has been doing for many years but recently it decided to create a new edition for all of its off-road vehicles for a special package they call XT-R. This came to fruition after Yamaha launched an exciting new riding challenge to all Yamaha Wolverine, YXZ and now Grizzly owners called the XT-R challenge. This event takes place at the world-famous Loretta Lynn Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn. in the fall of the year. Many loyal Yamaha owners attend for a great time and a chance to challenge themselves in the hills of Tennessee.

Some might think that the Yamaha XT-R models just have new colors and graphics, but there are actually some interesting changes to the Wolverine models and others have new accessory features to give validation the XT-R badging. We had the opportunity to join them in the piney woods of south east Alabama at a very interesting ride location called Top Trails. This full day ride in the complete line up of Yamaha XT-R vehicles allowed us to once again experience the reasons why love riding with the confidence-inspiring Wolverine X2/X4 as well as the YXZ1000R SS and the Grizzly ATV.

Yamaha XT-R YXZ1000R

The biggest news is in the Wolverine family of recreational off-road vehicles. The Wolverine X2/X4, powered by the new 850 inline twin cylinder mill, received a completely redesigned front as well as rear framework. The wheelbase grew by one inch and the front of the Wolverines, basically from where the front part of the frame meets the cab structure and forward, received an overhaul. This redesign not only strengthens the front of the frame, but allows the use of a much larger 4500-pound WARN VRX winch for those times when you or your buddies run out of talent.

Both Yamaha Wolverine X2 and X4 also have changes out back to the rear suspension pick up points to stretch the rig for a larger wheel/tire combo. The result gives the Wolverine what some call a square set up, making the rear track width grow by 2 inches. The suspension will also flex its muscle by another half inch as well and that is always appreciated. When you look at the tire and wheel set-up on the Wolverine family you will notice the Yamaha XT-R package Titanium Bronze color on the 12-inch cast aluminum wheels. The Wolverines also get the 27-inch GBC Dirt commander tires with a tough 8-ply rating. This also had an effect on the ground clearance by giving you about another half inch of space between the belly and the ground. On the Wolverine X4 you will also get the KYB piggyback shocks that are fully adjustable to handle those tough trails the way you want them to.

Yamaha XT-R Wolverine X4

The YXZ1000 and Yamaha Grizzly ATV get the classy looking badging as well as Titanium Bronze and Tactical Black colorations, special edition bling. The Yamaha XT-R package on these machines is not limited to just color, though, as the YXZ1000R now comes equipped with the factory installed WARN VRX winch on the updated winch-ready bumper. You will also notice the auxiliary lighting in the nose of the YXZ1000R. as well as the interior accent lights in the cab.

Yamaha has also added a new rearview mirror design for those times when you want to see if your buddies can keep up. Maxxis Carnage 29-inch tires adorn the 14-inch cast aluminum wheels colored in Titanium Bronze and of course the entire machine is color matching to the XT-R package.

Yamaha XT-R Grizzly

Looking at the Yamaha Grizzly you will find the same colorations and badging as well as a WARN 2500ln winch. The Maxxis Zilla’ tires standing at 27 inches give the Grizzly about a half inch more ground clearance and make the machines stance about a half inch wider. The 14-inch Titanium Bronze wheels are also cast aluminum. The Grizzly also comes prewired for the Adventure Pro GPS device as well, so you can simply plug and play to realize that next adventure.

Top Trails has a grand history of its own, being that it was once part of a munitions support location with storage conifers located all over a 2800-acre patch of Alabama woodlands. The trails here vary from tight tree lined flat runs to intense terrain climbing up into the Gents Mountain. There are rock gardens, mud bogs and lots of very unique experiences waiting for those who want a new place to fill their adventure bucket list. You can even camp in the old ammunition storage buildings that are on site, as they rent these to visitors for added fun.

Yamaha XT-R Group

We started our day in the Yamaha Wolverine X4 and quickly recalled the reason we originally loved this four-seat UTV. This rig is quiet and comfortable and the addition of the KYB piggy-back, fully adjustable shocks gives the owner the ability to make the machine ride the way they want it too. Some will overlook the ability of these shocks for the “blingyness” of an aftermarket dampener, but we can tell you that these shocks are full of advantage if you just take the time to tweak on them.

Yamaha XT-R Wolverine X4-2

The trails began with some flat wooded switch backs and again it brought to our attention the ability of even the Wolverine X4 to swiftly move in and out of tight wooded trails. The Twin cylinder 850 mill gives the grunt you need and makes this rig very capable. Climbing rough, rocky sections of the Top Trail facility were simple and our GBC Dirt Commander tires didn’t have any issues all day. The toughness of this tire is pretty incredible as there were many sharp-edged rocks in some sections that could have easily sliced into the meat of a lessor tread. Although we knew the entire Wolverine framework had been changed, we really didn’t notice any difference in the way the machine handles the terrain. It still had the prowess, as we had experienced it before, and performed very well in many different levels of technical trail.

The Yamaha Wolverine X2 XT-R is obviously a tad shorter than the X4 and can get into some even closer quarters. We did not ever have to use our WARN VRX winch, but if you need it the 4500lb rating is incredibly nice. Having the ability to talk to the passenger while you drive is so important to us and the Wolverine allows you to do this comfortably.

Yamaha XT-R Wolverine X2 Front

Seating in both Wolverines is comfortable and the Yamaha XT-R package gives the owner a quality cut and sewn high-back and bolstered seat for the ride. No matter the hill or the terrain at Top Trails, if the driver was willing the Wolverine was able. The Yamaha Wolverine X2 just feels so stable and flat when cornering and is very fun to drive at speed as long as your passenger is up for the gig.

Getting out of the Wolverine platform and into the YXZ1000R SS after lunch also allowed us to reignite the passion for this SXS. The YXZ, as you might recall, is the first pure sport shifting, gear-on-gear transmission of its kind. With this model, the Sport Shift, the paddles right in front of the steering wheel add to the excitement of the off-road for us.

Yamaha XT-R YXZ1000R Action 2

When you step into the high revving triple cylinder and grab a gear with your index finger, the trees seem to come closer and the go by a lot faster. It is easy to feel the excitement of the tight woods in this machine and it feels like you are in a rally-cross event. The gearing of this YXZ allowed us to lug the steep hills and crawl through some of the tougher sections, which would put a grin on anyone’s face. Although we never had to use, it the 4500lb WARN winch was waiting on the front of the YXZ just in case. Maxxis and Yamaha have worked together quite a bit over the years and for the YXZ they developed what they call the Carnage tire. This 29-inch tread looks similar to the Carnivore, but is specifically designed just for Yamaha. The tires gave us a little more ground clearance as well as a very nice approach and departure angle when climbing the rocky stuff at Top Trails. Grip and grunt were plentiful in the Yamaha XT-R model YXZ.

It is always refreshing to see companies like Yamaha making adjustments and improvements to their off-road offerings. We never discount the work that goes into the simplest of changes as the change for the better is always welcomed, even if it may seem to go unnoticed to the naked eye. Top Trails was a perfect facility to test the all-around capability of the Yamaha XT-R packages and we hope to get back there soon.

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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