Viking Aims to Ravage UTV Market

Yamaha's new side-by-side utility vehicle is both rugged and versatile.

Published on: Oct 25, 2013

The power, comfort and fine handling of Yamaha's new Viking side-by-side utility vehicles should capture a sizeable piece of the fast-growing UTV market.

We took the Viking for a daylong drive in early September on the Red Reflet Ranch in central Wyoming during corporate Yamaha's official introduction to journalists. The ranch's 27,000 acres has a variety of terrain, from rough mountainsides at 8,500 feet elevation down to smooth gravel roads and irrigated alfalfa fields in the valley at just under 5,000 feet.

The new Yamaha easily handled everything we drove it over, including some hard pulls and some pretty high-speed travel on rough trails.

Yamaha testing supervisor Pat Biolosi says the Viking was designed from the start to provide a balance between work capabilities and good off-road handling. We found this to be true as the Viking has ample power for pulling and hill-climbing, good comfort and enough room in the three-seat cab.

HAPPY HAULER: The Yamaha Viking has a 600-pound payload capacity and can tow 1,500 pounds.
HAPPY HAULER: The Yamaha Viking has a 600-pound payload capacity and can tow 1,500 pounds.

Roomy cab
The Viking sports three bucket seats with head rests mounted up on the roll-cage frame. The back of the middle seat is reclined about 5% behind the driver and passenger seats to help provide more shoulder room. Still, it's easy to slide all the way across the three seats and out the other side.

The seating and position of the steering wheel feels a bit more car-like than some competitors, which I found pleasant.

The extra room in the Viking's cab was made available by moving the engine down and back significantly from where it sat in the Rhino. That also moves engine heat and noise out of the cab. It still uses Yamaha's tried-and-true 686cc, single-jug fuel-injected and liquid-cooled engine as did the Rhino and as still does the Grizzly 700 ATV. However that power plant in the Viking cranks out significantly more horsepower at the rear wheels than previous versions, thanks to several design improvements.

The Viking retains Yamaha's excellent dual-drive transmission system which the company calls the Ultramatic. It combines an oil-bath centrifugal clutch inside the crankshaft case with a full-time-engagement V-belt torque converter for smoother starts and longer life of drive belts.

I also found the Viking's engine braking so outstanding I rarely used the four-wheel disk brakes, even on steep downhill treks. When I did apply the brakes, even at high speed on gravelly surfaces, they seemed to grab nicely but not lock up.

Hauling capacity
At 600 pounds payload rating the Yamaha isn't as highly rated as some of its counterparts but Yamaha says that's essentially an academic comparison, since their research says 600 pounds is about the limit most farmers and ranchers tend to put in a UTV before they switch to a pickup truck.

The electronic power steering always seemed just right, even on the worst trails at the highest speeds: Neither too much steering nor too little.

The seating and position of the steering wheel feels a bit more car-like than some competitors, which I found pleasant.

Without power steering the Viking has an MSRP of $11,499. With EPS it lists for $12,499.