2021 Yamaha Wolverine RMAX2 Review
The Yamaha RMAX is an ideal candidate for anyone who uses their UTV at home or at work, but still wants all of the trail capability a sport UTV offers.
Words: Cody Hooper // Photos: Adam Campbell Photography
MSRP: Starting at $19,799; As Equipped $21,999 (XT-R)
2021 Yamaha Wolverine RMAX2 Review
I’ll never forget the first time I saw a Yamaha UTV in the wild – it was 2004, and the legendary Rhino 660 had just hit the market. My father and I were riding dirt bikes up in the hills in Gorman, California, having a break on the side of the trail. A middle-aged man clad in street clothes and an open-face motorcycle helmet came flying past us on the trail at what appeared to be an extreme rate of speed for the utility cart he was driving.
Pardon my description, but before this, all we had seen in these hills as far as UTVs go were Mules, Rangers, and other yard equipment. This thing was going triple the speed any of those tractors could manage, and the driver had an ear-to-ear grin as he passed us. We geared back up hastily and chased him down, finally cornering him for a little Q&A about his mystery machine. Little did we know at that time just how big the UTV movement would become, and how important that Rhino would be in shaping its future.
While Yamaha’s Rhino nameplate was unfortunately discontinued years back, the Viking and Wolverine have carried the torch well. The Rhino’s ethos was simple: do everything a UTV can do, do it well, and make it fun for the driver. With the introduction of the Wolverine RMAX2, Yamaha has again set their sights at delivering that experience, with two new UTVs based on the Wolverine platform. The RMAX2 and RMAX4 share a new, high-output 1000cc parallel twin engine and bespoke suspension. We joke that the “R” in RMAX stands for Rhino (Yamaha won’t confirm), but the bottom line is this: Yamaha has big shoes to fill here, as not only does the RMAX carry Yamaha into the next generation of sport/utility UTVs, but it also has some very stiff competition! Here’s our 2021 Yamaha Wolverine RMAX2 Review.
- Strong engine, power everywhere
- Smooth CVT, great belt life
- Plush, long-travel suspension
- Comfortable for work or play
Like the Wolverine 850, the RMAX also gets its motivation from a parallel twin-cylinder engine with dual overhead cams and four valves per cylinder. The engines share some design elements, but are worlds apart in terms of how they’re built. The RMAX engine uses a shorter stroke than the Wolverine 850, but a much larger bore. The Wolverine RMAX 1000’s engine produces around 40 more horsepower than the 850, and utilizes Yamaha’s all-new Ultramatic transmission. The engine is strong, snappy, and perfectly happy hauling the RMAX around at speed.
The RMAX2 and RMAX4 also have Yamaha D-Mode throttle control, which is an adjustable ECU mapping program that affects how the vehicle responds to throttle inputs. It also changes the way power is fed in, creating very different-feeling profiles for each of its three modes. We saw 71 MPH in dirt, a healthy top speed and plenty for the sport/ute segment. Others have claimed even higher. Yamaha gave the RMAX a massive power jump from the Wolverine 850, and it is much appreciated out on the trail!
2021 Yamaha Wolverine RMAX2 Review
Yamaha’s newest iteration of the Ultramatic CVT transmission uses much beefier parts than the smaller Wolverine X2/X4 does. The clutches themselves are dimensionally larger and feature upgraded sheaves, tuning, and bracing for longer life with the RMAX’s uprated power output. Yamaha is proud of the design achievements they have made with the Ultramatic transmission, and are now offering the industry’s ONLY 10-year-belt warranty. It applies to all Assembled in the USA 2019 & UP models with the Ultramatic transmission. To see if your UTV is on the list, visit this link.
The Wolverine RMAX features on-demand 4WD and a full diff-lock mode for when you really need it. As with all other Yamaha products, the driveline is tight, strong, and works when you need it to. No fancy electronic wizardry here – just good ol’ fashioned 4WD!
Starting with a form of the base Wolverine’s frame, Yamaha added the bracing and support necessary to cope with the increase in power, speed, tire size, weight, suspension travel, and velocity. The Wolverine 850’s trail-duty suspension was ditched in favor of a much more substantial package. All-new suspension components were designed and tested, so this isn’t just a Wolverine 850 with a long-travel kit!
