HomeBuildsYamaha YXZ1000R Long-Term Review and Build

Yamaha YXZ1000R Long-Term Review and Build


Yamaha YXZ1000R Long-Term Review and Build
What a year and 1200+ hard miles have taught us about Yamaha’s flagship UTV
Words by Cody Hooper // Photos by Cody & Elissa Hooper

Yamaha YXZ1000R Long-Term Review and Build

“For every moment of truth, there’s confusion in life.” This song lyric by the late, great Ronnie James Dio blares through my headset as I’m grabbing a handful of the down paddle and matting the throttle through the floorboard. The YXZ’s rev-happy inline three cylinder responds with a crisp downshift and a big shove forward into the first of a LONG set of whoops.

I’m sitting beside my wife, who is peacefully staring out the side of the YXZ at all of the glory Mother Nature provides us desert folk in mid-spring. I click the up paddle and keep the throttle down, and the YXZ starts to stretch its legs. It stands up on top of the whoops and smooths out, completely blocking out all but the most jarring of hits. How is a “standard travel” sport UTV pulling this off?

You see, spec charts and marketing headlines hardly tell the whole story. You cannot judge a vehicle’s build quality by press photos. You’re not the one feeling the feedback through the steering wheel in a YouTube video. Visceral feelings are meant to be experienced in person, live and unfiltered. The Japanese UTV manufacturers are the only manufacturers chasing the full spectrum of visceral appeal right now, and Yamaha is in the lead. What does full spectrum mean? Power, agility, driver engagement (shifting is a big part of this), ergonomics, comfort, reliability, ease of maintenance, etc. Polaris and Can-Am are focused on winning races, which they’re doing with ease in the Baja and desert circuit. This is great- it breeds massive horsepower and big suspension travel. The question I’m asking is, do you, reader of UTV Off-Road, really need those things?

My family and I spend most of our riding miles on the desert floors and mountainous regions of the Western States. If I were spending all my time in the dunes, the YXZ likely wouldn’t have been my first pick – but isn’t that the beauty of the UTV market these days? We are spoiled for choice! My last three UTVs have been turbo cars, but as I’ve made a shift away from the dunes and find myself frequenting the desert and mountainous regions more, my needs from a UTV have also changed. I no longer need 200 horsepower- although to be honest, we already have plans to boost this YXZ.

For the 2019 model year, Yamaha went back to the drawing board and offered up a mid-cycle refresh that changed much more than we anticipated. The radiator was moved to the rear of the car, increasing its cooling system reliability and capacity all while keeping the cabin much cooler as well. The transmission gearing was altered, allowing for more aggressive lower gearing and a wider spread – this particular YXZ tops out at 84 MPH on the rev limiter in 5th with its current 30” tire setup.

Yamaha also focused heavily on the YXZ’s suspension tuning. Not only are the valving and springs different from the 2016-2018 models, but the philosophy has been altered as well. Whereas the first YXZ followed a light valving/heavy spring profile, the new YXZ goes for a light spring/heavy valving feel. It does absolute wonders for the YXZ’s comfort and poise.

Many other small quality of life changes were made to the YXZ, including a new cage, updated transmission tuning, more powerful brakes, some stronger driveline pieces, and forged engine internals. This allows for the GYTR dealer accessory turbo kit to be fitted to any 2019+ YXZ without internal engine modifications.

Yamaha YXZ1000R Long-Term Review and Build

Yamaha YXZ1000R Long-Term Review and Build 

When we first took delivery of the car, we were blown away by how different it felt from the last SS model we sat in. The car’s compliance over all bumps was greatly improved, and it felt as if the already-stellar front end on the YXZ was even more poised and supple. There is a magic feeling to the Yamaha’s steering and front suspension geometry that allows ample control in the ugliest of situations.

We were a little baffled by how much water gets into the cab when you hit water in the Yamaha, but doing it with a little more speed seemed to keep some of the water out of the cab. Storage space was an issue with the stock car and was easily resolved with the addition of a GYTR storage box and spare tire carrier. We also added a few miscellaneous soft bags to the inside of the doors and the center console, the latter of which is actually just a generic Moose dirt bike fender bag. The stock car was great out of the box, so we started to focus on setup items.

Yamaha YXZ1000R Long-Term Review and Build


Yamaha YXZ1000R Long-Term Review and Build

The 2019 YXZ is unbelievably capable out of the box. The shock tune is so good, in fact, that if you plan on keeping the car completely stock and not adding any weight to it, you likely won’t need to modify your suspension at all. The stock spring and valving package is expertly tuned; the car just needs light adjustments to the ride height (preload), spring crossover, and clickers. The Fox Podium RC2 coilovers on our YXZ are still running the stock valving, but we purchased a heavier-rate custom Eibach spring package since we have added a few hundred pounds in accessories to the car for comfort, safety, and reliability.

