2010 Honda TRX700XX vs Yamaha Raptor 0

10_raptor700_vs_trx700Just today in the fast food drive-thru, in my big-ass lifted truck, the voice coming out of the speaker said, “Would you like to go big?” I acted like I was thinking about it for a second or two, but both of us knew what the answer was. Of course I went big. Americans love big stuff. We can’t get enough of our big trucks, big meals, big screens and, for the ATV enthusiast, big-bore sport quads. We decided to put two of these monsters head-to-head in a comparison. We hitched up our big trailer and hit the road towards two of the biggest riding areas in Southern California, Glamis dunes and Ocotillo Wells. “Go big, or go home,” was the battle cry for this test.

2010 Honda TRX700XX vs 2010 Yamaha Raptor 700R SE

2010 Honda TRX700XX vs 2010 Yamaha Raptor 700R SE

The two units we decided to pit against each other are two of the most popular in the segment, the Yamaha Raptor 700R SE and the Honda TRX700XX. The Raptor was one of the first large-displacement sport ATVs, debuting in 2001 as a 660cc carbureted model. Undergoing a complete redesign in 2006, the current model has evolved into 686cc single-overhead-cam beast. Although the TRX700XX is a relative newcomer in the class, it already has back-to-back Baja 1000 wins in its first two years of production.

First stop on our desert testing tour was Ocotillo Wells. Made famous in the early ‘90s by the Crusty Demons of Dirt videos, Ocotillo is a favorite of SoCal off-roaders. We choose this location because of its varied terrain of whoops, rock gardens, sand washes and hillclimbs. One of our unlucky test riders even found a mud hole to get stuck in. We pounded our test units through every rough, rutted, and whooped out section we could find in order to make a fair comparison. After the hammer session, we spent the last few hours of the day playing on the hillclimbs and mud jumps.

After the sun dropped behind the Borrego Mountains we loaded up and headed for test location Number 2, Glamis. This would give us an opportunity to really push the big dogs of the sport ATV world in terms of high speed and handling. The flowing sand bowls and huge hillclimbs are perfect for feeling out which machine has more power. Plus, the perfectly sculpted dune faces make great launch ramps for some serious airtime.

Glamis was a perfect opportunity to test these massive beasts in their natural environment - power-robbing sand dunes.

Glamis was a perfect opportunity to test these massive beasts in their natural environment – power-robbing sand dunes.

During our two days of pounding the Raptor and TRX700XX we kept copious notes and discussed the differences between the two. Although both of these machines are designed for the same end user, they are worlds apart in just about every aspect. Which unit is the right one to satisfy your urge to super-size your riding? Read on to find out the differences between these goliaths.

Honda TRX700XX

When designing the TRX700XX the Honda crew decided to take the road less traveled. The question is, “should they have?” The murdered-out TRX is a definite departure from conventional sport quad thinking. Honda engineers did away with the straight rear axle and swingarm found on the majority of sport ATVs, replacing it with double wishbone independent rear suspension. With two Baja 1000 wins they must have gotten it right. Right?

Honda took a different approach to the open-class sport quad, and judging from its desert racing success, it definitely did something right.

Honda took a different approach to the open-class sport quad, and judging from its desert racing success, it definitely did something right.

The short answer is, “sort of.” The suspension works well in some situations and is sub-par in others. Let’s get into where it excels first. If you spend most of your time smashing through uneven, choppy terrain while sitting down, this is the ride for you. The fully independent rear suspension works wonders in situations where one wheel is being shoved towards the sky while the other is dropping into a hole. The shocks are plush and soak up stutter bumps and rocky sections very well. You can even sit down through most of it. It’s really does shine in this respect, but so does the Rincon for that matter – Honda’s big-bore utility quad. There lies the problem. When you buy a sport ATV you want to be able to do more than be comfortable in the chunky bits. There’s jumping, bombing through whoops and power-sliding to consider. If you want to sit down and plunk around in the rocks, Big Red offers other options, and with 4WD.

