Published on June 19th, 2018 | by Joe
2019 Yamaha Wolverine X2 Test Review: WITH VIDEO
The twin-cylinder, sport/utility SxS you demanded from Yamaha!
Yamaha has emerged as the leader in side-by-sides among Japanese manufacturers. Rather than simply build bigger, more powerful machines, they’re taking a more methodical approach in developing their SxS lineup. Each new machine seems either focused on filling in a niche, offering a higher level of versatility and ease of use, or all of the above.
With the Viking focused on the recreation /utility crowd, and the pure sport focused YXZ1000R just around the corner, a few short years ago Yamaha released the 708cc, single-cylinder engine powered Wolverine to fill their need for a sport utility side-by-side. We praised the Wolverine for its predictable, stable handling, and plush suspension. However, some potential buyers interested in its sport capability criticized it for not having a larger-displacement, twin-cylinder engine, while those interested in it for work were unhappy with its lack of a dumping cargo bed.
For 2019, Yamaha has worked hard to satisfy the demand for a machine delivering a higher level of work and play with improved overall comfort and the ability to more easily negotiate tighter terrain than its competitors or its predecessor. Enter the brand new 2019 Yamaha, Wolverine X2.
There are four models of the X2 all featuring power steering. The $12,699 base model has steel wheels and preload adjustable gas charged shocks. The X2 R-Spec models add cast aluminum wheels, a roof, over-fenders, different color options, and most notably, fully adjustable shocks. The hunter edition features Real Tree Edge Camo in addition to the R-Spec’s upgrades. X2 R-Spec Special Edition models add color matched suspension springs, embroidered, two-tone seat covers, and painted plastic with different color options.
Yamaha invited us to test the 2019 Wolverine X2 R-Spec Special Edition Model in its natural environment on the rocky, sometimes technical and challenging, trails of Brimstone Off-Road Park in Huntsville, TN.
The X2 is powered by the same 847cc, parallel twin-cylinder, liquid cooled, four-stroke engine originally developed for the Wolverine X4. It’s designed to deliver smooth, tractable power that gets to the ground. 82mm x 80.2mm bore and stroke numbers make for a long-stroke engine that’s proven to deliver big torque. A modern top-end design features four valves and DOHC per cylinder.
The engine is said to produce 69hp. Yamaha claims that horsepower is up 32% with torque up a whopping 47% compared to its predecessor’s 708cc single. Yamaha used shorter connecting rods and cylinders to better centralize mass. To prevent sacrificing engine longevity, they offset the cylinder’s reducing rod angle and side load on the pistons during the power stroke.
A drive-by wire system measures speed, throttle position, and a number of other factors to help filter out gas pedal bob in technical terrain. It helps somewhat, but Yamaha doesn’t seem willing to sacrifice throttle response. Fuel is fed to the engine by a Mikuni fuel injection system with dual 36mm throttle bodies.
A new Ultramatic CVT style transmission was developed specifically for the new top-end. Yamaha’s transmission features a clutch to handle engagement and disengagement providing constant drive belt tension to prevent burning up the belt at low speeds. A one-way sprag clutch provides engine braking to all four wheels in four-wheel-drive. The transmission features dual forward ranges plus neutral and reverse, accessed by a smooth, precise gated shifter. The transmission is calibrated to engage and upshift at lower RPMs helping keep the engine running quieter, which should also help conserve fuel.
With more challenging rocky climbs than we experienced at the X4’s press intro, the X2’s engine seemed even more impressive than we remembered. Low-end grunt is abundant. We were crawling up gnarly rocky sections in high-range never seeming to run out of torque. Convinced of the durability of their CVT, the Yamaha guys practically begged us not to shift the transmission into low range in steep, gnarly stuff, so we didn’t. We growled the X2 up and down the steepest, most chunky sections we encountered. Our driving would have been considered a bit abusive on other CVT transmissions, but Yamaha’s ultramatic transmission takes the abuse without a hint of squealing, burning rubber small, or belt failure. We’re not saying it’s indestructible, but it’s definitely more reliable than others we’ve tested. AT least low-range is there for towing, or just in case you want to be extra kind to the tranny on the steep stuff.
In tight to intermediate paced trails, the X2 torques along happily, spinning up when the trail opens up, or whenever you want a big dose of acceleration. Midrange and top-end power is pretty potent, making the X2 equally adept at casual drives and spirited rips down the trail. With a dose of throttle, the X2 revs up quickly, delivering a satisfying surge of smile producing power that was missing from the older 708cc Wolverine. Running tighter trails, we never reached the machine’s top speed, which is said to be up 4% in the X4 and X2’s engine for 2019. Based on our experience with the X4, we estimate top-speed should be just over 55mph, sufficient for most trails. When the trail turns downhill, the engine braking feels smooth and natural with little drivetrain chatter under deceleration or braking.
