Sport ATVs can be one of the least demanding ways to get your motorsport fix off-road. Considering the inherent stability of four wheels, opposed to two, it can be friendlier for some to ride compared to a dirt bike. Yamaha
continues to prove that it’s the leader in this quad niche with its Raptor 700R SE ($8799), a machine that offers the most versatile performance from the trail to the desert and everything in between.
Considering the relatively large engine displacement stickered on the plastics some might be apprehensive toward the 700R. But in application it proves to be as mild or wild as the rider desires. The secret is its smooth running and torque-rich engine—a 686cc four-stroke Single that is both liquid-cooled, fuel-injected and fed from a generous 2.9-gallon fuel tank.
Thumb the starter button and the engine fires to life instantly regardless of how thick the mercury is outside or whether the engine has been warmed up. It can be ridden away immediately due in part to its near perfect fueling and easy and predictable clutch operation. Right off the bottom the motor packs a formidable, yet suave stream of torque making it easier to climb up hills or steep grades from low speeds or even standing still.
The gearbox offers five forward gears plus reverse manipulated through a shift lever near the rider’s left foot. The transmission offers precise engagement and locating neutral at a stop is a snap. There’s also a big and easy-to-use parking brake lever located on the handlebar to keep the quad from rolling when parked. Reverse can be engaged by turning a knob near the front right-hand fender while pressing down on the shifter until the reverse light illuminates. To return to one of the forward gears simply press up on the shift lever when stopped.
) With its wide track, low stance and live-axle style rear end the Raptor stays planted in the turns. (Center
) The Yamaha Raptor 700R SE is priced at $8799 for 2013. (Bottom
) The Raptor’s suspension is great for play riding and delivers a plush and very forgiving ride. It’s great for someone who wants to ride without discomfort from hitting bumps all-day.
With so much torque available from the engine the Raptor can be ridden in top gear at almost any speed which makes it perfect for a person who just wants to cruise around. However, if you aren’t afraid of working the gearbox or thumb throttle the Yamaha triggers the right senses in terms of speed and acceleration force. For sure the engine’s got enough get-up to get a little scary if you keep the thumb throttle mashed for too long, but if you show some restraint it’s amazing how versatile and well-calibrated the powerband is on the big Raptor. This could be one of the most perfect off-road engines, in both the two and four wheel powersport categories. The engine also produces an ear pleasing roar that not only sounds cool but lets you know when it’s the best time to shift gears.
The Raptor rolls on a wide and low slung chassis that sports a 50.4-inch wheelbase with 4.4-inches of ground clearance. It’s just short enough to let the 422-pound machine steer quickly around obstacles yet still has a fair amount of stability through turns and over small to medium sized bumps or chop. It even does well on big hits and G-outs too, as long as you hit the obstacles head on.
The front suspension is comprised of a truck-like double wishbone set-up with gas-charged shocks that provide just over nine inches of travel. Ride height can be tailored using a threaded preload collar on the shocks while damping can be fine-tuned with high-and-low-speed compression and rebound clickers.
The wheels are cast from aluminum and shod in a newly developed 21-inch front and 20-inch rear Maxxis rubber engineered to perform well in virtually all terrain including mud, hard pack and sand, where it performed impeccably. Each front wheel houses a hydraulically controlled cross-drilled disc brake actuated via a lever on the handlebar. This year the lever now offers adjustment based on hand size so it is easier to reach and operate for most any rider.
Out back the Raptor uses a motorcycle-like swingarm cast from aluminum with a chain final drive and equally adjustable four-way, gas-charged shock with 10.1 inches of bump absorption. Together, the suspension offers a plush feel and does an excellent job of shielding the rider from forces associated from charging over bumps or landing off jumps. It does allow for a little more pitch and body roll as compared to the more firmly sprung YFZ450R motocrosser.
Stopping power is provided by a single cross-drilled disc brake pinched by a new twin-piston caliper sourced from the YZF450R and actuated via a foot pedal. The brakes are strong and with the addition of the adjustable front brake lever the combination is friendlier to use.
Yamaha spent time tweaking the way the rider interacts with the machine by shifting the position of the front fenders forward slightly in an effort to open up the cockpit. The small but clever change shows with the Raptor offering considerable leg room. Whether you’re cruising in a straight line or shifting your butt across the seat, the ergonomics allow for unencumbered movement. This boosts handling performance and allows for more control when you’re railing around corners or flying off a jump. The seat itself is as comfortable as your dad’s prized Lazy-Boy which mitigates the dreaded weariness and discomfort that’s typically a part of an all-day ride.
After spending a couple days romping around the sand dunes, it’s really hard to find any glaring faults with Yamaha’s latest Raptor. Despite its intimidating engine size, through refinement and careful attention to detail Yamaha has engineered a quad that is mellow enough for your sister to ride yet still scare the pants off an adrenaline addict on demand. Even better is that the price tag on the new Raptor has dropped a couple hundred dollars due to a manufacturing shift from Japan to right here in the U.S.A.
Engine: 686cc liquid-cooled 4-stroke; SOHC, 4 valve
Bore x Stroke: 102.0mm x 84.0mm
Compression Ratio: 9.2:1
Fuel: Yamaha Fuel Injection (YFI), 44mm
Transmission: 5-speed w/reverse
Drive Train: Sealed O-ring chain
Front Suspension: Independent double wishbone w/piggy back High-/Lo-speed compression,
rebound and threaded preload adjustment, 9.1-in travel
Rear Suspension: Cast aluminum swing arm w/rebound,
High-/Lo-speed compression and threaded preload adjustment, 10.1-in travel
Front Brakes: Dual ventilated hydraulic disc, twin piston
Rear Brake: Ventilated hydraulic disc
Tires: (Front) AT 21x7-10 - (Rear) AT 20x10-9
Length: 72.6 Width: 46.1 Height: 44.5 in
Wheelbase: 50.4 in
Seat Height: 32.0 in
Fuel Capacity: 2.9 gal
Wet Weight: 422 lb