Once the 700XX encounters any standard sport quad terrain, things begin to go wrong. First, power-slides are unpredictable at best. The rear suspension allows the TRX to roll as it’s pitched into a slide. Once the roll is in effect, the outside rear tire grabs serious traction. This results in one of two undesired scenarios. One, the 700XX ends up going straight while you are trying to turn, which is the lesser of two evils. Two, the tire hooks up and pitches the ATV up onto two wheels. Bicycling a 505-pound ATV at speed is not a desirable thing to do.

When you really start hammering the whoops and chop, the rear end protests by kicking badly. With only pre-load adjustment available on the front and rear shocks, there’s no chance of sorting out the bucking suspension woes. The engineers may have had it right with the independent concept, but the bean counters got it wrong. Skimping out on suspension adjustability really hurts the Honda’s performance and fun factor. We would expect the Honda to be much closer in handling performance to the Raptor with a good set of aftermarket shocks.

n the air the Honda flies straight and landings are plush, as long as the two back tires touch down at the same time. Landing one-wheel-first while on the gas can cause the TRX to veer off its intended line. The rear tires really direct the path of travel. In many situations there are so many off-the-wall handling issues that it makes you wonder how good this ATV could be with a straight axle and swing-arm.

The TRX’s 686cc single-overhead-cam loves to be revved out. The bottom and mid-range power is not as punchy as the Raptor despite turning higher numbers throughout the rev range on the Two Brothers Racing dyno. However, long after the Yamaha signs off, the Honda is still pulling. In the tight woods and turns the double-X requires constant rowing through the gearbox to keep the revs up in the meat of the power. We experienced a hiccup and stall issue with our test unit that became frustrating. A quick stab of the throttle from a dead stop would cause the Honda to cough and die about 10% of the time, always when you least expected it. We suspect the TRX is too lean on the bottom end of the fueling map.

The transmission is pure Honda quality, smooth as silk. Shifting through the gears is trouble free, which is good since the Honda’s transmission will get a workout. The ratios are spaced well and you are not left looking for another gear on the top end like the Raptor. Shifting into reverse is easy, but the reverse lever positioning was not a favorite of our testers. The lever is somewhat hidden down low between the tank and front fender. Reaching for the lever just feels awkward in comparison to the Raptor’s well-placed knob.

The motor likes to be screamed, which works well in open terrain. Once the pace slows down in technical situations, the TRX needs a lot of shifting, which is fine because the transmission is great.

The motor likes to be screamed, which works well in open terrain. Once the pace slows down in technical situations, the TRX needs a lot of shifting, which is fine because the transmission is great.

The styling of the TRX is funky, but grew on us as the test progressed. Black plastics look great but scratches easily, but the seat is uber-comfortable with thick padding that’s just right in the stiffness department. The cockpit area felt cramped for our taller testers in the six-foot range. The parking brake is the same set-up Honda has been using for decades; a procedure of pushing a button down on the clutch lever, pull the lever in, and then flip a cover over the button. The Yamaha’s single flip lever is so much easier to use. Where the 700R has a digital dash with a speedometer, odometer, and trip meters, the 700XX falls short with just four indicator lights on the handlebar-mounted dash.

Yamaha Raptor 700 SE

Wrapped in special edition plastics and graphics the Raptor 700R SE is the gold standard by which all other large displacement ATVs are judged. Along with the black and white plastics adorned with tribal graphics, the SE is outfitted with blacked out GYTR grab bars and heel guards. The rear brake also receives an upgrade with a wave-style brake rotor. All these fancy bits come with a $700 price increase to the standard $8099 price tag. Personally we would save the seven hundy for a GYTR performance muffler and head pipe. The rest of the spec sheet is identical to the standard Raptor 700R.

Yamaha has a winning formula with the Raptor 700R. Our SE model certainly looks the part of one mean machine.

Yamaha has a winning formula with the Raptor 700R. Our SE model certainly looks the part of one mean machine.

