Review: Yamaha Wolverine

Your life lacking adrenalin and excitement? Yamaha have got you fam.

When it comes to owning a side-by-side (SXS), Yamaha are not quite as popular among the go-fast crowd as competitors Can-Am and Polaris. To be fair, they aim more for the farming demographic than the dirt-hoon market, and their products have long been known for having decent poke and the legendary Yamaha reliability. And in that regard, they’re terrific bits of kit. However, when you pull up to a dirt course, get out of your lifted ute in your flat-brim, Monster-branded clothing, white sunnies and pulled-up black socks and unload your Yamaha off the trailer you might notice your mates hiding laughs behind their 700ml Rock Star Energy Drink cans. They’re just not that ‘cool’.

Until now anyway.

Enter the brand spanking Yamaha Wolverine: one of the funnest-driving machines on four-wheels this side of a Trophy Truck. Plus they’re actually pretty practical too, but we’ll get into that in a sec. As far as off-road motoring goes, these things are the future, and as more and more places are opened up to them, the more their popularity will increase.

Here’s why the latest Yammie SXS should be on your radar.


An 847cc twin-cylinder engine may not sound that ball-tearing on paper, but combined with the continuously variable transmission (CVT), this thing straight-up rips. Plant the throttle and you can steer using your right foot in 2wd, or simply cruise over just about anything once you’ve got the front differential working; it really is one of those vehicles that anyone from your hormonal teenager to your OH&S-freak uncle can drive. Not only that, they can enjoy it too. It’s as docile or as rowdy as you want it to be, but never uncontrollable.

The aluminium cylinder head is light and revvy and the offset cylinders are integrated into the crankcase to keep the centre of gravity nice and low. It provides plenty of power and the torque is veritably tractor-like. This is probably accentuated by the CVT. Yamaha have arguably the best in the game here. The belt-drive in the trans is one of the beefier examples getting around and it’s under constant tension, meaning the wear and tear is reduced. Unlike a lot of autos it actually provides terrific engine braking downhill too.

The result? An engine and transmission combo that’ll prove easy, controlled driving over the technical stuff or make your mum roll her eyes and tell you to grow up in high speed open sections. It’s hard to not like.


The suspension is a big step-up over the previous Yamaha SXSs too. It’s fully independent and has more than enough travel for serious terrain. Much like the Suzuki Sierras of yesteryear, these things are nimble enough to get through obstacles that would have bigger vehicles struggling. The IFS/IRS is also gold for macking it over whoops, corrugations and, dare I say it, small jumps. The rear ‘diff’ is chain driven so is constantly ‘locked’ and there’s a switchable locker in the front for maximum traction when needed.

The Wolverine is also adaptive to the weight being carried. The Sachs Nivomat self-levelling shocks can correct the ride height within 58mm within a few feet of taking off from a standstill. Handy if you’ve got a couple hay bales or you have hefty children – I’m not judging.

Fair dinkum though, the brakes, suspension, steering and handling are all on point here. Top points, Yamaha.


You want to carry people or stuff in the back? You want to have a soft top, full top, no top or a partial top? You want to be completely sealed off from the elements or you want to scream into the wind like a Valkyrie hurtling towards the halls of Valhalla, Yamaha have you covered. Literally. The amount of options for the Wolverine are staggering. There are storage bins, rooves, even a rifle carrier if you’re a hunter. There’s pretty much everything available. In stock form, it’ll sit four adults comfortably (I can attest to this as I rode in the back in freezing rain up the side of a mountain in NZ and apart from a lack of feeling in my fingers I was pretty comfy – and there’s even a heater option for the fingers anyway).

The rear seats fold right up if you need to throw bulkier things in the back making this more versatile, not to mention capable than most 4wds these days. Come on Australian rule-makers, when are we opening up public lands to these things? Less environmental impact, purpose-built to handle the terrain – it’s okay not to wrap everything in red tape ALL the time. Promise.


Okay, enough talking about the nuts-n-bolts. How does this thing feel in the visceral department? Does it affect you on an emotional level; does it take a firm grip of your lower spine and jiggle it around; does it make your pupils dilate like you’re at a key party in the 70s; does it grab you by the adrenal glands and milk them like a calloused-hand dairy-maid; does it punch you right in the feels with an armoured gauntlet?

Yes, yes it does.

There’s just something about power-sliding a windscreen-less, rear-engined tube buggy through a muddy corner, twin-cylinder motor bouncing off the limiter, CVT transmission bound up tighter than Hannibal Lecter in a courtroom with a fistful of opposite lock and a maniacal grin that gets the soul moving. If that’s not you that’s cool, but I strongly recommend you see your doctor and get yourself booked in for a personality transplant, because that sh*t is fun.

This is one of those vehicles that will get under your skin and cause a smile to break out on your melon every time you fire it up. Now we just need to get one in the Red Dirt Diary garage.

Dear Yamaha, do you accept IOUs and back rubs in lieu of actual cash?..."


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