This engine lets you go for a mellow cruise, or have fun racing corner to corner. It’s well suited to new off-road drivers, yet delivers the higher level of performance experienced drivers have been wanting. This engine will undoubtedly work as hard as it plays, and we believe the motor could be further unleashed with an aftermarket clutch kit focused more on performance. However, the stock X2’s engine and transmission combo does it all, and does it well.
The zero compromise drive system features selectable two-wheel-drive, four-wheel-drive, and four-wheel-drive with front differential lock. It sometimes takes a second for differential lock to fully engage and disengage. The few times limited slip four-wheel-drive couldn’t get us over an obstacle, locking in the front differential provided instant traction. Locked in 4WD and big torque make the X2 pretty unstoppable.
Larger rubber motor mounts and a gear-driven counter balancer are both used to minimize vibration, which isn’t an issue. To minimize noise, Yamaha used a high volume muffler on the X2, which is whisper quiet at idle. The intake system was designed to be rigid reducing noise from vibration. The large air box and filter, which can be accessed without tools, are mounted high under the hood keeping intake noise away from the occupants. Also located under the hood is the removable speed limiting key, which limits the machine’s top speed to 25mph without limiting horsepower for towing or climbing. Other noise reducing features include an insulated console and helical/spiral gears designed to reduce drivetrain noise. Cruising the trails, you can still enjoy the mild roar of the engine while having a conversation without screaming.
Handling and Suspension
The X2 is built on a new steel chassis that’s submerged in an E coat tank helping prevent rusting both internally and externally prior to being powder coated. Protecting the entire underside of the frame is a combination of welded on steel plates with access points for maintenance and a removable front plastic skid plate.
The suspension consists of dual control arms at both ends with wide-arc lower A-arms up front for improved clearance. The suspension delivers 8.7 inches of travel up front and 8.9” of travel out back. All but the base model come decked out with piggyback reservoir equipped, KYB shocks featuring threaded preload, high and low-speed compression, and rebound damping adjustments. The base model features basic, 5-way preload adjustable, twin-tube, gas charged KYB shocks.
Yamaha says they designed the X2 with a compact overall size for precise handling, less concern for damage, plus easier storage and transportation. At 59” wide, with an overall length of 115”, the Wolverine is slightly narrower and shorter overall than the Kawasaki Teryx, Honda Pioneer 1000, Polaris General, and Can-Am Commander. However, its wheelbase of 82.7” is longer than all of them with the exception of the 85.8” wheelbase of the Teryx.
At 59” wide, with an overall length of 115”, the Wolverine is slightly narrower and shorter overall than the Kawasaki Teryx, Honda Pioneer 1000, Polaris General, and Can-Am Commander. yielding 11” of ground clearance. Tire size and ground clearance are on the smaller size for the class.
With the factory settings still dialed in, we were quite happy with the suspension. Small bump compliance is good. The jagged edges of the rocky terrain are well dampened although you remain feeling connected to the trail. Using water breaks to get a little air results in a pretty smooth landing. The shocks hold up well in g-outs and do an excellent job of resisting body roll. The shocks are plush enough to ride all day, yet firm enough that you feel confident driving hard. Having a bit less suspension travel than some of the wider sport/utility side-by-sides may limit the X2 somewhat in high-speed whooped out trails, but Yamaha did well making full use of their car’s available travel. Without being beat up or bottoming out harshly, we left the test intrigued with how much we could further improve the ride for work, casual driving, or speed minded enthusiasts with a little time to tune the shocks.
The excellent suspension sets the stage for confidence inspiring handling. Along with staying flat in corners, the X2 feels stable on sidehills until the grade gets pretty steep. Steering accuracy is predictable in both two and four-wheel-drive. Yamaha’s EPS systems set the standard in our opinion. Steering is light, big hits are well filtered from the steering wheel, yet there’s enough feedback from the trail that you feel how the car is reacting to the terrain.
We believe that Yamaha’s decision to go with 26” tires contributes to the car’s predictable handling, although we found a few rutted sections and tall water breaks where a slightly larger tire’s increase in ground clearance would be a benefit. Fortunately, the X2s undercarriage is well protected and glides well over obstacles.