The single-cylinder 686cc mill in the 700R makes a great spread of power that is more usable than the top end scream of the 700XX. The Yamaha turned out 40.55 peak horsepower, which was less than a single pony shy of the Honda. While the TRX trumped the Raptor in the torque department as well with dyno wheels, our testers experienced a role reversal on the trail. All agree that the SE feels meatier. Fewer shifts are required to scoot the Raptor around tight trails and while cornering in soft sand. The torque spread is so wide, one tester said he just left it in third gear and forget about shifting. Fuel injection is right on the money with instantaneous throttle response when you stab the newly designed thumb throttle.

When the time to finally shift does arise, the transmission is smooth as butter. Gear changes are positive with just a tap from the boot. Gear ratios are good, but in the dunes we kept looking for an extra one on top when it ran out of steam. This was where the Honda pulled away. Selecting reverse is simple as pie; just twist the knob inside the right front fender and click down past first gear.

This straight axle/swingarm rear end is controlled by a single shock. This traditional sport ATV setup was preferred by our riders.

This straight axle/swingarm rear end is controlled by a single shock. This traditional sport ATV setup was preferred by our riders.

In the suspension department, the Raptor feels right. The fully adjustable reservoir shocks feature high- and low-speed compression adjustment, rebound damping and preload adjustment. That’s three more adjustments than the 700XX and about three times better.

Straight out of the box the suspension was set-up well for most riders, but for heavier riders a little more preload and rebound damping could be used in the rear. We had a wide range of weight to cover between our testers and mostly just left it alone. Even when our largest rider bottomed out the Raptor, it remained composed and in control. The front was dialed in perfectly for almost anything we threw at it. The only place your kidneys suffered on the Raptor was in choppy, uneven terrain such as rock fields.

The well-behaved suspension coupled with a straight axle and swingarm make for a true sport quad ride. If you like to slide around corners like a cast member from Tokyo Drift, this the ATV for you. The rear end pitches out easily and comes back with complete control. The Raptor always goes where you intend, unless you’re completely ham-fisted with the thumb throttle in high traction situations. Flicking the Raptor from left to right and left again is effortless, especially with a blip of the throttle. The center of gravity is a bit higher than its smaller sibling the YFZ450R and so it can be a bit tippier than a repli-racer 450. Make sure to throw enough body English to the inside when the tires are getting good grip. Just slide your butt over a bit more, and you’re sorted.

Hopping on the Raptor, all three of our testers felt at home in the spacious cockpit. The reach to the bars is comfortable and allows swinging lock-to-lock without any weird body positioning. The steel bars look a little cheesy on such an otherwise sharp-looking machine, but at least they have a decent bend. Lever position is spot-on, and the shape of the clutch and brake lever is familiar. The parking brake lever is massive, but so easy to use that we can live with the looks. If you’re a racer or have no need for a parking brake, just a few bolts and it’s gone. The seat-to-footpeg relationship is roomy while the seat is firm. The seat feels like it’s as thin as possible to keep the rider’scenter of gravity lower. After a few hours in the saddle it begins to make our backsides sore.

Both of these ATVs are great in their own right, but the Yamaha has a higher level of refinement and delivers the feel sport quad enthusiasts have come to expect.

Both of these ATVs are great in their own right, but the Yamaha has a higher level of refinement and delivers the feel sport quad enthusiasts have come to expect.

In the showdown between these two big bore ATVs, all three of our testers prefer the traditional sport quad handling of the Yamaha. These two monster ATVs are very different beasts. The Honda’s quirky handling and plain-Jane suspension make it more of trail quad with all-day comfort to the Raptor’s aggressive, racy feel. To be honest, most of the time we were a little scared to ride the Honda near its limits, while we could be on the edge with the Raptor for extended periods. Fortunately, the baseline is there. A set of tunable shocks on the Honda will bring it into a higher performance realm, but for now the 700R remains the class standard.

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