Setup is the key to making any car ride and handle well, and the YXZ is no exception. We set ride height at 14.5 inches front and 14.0 rear unladen, measured at the front-and-rearmost parts of the frame where parallel to the ground. Tuning the spring crossover and clickers takes time, knowledge, and a set of eyes outside the car to watch its behavior. We are fine-tuning a final shock tune, which we will reveal in another issue. With the YXZ set up properly, it’s amazing what the car will just erase as you roll over it.
The first-gen YXZs I drove and owned were jumpy and stiff in stock form, often deflecting off of bumps rather than absorbing them. For the best driver control possible in bumpy terrain, the suspension must compress easily enough and rebound quickly enough to keep the tire in contact with the ground. When suspension becomes too stiff & too slow, you get deflection, or a momentary loss of traction as the tire bounces off the ground or an obstacle. Deflection upsets the car and causes a loss of comfort and trust in the vehicle.

Yamaha YXZ1000R Long-Term Review and Build


Yamaha YXZ1000R Long-Term Review and Build

With the suspension on our YXZ now ready to take on some additional heft, we started by focusing on safety modifications. First up were a set of incredible PRP RS seats, which are a great combination of bolstering support and all-day comfort. We also installed a pair of 3” 5-point racing harnesses to keep us secure.

TMW gave us a smoking deal on a gorgeous cage, complete with all of the options we desired for this build- an intrusion bar, inboard grab handles, light bar mounts, aluminum roof, whip and antenna mounts, and rear chase bar accommodations. The cage took a little greasing to get it on, likely because I lifted it on myself and tried to force it on with ratchet straps. Once bolted down, the cage provides a noticeable improvement in chassis rigidity. This does wonders for making the car feel consistent and predictable, but it also increases your perceived safety level.

Rugged Radios sponsored this build with a full radio, intercom, and pumper setup. We used one of their 60-watt RM-60 radios paired with an RRP696+ Bluetooth & Telephone intercom. We are running a grounded short-wave antenna with Rugged headsets inside of HJC/Bell helmets. The onboard coms are great, and the car-to-car works very well unless you get the radios wet at all. We learned during one outing that heavy rain, even with the car covered, was enough to make our radio throw a fit in the morning. We sealed up the back of the box that the radio is mounted in and have not had an issue since.

Rugged’s M3 two-person air pumper takes filtered atmospheric air and forces it into your specially-fitted helmet via a flexible hose. This is paired with a helmet skirt, a long cloth cover that extends from the bottom of the helmet down to your chest, back, and shoulders. This allows the pump to pressurize the helmet very slightly, keeping any dust or sand particles from entering the helmet without the need for goggles. If you ride in groups in dusty terrain, you absolutely need one. Rugged’s kit has an optional variable speed fan controller, which is especially nice for turning the blower speed down in cold weather.

Other interior touches include a host of Assault Industries equipment, including three convex mirrors. Two of our mirrors have unfortunately met early demises, and both of them happened INSIDE the trailer while we were transporting the car. The legs for our pop-up table shook loose from their ties and came harpooning through the cab of the YXZ as we tried to get down the road to Hammertown. Oops.

Assault also sent us a billet steering wheel hub and Navigator genuine suede steering wheel, which is a very trick setup that feels wonderful in your hands. It brings the wheel about 1.5” closer to the driver, which caused issue when we realized we couldn’t reach the paddle shifters very well. We ended up modifying a Hess Motorsports paddle extension kit that was designed to work with an entirely different setup. Some cutting, drilling, and custom bracketry later and we had a perfect fit again.

We also fitted a set of Assault Industries turret-style billet tie rods. With the stock YXZ tie rod ends, heavier 30”+ tire setups cause a bit of wobble in the stock aluminum rod ends. Swapping them for a beefier set eliminates the feeling through the wheel completely. While commonly overlooked, your UTV’s wheel alignment makes a big difference in how the car handles. A little time with a tape measure goes a long way. Typically, we set the car with about 1/8” toe-in at ride height with two passengers.

If you’ve ever driven a YXZ1000R at night, you would have a hard time believing Yamaha ever drove it in the dark during development. We’re not sure why this was done, but the YXZ’s headlights leave a lot to be desired. We remedied the lack of visibility with a couple of phone calls to Vision X, who gave us a generous discount on a set of light bars for the car.

Yamaha YXZ1000R Long-Term Review and Build

Up front, we used Vision’s relatively new 51” XPL light bar. It uses Vision’s “Iris Reflector Technology” paired with 5W Cree LED emitters. Vision claims up to 19,260 lumens and over 2,000 ft of useable light for the 51” model. It also features a backlit halo daytime running light and easy slide-track mounting.

