2015 Yamaha Viking VI First Ride 0
It has almost become a forgone conclusion in the UTV world that when a manufacturer releases a new model, it will be followed up within a year’s time by a crew or double-rowed version. When Yamaha unwrapped the 2014 Viking for the media back in June of 2013, its representatives hinted that there was going to be a steady flow of new side-by-sides for the next half decade. Immediately we assumed the next would be a six-seat variant. Six days shy of a year later, Yamaha gave 4WheelDirt the first look at the 2015 Viking VI. What’s better, we were allowed some abbreviated seat time to get a quick impression of the new machine.
There was plenty of speculation on what Yamaha would be unveiling when the invite to travel to Austin, Texas was received to preview a new UTV. More than a few editors asked if this could be the long-rumored sport side-by-side. Or would it be a trail-width machine along the likes of the Polaris RZR 570, Arctic Cat Wildcat Trail, or the just released Honda Pioneer 700? I was sure it would be a six-seater. It made the most sense and I assumed it would be an easy thing to do. Just chop the frame, add a row and call it a day. Armchair engineering at it’s finest right there, folks.
While the Viking VI is basically a stretched version of the Viking, it wasn’t as simple as I had pontificated. Yes, the same 686cc liquid-cooled Single powers the two, but the engine electronics and Utramatic CVT transmission have been tweaked to work with the additional weight of the machine and extra passengers. Not only are the CVT ratios slightly altered, but the centrifugal clutch that allows for constant belt tension gets thicker friction material for more durability and better engagement for the larger machine. The middle driven gear has been shot peened for greater strength as well.
The suspension was also beefed up for the 1634-pound Viking VI. Heavier progressive rate springs have been installed on the nitrogen gas-charged shocks, matched with revised compression and rebound damping to keep the ride under control. Yamaha’s engineers also beefed up the A-arms with additional gussets. Even with the added load of the larger chassis and extra passengers the VI still retains the 600-pound payload and 1500-pound towing capacity of the three-seat Viking.
The steering ratios have been optimized to maintain light and precise turning, and the Electronic Power Steering has also been tuned to suit the longer wheelbase and different weight distribution. Model-specific Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 tires have been fitted to the Viking VI that feature a new internal structure and have a revised air pressure rating for both comfort and light steering.
The full ROPS compliant cab frame meets the ANSI/ROVA-1-2001 standard and shares few parts with the smaller three-seat Viking. Even the center frame spars and lower frame sections are unique to the Viking VI.
Just as in the Viking, the Viking VI features a staggered seating position for the middle passenger in both the front and rear row for more elbow room and a more comfortable and secure ride. Each occupant has secure floorboards for their location along with individual headrests and handholds. The front headrests have a windowed design to offer better vision from the 25mm backseat that is 25mm higher than the front. Seatbelts are of the automotive three-point variety. Upfront, the driver’s seat is adjustable, but requires removing the seat and changing the mounting bolt position.
Under-seat storage capacity has increased with open trays under the driver and front passenger seat. A seal 24-liter sealed box sits under the middle front seat, and an optional 20-liter water-tight container is available for the rear outboard passenger seats. This box comes standard on the SE version. The air filter is located under the rear center seat. The same 10-liter glove box is shared with the Viking and the VI. Four of the eight cup holders feature rubber inserts that hold a 12-ounce can securely. Our time driving the Viking VI was short and on a course that was tame, to say the least. There was a small hill to climb and descend and a short trail through some overgrown brush and trees. Even so we did get a good initial feel for the handling and comfort of the VI, and the first impression is positive.
The long 115.6-inch wheelbase turns tighter than expected and had no problem negotiating the tight trail through the brush. Only when making a full U-turn at slower speeds did the length become apparent, but the turning radius was not unreasonably huge. It’s a crew cab, and sometimes that requires a three-point turn to get pointed in the opposite direction.
At slow speeds the steering effort from the EPS-equipped standard unit I drove felt slightly heavier than the Viking we have for our long-term review, but it does not feel sluggish or unresponsive. Above 20 mph, the wheel lightens up just a tad and is precise. Handling at trail speeds with a few passengers is lively and fun. In both two- and four-wheel drive there is a slight amount of understeer at the beginning of a turn, but as the suspension settles into the corner it returns to a very neutral balance. You can get it to slide, but the footprint is much more planted than its shorter sibling. Fully loaded with six occupants, the ride is still stable and the power feel is less diminished than you would expect. Drivers can still have a spirited trail ride fully loaded, and that right there is impressive.
One thing that all crew-sized UTVs have to deal with is the tendency to bottom out on some obstacles easier than shorter machines because of the increased distance between the wheels. We did drag the frame on one large pile of dirt, but it was to be expected. Just use the on-command differential lock in 4WD if you are unsure if you will hang up, and roller and ledges shouldn’t be a problem with both the front wheels pulling equally. From the passenger’s perspective, each seating position is no better or worse than the other. There will be no bickering over who is stuck in the middle because of a cramped space or lack of handholds. The staggered middle back rest really does make for more shoulder space and comfort. Legroom at the rear is ample and even the tallest in our group had no complaints. The view from the back row is excellent thanks to the slightly higher seats and cutouts in the front headrests.
Priced at just $12,799 for the non-EPS version to $14,999 for the fully loaded SE model, the Viking VI is competitively priced. The EPS versions range from $13,599 to $13,799 depending on color and are several hundred dollars less than models in the same class with power steering.
We learned quite a bit during our short time with 2015 Yamaha Viking VI. While there is plenty more to test on the trail and in more extreme conditions, it’s clear the six-seat platform is capable of moving more bodies to a favorite hunting area or jobsite comfortably. It is also entertaining at more aggressive speeds for everyone involved. Overall the Viking VI is an excellent choice in the crew cab class with all of the great features of the small Viking without a huge increase in price.
Engine Type: 686cc liquid-cooled w/fan, 4-stroke; SOHC, 4 valves
Bore x Stroke: 102.0 x 84.0mm
Compression Ratio: 10.0:1
Fuel Delivery: Yamaha Fuel Injection (YFI)
Ignition : TCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition
Starting System: Electric
Transmission: Yamaha Ultramatic V-belt with all-wheel engine braking; L, H, N, R
Drive Train: Yamaha On-Command; 3-way locking differential; 2WD, 4WD, locked 4WD; shaft drive
Suspension / Front: Independent double wishbone; 8.1-in travel
Suspension / Rear: Independent double wishbone with anti-sway bar; 8.1-in travel
Brakes / Front: Dual hydraulic disc
Brakes / Rear: Dual hydraulic disc
Tires / Front: AT25 x 8-12
Tires / Rear: AT25 x 10-12
L x W x H: 153.5 x 64.0 x 76.6 in
Wheelbase: 115.6 in
Turning Radius: 244.1 in
Ground Clearance: 11.4 in
Fuel Capacity: 9.7 gal
Wet Weight: 1624 lb (non_EPS), 1634 (EPS) 1667 lb (SE)
Bed Capacity: 600 lb
Towing Capacity: 1500 lb
Color: Hunter Green, Red, Realtree AP, Matte Silver (SE)