Three out of four of the test riders who participated in our Maxi Scooter comparison picked Yamaha’s TMAX as top of the performance pile, giving the half-liter scooter a landslide victory in our shootout. Complete and utter domination.
How did the Yamaha achieve this? Plain and simple: Design and manufacture a scooter that feels, acts and behaves like a proper motorcycle, especially when ridden at a spirited pace. By utilizing a far more rigid chassis and combining it with beefier suspension, radial tires, and an extremely versatile engine, the TMAX can hold its own on twisty back roads with a good majority of today’s full-sized bikes. That’s something none of the other scooters in this test came close to achieving.
“This is a scooter for motorcycle riders,” remarks Dawes of the Yamaha after only a few miles in the saddle. “No question, Yamaha designed the TMAX to be a machine that could compete with similarly-sized motorcycles!”
Fuel-injection and forged pistons are just some of the details that helped the TMAX dominate the performance category.
From a technical standpoint, a horizontally-set 499cc liquid-cooled, Parallel-Twin engine provides the forward propulsion and features new technology for this segment with bits like fuel-injection, forged pistons, ceramic-composite-plated cylinders and an eight-valve cylinder head. A compression ratio of 11.0:1 aids in producing the horsepower needed to give a ‘sporting feel’, which is translated to the rear wheel via a continuously variable transmission (CVT), further smoothed out with an internal reciprocating balancer, and sent to the ground with Yamaha’s ‘V-Belt’ final drive.
“Performance wise, none of the other scooters came close,” exclaims Ross about the ‘Max. “I was very much surprised when I twisted the throttle and the TMAX jumped to life instantly with some zing. The Yamaha proved itself to be very versatile and easily out performed all the other scooters in the variety of environments and riding conditions we tested in – the TMAX is the only one with a ‘motorcycle’ feeling to it and it shows.”
When it comes to hard data, about the only applicable tests for a scooter are 0-60 mph acceleration times and 60-0 mph braking distances. It was no surprise that in these categories the T-Max was at or near the top, recording the shortest distance braking of 147 feet (six feet less than the Suzuki and 14 sub the Kymco), while under acceleration it only trailed the 150cc-larger Suzuki Burgman by fractions of a second, it’s best being a 8.83-second run compared to 8.29 seconds from its Japanese competitor. And though it also trails the Suzuki on sheer top speed (115 mph vs. 104 mph), when it comes to seat-of-the-pants feel the Yamaha easily matches it via far superior chassis technology and overall handling abilities, as well as the ability to put the power it does produce to the ground in a much more productive manner.
“The TMAX proved itself to be very versatile and easily out performed all the other scooters in the variety of environments and riding conditions we tested in — the TMAX is the only one with a ‘motorcycle’ feeling to it and it shows.” – Jen Ross
“The engine is peppy, and although not as strong as the Burgman, it more than makes up for the lower power output with great handling,” Dawes adds. “It actually handles better than most motorcycles. It turns in easy and is rock solid when leaned over.”
This is achieved through what Yamaha calls a ‘controlled-fill die-cast aluminum frame’ which makes up the backbone of the chassis, with a 43mm front fork and single rear shock handling the bump absorption duties. Braking comes via 4-piston monobloc calipers (yes, you read that right – monobloc brakes as standard on a scooter!) grabbing dual 267mm front discs brakes, with a single rear disc brake. Wheels are of the 15-inch die cast aluminum variety, coming shod with H-rated radial rubber (120/70-15 front; 160/60-15 rear). The result is a scooter that is as relaxed on the freeway in traffic as it is composed when pitched into high-speed sweepers on twisty back roads. The TMAX soaks up the road effortlessly throughout a wide variety of speeds.
“What really blew off my socks was sending the TMAX into the fast sweepers and how it sailed through them without upsetting the suspension or handling in any way,” continues Ross. “The ergonomics, size, and weight of the TMAX were all favorable and I felt instantly comfortable riding it.”
And while riding ergonomics were favored by all who swung a leg over, the high tunnel height of the Yamaha was the one and only area that the nearly invincible TMAX showed a chink in its armor. Our resident scooter expert, Dawes, notes: “The seating position is comfortable and the seat is nice and flat to allow moving around on long stints, but the raised tunnel makes swinging your legs through the scooter more work than it’s worth. It’s just as easy to get on a motorcycle. Though that’s really the only negative of this otherwise stellar scooter.”
Other features of the Yamaha include multifunction instrumentation with integrated speedo/tach, while the sleek styling gives off an attractive and edgy look, what Yamaha calls its ‘Super Sport Scooter’ – or a sportbike for the pass-through world if you will. A four-gallon gas tank sits under the seat (our measured test mpg average of 51.4 mpg provided for range of over 200 miles per fill-up) while being packaged in a way to still allow for enough storage to fit a full-faced helmet, and, like its full-sized Yamaha motorcycle cousins, build-quality feels pyramid-spec.
A rigid chassis and beefed-up suspension provide a very motorcycle-like feel to the 2011 Yamaha TMAX, giving it superb handling and cornering ability.
Augstin summed up the Yamaha well, saying: “Out of comparison, if I were to buy one of these scooters with my own hard-earned money, I would have to go with the Yamaha, which is funny actually because it is the only Yamaha that I have liked all year, their motorcycles included. The TMAX has great looks, a decent amount of storage under the seat and in the dash, and it is not only quick, but agile as well. Not to mention it had a great set of brakes on it. You will have fun taking this scooter on day rides or just putting around town. It really does it all and does it better than any other scooter I’ve ever ridden.”
It’s pretty easy to see why the Yamaha ruled this test start to finish. Picked as top dog by three of the four test riders and ruling the roost in terms of hard numbers (fastest accelerating, quickest braking), it’s the best handling of the bunch, provides a solid 50-plus mpg and enough storage for a full-face helmet. While it may not have the Burgman’s touring capabilities or the Euro-looks of the Aprilia, there’s no question that Yamaha’s 2011 TMAX is the best big-bore scooter made today. In fact, I can think of more than a couple similar-sized full-fledged motorcycles that would have a hard time keeping up with this Yamaha scooter.
2011 Maxi Scooter Shootout
2011 Aprilia Scarabeo 500ie Comparison
2011 Kymco Xciting 500Ri Comparison
2011 Suzuki Burgman 650 Comparison
2011 Yamaha TMAX Comparison
2011 Maxi Scooter Shootout: For My Money