Vision’s 35” XPL Chaser bar was mounted to the rear of the TMW cage. We wired up separate functions for the red and amber lights, allowing us to have a high-mounted brake light. It’s much easier to see than the YXZ’s rear tail light, which looks like it was pulled right off the Raptor 700 sport quad. Does anyone else get the feeling that Yamaha built the YXZ specifically to go racing?

Yamaha YXZ1000R Long-Term Review and Build
With the modifications to our YXZ nearly complete, we started to focus on performance. We ran the car for the first 10 months of its life with an Alba Racing SBD kit installed. This consists of a new head pipe, an airbox spacer, a spark arrestor insert, and an ECU reflash. It added quite a bit of pep to our Yamaha for around $800. The car ran great, but we wanted a little more.

Recently, we installed an HMF Performance Series Blackout full exhaust and DynoJet PowerVision3 tuner. Both of these items are still being tested and will be featured in upcoming UTV Off Road stories. For now, what we can tell you with confidence is that this HMF pipe makes this car an absolute ripper. We kept the Alba airbox spacer and have been working with HMF to build a custom tune file for the YXZ SS. The pipe mounted up easily and has an amazing tone to it. Bottom end performance is noticeably stronger, and it pulls through a broader mid range. Up top is where it really shines, as this thing absolutely lays it down between 7,500 and 11,000 RPM. See the full review of the HMF Performance Series Blackout Full Exhaust here. 

Finally, we get to the tires. While the 2019+ YXZs are shipped with a great 8 ply set of Maxxis Bighorns, we needed slightly more height and a square setup. Yamaha still ships the YXZ with a staggered tire and wheel setup, which makes carrying a spare a bit of a choice. We went with System 3 Offroad’s SB-3 Beadlock Wheel and RT320 tire, sized 30x10R14 all around. We have been running this tire and wheel setup for a year now, with only one failure that was definitely our fault. The steering linearity and front-end grip provided by this tire is a great fit for the YXZ.

Yamaha YXZ1000R Long-Term Review and Build

Yamaha YXZ1000R Long-Term Review and Build

The sum of this car’s parts add up to something quite special. We have been testing UTVs since the Rhino was the only game in town, and almost 20 years later, Yamaha is still showing the world they really know how to build a UTV.

Ownership of this car has been completely drama-free. We thoroughly enjoy working on the Yamaha,  having owned units from Polaris, Can-Am, Honda, Kawasaki, and Yamaha. The YXZ’s fasteners are top-notch, and most of it is all dirtbike hardware, which means you can buy a SpecBolt kit that will provide you with a ton of trailside spare bolts for your Yamaha should you need them.

With the new gearing and transmission tuning, the YXZ SS delivers incredibly smooth slow-speed performance. We took to a particularly nasty rocky section of Last Chance Canyon a while back, and were blown away at how smoothly the computer was able to deal with clutch modulation. The tranmission has a personality, meaning it will change its shifting behavior, speed, and abruptness depending on your speed and throttle position. If you’re cruising along at low speed and grab an upshift just to keep the RPMs down, the transmission slurs out a long shift to keep things rolling smoothly. If you’re at wide open throttle and click the paddle however, it cracks off a shift like a rifle shot.

There’s a certain composed feeling you get when the driver, engine, chassis, suspension, and transmission all work in harmony. The YXZ is a symphony of aggressive sounds – the raspy bark of the exhaust at WOT followed by the ignition cut and guttural whack of a full-throttle gear change. The sound of straight-cut gears spooling up as you grab downshifts while standing on the brake pedal trying not to blow right past your turn-in point. It’s not something you simply sit in and drive; the YXZ is meant to be experienced.

Fine sports cars offer more than what can be read in a brochure. It’s about the way the car feels when you drive it, but more importantly, it’s about what the car makes you feel when you drive it. Do yourself a favor- find a newer 2nd gen Yamaha YXZ1000R to try out for just a couple of minutes. That’s all it will take to have you hooked.

Yamaha YXZ1000R Long-Term Review and Build

Logbook Tidbits:
Days In Fleet: 501
Total Miles: 1256
Max Coolant Temp: 226
Gallons of gas used: 89
Average Fuel Range: 120 miles
Lowest Fuel Range: 74 miles
Highest Fuel Range: 153 miles
Max Speed: 84 mph (GPS)
Number of Engine Oil & Filter Changes: 2
Number of Transmission Oil Changes: 2
Number of times air filter cleaned: 2
Number of times shocks have been removed for tuning: 4
Tires Killed: 1
Broken Parts: 2 mirror glass, 1 tire sidewall
Money Spent on Repairs: $156 (tire)
Money Spent on Maintenance: $98.54 for oil change kit (twice), $13 for exhaust gaskets, $20 on filter cleaning chemicals
Favorite Tire Pressure: 18 PSI
Shift Light RPM: 10,500