Like many UTV connoisseurs out there, we were expecting to see a sport side-by-side so the announcement of the Viking caught us completely by surprise. Yamaha knew the question of “why?” would be first on most people’s lips and they were locked and loaded with the answers.
Through its research, Yamaha has found that even though sport models get a massive amount of attention, 66% of the side-by-side market is utility (farming and hunting) based. Of the machines sold that run under 30 mph, two-thirds of the units are utility while in the above 30 mph world a little less than half are. That’s a huge slice of the pie any way you cut it, and it makes complete sense to go after what people are actually buying the most of. So with that, the Viking was conceived with its sights set squarely on the leader of the three-passenger side-by-side market, the Polaris Ranger XP.
Yamaha touts the Viking as having the only “true” three-person seating on the market. Instead of a bench seat, three individual bucket seats are placed in the cab with the center seat’s backrest offset slightly at the rear of the vehicle. This is to allow for more shoulder room for all occupants. The seat height is low for easy in-and-out as well as for a lower center of gravity. All three seats have a comfortable reclined seating position for more comfort in rough terrain. Three-point seatbelts are fitted for each person and secure areas are molded into the floorboards for each pair of feet. Additionally, a one-piece handhold for both passengers is adjustable fore and aft.
As the Viking is a machine capable of work and play, the steel dumping cargo bed boasts a 600-pound capacity. Inside, integrated tie-down points allow for various sized loads to be secured. A single gas strut assists in lifting the front of the bed up.
The Viking’s suspension consists of fully independent dual a-arm suspension at all four corners. Nitrogen charged gas coil over struts handle the damping duties. Up-front the suspension strokes through 8 inches while at the back the travel is slightly less with 7.9 inches.
Braking duties are performed by disc brakes at all four corners with an additional disc on the rear output shaft for the parking brake. Dual piston calipers squeeze solid rotors for excellent power and feel.
Yamaha claims the 2014 Viking has the best off-road capability in the class thanks to its 11.8 inches of ground clearance at the lowest point of the frame. The smooth underbody protection, consisting of a large steel plate at the center and plastic skids protecting the front and rear differentials, keeps the machine from hanging up on trail obstacles. The sides of the frame sweep up from the center section 60mm to further decrease the chances of becoming stuck. Traction is provided by Maxxis Big Horn tires built exclusively for the Viking.
The Viking continues the lineage of the single cylinder, liquid-cooled 686cc engine configuration; however this mill is the most powerful to date, delivering strong low-end acceleration and a robust pull throughout the rev range. The single overhead camshaft is fuel injected and has gained up to 30% in fuel efficiency. Featuring a high capacity cooling system and a liquid cooled oil cooler, the rear-facing engine reduces heat on the occupants. The high volume air intake system also improves the overall engine performance and features an oversized dual-foam air filter. Access for air filter service is under the center seat and requires no tools.
The Viking’s Ultramatic Transmission has a dual-range drive (Hi/Lo) and reverse powered though the most durable CVT system on the market. An automatic centrifugal clutch maintains constant belt tension on the drive and driven sheaves for reduced belt wear and reliability. For all-wheel engine braking, a one-way sprag clutch is utilized. An integrated cooling fan manages the CVT temps by pulling cool air through an inlet duct behind the seats that sits 36.4 inches above the ground and pushing warm air through an outlet at 31.6 inches above the soil.
Yamaha carries over its three-position On-Command 4WD system that lets you choose between 2WD, limited-slip 4WD and a fully locked 4WD drive mode. A dash mounted gate shift lever is used for selecting gear ranges. Also on the dash is an LCD multifunction digital instrumentation panel that displays a speedometer, odometer, dual trip meters, hour meter, 4WD status, gear position clock and fuel level.
Steering is available in a precise standard rack and pinion set-up or an optional Electric Power Steering system. The EPS system lightens the steering effort for comfort as well as less bump steer.
MSRP for the standard 2014 Viking is $11,499 while the EPS model brings a $1000 premium at $12,499. Prices do increase for units with and optional suntop with the most expensive unit coming in at $13,249. Available colors are Hunter Green, Red, Steel Blue and Realtree AP HD. The Viking will arrive in dealerships later this summer.