Yamaha currently offers four accessory 27 x 10- 14 tire options from EFX. They’re designed to excel in different types of terrain. The 27” diameter increases ground clearance and should slightly increase top speed. Yamaha developed a clutch kit that reduces clutch weights from 22g to 16g, raising the RPM at which the clutch engages to help maintain the stock X2’s acceleration.
They also have four 14” X 7”, 5+2 offset wheel options with offerings from MSA and KMC. Using the same size tires and wheels all around allows you to carry one spare that will fit front or rear and provide the option of swapping out a front and rear if needed, in case of a front flat.
The car is slowed by hydraulic disc brakes at all four corners with a shaft mounted parking brake. Braking power is excellent with good feeling at the pedal.
The X2 offers a higher level of work capability than its 708cc predecessor. The hydraulic assisted dump bed is 15% longer and 16% wider with a payload increase from 300 to 600lbs. There are 4 steel tie-down points in addition to integrated accessory mounting points. Rated to tow 2000lbs with its two-inch hitch receiver, the X2 can tow 500lbs more than its predecessor.
Tilt Steering, an adjustable driver’s seat, and passenger grab handle help occupants get comfortable in the cockpit. There are even two positions for the three-point seat belt’s shoulder straps for a more comfortable, secure ride. The doors on the X2 are higher than those on the older Wolverine, helping keep splashing mud and water out while providing a more secure feeling. Interior door latches help keep your gloves out of the grime.
The high back seats offer a good level of comfort with no annoying pressure points. Six foot tall occupants will find the cockpit spacious enough, although taller drivers may want more leg room, or at least a floorboard area less restricted by the front wheel well.
The low dash height and angle of the hood allow you to more easily view what’s directly in front of and around the car, a huge asset in tight technical terrain. The digital instrument display provides all of the usual information along with a number of warning and indicator lights. Storage is available in a passenger side glove box and in the center console. Dual cup holders are there to keep your drinks in place.
Styling and other details
Receiving new styling cues from the Wolverine X4, the X2 features a front bumper, LED headlights, and new LED tail lights, all standard. Fender flares were something we wanted on the original Wolverine and are standard on all of the X2, R-Spec models. We feel splash protection is something you shouldn’t be forced to pay upgrade for.
The X2 comes prewired for accessories. It features a winch mount and tons of other well thought out accessory integration. Of course, Yamaha is already ready to accessorize your X2 with tons of in house and co-branded accessories, including a full cab enclosure.
With the launch of the X2, Yamaha is also releasing the powerful and exciting Adventure Pro, developed with Magellan. This powerful GPS has a 7” touchscreen, maps of over 100,000 trails, plus on-road navigation. It allows you to map your own trails, rate difficulty, make notes of obstacles, track lap times, and more. The Adventure Pro is also a fully functional Android tablet with front and rear facing cameras to record your adventure and upload them to social media. Costing less than half the price of adding Polaris Ride Command to one of their units, unlike Ride Command, which is designed to work in a Polaris SxS only, the Adventure Pro can be easily removed from the vehicle and used as a fully functional GPS unit and tablet in your car, home, or anywhere. The WolverineX2 and 2019 YXZ1000R are designed with plug-in integration for the Adventure Pro, displaying vehicle telemetry. We strongly suspect that other Yamaha vehicles will be available with Adventure Pro connectivity in the very near future.
The Wolverine X2’s MSRP for the stock and upgraded models are pretty much in line with other 800cc-850cc class sport/utility UTVs with some minor differences in pricing and features.
Yamaha’s Wolverine X2 really is an incredibly versatile and capable machine that can work and play hard. Its excellent handling and suspension will lend themselves to both and the forgiving, high-torque, happy to rev two-cylinder engine will appeal to drivers of all levels. Its slightly shorter suspension travel and top speed may limit it somewhat in whooped out, wide open desert terrain, but in tighter technical to intermediate speed terrain where the X2 is designed to excel, its competition is going to have its hands full.
As an overall package, we believe the Wolverine X2 is the most well-rounded side-by-side in the Yamaha lineup, and a machine we’d love to have in our garage.
Model: Wolverine X2
2019 Yamaha Wolverine X2 Ratings
Summary: Yamaha’s Wolverine X2 really is an incredibly versatile and capable machine that can work and play hard. Its excellent handling and suspension will lend themselves to both and the forgiving, high-torque, happy to rev two-cylinder engine will appeal to drivers of all levels. Its slightly shorter suspension travel and top speed may limit it somewhat in whooped out, wide open desert terrain, but in tighter technical to intermediate speed terrain where the X2 is designed to excel, its competition is going to have its hands full.