Nearly perfect seems the only sufficient way to describe the new Yamaha Rhino 700 FI, an upgraded version of the venerable Rhino introduced four years ago.
From the first easy cold-morning start to effortless climbs of long, treacherous hillsides, to pulling apparently whatever it wants to pull, this re-engineered version of Yamaha's very popular two-seat UTV makes many who ride it say, "I gotta have one."
Farm Progress Cos., recently was invited by Yamaha to test drive the new Rhino for a day-long ride on Tennessee's 45,000-acre Brimstone Recreation area in the Cumberland Mountains. (www.brimstonerecreation.com)
The author spent a full day in the Cumberland Mountains of eastern Tennessee pushing the new Yamaha Rhino 700 FI through mud, up hills, across rocks and through rivers. (Photo courtesy of Yamaha.)
To say this author was impressed with every aspect of this off-road machine is an understatement.
We spent a half the day driving a Rhino with standard suspension and half the day on the sport model with Yamaha's better shocks which have a much larger oil and nitrogen compartment. The two machines seemed to handle identically, but the better shocks made the sport edition ride a little more comfortable and softened the shock from the harsher bumps in the trail.
The new 700cc fuel-injected power plant has a heavier crankshaft which Yamaha engineers say gives it a more controlled acceleration and lower vibration. That seemed obvious on the trail, particularly on rough hillsides where the 2008 Rhino never lacked for power and could always seem to apply the added horsepower to the ground where it was needed.
Yamaha's On-Command push-button controlled drive system is easy to use and offers a quick fix when the mud gets too deep or the trail too slippery or hazardous. We used it in tough spots on the Brimstone area several times, including once to pull a machine out of deep mud and once to pull one of our Rhinos from a sideways position in a deep ditch where it has slipped off the trail.
Although the steering system remains mostly unchanged from previous models, we were very impressed with the Rhino's ability to respond favorably to dodging obstacles in the trail at high speeds and even an ability to correct for over-steering near the machine's 42 mph top end.
The redesigned Rhino has several features to reduce vibration, and although the author has never driven the older Rhinos, the new model is definitely a comfortable and low-vibration ride.
Disk brakes on all four wheels is a new feature in 2008. Coupled with the machine's outstanding engine braking system, there was always adequate and controlled stopping power, even after repeated immersions in mud, streams and rivers. The shaft-mounted disk brake on the rear axle remains as a standard Rhino feature, but now serves only as an emergency brake.
The new, cleanable foam air filter now resides under the hood of the Rhino instead of between the seats, which Yamaha engineers say reduces intake noise in the cab.
Many other improvements round out the new Rhino, including a larger radiator and fan motor plus fan shrouding to increase cooling; factory-standard doors on the cab; and much-requested factory cup-holders.
Yamaha also added a stronger drive belt, larger centrifugal clutch, larger drive shafts and CV joints, CV boot protectors, improved CV boots and a self-diagnostic function in the electronic display of the instrument panel, to name a few more nice features. In addition Yamaha added over 100 new items to its Rhino accessory lineup.
The various Rhino 700 FI models run from suggested retail prices of about $10,900 to a little over $12,000.
To see the new Rhino and factory accessories online, go to: www.yamaha-motor.com/outdoor/products/modeloverview/cat/2008/54/model_overview.aspx