2010 Yamaha Raptor 700R SE ATV First Ride 0

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Our first opportunity to ride the 2010 Yamaha Raptor 700R SE took place at the Imperial Sand Dunes of Glamis, California. After three days of riding the sandy expanse it got us thinking that Yamaha has a knack for developing iconic powersports machinery. Look at the list for proof: FZR100, V-Max, R1, Banshee and of particular interest to this review, the dune-consuming Raptor Special Edition.

The Raptor is billed by Yamaha as the top-selling Sport ATV in the history of mankind, and it should come as no surprise since this big-bore 4-stroke seems to have been around since the Mesozoic Era. And like the reptile whose namesake it bears, it features a scary combination of agility and outright power wrapped in a unique and menacing-looking package. Packs of these bikes can be seen lurking on every dune from Glamis to Sand Hollow, often times nesting under the covered awnings of weekend warrior trailers while their owners revel in the never-ending fun riding at the dunes.

We know these ATVs rock but every once in a while everything seems to fall into place and after a couple days of rain, the sand was moist, traction was at a premium and Raptor 700R SE was looking resplendent in its Special Edition white, red and black livery. But there’s more to the machine than just good looks, so let’s peel back the shiny exterior and see at what makes this bike such a hot commodity.

Ken tears up the sand on the 2010 Yamaha Raptor 700R SE.

Ken tears up the sand on the 2010 Yamaha Raptor 700R SE.

At the heart of the Raptor is a liquid-cooled 686cc SOHC, fuel-injected 4-stroke. Even in stock trim this ATV has great low to mid-range power capable of climbing any hill whether in the dirt or on the sand. It definitely goes good and never let me down despite being completely stock. You can tell the Yamaha is choked down too – it builds power in a linear manner, not really explosive but it breaks the tires loose with ease, so sliding is a cinch and its got the low end to haul even the heaviest loads up the big hills.

Over the years the outright hype heaped upon the Raptor has focused on its massive power but we implore you not to get the wrong idea, it’s not a trophy truck. It is an ATV with loads of potential. In stock trim the oval-shaped muffler and shiny exhaust look trick but it restricts the power output as part of the EPA-compliant nature of any off-road vehicle sold these days. Yet it still is impressive. Toss on an aftermarket pipe and header and this bike will really come alive. The uncorked version is the Raptor everyone raves about and it’s only a few hundred bucks and a trip to the GYTR catalog away from showing its true colors.

As it is, it has plenty of power everywhere and gets along fine on top-end too. Most of our trip to the dunes was spent following 2010-spec 450cc dirt bikes with paddles and although they were not purposely trying to ditch the four-wheeler they were hauling ass, so the pace was challenging on a quad without paddles. In the end the Raptor hung close, and that’s pretty damn cool.

Yamaha doesn’t miss a beat on the chassis and handling department either. With its fully adjustable piggy-back shocks at your disposal it is possible to fine tune the Raptor to any rider’s needs. Trick-looking double wishbone A-arms and the cast aluminum swingarm with eccentric-style chain adjuster prove excellent when combined with the quality shocks. Obviously the fixed axle sport quads transmit quite a bit more through the chassis than an IRS-style, but they are still popular and arguably more durable over the long haul and quite a bit lighter as well. Generally the stock set-up is a little soft but it works great out of the crate for 99% of the population. I mean, who is going to be pounding out laps at the MX track on a Raptor anyway? That’s what the YFZ450 is for. Where the 700R belongs is at the dunes or on the trail, where it offers a plush ride and stable handling when using that mondo-motor to mob along at warp-factor seven.

It’s not the lightest ATV, tipping the scales at 436 lbs full of fuel, but it carries the weight low so it feels balanced and controlled while sliding in the sand or sliding on hard-pack dirt. Though it sits high and offers a lot of ground clearance it never feels too-tippy, even during some extreme side hills. This is further helped by the roomy ergos. The pegs are wide at 45mm, offer plenty of grip and the bike itself is relatively slim between the rider’s legs. Add a decent bend in the bars and a wide, flat seat and you have an ATV that allows you to position your body easily without banging into the controls or getting hung up on the bodywork.

The stock cavernous 2.9-gallon fuel tank combined with the efficient Yamaha Fuel Injection (YFI) offers a tremendous range.

The stock cavernous 2.9-gallon fuel tank combined with the efficient Yamaha Fuel Injection (YFI) offers a tremendous range.

If you didn’t notice, the unique look of the Yamaha Raptor is killer too. Its aggressive lines, angular venting and pointed plastic looks like an absolute beast and that’s part of the appeal. Everyone wants their ride to look bad-ass and anyone who has seen one of these in person or ridden them, knows that you have the whole deal here. Look at the spec sheet for proof: Fuel-injected large-displacement thumper with reverse, a slick-shifting 5-speed transmission, great suspension and braking components plus it’s wrapped in wicked-looking bodywork. What more do you want?

Well, for starters you can never have enough horsepower, low maintenance costs help and it would be nice for it to be affordable too and as it turns out the Raptor has historically been a solid performer in two of these categories. It’s fast and they’ve proven to be well built and durable. As far as the cost goes, at $8799 for the 2010 Raptor 700R SE we tested here, is not a purchase to be taken lightly. The price has gone up $600 since last year and that’s a tough pill to swallow. But, if you are looking for excuses to still buy one there are plenty.

Where the 700R belongs is at the dunes or on the trail, where it offers a plush ride and stable handling when using that mondo-motor to mob along at warp-factor seven.

Where the 700R belongs is at the dunes or on the trail, where it offers a plush ride and stable handling when using that mondo-motor to mob along at warp-factor seven.

For starters the Raptor series is constantly evolving. Last year the thumb throttle shape was redesigned in an effort to make it more comfortable on long rides. It also has a very light and precise clutch action, making it easy to row through the very slick-shifting 5-speed transmission. And Yamaha is well aware of how this ATV is used, so it comes with an easy to use reverse and a parking brake design that, although looks big and funky, is quite functional. The stock cavernous 2.9-gallon fuel tank combined with the efficient Yamaha Fuel Injection (YFI) offers a tremendous range. And if you like riding at night, which we all do, the dual headlamps are excellent too. They cut a wide swath of light. Although it would be nice if it projected a little taller beam, we have to say it is one of the better ATV lighting systems overall.

We’ve already gone over the engine, chassis and bad-boy looks but there is more to this ATV. It also features a slim LED taillight plus a trick digital dashboard with loads of information including a speedometer, dual trip meters, odometer, clock, warning indicators for coolant and low fuel as well as idiot lights for neutral and reverse. In the case of the Special Edition version, that doesn’t take into account the trick graphics, blacked-out wheels, wave-style rear rotor, GYTR grab bars and footwells either. The Raptor package is trick and it’s tough to beat, especially the SE.

If this doesn’t satisfy your Raptor fix, don’t be alarmed. We are putting our 2010 Raptor 700R SE through the paces during the next month, testing it even more thoroughly. We plan to stick it on the dyno, maybe even get a chance to toss a full exhaust system on and see how it responds. We already have been drawn into the Raptor allure, all that’s left is to test its mettle even further. It’s going to be fun so stay tuned…

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