Feature Vehicle: 2001 Yamaha 660R Raptor, Page One

Nov. 01, 2005 By Bill Lanphier

   If it ain't a wheelie king, Yamaha's new 660R Raptor is nothing. With a relatively short wheelbase, a potent motor and a good weight bias (46 percent front), the big four-stroke feels light and nimble. Yamaha did its homework on the front end geometry and virtually eliminated the problem of bump steer.

   It's about time, Yamaha! The 660R Raptor is that company's first all-new performance quad since the late 80s when it released the Banshee. The 350cc two-stroke twin powering the Banshee is a screamer, for sure, and works great for duning, desert racing, flat-tracking and fire roading. In really demanding situations, however, the chassis doesn't thrill us at all. The front end feels heavy, the suspension is harsh and the layout puts the rider too close to the handlebars.

    Has Yamaha finally designed a high-performance quad that is fast and has more agreeable handling manners than the Banshee? Well, kiddies, Off-Road.com is gonna answer those questions for you right now...

For the complete gallery of 31 full screen photos Click Here!

Styling is sleek and, with the headlights removed, even downright mean. Each light attaches and re-attaches easily with only two bolts.

 A narrow seat allows you to move around easily for aggressive riding. The overall layout is comfortable, although the seat is rather high.

 The five valve, liquid cooled, four stroke is the crowning glory of the Raptor. Spacing between first and second gear is a bit wide, but most serious duners aren't going to see first gear that often, anyway! Even with external shift linkage, the Raptor's five-speed tranny works much smoother than a lot of Yamaha ATVs, including the Banshee.

 For our dune excursions, we outfitted the Raptor with Douglas Billet wheels (nice!) plus Kenda front and rear sand tires. These Trekker V-paddle rears work great.

 The aftermarket is hard at work on a longer swingarm for the Raptor. Handling is great in the woods, but for really high-speed riding, we'd like to check out a slightly longer wheelbase for greater stability. Chain adjustment is easier than on Yamaha's Banshee, but still not as simple as on the Honda performance quads. Hydraulic disc brakes all around provide plenty of stopping power.

   Rather than power the Raptor with the Yamaha YZ426F motocross motorcycle powerplant (which is what many insiders were expecting), Yamaha went an entirely different route. A really big four-stroke single based on the liquid-cooled, five valve Yamaha XTZ660 dual-sport motorcycle powerplant was slipped into the Raptor chassis.

   Instead of designing a more user friendly single-carb setup, Yamaha went with the dual-sport's twin-carb arrangement. The right carb feeds two intake valves, while the left feeds one. Yes, jetting does get more complicated, and the right carb's main jet must always be two sizes larger than on the left. Pilots and needles remain the same.

   You'd expect a big four-stroke to be a slow-revving pig, but the Raptor surprised us. With a lightweight cam and piston, the 660 revs out quickly. The nine grand rev limit is high for a big four-stroke and the Raptor hauls ass. It gets up to its top speed of 75 mph in a hurry and, if that isn't enough for you, the machine could probably pull taller gearing. Even in power-robbing sand and near 100-degree temperatures, we were unable to get the beast to overheat.

   We were even more surprised with the shifting on the Raptor. It's much smoother than on the Banshee and other Yamaha ATVs. The gap is a bit wide between first and second gear, however, and woods riders may have to work the clutch a bit in tight quarters. Fortunately, the clutch is beefy and it took a lot of abuse before it started to fade.

   Woods riders (well, anyone who doesn't like pushing a quad backwards) will appreciate the reverse gear. This is something that's never been seen before on a high-performance quad, but it adds only about five pounds. So, we're not complaining too loudly. Engagement isn't as smooth as we'd like, however.


  Off-road journalist Bill "WBGO" Lanphier is really down on his luck and was spotted at Glamis collecting aluminum cans in a burlap sack.
  Test rider Ron Hinson (Hinson Racing) had no cans to offer, but graciously threw a quarter in WBGO's sack before dropping the hammer on the Raptor and covering the old hippie with sand.

