2016 Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec Review

Rick Sosebee
by Rick Sosebee
2016 Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec Action Front
We get our first ride in Yamaha's newest UTV

It’s been about three months since Yamaha first took the covers off its new Wolverine R-Spec Side-by-Side and we’ve been anxious to get behind the wheel ever since. We finally got that chance recently when Yamaha invited the off-road media to the mountainous Brimstone Recreation in central Tennessee.

Yamaha’s design team created the Wolverine R-Spec so consumers could enjoy the trail, even when they have to make one themselves. It’s a bit of a crossover vehicle – one that would do equally well on a hunting trip as it would on flying along rock-strewn trails.

Powering the Wolverine R-Spec is a 708cc single cylinder engine – a totally new dual overhead cam mill with 10.1:1 compression and fuel injected for optimum performance. Liquid cooling for the Wolverine keeps the temperatures low even when cruising the trails slowly. Our test vehicle had no issues getting started and for the first part of our day it would be a literal climb into the tops of the Brimstone property to get more familiar with the UTV.

If Yamaha wanted to show us what the Wolverine was fully capable of, it certainly got a hand from Mother Nature, who provided plenty of rain to get the trails nice and slick. It didn’t take long before we had to rely on the Wolverine’s four-wheel drive. Coming out of the parking lot, we came to a near vertical hillside that had been rutted pretty good before we arrived. Fortunately, the Wolverine was able to crawl its way to the top of the hill and we did not even have to engage the differential lock. With 9.7 inches of suspension travel in the front and 10.6 in the rear, the long wide arc arms reached down into the ruts and found solid ground. The 11.4 inches of ground clearance obviously contributed to the overall ability to clear rutted sections of the trail, but when we began to encounter massive amounts of rocks it was even more evident.

COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2014 Kawasaki Teryx LE

2016 Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec Action Climb

Heavy rain made for some slick trails, but the Wolverine was undeterred.

We’d say this machine is not meant so much to drag race through the trails, but rather to find new paths and conquer trails once thought to be a little sketchy by most. That being said, a push of the go pedal and some competitive spirit and the Wolverine R-Spec oblige your need to play racer on occasion. Yamaha’s decision to add the fully adjustable KYB piggyback shocks to the Wolverine gives each rider a chance to find the perfect setup for their riding skill and preference. These KYB shocks are spring preload adjustable, as well as High/Low speed compression and rebound dampening adjustable. Our personal preference would have been to add some preload to the front end of the Wolverine, but it was primarily because of the massive rocks we encountered on our test ride.

2016 Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec Front Suspension

Yamaha outfitted the Wolverine R-Spec with fully adjustable KYB piggyback shocks.

COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2015 Arctic Cat Wildcat Sport

It was nice to sit down into the cab of the Wolverine and feel as if you were in the machine, not on it. The high back seating felt comfortable and seemed to be positioned well for a bigger rider. If you love to find new trails and take a friend along, you will need some kind of storage. Yamaha addressed this by outfitting the Wolverine with a large dash, twin drink holders, and a large center console storage space. The center console storage is easily removed to access the air filter for the four-stroke powerplant. This is good for those who love to service their machines themselves. A forward storage cubby is located in the center of the dash, just in case you need a bit more space. We love the high center console and the gate-style shifter also seemed to work very well when we had to make one 40-point turn in the middle of a single lane trail. It was probably the smoothest shifting in a Side-by-Side we’ve ever done. Tucked in the seat with the three-point seat belt fastened, we felt comfortable and confident during the day’s ride.

2016 Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec Center Console

Easily accessible storage is found in center console of the cockpit.

Riding the Tennessee hills, we encountered many rocky hill climbs and similar descending trails. In low gear and locked into 4WD, this new Wolverine tackled each obstacle without hesitation and we had complete confidence in its ability. The 708cc engine performed well and had plenty of power, as well as reserve, to get up and go if we needed it. We probably would have tried lowering the air pressure in our tires on a few of the rocky areas, but with rain pouring down and several other vehicles behind us we’d have to wait until our long-term test vehicle arrives from Yamaha. We had to adjust our approach on a couple of really slick rocky areas, but the machine went where it was pointed.

Is this the Name of Yamahas Pure Sport UTV?

Our full day of riding also consisted of many deep mud holes and a creek crossing or two. This, unfortunately, revealed the lack of sealing in the upper floorboards and along the forward center console. When we splashed into the water, it ran in and onto our feet from above. We’re guessing by looking under the fender that it was coming in from a split where the two pieces of upper and lower floorboard met the dash box. Maybe a foam seal of some kind would remedy this quickly.

2016 Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec Water Crossing

Water found its way in the cockpit fairly easily.

One other item that weighed on our mind was the welded-in steel skid plates. This center steel plate being welded in can make servicing the underbelly of the Wolverine problematic when there is no real clear access from the top. With rocks and stumps beating the steel plate upward, eventually it may be difficult to access items such as drain plugs. As we scraped along the muddy ruts, we were imagining mounds of mud and gravel being shoved into the underbelly through the cut outs and being stuffed inside. This muddy debris might be difficult to get out without removing the floorboards, which would be easier if the plates were simply bolted in.

2016 Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec Skid Plates

We would have preferred the skid plates not be welded into place, to make servicing the vehicle easier in years to come.

Overall we walked away really impressed with the Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec and the possibilities it brings in the future years of Side-by-Side development. It is also very exciting to see where Yamaha is headed. Do not forget we have two more years of development promises coming, but for now we are really impressed with what Yamaha has been able to accomplish in three short years.

2016 Yamaha Wolverine R-Spec Action
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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