Story: Casey Cordeiro
Photos: Adam Campbell
Yamaha is a powerhouse manufacturer who makes sure that each product is meticulously crafted before production commences. We greatly appreciate this about the Blu Cru, and every time we strap into one of their UTV’s we are pleasantly surprised by the refinement they bring to the industry with their top notch products. This top-notch quality has continued to shine as the Yamaha crew recently unwrapped their latest gift to the UTV industry, better known as the Wolverine X4. This is a wonderfully crafted UTV, and we recently returned from Brushy Mountain Motorsports Park in North Carolina after driving this adventure-ready rig for the first time.
The Wolverine X4 is an all-new vehicle with a familiar name. There is also a 2-seat Wolverine in the Yamaha lineup, but that isn’t to be confused with the X4. This X4 variant rides on a purpose-built chassis to handle the 2 extra passengers. Yes, this is a 4-seat machine with a very short wheelbase, making it a turn-and-burn corner-carver for the trails.
At first glance, you’ll recognize the front fascia with its aggressive profile. The swept front hood and fenders allow driver and passengers to easily see over the hood – a huge plus when driving through the ups and downs in the trails. As we mentioned before, you will also notice how short this vehicle is for a 4-seat machine – it measures 122 inches total in length and has a 82.7 inch wheelbase. The tight dimensions make this X4 a corner-carver, with precision scalpel handling that can make the best drivers smile. As easy as it is to go fast down the trail, it is equally as fun to go slow in this machine, namely because of its stellar Ultramatic transmission and confident 4WD system. More on those in a bit…
Let’s go over some more specs that are key to this machine’s success. The X4’s engine measures out to be 847cc and is laid out in a parallel twin setup (DOHC, 8 valves total). This engine is very compact and mounts low in the chassis for optimal centralized mass. Fuel consumption from the 9.2 gallon tank is controlled by Mikuni dual 36mm throttle bodies. Firing order is controlled via Transistor Controlled Ignition (TCI) and the starting is of course electric. The all-new Ultramatic transmission comes standard with a traditional V-belt layout and L, H, N, R settings with a manual parking brake. All-wheel engine braking is controlled by a one-way sprag clutch. Putting the power to the ground is an On-Command 4WD system, which includes 3 different modes – 2WD, 4WD, full diff-lock 4WD. For those wondering, the rear differential is always locked.
In the suspension department, both the front and rear movements are controlled via double A-arms (with anti-sway bars and preload adjustable shocks). Front travel measures out to 8.7 inches, and the rear has 8.9 inches of movement. The special part of the rear shocks is the fact that they contain a self-leveling system that adjusts to the amount of weight you have in the vehicle and/or the amount of weight you are towing – you can tow up to 2000 lbs via the 2” receiver or haul up to 600 lbs in the dump bed. This suspension system self adjusts via an internal oiling system that makes minute changes based on the pressure in the oil chambers. Because it’s an oil system, there are no electric motors needed or external air bags. Simply drive a little ways and the system self adjusts to the amount of weight you have in and/or attached to the vehicle.
For those of you looking to compare the Wolverine X4 to its closest competitors, check out the Kawasaki Teryx 4 (85.6 inch wheelbase, 61.6 inches wide) and the Honda Pioneer lineups (63 inches wide, 80.2 inch wheelbase). The X4’s wheelbase falls right in the middle of these 2 machines, and it has the slimmest width. The X4 is significant because it molds the things we like about both the Honda and the Kawasaki into one machine, and it also improves on items that we don’t like about the other 2 vehicles. Let’s dive into it…
The Wolverine X4 is the quietest UTV on the market in our minds, bar none. The new parallel twin engine might be small in noise output, but its torquey personality will make you want to step on the throttle all the time. Plus, you’ll be able to tell your passengers how much you enjoy that power-rich feeling as you breeze past the trees. All Yamaha Side-by-Side’s equipped with the Ultramatic transmission are extremely smooth, and this new version of the Ultramatic in the X4 is ultra smooth. The centrifugal clutch keeps the belt tight at all times, meaning there is no lag when you pick up the throttle from a standstill or when already moving. Plus, you don’t need to worry about the belt having issues – Yamaha’s have essentially no belt issues because there is essentially no opportunity to “smoke it” and break it here with the centrifugal clutch. In addition to the great power output, this powertrain also has great engine braking, really great. It is smooth in both low and high gear, no matter how fast you are going. Needless to say, it was confidence-inspiring and we were thoroughly impressed! For those looking to limit the speed they travel or limit the speed of new drivers, the drive by wire throttle (YCC-T in Yamaha language) allows you to select from “bunny” or “turtle” mode to limit the vehicle speed to 25 mph, if wanted.
