2020 Yamaha YXZ1000R XT-R Edition UTV Review (MSRP: $21,699)
Story: Casey Cordeiro // Photos: Adam Campbell
Here is our 2020 Yamaha YXZ1000R XT-R Edition UTV Review. Like the Wolverine X2, the YXZ1000R XT-R edition gets several purposeful changes for the new model year. The XT-R-specific package includes Maxxis Carnage radial tires mounted on Yamaha’s own Titanium Bronze colored cast aluminum beadlock wheels. The Carnage tires have the same size as the stock Maxxis Bighorn tires (29”), but their profile and beefy tread pattern definitely give the XT-R edition an aggressive look. Complementing the tire and wheel setup is the new XT-R edition front bumper, which is paired with the WARN VRX 4500 winch. Completing the package on the inside are the signature XT-R performance cut and sew seats. All in all, the XT-R package has a tough and very adventure-friendly look to it. I wasn’t so sure about the graphics and paint package at first, but seeing this XT-R edition in person really turned my mind around – it looks great in person and in the sunlight.
Other than those XT-R-specific model differences, all of the great 2019 changes remain on this 2020 model. While I won’t go over all of the changes that took place last year, I’ll give you a high level overview of the most significant changes from last year. First, the transmission was re-geared to have a lower overall gearset (24% lower first gear, 7% lower gears 2-5). On the outsides of the vehicle, the changes you would notice are the tires getting a bump in size to 29” in diameter. Inset from the tires, the wheel bearings were enlarged on all 4 corners to make adding 30” tires less stressful on the stock parts, the brake lines were all upgraded to stainless steel units, and the rear arms are now protected from the factory. One of the biggest and most functional changes to the 2019 model was the radiator relocation to the rear of the vehicle. The radiator was also significantly enlarged. Not only did this provide extra cooling power, but it also took all of the heat away from inside the cabin. This also helped with the slight engine modifications, which included an upgrade to the factory engine rods. All in all, these engine and cooling changes, along with all the other ones mentioned, allowed the GYTR Turbo package to be a simple bolt-on installation with the 2019 and newer YXZ1000R’s. So, have you always wanted a GYTR Turbo on a YXZ?! Now it’s easier than ever to install (just a couple of hours), and all of the functionality of the stock unit is up to the standards of handling the bolt-on Turbo. Last but not least, the shocks got a huge upgrade with a true dual rate setup, which performs as one of the best stock suspension setups offered on any factory UTV. Depending on which model you are looking at, most YXZ’s come with the Fox RC2 shocks, which offer full adjustability with high/low speed compression, rebound, crossover, and preload adjustment.
These 2019 changes are all relevant because the 2020 XT-R edition builds off of these by making the YXZ1000R even more capable. Bigger tires and the radiator relocation really helped solidify this vehicle as a mud and trail master – two things that some people weren’t buying YXZ’s for all that often in the past. With essentially no opportunity to clog a radiator in this vehicle, or puncture it in the woods, this UTV is one of the premier sport UTV options on the trails now. Credit the gearing changes here, too. With the more aggressive Carnage tires mounted up and the WARN winch up front, the YXZ1000R can now get you there and back in a stock package.
Our ride time aboard the YXZ proved that all of the 2019 changes still solidify our feelings that this is an excellent trail machine. The lower transmission gearing allows this vehicle to climb at 5-6 mph now with ease. Thankfully, the Carnage tires enhance the experience even further with great forward bite in rocky and loose, rutted terrain. With an 8-ply rating and radial construction, I found that the Carnage is nearly indestructible in this Yamaha-exclusive compound. I also found that the Carnage still provides good hard pack traction like the stock Bighorn tires, which are found on other YXZ models. So, you’re not giving up anything by getting the Carnage tires in the XT-R model. These would be equally at home in the rocks, on the trails, or in the desert. I do want to mention that the sidewall feels pretty stiff on the Carnage, which is great for durability (we didn’t have any flats on this trip – that is saying something in the ultra rocky terrain at Top Trails OHV park!). From my seat time, I think they ride a bit rougher than the stock Bighorns because of this, but, thankfully, the Fox RC2 shocks allow you to adjust your compression settings (both high and low speed) to enhance the slow speed ride if you want. Again, the YXZ is all about being a driver-centric vehicle with a direct connection to the trails, and the ability to tune your shocks solidifies the fact that this is a vehicle that you can make your own.
On these trails, I didn’t have an opportunity to use the new WARN VRX 4500 winch, which was recently upgraded to this new model. However, this Made-in-America winch molds very well with the Made-in-America YXZ1000R. With 4500 lbs of available winching force available from the front end, which includes a brand new front bumper and stronger front frame section, both of which are specifically made & revised to handle these winching duties, the YXZ could literally lift its entire weight and more if you needed it to do so. The added confidence and security knowing that I could get myself out of a sticky situation, if needed, is more than worth the extra money for this XT-R package.
Let’s chat about the powertrain for a second… The combination of a high revving triple-cylinder engine, which is tuned to near perfection with just enough bottom end torque to match the hearty mid range and punchy top end (all the way to redline!), and the lightning quick sequentially shifted manual transmission gives the driver a visceral experience when on the trail. I love it, and by the looks of how many people are enjoying the latest YXZ’s on the trail, especially those vehicles 2019 and newer, many people are enjoying the same “YXZ feeling”. The sequentially shifted transmission is the way to go with launch control and excellently controlled clutching. Plus, as a driver who likes to take on a challenge, I like to know that I am physically locking the front differential for true all-wheel drive traction. This Yamaha 4WD system is top-notch and easy to operate.
Sure, the YXZ1000R is a great vehicle, but it isn’t perfect in every way. I’d still like to see a better seat option for the driver and passenger with a bit more side bolstering and a 4-point harness as standard equipment. I have quite a bit of seat time in a 4-point-harness equipped YXZ with the stock seat, and I can tell you that having a better securing system for your body is well worth the money, not just from a safety aspect but also from an enjoyment standpoint. On our XT-R ride, I found myself slipping around in the seat a bit as we traversed steep terrain, both ups and downs plus the side-to-side action. The handling of the YXZ is so good with it’s point-and-shoot style that the stock seat belts just don’t hold you in place well enough. Also, I will say that the ends of the front XT-R bumper look a bit like an afterthought, but everything else is top notch Yamaha quality. I still think the styling of the front bumper is great, and it serves a purpose of keeping everything up front protected in any terrain.
In addition to the driver-centric handling of this machine and great weight bias, the electronic power steering, which was revised for 2019 and the larger 29” tires, is also spot-on with great on-center feel, along with great assist throughout the entire steering cycle. It could be a bit quicker in the ratio department, but it is still on point with the assist level and ramp-up of the speed sensitive system.
So, at the end of the day, would I buy the XT-R package on a YXZ1000R? The answer is unequivocally “YES!”. Just like the X2, the main reasons for this are because of the winch setup and the tires, which both enhance the overall experience of driving this machine by giving you even more capability, along with confidence behind the wheel.