2020 Yamaha Wolverine X2 XT-R Edition UTV Review (MSRP: $15,999)
Story: Casey Cordeiro // Photos: Adam Campbell
Lets start with the 2020 Yamaha Wolverine X2 XT-R Edition UTV Review. It received the body color and graphics changes, along with the change to a 27” GBC Dirt Commander tire all the way around. When you look at this tire, it looks like it measures larger than a 27”, and Yamaha said that it is a large profile tire. Not a bad thing whatsoever. They aggressive look of the tires pairs well with the revised front bumper, which, again, is mounted to a revised section of the front part of the chassis. This area is now strengthened and re-engineered slightly in an effort to make this vehicle ready for the winching capabilities that the WARN 4500 lb front winch. I didn’t get a chance to try the winch setup, but I can imagine that the winch would have no problem literally lifting this entire vehicle up in the air by itself, and Yamaha clearly wanted to make sure the attachment points of the front bumper and the front section of the chassis were up to the task.
For the 2020 model year, Yamaha changed the rear a-arm setup, too. The track width is 2” wider this year (51.2” now), and the wheelbase was extended 1” to 83.7” total. With the wider track width, there is no front/rear staggered setup anymore – the measurements are now the same. Not only does this give the rear more clearance for the 28” accessory tire/wheel setups in Yamaha’s Accessory catalog, but it also enhances the overall look of the vehicle from the rear.
The rest of the X2 is familiar. The interior is the same, save for a couple of new emblems that remind you all Yamaha’s are Proven Off-Road capable. The center instrument cluster is still clear and concise with it’s digital layout, and there are plenty of storage options for both driver and passenger in this vehicle. If you’re taller than about 6’2”, you’re going to feel a bit cramped in this chassis, especially upon entry and exit. There are a couple side protectors for both driver and passenger – these function well and serve a very good purpose of providing a safe environment, but they do make it slightly difficult to get in and out of the vehicle. Otherwise, the driver’s seat and steering wheel are both adjustable, allowing the driver to dial in the seating position for comfort and confidence behind the wheel. I was able to find a very comfortable driver’s spot for my 6’2” frame, and I still really appreciate the full half doors on this vehicle. I do wish there was a bit more seat bolstering on the back sides and the bottom cushion for aggressive riding – I kept sliding forward slightly on the steep downhills. It isn’t unsafe, it is more annoying than anything.
Just like the first time I drove the X2, I quickly remembered why this particular UTV is a true dual-purpose vehicle. It hauls up to 600 lbs in the bed and tows up to 2000 lbs via the standard 2” receiver. With the standard dump bed, you can really turn this side-by-side into a work vehicle, too. When driving the X2 on the trails, the quality that is built into the dump bed is apparent – it doesn’t rattle. And, even though it does seem just a bit louder than the X4, this X2 is extremely quiet when you’re in the cockpit. That makes all-day riding easy to live with on a daily basis, if you use it that much. And, with the strong construction of this dump bed, and with the ability to easily install Yamaha’s accessories, the X2 is going to prove to be an even better multi-purpose vehicle than what I experienced at this ride event.
When it comes to the handling department, railing around corners is extremely satisfying in the X2 with it’s point-and-shoot driving experience, great traction from the tires, and excellent braking power (great, pregressive feel from the brake pedal, too). Yamaha tunes all of their vehicles to be great handling rigs, and the X2 clearly demonstrates confident handling traits. The X2 communicates with the driver very well, letting you know what is going on beneath you so you can make quick corrections, if needed. This Wolverine is easy to set up for corners, turns predictably with great rotation through the corner, and it puts the power to the ground effectively.
The power coming from the 850 parallel twin engine is also just right for this type of vehicle. Coupled with the CVT transmission, which has a 10-year belt warranty by the way, the power delivery is smooth right off of idle. This transmission makes take-offs feel like an automatic transmission out of a car; it is just so smooth and a pleasure to drive. The clutch is tuned perfectly as well, allowing the motor to build power progressively throughout the entire RPM range. I really like how you can stab the throttle at about 25mph and get the sit-back-and-hold-on feeling in the X2, too.
Yes, all of these features are great and make the X2 comfortable and capable, but the XT-R-specific add-ons are the ingredients that really made this vehicle better for the new model year. The standout upgrade on the XT-R package is the set of GBC Dirt Commander tires. With a staggered setup front and rear, the GBC’s provide excellent traction and performance. We were warned to be careful of rocks with sharp edges littered on all of the trails, and we didn’t have one issue on the trail with the tough 8-ply rating of this tire carcass. That is rare for a field full of editors who are looking to test these machines to their limits, and it just proves that this is one tough setup. Not only is it tough, but the performance didn’t suffer. These GBC’s highlight the excellent handling characteristics of the X2 and only make it better.
I mentioned the fact that this X2 is a true dual-purpose machine, and all of that capability can come with some hindrances. The aforementioned seat issue for me is something that you’ll notice if the trail gets tough as you slide a bit forward on steep descents. A bit more of a bump in the lower seat cushion might help the driver stay into place better. The other thing is the suspension. The stock settings offer excellent bottom out control and big bump absorption – a driver can really attack nasty terrain with this vehicle. However, if you’re looking for a compliant and smooth ride, you’ll have to do some shock adjustments to get it there. The X2 isn’t crazy stiff, but it also isn’t that smooth over really rocky terrain. Luckily, the X2 comes with fully adjustable KYB shocks on the front and rear, so you can tune it how you see fit.
Overall, the 2020 Yamaha Wolverine X2 continues to set a high standard in the sport/rec UTV segment. After a couple of hours behind the wheel of the Wolverine X2 XT-R edition, the quality of this machine is immediately apparent, and it is definitely worth the extra money to get the confidence of better tires and a capable winch system built into the vehicle from the factory. When you couple these add-ons with the handling and capability of this machine from the factory, it is truly fun and functional all in one 2-seat UTV package.