Product Review: 2006 Yamaha Rhino 450

Now everyone can afford one!

Dec. 01, 2005 By ORC STAFF


Another invitation from Yamaha arrived shortly after the new Wolverine story was completed. This time we will be joining Yamaha in the beautiful state of Kentucky, visiting the land between the lakes area and staying at the Green Turtle Bay Resort, located on Lake Barkley. We test drove the new 2006 Rhino 450 along the banks of lake Kentucky and on the wooded trails of the Turkey Bay riding area. is excited to bring you news of the new Yamaha Rhino 450. This unit is a direct decedent of the Rhino 660. The Rhino 660 was first introduced in 2003 as a sporty side-by-side utility ATV with a cargo-box. Powered by the already-proven Raptor 660 engine, the original Rhino was quite impressive.

The Rhino side-by-side ATV quickly became well-accepted by the outdoors community, for hunting, fishing, trail riding and working in the outdoors. New for 2006 Yamaha introduces the Rhino 450. This unit uses the same chassis, frame and body. The only features that have changed are the engine size and a reduction in gearing within the automatic transmission. AND a more-affordable price tag, going from $9,199 with the 660 version to $7,999 on the 450 - that’s a $1,200 savings.

We started our day with a short presentation from Steve Nessl, ATV Public Relations Manager for Yamaha. Steve gave our media group some information on the new Rhino, explaining the market segment that the new Rhino 450 hoped to reach and pointed out the price of the Rhino 450 is similar to many top-of-the-line single rider traditional ATVs on the market. Engine This is the same power-plant used in the now-available Kodiak ATV, the 421 cc liquid cooled two valve engine. Yamaha decided to use the configuration because of the engine's vast amount of low-end torque and mid-range power, making it the perfect choice for a smaller version of the original Rhino.

Mated to the 450 engine is Yamaha’s tried and true Ultramatic automatic transmission with high, low, neutral and reverse. One of the only changes made to the basic components of the new Rhino is here. Yamaha changed and lowered the high and low gear ratio in the original Kodiak Ultramatic to increase the power level needed in a side by side application. A few other features that have trickled down from the Grizzly into both the Kodiak and Rhino are the On-Command Four-Wheel drive and the fully independent suspension.

Let’s start with the On-Command four-wheel drive. First we have a dash mounted switch that enables the driver to in-gauge the machines four-wheel drive. If that’s not enough traction, Yamaha has another option. True locking four wheel drive. This locks all four wheels into a direct drive and produces power to each wheel. The system may sound complicated but its simple - just push the first four wheel drive button for four wheel drive. If that’s not enough, slide the locking lever over and push the locking differential button. This will engage the fully locked traction and supply power to each wheel.

The Rhino is set up with each wheel using its own suspension. The fully independent suspension makes for a better ride and better traction especially when riding over trail obstacles. The Rhino uses a double wishbone suspension with 7.3 inches of wheel travel and 5-way adjustable shocks, both in the front and the rear of the unit.

Ride Time The Rhino 450 comes from an already-proven product both in engine and design. But one question was still on my mind, ”How does the unit perform?” Everyone was excited to hit the trail and find out for ourselves. Typically most manufacturer rides start with a driver’s safety meeting - they like to make sure that less experienced riders know and understand how to safely operate the product. After all, the Rhino looks like a jeep or automotive type vehicle with its operator’s controls.

The steering wheel, brake, gas peddle and center consol shift handle each look and operate quite similar to an automotive application. Only, this type of vehicle is not designed for the pavement. Instead its design is specifically made for off-road riding. That means mud, steep hill climbs logs, rocks and water are all part of the typical day on the trail. A short drivers meeting was given by Yamaha’s Pat Biolsi. He explained some of the Rhino features and talked a bit about safety of the Rhino. Getting Dirty

We already know the Rhino 450 uses the same engine and transmission from the Kodiak but there are plenty of other components that come from the slightly-sportier Grizzly, such as the rear differential and front differential with in and out and locking four wheel-drive. The rear suspension uses a hefty sway-bar with extra attention being placed on control, features such as a rack and pinion steering, u-joint steering linkage and the low center of gravity make this unit corner nicely.

Couple that with a chassis that closely resembles a Hummer stance, boasting a fully independent front and rear suspension and you have a larger-than-life two seat ATV, although, due to weight issue, the unit isn't generally classified as a true ATV. The Rhino uses the already proven fully automatic, Ultramatic transmission with excellent engine braking. The cockpit has some of the best seating we have ever focused on and positioning gives easy access to the steering wheel. Optional LCD instrument panel and automotive-style console shifting handle. That’s not all - the Rhino supplies sufficient floor space and plenty of leg room. Floor controls include a gas and brake pedal. Nothing uncomfortable about these controls. Easy access to the engine is gained by removing the center console cover. Wow, servicing has never been easier - the air and oil filter are in plan view. The Rhino’s mud protection is quite good with large front and rear fenders and inner mud guards. Let’s not forget the optional front window and roof to help keep the cold weather off the occupants.

Ok, now we know the Rhino has all the necessary hardware, but what about ground clearance? How about 12.1 inches of rock clearing, stump crawling ground clearance! Not bad, right? Consider full underbelly protection and all-new Maxxis 25x8-12 aggressive tires front and 25x10-12 aggressive tires rear. Another great feature is the factory stock, heavy-duty front bumper and CV guards for extra protection. And check Yamaha Accessories for plenty of different items to customize your Rhino. Final Impressions Rider confidence was incredible, I felt like I was in total control and if I pushed the unit a bit too high or off-camber, I felt I could quickly shift into reverse and power out of the situation. I must say, Yamaha has done a great job of keeping the mass of weight low and in the center of the Rhino producing excellent control and feel on the intense angles. The new Maxxis tires are great - they enable the Rhino to put that true four-wheel drive traction to its fullest capacity.

This was a great new model to test. The unit never left us down and always had us asking for more ride time. The only difference between the 450 and it's predecessor was in off-the-line acceleration and top speed - the 450 had a lower top speed of 37 mph, whereas the 660 can reach somewhere in the area of 47 mph.
We are excited to see a quality side by side unit coming in at a more-affordable price, especially when today’s ATVs are priced higher than ever before. Consider top of the line ATVs are marked at $7,000 to $8,000 and up - I’m glad to see a more diversified unit such as the Rhino 450 coming in with an $8,000 price tag.

Especially when I know how handy the side by side cargo box unit can be when hunting, fishing, planting wildlife food-plots, or just plain having fun with a friend! Perhaps the most interesting news yet on the Rhino is that the Rhino concept was originally thought of and designed here in the USA - that may be a first for a Japanese company.

Bottom line, we found the new Rhino 450 to be surprisingly powerful, very aggressive, easy to use and fun. The price is a great point when looking at an ATV, especially when you realize two can ride for the price of one.

Yes, this is smaller than its big brother but by no means is it under-powered. I think more off road enthusiasts are going to be visiting Yamaha dealers for a look at the Rhino 450. Check out the Yamaha web-site for more information on their expanding Rhino accessory list, and check out the new build-your-our own Rhino section where you can customize your Rhino and find out how much you want to spend.

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