When Yamaha introduced the Rhino a decade ago, nobody could have guessed how that one machine would change the powersports market. Yamaha was probably just as surprised at its success. Fast-forward to today and the rest of the world is surprised that Yamaha is not following up the Rhino with a sporty machine to compete with the likes of the RZRs, Mavericks,Wildcats or even the new Teryxs of the world.
What Yamaha did introduce this year is a machine that is aimed more at the hunter, farmer, rancher rather than the weekend warrior. This was pretty much the intended market for the Rhino originally and now has competition from Honda with the two Pioneer models and Polaris with their extensive Ranger line. This work-first, play-second segment is a much bigger piece of the pie. Yamaha claims it is more than 50 percent of the market, so they gave us the Viking.
The Viking is sort of a unique machine, with room for three occupants spaced across the cab situated on separate bucket-like seats. The center passenger has a backrest that has a slight recline, helping the situation feel somewhat roomy. It works. Even when cruising with three full-sized adults, you don't feel cramped. As an added bonus, both passengers have footrests and solid handholds to hang on to if needed.
This machine is powered by a version of Yamaha's proven 686cc, SOHC, liquid-cooled, four-stroke engine that is also used in the Raptor, Grizzly and Rhino. For the Viking, they gave it a 10.0:1 piston, fuel injection and the newly calibrated Ultramatic clutch system (with high and low range) to efficiently move the 1342-pound machine and give it a 600-pound payload capacity and 1500-pound tow rating. Those numbers show that this machine is a workhorse under the aggressive-looking bodywork. It has a huge steel dump bed, a 2-inch receiver hitch and a wheelbase of 84.1 inches.
The Viking is no slouch on the trails. It's quick and fun to drive. Top speed is limited at just over 50 mph. Power is exciting enough to offer a thrill, but not overwhelming or racy. This is not a farm machine meant for chores only. On the right trails, you can have a blast behind the wheel or in either passenger seat of the Viking.
We tested both power-steering and non-power-steering versions and liked them both. Without EPS, you have more steering-wheel feel, but it's not heavy or tiring after long distances. Also, steering effort between two- and four-wheel drive was not noticeable. In fact, we wonder why Yamaha doesn't just make this machine four-wheel drive all the time. With EPS, steering is ultra light and nearly effortless, although the steering is not as quick lock to lock as the Rhino was.
Yamaha did a good job reducing cabin noise versus the old Rhino. To do this, they placed the engine behind the center passenger and mounted the air intake under the hood. Drivetrain noise is also much quieter than the Rhino.
Hydraulic disc brakes are found on all four corners, as are 25-inch Yamaha-designed Maxxis Big Horn tires mounted on 12-inch wheels. The wheels move over the bumps via a dual A-arm setup with 8.1 inches of travel. The ride is a bit rough over the bumps when driving alone. However, if you have a couple hundred pounds in the bed or two passengers, the ride smooths out nicely. Unfortunately, the shocks are not adjustable. Another bummer is that the Viking's wide stance of 61.8 inches might prevent it from fitting in the bed of most full-size trucks. And, it definitely won't fit on any strictly enforced 60-inch-wide trails. Bummer!
All Viking models, except the blue version, come with a standard plastic roof. The base-model Viking starts at $11,499. That is only $1400 more than the top-of-the-line Special Edition Grizzly. Power steering adds $1000 to the price, and the Camo edition sells for $13,249. For comparison, the EPS-equipped Polaris Ranger 800 sells for $13,299, and the Pioneer models range from $9999 to $11,699, and neither of the Hondas are available with power steering.
We like that Yamaha carried over the locking differential system from the Rhino and Grizzly lines, so no matter what kind of trouble you get yourself into on or off the trail, the Viking should be able to fight its way out. Although a bit shallow, there are four cup holders supplied on the dash, which is convenient. On the downside, there are few opportunities other than the glovebox to store extra items like tools and such. Just to stow stuff under the seat, you have to purchase and install an extra cargo box. However, Yamaha does already have an extensive line of aftermarket cargo and comfort solutions if you want to customize your machine.
We have already assembled a crew of cattlemen, hunters and enthusiasts together to compare the Viking head to head with the Honda Pioneer and Polaris Ranger 800. We are working the machines to the bone to find out how the new Viking stacks up. In an issue coming soon, we will have those results for you. If you can't wait that long and are desperate to find a replacement for your aging Rhino, you won't go wrong with the Viking.
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WARNING: Much of the action depicted in this magazine is potentially dangerous. Virtually all of the riders seen in our photos are experienced experts or professionals. Do not attempt to duplicate any stunts that are beyond your own capabilities. Always wear the appropriate safety gear. Copyright 2008 Hi-Torque Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Console Login