Historically, the utility terrain vehicle (UTV) has been a fairly basic, even crude machine. It has certainly come a long way from its roots as a utilitarian farm vehicle, but for the most part, the recipe of a punchy motor sending power to all four wheels while attached to a cartoonish amount of suspension is par for the course. Yet, while various creature comforts—such as sound systems and touchscreen user interfaces—are becoming more popular, nothing compares to the technological leap forward that Yamaha just made with its 2021 Wolverine RMAX 1000.
In the world of off-roading, a well-tuned suspension paired with proper tires is crucial. It’s an aspect you learn to truly appreciate almost immediately once the road gets rough and loose. Head out on the trails with a bad setup and it can be terrifying. Luckily, UTV manufacturers now know this and give even entry-level models decent springs and shocks.
Not long ago, we experienced the benefit of an advanced suspension versus a basic configuration, back-to-back, with the Honda Talon 1000 Fox Live Valve presenting a night-and-day difference and showing us the vast improvements that have recently been made. Having a computer analyze such elements as driver inputs and engine speed, and then adjust the shocks on the fly, was enough to justify the $3,500 premium over the base model. It transformed the ride. And no matter how much travel other brands added to their UTVs, the Live Valve still provided a better experience. Now, Yamaha is going one step further with the integration of Fox Intelligent Quick Switch (iQS). It’s the first system of its kind on the market and seems like a return salvo in the technological battle between manufacturers.
Over the course of two days, riding back and forth between Colorado and Utah and covering close to 300 miles of desert terrain and mountain trails, we tested the 2021 Wolverine RMAX 1000 Limited Edition. Blasting across sandy routes, creeping through rocky crawls, and coursing over flat gravel sections, we rode it all. The Wolverine RMAX 1000 Limited Edition, which starts at $23,799, transitioned through the various conditions without hesitation, handling each section with equal poise.
Unlike the Fox Live Valve system, where the onboard computer only has one setting, the iQS setup has three: Comfort, Medium, and Firm. There’s no need to stop, get out, and adjust your suspension when the terrain changes, it’s all taken care of by a switch in the cockpit. Comfort is ideal for slower speeds, but once in the upper reaches of the speedometer, the Firm setting works best, absorbing hard impacts and obstacles quicker and more efficiently.
Yamaha’s Wolverine RMAX 1000 also comes equipped with three drive modes—Crawl, Trail, and Sport—that work in tandem with the iQS. Regardless of mode, you get 100 percent power from the 999 cc motor, but each setting offers different engine mapping, easing the output on and off more smoothly in Crawl, with better balance in Trail and more aggressively in Sport.
These electronic options provide a custom experience. More importantly, between the suspension and the drive modes, the combined systems transform the Wolverine from a utility-focused machine into something closer to a full-on sport UTV. The seating position is a little more upright, and the Wolverine stands taller than a typical sport UTV, but the way the systems work together provides plenty of confidence to attack high-speed turns and maintain controlled slides.
Sports cars once were the epitome of analog, offering only what you needed to enjoy linking a few good turns. Today, some models have more drive-mode possibilities than anyone knows what to do with, but they’re quicker and more capable than ever before. While UTVs are still relatively rudimentary in comparison, the introduction of the Fox iQS system and multiple drive-mode options on Yamaha’s Wolverine RMAX 1000 Limited Edition could mark the beginning of a new era.