Let’s talk about the cabin… The front seats are well bolstered and offer a great view over the hood with their up-right stance. When driving the X4, you can get comfortable with the adjustable driver’s seat and steering wheel. For my 6’3” frame, I was a little crunched in the footwell area, meaning my ankle was definitely tired at the end of the day from flexing to reach the gas pedal (this is an issue I have also cited with the Teryx lineup). However, this wouldn’t be an issue for someone with shorter legs. And, with the compact chassis dimensions, every seat gets the most legroom possible. The adjustable steering wheel is great, and the gauge cluster gives you all the vital information you need to ensure that the machine is running in top-notch fashion. A passenger glove box, cupholders, and center console round out the front-seat amenities nicely.
Moving to the back seating area, we see that there is no dump bed – there is a standard bed that houses the two rear seats and still has a flip-down tailgate. The two rear seats slide forward and backward on a rail system, which allows you to either haul 2 additional passengers or more storage, whichever fits your fancy. One seat can be stored up and the other one slid back for a passenger, as well. Needless to say, the X4 is king when it comes to optional configurations. I also liked how I was able to have ample leg room with my tall figure in the back seats (400mm of legroom to be exact). My knees didn’t even hit the front seat – I was impressed! The back seats also sit up 100mm compared to the fronts so you have a stadium-style view of the trail.
Both the front and the back doors have door handles on the inside so that they don’t get full of mud and debris – great job Yamaha. All of the models that we drove had the suntop mounted up. It is specially designed so that it doesn’t get hung up on tree limbs and other challenges in the trail. Believe us, we tested it several times and this suntop performs flawlessly.
This chassis setup really shines when you get behind the wheel. Not only is it compact so it fits easily on all 60” wide trails, but it is very fun to hustle around corners. True to Yamaha’s point-and-shoot handling characteristics in their quads and other UTV’s, the X4 goes where you want it to go, even with 4 people aboard. There are no hints of the machine pushing into the corners. The self leveling shocks really help in this department with 4 people aboard – you don’t feel like you are driving a school bus into the corners and saying, “hey, watch out for that treeeeee!”. However, if there ever suddenly is a tree in the middle of the trail, you can go over it with 10.7 inches of ground clearance and easily-selectable 4WD that will pull you up and over the obstacle (or hill climb, for that matter).
One of the other aspects that we really enjoyed about this car was the power steering system – it offers great feedback that actually allows you to “feel” the terrain under you just enough, without being abrupt. Kudos, Yamaha.
For those of you who weren’t already aware, Yamaha really dives deep into the development of a new vehicle and incorporates many things into their UTV’s that other manufacturers might not take the time to do in the manufacturing process. For example, every chassis is E-coated, inside and out, before powder coating to ensure that the metal stays free of corrosion, no matter what climate you live in. Also, little things like adding 2 small drains in the front radiator fan guard are standard fare that Yamaha took the extra time to develop on the vehicle.
With all of these great things about the Wolverine X4, you knew that there had to be a couple things that we think could be improved on this new UTV. For example, getting into and out of this X4 is a challenge, both for front and rear passengers. We totally understand how Yamaha wants to make this the safest vehicle possible, and we applaud them for that, but the plastic guards above the front and rear doors make getting into and out of the X4 a challenge where you have to scoot your butt in first, turn, then sit. It could be one swift motion, but it isn’t. In addition to this, there is limited storage area with 4 people in the car. With a vehicle this compact, this issue is not easy to get around and I understand that fact. I’m sure we aren’t all going to have 4 people on a long adventure, and the fact that you can have 3 seats being used and the extra storage area behind the 4th seat is awesome, but there is still limited room when the seats are filled. The other quibble we have is the amount of room in this vehicle in the front seats. I wish the front seats sat up slightly higher to provide a little extra legroom.
From the get go, Yamaha brought out a massive list of factory accessories. Which one is our favorite, you ask? We have to pick the full cab enclosure – it is slick! You can mount a heater in there to keep you warm on cold trail days, and you can also have the tunes cranked with specific spots for speakers and a subwoofer. With 280W on reserve from the stock charging system, powering an assortment of accessories on this X4 is also an easy task.
Yamaha does their homework when they develop a new vehicle, so it is hard to fault anything that they have for sale. You know it’s going to be reliable, capable, confident, and comfortable. This all rings true with the new Wolverine X4 – if you’re looking for a vehicle that is adventure-ready with the ability to haul 4 people comfortably, this could very well be your machine, especially with a starting price of $15,999 MSRP. The Wolverine X4 is definitely the new standard in this class, and we can’t wait to get back behind the wheel!
More information on the USA-built Yamaha Wolverine X4 can be found, here: https://www.yamahamotorsports.com/recreation-side-by-side/models/wolverine-x4