Getting work done with Yamaha's newest Side-by-Side
It seems Yamaha was making a point when it chose the location for its 2014 Yamaha Viking 700 press event – the Viking is a machine made for real working men and women.
The sun comes up in Ten Sleep, Wyo., hiding a big sky full of stars. Before the rooster can crow, farm hands at Red Reflet Ranch are scurrying around getting cattle rustled up, horses fed and pivot irrigation arms running to start the day. The fields are rich for harvest and the Elk are bugling off in the distance as if to let the workers know they will be along soon to chew on the alfalfa they work so hard to grow. The red dirt reflects in the water of a small pond down below us and it seems like the sheer mountain cliffs are on fire. A cool breeze blows out of the west and groups of Mule deer wander around the Chalet where I am standing. This working cattle ranch is where the new 2014 Yamaha Viking was presented to us.
Just a few months back we showed you the newest member of the Yamaha Side-by-Side family. We said goodbye to an old friend, the Yamaha Rhino, and welcomed the 2014 Viking 700. This new workhorse is a product of strong-back towing and cargo handling along with the spacious seating for three co-workers. This machine has cool features like electronic power steering (EPS) available as an option and serviceability is easy with the rear-engine-mounted design.
Starting with an all new chassis, Yamaha engineers pulled together strength, durability and safety to keep the proper perspective on consumer. A tough ROPS certified chassis keeps confidence high and makes for a tough, reliable and long lasting machine. Power steering on the Yamaha Viking has been proven through hours of testing to get the strain of turning the steering off of the driver and allowing better control in tight or technical situations. This is most evident when the Viking is loaded as well as when the 4WD or 4WD differential lock is engaged. Working in and around cattle gates or driving into or out of tight spaces in the stables with any kind of load is where you will find that power steering is a blessing. Although it is a $1,000 option, we’re not sure we would want any work-specific Side-by-Side without it.
Getting up and over obstacles in the trail is not a problem at all with the 11.8 inches of ground clearance available on the Viking. Four-wheel independent suspension also allows the machine to flex its muscles over a wide variety of terrain and with A-arms getting 8.1 inches of travel, both front and rear, the Viking has a good reach to even out the nastiest trails.
COMPARISON: Read our preview of the 2014 Kawasaki Teryx
The Viking, in our humble opinion, is built primarily for the working- and service-oriented customer or hunter who needs a reliable work-ready heavy hauler yet likes the ease of getting into tight areas.
With a working payload capacity in the steel cargo bed of 600 lbs, the Viking is built to handle many years of abuse. The Viking also hauls/tows an astounding 1,500 lbs via a two-inch receiver hitch on the rear of the machine. This means mending fences and hauling feed bins in small trailers is not an issue. There is also room for that Trophy whitetail in the bed.
The engine in the Yamaha Viking is actually facing rearward and mounted just behind the cab of the utility machine. The engine is claimed by Yamaha to be its most powerful ever and at 686cc it’s a thumper. The engine features a single overhead cam and feeds the hungry fire inside with fuel injection. Four valves get fuel in and exhaust out with a custom tuned head pipe and muffler. Power is optimal for the three-passenger machine. Fuel economy is also optimized to make sure the machine gets many hours of work done before needing a fill up.
COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2014 Honda Pioneer 700-4
Delivering the power of the four-stroke engine to the rear wheels is Yamaha’s trademarked Ultramatic transmission, which utilizes a dual action system to keep positive pressure on the V-belt and smooth engagement at all times. This also keeps the belt from slipping and prematurely wearing. Engine braking across the entire rpm range is a standard feature, helping to slow the vehicle on steep descents or any time when the driver lets off the gas.
Compared to the Yamaha Rhino, the Viking offers space for an extra passenger. This three-seat design allows the center passenger to relax rearward approximately five degrees to get the shoulder space needed for the driver and right side passenger. Seating for all three is plush and comfy. From our experience at the ranch, the comfort level in this setup works really well. Driving through tough off-camber terrain and into tight corners, each person in the cab of the Viking had ample room and it did not feel cramped. The floorboard is a smooth transition from left to right and a pass-through design allows you get out on either side. There is good grip on the floor as well with dimples to improve traction. Shoulder bolsters provide extra support for the riders on the left and right and it seems the steering wheel is moved farther left than normal, possibly making way for the extra space to get the center passenger in.
We had a full day to get out in the mountainous areas in and around Ten Sleep and really work the Yamaha Viking. It was a great experience to see how a real ranch worked from sun up to sun down as well as to use the Viking as part of the functions there.
Anybody taking a cursory look at the 2014 Yamaha Viking 700 can see it is a real working machine. The bonus is that it is both comfortable and affordable. Though the Viking’s suspension is just a bit on the stiff side when riding unloaded, the ride smoothes out when the bed begins to full up. We were surprised at just how much the big single could tow. And even though we could notice the strain on the engine as we hooked up the trailer and loaded the bed to its limits, the 686cc mill pressed on.
The Yamaha Viking drove well for us all day and seemed to be comfortable at cruising speed. However, a softer overall suspension spring or a little weight in the bed would be ideal for general trail riding. One minor issue is that the big Single-cylinder engine tends to vibrate a lot at idle and the dash makes that pretty evident. In Viking’s defense, though, the vibration does go away right off idle.
There are a lot of factors that go into the concept of a new machine and with the working-minded looking for ways to better serve their needs the Viking is a good choice. You get the tough and reliable Yamaha name as well as a reasonable price at $11,499 for the base model and $12,499 for the EPS-equipped Viking. Available colors include the traditional Yamaha Steel Blue, Hunter Green and Red. An awesome-looking RealTree AP HD Camo is available for a few more sheckles.
Bottom line, we think this machine will be fine for any working situation and could easily be tuned to allow more of the recreational activities to be accomplished in comfort.