[dropcap]B[/dropcap]ack in June we were invited to South Carolina to see several of the new 2017 Yamaha off-road ATVs and UTVs, and as our Editor-At-Large Robin Hartfiel pointed out, the YXZ1000R SS stole the limelight. But since it was just an introduction, we didn’t get a chance to put the machine to the test; the hard part of this job! We took our lumps and went back down to S.C. in August for a quick test ride.
When Yamaha introduced the manual transmission version of the YXZ last year, the media was giddy with excitement. Pro racers and Sport SxS enthusiasts stood up and took notice of a truly unique machine that was ready to take on the Polaris RZR domination… An actual manual transmission with a sequential shifter – mated to a three-cylinder 998cc engine – who wouldn’t want it, we thought.
Yamaha brass knew they had a winner on the track and in the hearts of many enthusiasts, but was the transmission that set it apart also holding it back from higher volume sales?
It’s not a secret that most auto manufacturers have either stopped making manual transmissions for the U.S. market or they are limited to niche vehicles, i.e., lower volume. The slow death of manuals has been kicked around in the automotive press, and some of the moto press as well, so kudos to Yamaha for being bold enough to bring out the manual YXZ. That said, we think the Sport Shift (SS) model will vastly outsell the manual, even at the higher price point.
All speculation aside, the SS model proved a close match for the manual in the tight confines of Big Buck Farm where we tested the 2017 machine. Big Buck is a popular stop on the GNCC circuit that features tight wooded trails and steep, often muddy climbs, at least during our visits. We started off slowly and built up confidence while still keeping a fair amount of speed in our back pocket so we didn’t run out of talent too fast.
This was not a problem at the end of the day when talent was in abundance as we rode along for a lap with off-road racer Dustin Nelson, who is competing in the Lucas Oil Regional Off-Road series in both Southern California and Arizona. The speed he demonstrated as he ripped through the tight trails was more than eye-opening. It was truly a thrill to see what the YXZ1000R SS could do in the hands of a pro such as Dustin. He noted that at Big Buck, the advantage of a pro driver in the manual YXZ is virtually even with the paddle-operated Sport Shift YXZ.
We also spoke with Yamaha Product Developer Ryan Stiver about the key points of the YXZ SS and where it fits into the market. “We developed the YXZ1000R SS model as a different way for users to experience the pure sport market,” said Stiver. “We launched this sport shift technology, the paddle-style shifter, with the key feature being that it eliminates a
The SS shares the same guts as the manual model, which is mated to an advanced automatic clutch system, so drivers can shift Formula One style and keep their foot on the gas as they go through the gears. One of the other fun features with the SS is the launch control system that allows you to pull back the paddles and rev the engine to 10,500 rpm redline and dump the “clutch,” which is the paddles in this case, with the auto clutch.
Yamaha did its homework bringing out the manual model first to build the buzz around it before unleashing the SS, which is equally impressive and will appeal to a much larger customer base. Dealers should find it easier to sell a Sport Shift YXZ since it can be operated by any SxS enthusiast.