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2017 UTV Evaluation: Yamaha Viking
The UTV market was stale when Yamaha jumped in with the Rhino, a machine that completely turned the industry on its ear. The Rhino is gone, replaced with the Viking, a bigger and better machine that works and plays hard. While it may not be the biggest or the most powerful machine available, the Viking definitely held its own in the 2017 Successful Farming Ultimate UTV Evaluation.
In 2017, Successful Farming magazine conducted its third extensive UTV evaluation to provide you with information about how UTVs perform in ag applications. During the evaluation, seven of the newest utility vehicles were put through four rigorous tests.
At the core of the Viking is Yamaha’s 686-cc., single-cylinder, four-stroke engine. This motor, while not the big twin used by competitors, has several things going for it. It produces tons of low-end torque that you can really feel when working the Viking. This is also one of the most reliable engine platforms, which Yamaha strives for and has built a reputation on.
Another thing going for the Yamaha is durability. If you look at other UTVs, there are parts that wear out and break, usually at a point when you really don’t want them to. One major area is the CVT belt that runs the transmission. Yamaha addressed this by keeping the CVT under constant tension, so the belt doesn’t slip, causing added wear. It’s this attention to detail found throughout the Yamaha that helped built its durable reputation. For fit and finish, the Yamaha earned perfect scores, five out of five, from all the evaluators.
Handling and ergonomics
Driving the Viking is quite fun. It handles well due to power steering. Yamaha was the first manufacturer to integrate this feature, and the company has perfected the design. Controls are all right at hand, with simple knobs to switch between two- and four-wheel drive, as well as the differential lock. A mild complaint I had was the location of the digital display being in the center of the dash. I don’t like to take my eyes off the trail.
Seating in the Viking shows that once again, Yamaha has gone a different route than the competition. Instead of a bench seat, there are three bucket seats with the center seat angled slightly offset, getting shoulders out of the way for the other two occupants.
The Viking’s DNA
Yamaha uses a sprag clutch to give the Viking all-wheel engine braking when going down a hill, and it works very well. Under a full load, you do need to keep some RPMs up to keep it engaging. The engine braking was good enough for a 4.7 out of 5 points on the fully loaded test, where the Viking was filled to its cargo capacity of 600 pounds. When you’re towing a trailer or have the bed loaded down, keep those RPMs going when you come to a hill.
The handling retains its great feel even when you’ve maxed out the cargo capacity or the 1,500-pound towing capacity. The Viking scored 15.4 points out of 25 total for the towing portion of the testing; respectable against machines with bigger engines and higher capacities.
If you’re just blasting down the trail, you’ll be reminded of the Viking’s DNA. The machine feels sporty and fun, scoring it well, with 29.4 points out of 35 during the unloaded trail portion of the Ultimate UTV Evaluation (test results are shown below). The suspension with its 8.1-inches of wheel travel at each corner holds its own whether working or playing, although you can reach the limits doing either.
Derrek Sigler is an ATV/UTV journalist and was one of three evaluators during the UTV testing.