LAS VEGAS - The biggest ATV news coming from the Yamaha Dealer Meeting wasn't as epic as the thunder that came with the announcement of the Rhino side-by-side machine or YFZ sport quad a few years back. But, dealers aren't complaining, either, after hearing significant news about several models, including Raptor, Rhino and Wolverine.
Dealers reacted big time to the announcement that the Raptor 700R was an all-new model for 2006. The Raptor 700R hosts a plethora of updates that make it more powerful, smoother running and better handling than ever before. It was one of the machines that dealers Powersports Business spoke with were most excited about. “I think the Raptor hit a home run,” said Mike Johnson of Ellicott City Motorsports in Ellicott City, Maryland. “[Our] Raptor sales have been soft since the Suzuki LTZ400 came out. These changes will help.”
The engine displacement jumped from 660cc to 686, thanks to a 2mm overbore to 102mm. Stroke remains the same at 84mm. This provides added low and midrange punch that the 660 was sometimes criticized for lacking. But the biggest oohs and ahhs came at the announcement that the machine would be fuel injected for 2006. This machine marks the first mass-produced sport ATV to get FI, not counting the now-defunct Cannondale machines.
Appearing in July, the Raptor 700R (MSRP $6,999) will be available in Yamaha Blue and white/sliver color treatments.
Yamaha retired the old Wolverine and completely started over for 2006 with the new Wolverine 450.
The company clearly is not catering to the die-hard hunting market with the new unit. It is positioned as a sporty machine for all-around trail riders.
The new Wolverine gets selectable 2WD/4WD capability, and a 421cc liquid-cooled powerplant. Styling mimics the other sport quads in the Yamaha lineup, but the machine clearly takes design cues from the Raptor. The combination of sporty trail manners and light off-trail excursions should prove popluar in some areas of the U.S., but not all dealers were convinced that the Wolverine would sell for them. “I'll sell a couple,” said Clem Tuchscherer of Enumclaw Suzuki Kawasaki Yamaha Polaris. “I have mixed emotions on that machine. Hunters need independent suspension, and younger riders want [performance]. I think it will be a machine for middle-aged riders, but it needs independent suspension.”
The Wolverine ($5,999) will come in Yamaha blue or in the white/silver color scheme. It should arrive in dealerships in September.
SIDE BY SIDE
On the Rhino front, the big news was the announcement of the Rhino 450. Essentially taking the complete rolling chassis of the Rhino 660, the 450 is fitted with a lower displacement engine and a $1,200 cheaper price tag. Dealers seemed excited about this machine, but part of the excitement could simply be that there will be more Rhinos out there to sell next season. Many dealers Powersports Business spoke with simply can't keep Rhinos in stock. Yamaha also let dealers know that Rhino production would go up for 2006, which met with several loud affirmations from the crowd. Jonny Johnston of Cambridge Motorsports in Cambridge, Md., said that he's have no problems up selling customers from the 450 to the 660 Rhino at the price difference.
The Rhino 660 and 450 won't see many changes, but they do get a new stamped cargo bed that has less assembled parts and no snagging rivets. The bed also weighs in at 50 pounds less than prior models.
Like Grizzly, some special edition Rhinos will arrive in dealerships in October. First is the Rhino Exploring Edition ($10,149-$10,599). Yamaha took several of the most popular Rhino accessories and added them at the factory to create this machine. It receives a molded roof, rear cargo cover, wind deflector, front brush guard and over fenders to minimize splashing into the cockpit. Lastly, the Rhino Special Edition ($9,899) will come in steel blue with aluminum wheels, embossed grey seats and digital instrumentation. It will appear in August.
For sport quads, the flagship YFZ 450 underwent more than 80 changes for 2006. The engine gains 10cc, bumping total displacement to 449cc, just below the 450cc maximum under ATVA racing rules. A new cylinder head modeled after the YZ motocross bike offers more controllable power from the extra displacement; an adjustable YZ-type suspension linkage resists bottoming and is stable at high speeds; and new handlebars mimic YZ layout and are positioned higher and closer to the rider.
The 2006 YFZ450 will hit dealers in August in Yamaha blue and white/silver color schemes. A special Bill Ballance (defending GNCC champion) edition will arrive later in the fall.
While many dealers and press writers thought that Yamaha would up displacement on the Grizzly for 2006, it didn't happen. In fact, the base Grizzly 660 didn't get much in terms of changes at all. What did change is the way that the Grizzly and other utility machines are getting marketed moving forward. By launching its new Yamaha Outdoors concept, the company is clearly going after the hunting and outdoor enthusiast. Three new Grizzlies lead the way: the Grizzly Outdoorsman Edition, the Grizzly Ducks Unlimited Edition and the Grizzly Special Edition.
Moving down the line, the Kodiak 450 saw no drastic changes, but does get its own Outdoorsman Edition at a lower price point. The only other changed model is the Grizzly 80, available in blue, green, and now, Hardwoods camo.
- Blake Stranz