Up front, the double-wishbone suspension produces a healthy 14.2 inches of travel, right on par with best-in class and only a couple inches shy of most pure-sport UTV units. They are linked by an anti-sway bar, and controlled by Fox 2.0” Podium QS3 shocks. We appreciate the easy adjustment of the QS3 shocks, and they work well for the intended audience here. If you’re the type that prefers clickers, there are a ton of aftermarket suspension shops that offer solutions for you. Regardless, the suspension is excellently tuned, with light spring rates to keep the ride plush and enough valving to keep it from bottoming.
The rear suspension again employs an independent, double wishbone design, but it cycles a very long 16.9 inches of wheel travel. This is nearly 3 inches more suspension travel than the Polaris General XP 1000, which is the RMAX2’s closest rival. It’s also 7.6 inches more suspension travel than the Wolverine 850 X2, the vehicle it shares its core DNA with. Yamaha chose not to utilize a rear swaybar on the RMAX2, leaving room for the aftermarket to offer upgrades for owners who may add weight to their rigs. In stock trim, the RMAX2 handles very well.
Base model Wolverine RMAX models ride on 30×10-14 GBC Dirt Commander 2.0 tires, not a bad choice for an OEM tire. Checking the box for the XT-R model gets you bronze wheels and Maxxis Carnivore tires. While they’re the same size as the Dirt Commanders, the Carnivores are better suited for the muddy, rocky, slick terrain that the Wolverine RMAX was really made for. Sadly, the XT-R does not get beadlock wheels, although they do resemble a beadlock from afar. Brakes are strong and have good pedal feel, with 255mm rotors up front and 244.5mm rotors in the rear. All four corners have dual-piston calipers and stainless steel braided brake lines for optimal pedal feel and braking performance.
Interior & Exterior:
The Wolverine RMAX models get a significant facelift from the Wolverine 850 X2 and X4 models also on sale. They are so visually different, in fact, that Yamaha could have dropped “Wolverine” from the RMAX’s name completely and no one would have questioned it. A taller hood features an almost-sealed compartment that houses all of the relays, electronic access for switches and accessories, the battery, the airbox, and more. It stays relatively clean, even in heavy mud. Kudos to Yamaha for that.
In typical Yamaha fashion, all of the interior and exterior pieces are finished very nicely and bolt together extremely well. Fit & finish is a Yamaha hallmark – the RMAX even features padded areas where a rider’s knees make contact with the interior trim. The permanent side bolsters may be a little cramped for riders on the larger side, but they add a layer of security and protection that even a window net can’t offer.
2021 Yamaha Wolverine RMAX2 Review
The seats in the RMAX are wonderfully bolstered without being too difficult to get in and out of, and the ergonomics of the interior are spot-on. The tilt steering wheel and beefy passenger grab bar feel high-quality and strong. The dash on lower-trim models features a lidded compartment on the center stack, where on the XT-R and up trims you get a dash-mounted Yamaha Adventure Pro tablet. The Adventure Pro is a fully-functional tablet that comes pre-stocked with vehicle diagnostic readouts, adjustable gauges, GPS capability, custom trail mapping and sharing, and much more. It’s a wonderful system that we spend a lot of time with in other Yamaha models.
The exterior trim of the new Wolverine RMAX is aggressive, with a sporty look made much more real by the massive suspension and tire combo that Yamaha stuffed under the fenders. LED marker lights and separate low/high beam LED assemblies offer much better lighting than any other Yamaha UTV on the market. We hope to see a system like this on next year’s YXZ!
The RMAX2’s tilting dump bed can hold up to 600 pounds, matching the General for best-in-class. The dump bed tilt mechanism functions well and is easy to operate, even when the machine is loaded down. The cargo box is also fairly massive, and includes molded channels for separators to keep your gear secure. Multiple tie-down locations make strapping things in easy, and Yamaha also offers some accessory bed gear for even more storage.
