For 2011 the big-bore Yamaha Raptor retails for $8999 and has an even darker outlook with all-black bodywork and subtle phantom graphics. A special front grab bar and custom GYTR heel guards come standard, and both machines tread on new inner-rolled wheels. Powering this beast is a 686cc four-valve engine with 9.2:1 compression ratio. For a big Single, the 700R is very smooth thanks to dual counterbalancers and a 44mm throttle body squirts fuel into the thumping engine. It too uses a five-speed manual transmission, but riders will be happy to find it has reverse as well. This mattered little in the sand, but the 700R is popular with power-hungry trail riders thanks to its narrower profile and more supple suspension. Piggyback shocks on the front are fully adjustable and the solo rear suspension is customizable as well. It has slightly less wheel travel than the 450R (9.1 inches front, 10.1 inches rear). The Raptor uses 20-inch Dunlop KT345 rear tires and 21-inch Dunlop KT341 front tires for 4.4 inches of ground clearance.
The Raptor 700R SE is taller and narrower, but provides a level of comfort that can’t be matched by the racy 450. Wheelies are bound to happen with the torque-laden 686cc SOHC engine.
We split off into groups to explore the exciting terrain and unbridled performance of the class-leading machines. Right away they established themselves as worthy sand companions. The stock tires were left in place and aired down making for incredible slides while still providing plenty of traction to go sand-surfing. Where the YFZ builds power quickly and into the high rpm, the Raptor is a torquey monster that churns out wheelie-inducing power right off idle and into the midrange. We took a long ride out to China Wall and the 700 motored up the steepest section without breaking a sweat. Rolling forward in third gear, the SOHC engine didn’t even require a downshift and powered up on its first run. It was more difficult on the stock 450 which required five or six attempts before we managed to top the monster pile of sand. That standard front grab bar came in extra handy!
Yamaha’s in-house accessory team (GYTR) is dedicated to top performance, and after testing exhaust products across its range of machines, has decided to partner with FMF exhausts. The mufflers and full systems will be available from the GYTR catalog with joint badging. Yamaha brought out one of each machine equipped with several cool components from the catalog. Once we crested the top on our stock YFZ it was time to try out the GYTR-equipped 450 and it ripped over the top with authority on the first try. The throatier exhaust note is very nice and we appreciated the power boost from the open airbox most on big climbs like this. All told the GYTR bike was definitely preferred and we had to keep a sharp eye for opportunities to steal it from other journalists.
There was a Raptor on hand with extra GYTR accessories as well. This quad was also notably more impressive. We experienced a similar machine with our 2010 DTR Racing Raptor 700R SE Project Quad. The mods were essentially the same with a fuel controller, exhaust and open airbox, but our 2011 test machine was equipped with nerf bars as well which made a larger difference than expected. The 700R is narrower, has more rotating mass and is more top-heavy than the 450, which means it doesn’t handle as aggressively. Bolting on the nerf bars allow for much better control over the burly machine and the ripper 700R was snatched up by a different journalist at every opportunity.
For the dunes we’d like to combine the easy-to-use engine and riding comfort of the Raptor with the aggressive handling of the YFZ.
Though the engines are very different, they are both very effective in their own way. The biggest difference for us was the handling. It’s hard to imagine a more comfortable ride than the 700R, but the extra weight, softer suspension and taller chassis make it less willing to turn or to hammer through aggressive terrain. G-outs will tax the shocks and the rear is more susceptible to bottoming. To be fair, we did not spend time working with the adjusters and have no doubt that the Raptor could be stiffened up for high-speed sand use. Its supple ride is what makes it great on trail debris as well. On the other hand, the YFZ loves to smash things hard and fast. Glamis was windswept for the most part, but heading across the few choppy spots we encountered, the racing suspension is much more rigid and transfers a lot of feedback to the rider through its ProTaper handlebars (mounted in four-way adjustable clamps). The tradeoff is that its handling is extra sharp. With precise, intuitive direction changes and taught suspension, the 450 jumps better and adapts to all those nasty dune surprises with confidence.
Yamaha also brought out a few of the Raptor 250R models for us to rip around a small worm track right next to camp. It was surprising how tired riders would be after an outing and then watch them bust out a 20-30 minute moto on the 250 when we rolled into camp. The little Raptors are stupidly fun and we bashed them full throttle for hours. All of these machines qualify for Yamaha’s recently extended promotion with One Industries that allows a free set of graphics
(choose from seven options) with the purchase of a machine from a dealer between March 1 and June 30, 2011. Check out the website for more details.
One of the best aspects of this trip was that we got to experience the machines the same way a “regular” person would. We’re all normal Joes too, but for a typical press introduction we usually zip in, ride, stay at a hotel and leave. Yamaha used this trip to remind us all why we’re in this industry. Camping out with friends and enjoying ATVs is what it’s all about. The guys from Camp Chef were on hand for the entire time and used their spread of awesome portable cooking equipment to whip up amazing grub. Seriously, they’ve got some badass stoves, smokers and ovens so if you like to camp, hunt or tailgate, check out their line of stuff at www.campchef.com. Every night we fired up the powerful-yet- virtually soundless Yamaha generators to illuminate cutthroat rounds of single-elimination horseshoe tournament play. When we weren’t tossing the steel, the crew relaxed and spun yarns by the bonfire. Factory ATV racers Dustin Nelson and Josh Row hung out and ultimately it was a great experience. But the highlight are the YFZ450R SE and Raptor 700R SE. Both sport ATVs are right at home on the sand. Each is just as good or better in other environments like motocross and trail riding, and their versatility helps make them very popular machines.