Review: 2014 Yamaha Viking 700
Getting things done in the real world of side-by-side requires much more than a million horsepower and ten feet of suspension travel. This working world requires a machine that can tow lots of gear, pull many more pounds of weight, and be capable in the dirt to get those remote jobs completed correctly. This is where the great minds at Yamaha have developed their newest brand of hussling SXS.
It was the Red Reflet Ranch in Ten Sleep, Wyoming, that was selected as the backdrop for the new 2014 Yamaha Vikings media preview. Our goal was to see, touch, work and ride the big 700 to its ability, as well as find its working position in the same arena. Our initial impression upon viewing the Viking was a good one, as it does look clean and refined with the sharp lines complimenting the all-new look. Before we get too far we should mention that the Rhino is now out of production, and this Viking is taking the place of the long-living two-seater for Yamaha’s next generation of side-by-sides. This may distress some out there, but moving into the future means letting go of the past.
So, where was I? Ah yes, the 2014 Yamaha Viking 700 three-seat workhorse. Looking at the passenger compartment for a minute you will notice the large pass-through design built to allow any one of the three ranch hands to slide from driver to passenger sides and exit off either side at will. The center of this seating arrangement gives the middle guy a seat positioned just a little further back from the other two. This gives ample shoulder room so that the poor sap in the middle is not creeped out by being shoulder to shoulder with other sweaty workers. The floor in front of the driver and his two comrades has a semi-dimpled surface to provide plenty of grip when trails become off camber or the driver gets in a hurry heading back to the barn.
Moving this new Viking around is the 686cc engine with a single overhead cam and four valves burning the fuel sent down the intake by Yamaha’s YFI fuel injection. The engine is the proven format that Yamaha has relied on for years, but with a bit more power tuned in to really motivate the Viking. This fan-assisted liquid-cooled engine is positioned just behind the seating arrangement under the steel utility bed and is facing rearward, which gives the hump the boot for a more spacious passenger area.
The developments in the big single include greatly improved fuel economy to the tune of about 30 percent over previous models, which is sure to make any penny-pinching crew boss a happy camper. Not only was Yamaha set on gains to the fuel economy but making sure every element of fuel or non-combusted material in the exhaust was burnt before hitting the environment was part of the plan as well. This is just another way Yamaha has improved the emissions of its machine.
Controlling the big power of the Viking and getting the torque to the ground is the tried-and-true Yamaha Ultra-Matic V-Belt automatic transmission. This transmission design has proven its ability over the years, and with tales of machines being 10 years old and never needing a belt the facts behind the engineering have proven themselves hundreds of times over. Getting this dual-clutch style setup in the 2014 Viking just gives the consumer a little more confidence that they will have a reliable machine for many years to come, as long as they do their part with preventative general maintenance (my AnswerMan column is riddled with questions regarding this very sort of thing). The constant application of pressure on the belt keeps the response quick and consistent when the throttle is applied. The centrifugal clutch, along with the traditional clutch sheaves work together to make the power fluid and reduce wear on the drive belt.
Knowing the general user of the Yamaha Viking would most likely be traversing rough terrain, Yamaha also includes 4WD and 4WD Differential lock on the new UTV. This gives the Viking multiple lines of traction and trail-gripping prowess to make it through the rough sections around the property. Speaking of prowess, the Viking also has optional power steering, which is controlled electronically and gives the driver a comfortable day behind the wheel. I personally would not want a non power steering model, especially after driving the PS version, but some may opt out of the almost $1000-dollar upgrade.
As we had mentioned, our trip included a treat visit to the Red Reflet Ranch in Ten Sleep, Wyoming, and this is a real working ranch not a movie set. The guys and gals at Red Reflet get up before the rooster crows and work hard all day. These great cowboys and cowgirls allowed some 20 journalists to invade their space for a few days to get to know the Yamaha Viking and work it just like they would day in and day out. Our goal was to hitch up as much weight as we could and use the new machine as it was intended. Pulling a huge trailer of fencing materials as well as several heavy “green” bails around to feel the steering and power of the Viking gave us a new appreciation for the workhorse. The low-end grunt of the big single powered through every time we gave the go pedal a push. I think we did get a little heavy on the weight limits at one point, but the machine never showed any resistance.
As we began moving around the hills and sections of farmland it was clear the handling of the Viking had been set for a specific job and it completed this job well. The steel bed gave us a tough and durable surface to toss in tools as well as strap anything that would fit into the bed. You could get a sizable white tail in this machine with no problem at all. Well, your back may feel it but the Viking would not.
Our time in the 2014 Yamaha Viking was not limited to just working though, as we did spend about half the day on trails around the enormous ranch known as Red Redflet. The unloaded Viking is a totally different machine. Whether crossing heavy rain ditches or climbing over downed trees the Viking felt stable and comfortable. Adding a passenger in between co-pilot and myself gave us a new appreciation as well for the three-person cab. I never felt cramped and I think my passengers were comfortable as well.
Overall the addition of the Viking to the Yamaha program is a welcome sight. With promises of many more new things coming down the pipe, it’s just a matter of time before we’re off to get a glimpse of the next member of an already powerful manufacturer’s arsenal.