First Ride: Yamaha's bonkers YXZ1000R breaks free

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Yamaha can do no wrong at the moment. From superbikes and super-nakeds to super-value retros, their range of ‘crossplane philosophy’ vehicles are as popular as they are diverse. Which brings us neatly to the tuning fork brand’s latest CP release – the YXZ1000R, Yamaha’s first sports ‘side-by-side’.

‘Hold on a moment,’ I hear you say, ‘two too many wheels for MCN.’ Well, yes, but there’s no denying this 998cc triple-powered buggy would look amazing parked up in your dream garage next to an R1-M, especially in this 60th anniversary yellow and black speedblock paint scheme.

Designed purely for having as much off-road fun as is humanly possible with your nearest and dearest at your side, the YXZ1000R is 110bhp of hardcore giggles. With a top speed of around 80mph, a heady 10,500rpm rev limit, switchable two and four-wheel drive modes, and the ability to take flight over lumps, bumps and jumps thanks to 17 inches of suspension travel from four Fox shocks, the YXZ is far from a toy, although it is child’s play to drive.


Whereas other vehicles in this market feature automatic CV transmissions, Yamaha have brought their motorcycling know-how on board to give the YXZ an excellent 5-speed sequential gearbox, which you can bash your way through via the rally-car style, one-up five-down dashboard-mounted stick. Although you can give the gearbox plenty of aggression, it’s a different story when it comes to steering. Expert care needs to be taken when balancing the crazy Yamaha’s torque-rich power delivery from that snowmobile-derived engine with those long-travel shocks; too vicious with the steering inputs or carry any brake into a corner, you’ll load up those massive coil-overs and send yourself barrel-rolling through the air. Believe me…

Fortunately the chassis is pretty tough and there is a roll bar, but the standard YXZ only comes with car-style 3-point seatbelts which means putting one on its roof would have considerably more implications than doing so on the toughened FIA-spec racing version, complete with 5-point harnesses and racing helmet restraints, that we thoroughly tested (read ‘crashed spectacularly’).

As a recreational off-road vehicle, the YXZ1000R is a pure hoot and gives you all the mud-plugging thrills of riding a motorcycle off-road but with a slightly larger safety margin. As it’s not road legal, the £17,398 price tag is a little on the extreme side for something that serves no purpose other than for putting a huge grin on your face, however dealers Thorney Motorsport offer a full day YXZ experience, including qualifying and four-race programme, for just £499. It’s the best fun you can have on two (plus two) wheels.

2016 Yamaha YXZ1000R Tech Spec

Price £17,398 (£18,598 for 60th anniversary edition, £21,500 with race kit)

Engine 998cc (80.0mm x 66.2) three-cylinder liquid-cooled DOHC

Power 110bhp

Chassis Tubular steel

Suspension Front independent double wishbone with anti-sway bar, 412mm travel. Rear independent double wishbone with anti-sway bar, 432mm travel

Brakes Dual hydraulic discs front and rear

Wheelbase 2300mm

Wet weight 699kg

Fuel capacity 34 litres