   Yamaha went big with the motor for the Raptor, but not the chassis. The overall dimensions are closer to a Honda 400EX than either the Bombardier DS650 or Suzuki's LT500R. In fact, the front stance is actually narrower than on a 400EX. The seat height, on the other hand, is in the DS650 range.

   Yes, the Raptor is on the tall and narrow side. Combine that with soft front suspension settings and you have machine that dives a bit in turns. Experimentation with different tires and suspension settings has shown that this problem can be solved fairly easily. The stock rear radial tires, a first for Yamaha ATVs, hook up well for straight-ahead traction, but are a bit too grabby for smooth powerslides in dirt. The Kenda sand tires we tested in the dunes worked well, but the stock front suspension settings are still an issue. (Check out Dr. Dune's accompanying report on the Raptor's sand manners.)

   The stock suspension does work well, however, for jumps, whoops and over rough terrain. The machine eats up big bumps easily and goes through whoops almost like a full-on desert racing quad. Even though the action is plush and the suspension travel numbers are exactly the same as on a Banshee, you'll have to jump the Raptor pretty damn high to get the suspension to bottom out. Lots of aluminum components (the upper A-arms, subframe, front spindles and hubs, for example) keep the weight down and the Raptor feels nimble in the air.

   This nimble feeling is a big plus for woods riding, where a big quad like the DS650 feels more like an overloaded garbage truck. Despite the diving front end, the Raptor carves a precise turn and the steering is very responsive. The weight bias allows for instant wheelies. For riders who think the front end is too light, a longer swingarm is one solution that will also improve top-speed stability on the Raptor (which has a shorter wheelbase than the DS650, Banshee or LT500R).

   If you were blindfolded, plopped down on the Raptor and were told it was a Honda 400EX, you'd probably believe it. The relative location of the bars, seat and footpegs is almost identical. This is good news, because many riders feel right at home on the EX. The largest riders might feel a bit cramped, but will still be able to move around and ride hard. Despite the big motor, the Raptor's hand controls work easily and smoothly. Thumb throttle action is lighter than on the Banshee.

   Routine maintenance on the Raptor isn't quite as easy as it is on most Hondas, but still easier than on the Banshee. A spin-on automotive-style filter is a welcome item. Overall fit and finish is excellent on the Raptor and we suspect the unit will hold up well in the long run.

   In the past, the big OEMs offered only a few optional items (handguards, for example) for their performance ATVs. Now, here's a switch. Yamaha is offering ten different reasonably priced products for the Raptor including skidplates, graphics kits-- even an exhaust system! We asked Yamaha to slap some of these goodies on our Raptor and here's what they came up with.

For the complete gallery of 31 full screen photos Click Here!

We're not sure about the added weight of these GYT-R aluminum heel guards, but they look cool and will certainly hold up better than the plastic stockers. Yamaha says they provide a little more room for your boots, too.

Thankfully, the optional front "grab bar" doesn't look at all like the Honda-ish unit that comes stock on the Raptor. This bar really looks great!
 An aluminum grab bar (with flag mount) is also available.

We have mixed feelings about the "faux" carbon fiber light guards.   Most agreed, they look cool, but block out a good bit of the light.

Yes, Yamaha now offers its own aftermarket exhaust! The company claims up to a 22% horsepower gain and, in our tests, the GYT-R system pulls hard and helps smooth out the gap between first and second gear.

(See charts below)

Yamaha's optional shock covers help save the expensive shock shafts from pitting.

Okay, so you don't need A-arms guards in the dunes, but we wanted to check out the quality of the optional Yamaha accessories. The beefy aluminum units look like they will hold up for woods or desert racing-- two places where the Raptor should work great.

< Brushed aluminum engine/frame and swingarm skidplates are also available.

The GYT-R silencer provides an impressive 10-22% increase in rear wheel horsepower and torque across the RPM range. Available in polished aluminum or super-trick carbon fiber, the unit also weighs as much as 3.5 pounds less than stock.

Click Here for page two of the story!

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