With the Rhino and Wolverine X2 comparisons out of the way, let’s get right to it: the RMAX2 is a flat-out performer. From the moment you stab the throttle for the first time, the evolutionary leap from Yamaha’s previous platforms is immediately noticeable. The RMAX produces big grunt down low, and the power grows the longer you hold your foot in it. The 1000cc parallel twin produces a very linear power curve with lots of meat in the middle, which is where the RMAX really spends most of its time.
Transmission performance is on par with perfect as well. When matted from a dead stop, the Wolverine grunts for about a half-second and then roars in RPM, immediately settling into its clutching engine speed and putting its 100+ horsepower to the ground in a hurry. Yamaha’s Ultramatic is smooth, doesn’t slip, and provides real engine braking that is useful in the dirt.
Yamaha didn’t cut any corners with the RMAX’s suspension, and it is one of the defining characteristics of this vehicle. It truly delivers the ride compliance of a long-travel sport UTV in most scenarios, but can still back up to a trailer and tow 2,000 lbs. A lot of time went in to tuning this chassis, and it is noticeable. While the RMAX does dive and squat a lot, it does so with poise, letting you get a real feel for the momentum of the car and how much traction you have left. It speaks to the driver well in fast-paced situations, although the steering is a bit overboosted and numb at speed.
This is the first Yamaha UTV besides the YXZ to have a top speed above the 50 mph range, and the RMAX handles it well. The built-in winch and other convenience features are icing on the cake here, only making the RMAX a more appealing purchase. Sport/Utility UTVs like this one are getting so capable that the lines continue to blur.
Our testers loved the RMAX for its capability and comfort, proving that for most UTV owners, one rig can really accomplish a lot. The RMAX is an ideal candidate for anyone who uses their UTV at home or at work for chores, but still wants all of the trail capability a sport UTV offers. It will work as hard as you need it to all week, and carry your cooler and camping gear when it’s time to relax on the weekend. The RMAX is the next generation of Yamaha’s Recreation-focused UTVs, and it is a knockout.
ENGINE & DRIVETRAIN
- Type: 999cc: 108 (EST) hp, 4-Stroke, DOHC, 4 valve per cylinder parallel twin
- Cooling: Liquid
- Fuel Delivery System: Yamaha Fuel Injection (YFI) with dual 48mm throttle bodies
- Drive System Type: Ultramatic V-belt with all-wheel engine braking; L/H/N/R
- Drivetrain: On-Command 3-way locking differential; 2WD, 4WD, full diff-lock 4WD
- Power Steering: Electronic Power Steering (EPS)
- Front Suspension: Independent Double Wishbone with sway bar, 14.2” Travel
- Front Shocks: Fox Podium 2.0 QS3
- Rear Suspension: Independent Double Wishbone, 16.9” Travel
- Rear Shocks: Fox Podium 2.0 QS3
- Front Brakes: Dual Hydraulic Disc
- Rear Brakes: Dual Hydraulic Disc
TIRES / WHEELS
- Front Tires: 30 x 10R-14; Maxxis Carnivore
- Rear Tires: 30 x 10R-14; Maxxis Carnivore
- Wheels: Cast Aluminum
- Overall Vehicle Size (L x W x H): 119.3 x 66.1 x 77.8 in
- Wheelbase: 86.7 in
- Ground Clearance: 13.8 in
- WET Weight: 1,876.1 lb
- Cargo Box Capacity: 600 lb Rear Dumping Box
- Towing Capacity: 2,000 lb
- Fuel Capacity: 9.2 gal
- Instrumentation: Full digital display in binnacle behind steering wheel, Yamaha Adventure Pro digital gauges in center dash, GPS, breadcrumbs, on-board diagnostics, etc.
- Lighting: LED interior lighting, LED Headlight w/ Accent & LED Taillights
- Steering Wheel: Adjustable tilt steering
- Other Standard Features: XT-R Package includes Maxxis Carnivore 30x10R-14 Tires, heavy duty onboard WARN Winch, uprated suspension components and unique colorways.
- Factory: 6-month Limited Factory Warranty, Yamaha 10-year Belt Warranty, optional extended plans may be available through your dealer