A certain level of freedom comes with taking a side-by-side out to the desert and ripping around for a few days. The wind blowing through
your hair the holes in your helmet and general sense of adventure can't be matched. You can tackle terrain that other off-roaders and overlanding vehicles wouldn't dream of. The UTV and SxS world has grown quickly in the 20 years since Yamaha's Rhino hit the market. It was quite an innovative product at the time, but the industry has come a long way, and the 2023 Wolverine RMAX2 fits right in.
I had the opportunity to test out Yamaha's newest Wolverine RMAX2 on various terrain. Driving over 200 miles of trails gave me, without a doubt, a good feel for the vehicle and all its glory. We traversed various landscapes with some rock crawling and dunes around Sand Hallow State Park and the rocky twists and turns leading us to the Grand Canyon.
The 2023 Yamaha Wolverine RMAX2 XT-R: What We Think
Going into this trip, I was fresh off of testing Can-Am's Maverick X3, so I had some high expectations for this side-by-side's performance and was not disappointed. This machine is impressive. Because it is not necessarily a pure sport model, the speed demons might turn their nose up at first glance, but they shouldn't. It was not only able to handle whatever terrain we put it through, but it was able to do it comfortably. The driving modes made throttle control extremely easy, and the cockpit comfort can be likened to your daily driver. The RMAX tackled each obstacle with power and precision, yielding a killer ride.
The RMAX2 Has a Notably Comfortable Cockpit
Let's go ahead and get the pleasantries out of the way, and then we will get to the shop talk. Jumping into the driver's seat, you feel like you are driving a regular car. It is easy to get into, and while it is not as closed off as Polaris's Xpedition, the half doors are solid and help keep dust out of the lower portion of the vehicle. The RMAX comes with a roof, but the windshield that you can see on the vehicle I was driving is an add-on. But the fact that you are always, at the very least, covered from the sun and more unpleasant elements is a huge win on the day.
The adjustable seat is positioned upright, which I was initially wary of, but it was perfectly comfortable and gave you excellent visibility over the hood. And under the assumption that you will be driving this thing with some authority, the soft touch points were more helpful than I expected. These rubberized pads lined up perfectly with where my knee hit every time I was jostled over a large bump. When I initially learned about that feature, I didn't think much of it, but it did its job, and even that small detail makes for a better driving experience.
The Wolverine RMAX XT-R Trim Is Spec'd Out
You don't feel like you are about to go and tear it up, as the dash looks a little too nice to be ripping down a dirt road. But have no fear; getting used to this luxury doesn't take long. There is a screen for navigation, charging ports and plugs for your phone as well as controls for the stereo system. The only real complaint I had was the glare from the sun on the screen made it tough to read at times. We used it for the Adventure Pro navigation system throughout the trip, and I didn't get lost, so that is a winner in my book. But if you are riding in dusty conditions, I recommend having a cloth dedicated to wiping off the screen throughout your ride.
In terms of storage, there are cup holders, a center console box, a glove compartment, and of course, the cargo bed. The dumping bed is rated up to 600 lbs with all sorts of tie-down points and space for additional storage accessories. The RMAX also has a towing capacity of 2,000 pounds, allowing it to be not only a recreational vehicle but also a workhorse. My bed was outfitted with a cargo box that fit my duffle bag and extra gear perfectly. Additionally, the XT-R trim comes with a heavy-duty Warn Winch pre-installed that can pull you out of the stickier situations.
The Wolverine RMAX Drive Modes and Shifting
Now that we got that out of the way, let's get into the driving. Once again, it had the comfort of a normal car, but it gave you the power to hit each obstacle confidently. Three "D-Modes," Sport, Trail and Crawl, change how the power is delivered to you without sacrificing any of that power. "Sport" will be for your wide open roads where you want some speed. "Trail" is going to be your most universal setting that I was able to stay in for the majority of my rides. "Crawl" is probably the most important setting as it allows you to be the most technical. You can swiftly change modes mid-drive with the push of a button without coming to a stop. I was impressed with how much of a difference this switch made and improved the vehicle's performance according to the terrain we were tackling. For example, we needed to back up toward the edge of the Grand Canyon. While that activity was a bit spooky by nature, the power behind the pedal in the "Crawl" setting was reliable, consistent and forgiving, making the task less jarring.
Shifting gears felt very similar to the process in a standard vehicle, and it did not require much muscle. A neat detail that Yamaha boasts is that the transmission is backed by a 10-year belt warranty, which gives some peace of mind when you invest in a vehicle like this. One thing that you have to get used to is that there is no transmission parking brake. This does take some of the pressure off the machine, but you have to get in the habit of throwing it in neutral and pulling up the parking brake.
The Wolverine RMAX Handles Very Well
The beadlock wheels that are specific to the XT-R trip come stock with Maxxis Carnivore tires, but we were testing out the GBC's Parallax. They successfully took on over 200 miles of sharp rocks and cacti, and there wasn't a single flat across the entire group. As far as suspension goes, it is equipped with Fox 2.0 QS3 shocks allowing 14.2 inches of travel in the front and 16.9 inches in the rear. They can be set to three different dampening positions to control the stiffness, so your ride can be as smooth as possible, depending on your driving type.