First Ride – Viking Country

First Ride – Viking Country news about Vikings has been hard to find lately, especially for fans of the fumbling, cellar dwellers from the NFC North. While the Minnesota Vikings continue their march to mediocrity, Yamaha has done its part to restore the name of the brave explorers of old, and they’ve released an all-new explorer of their own under the Viking name.

Offensive Line

In football terms, Yamaha is back on offense. A decade after the introduction of the Rhino 660 Side x Side, Yamaha has introduced the Viking, the direct descendant to their ground breaking original machine. While the Rhino forever changed the Side x Side segment and kicked open the door for every performance model today, the new Viking is designed less for running across the dunes and more for real world work and recreation.

Working and recreational units like the Viking don’t portray the flash of high-speed, racy units, but they do make up the majority of sales. Consider the Viking a solid, grind-it-out on the ground running game rather than the deep pass to the corners that brings the crowd to their feet. The Viking is designed to be a reliable, solid performer that can be counted on for every season. It’s the offensive lineman of the off-road world. Highlights of the Viking

  • All-new chassis designed to carry heavy loads
  • Full length steel skid plates for under frame protection. 11.8 inches ground clearance
  • Super tough half doors keep occupants safely inside and debris, mud, and water out.
  • Cab structure is a certified ROPS frame.
  • Designed with an easy access, step through floor area and room for three adults
  • All controls on dash with a center mounted digital multifunction LCD display
  • Steel rear cargo bed rated for 600 pounds
  • 2-inch receiver hitch rated to tow 1500 pounds
  • Large diameter front and rear disc brakes for maximum stopping power
  • 686cc, liquid-cooled, fuel injected, SOHC engine with high capacity air intake system
  • Air intake and exhaust are designed for complete burn of all fuel, resulting in reduced emissions.
  • Yamaha’s Ultramatic® transmission with Sprag clutch for constant belt tension and longer belt life
  • Three-position On-Command 4WD system with 2WD, limited-slip 4WD, and fully locked differential 4WD.
  • Engine braking at any speed
  • Width is designed for row crop clearance
  • Built in Yamaha’s Newnan, Georgia plant

Play by Play

Both machine and player stats supposedly speak to capabilities, but it’s on the field where performance is really measured. Rather than recite a long list of engineering specs on the Yamaha Viking, we’ll give you the play-by-play on its real world performance.

Climbing into the Viking is easy enough. We like Yamaha’s half-door and secure, yet easy opening latch. The seats are comfortable whether you’re the driver or one the passengers. I tried sitting in all three spots with two other hefty riders and we managed to avoid any of the awkward shoulder rubbing and personal fouls. Good job with the seat layout, Yamaha! We do think the seats could be improved, though, by sculpting them slightly to hold you in place a little better, or with a textured seat cover. The driver’s seat is fully adjustable while the others remain fixed. Beneath one seat is the air filter and a large storage bin is found under the other. Behind each person’s head is a forgiving head rest, and wrapped around the entire crew compartment is a certified roll-over protection structure. Three point seat belts are thankfully included for all three riders. Down below there is plenty of room for each person’s feet, even with heavy hunting boots, and we love the textured floor of the Viking. It keeps your feet securely in place regardless of where you are sitting. Yamaha includes a semi-flexible shoulder guard fastened to each roll bar and it has the effect of providing both a little support for the outside passengers, and protection from any branches or

We like the dash and control layout on the new Viking. With seating for three, all the controls had to be dash mounted, and the gear selection lever, the parking brake, and the key are to the right of the steering wheel. In the center of the dash is an excellent, easy to read digital display. To the left of the wheel is the 2WD/4WD/Diff lock selection knob, but one of the best features is the dash mounted storage. The Viking comes with a good sized glove box, and an open storage shelf in the dash center. Both passengers also get an adjustable, padded hand hold. To create room for the center passenger, it sometimes feels like the steering wheel and both outside riders have been slid ever-so-slightly outboard. The thing we would like to have most is tilt steering. However, Yamaha’s very good electronic power steering can be added as an option for $1000.

A twist of the key brought the engine to life and got the play underway. The single cylinder engine sounds good with a hearty rumble, but there is a very noticeable vibration on the dash when idling. It’s a little disconcerting, although it does go away with throttle input. When underway any vibration is not as noticeable, but as you approach maximum RPM’s, it does begin to come back. We spent the first morning darting between the under brush and trees, and the Viking maneuvered precisely between trail defenders, responding nicely and predictably to throttle and steering input. It’s not Adrian Peterson speed or maneuverability, but it gets down

The Viking was also meant for hard work and comes equipped with a very large, steel dump bed with a 2” receiver hitch down below. Yamaha wanted users to have the option of modifying the bed, even going so far as to weld on their own equipment. They would be far better off bolting down equipment already welded to a heavy plate, however. The reason is, welding inputs heat, almost certainly warping the bed, and the areas around the weld beads are much more prone to stress cracks, both as the weld cools, and when in use later. Either way, the steel bed does allow for abuse and durability, and for much more modification than a composite / plastic bed. The only drawback would be corrosion, and a little more noise from loose equipment or tools rattling around inside.

We piled the bed high with hay bales, and then attached a trailer load of bales as well. We estimated the trailer weight at 1700 pounds, plus another 360 pounds in the bed. When carrying or towing a heavy load, regardless of brand, you always want to use LOW gear which is much easier on the CVT belt. The Viking shifted smoothly into low, and just like a big lineman, it squatted down and drove forward when we hit the throttle. There was no hesitation, belt squealing, or tire spinning, thanks to Yamaha’s reliable Ultramatic transmission and sprag clutch. We like it! When you get a big load moving, the next challenge is stopping it safely, and Yamaha really has this part dialed on the Viking. The brakes work excellent! We tried our stop test many times – all fully loaded as above – and regardless of speed or surface, the Viking brakes always stopped us safely, with no pulling to either side. Test passed!

Our next adventure with the Viking was a 35 mile jaunt and climb above 8000’ to an elk hunting spot. What started out as a winding trail on the valley floor quickly turned into a run up the mountain on two-track trails, cow trails, logging haul roads, and even some gravel road. On the wide, sweeping gravel sections, we discovered a couple other things about the Viking. The rev limiter kicks in at 51mph and it doesn’t matter whether you are headed uphill or down, that’s as fast as you’re going. Although there are plenty of models faster than the Viking, we don’t consider the 51mph limit to be a problem. After all, we rarely need to go faster anyway. What is a problem, though, is the amount of dust and heat that is filtered back into the cab area between the seats. We first noticed the heat, but when the dust began to swirl between the seats, our first thought was, “Oh S*#$! We’re on fire!” Thankfully, it was only dust. Yamaha could make a great improvement with the Viking by including a baffle or firewall between the seat backs and the engine / cargo box area. This was a lesson Polaris had to learn long ago as well. In addition to being a heat and dust barrier, a baffle would help quiet the cab area by containing the engine and rear end noise. Overall handling on the Viking made it feel very safe, with no tendency for body roll or any tippy

We had plenty of opportunity and varying terrain to evaluate the Viking’s suspension on our mountain trek. The Viking has 4 wheel independent suspension and is designed to carry a heavy load. To insure it could handle a large load with complete stability, the shock placement and angles create some very unique motion ratios that aren’t necessarily well suited to a smooth ride. Over small bumps and choppy terrain, the Viking suspension can be harsh. The best solution we found was to just power over it and get back to smooth trail as soon as possible. Consider it an off-road version of picking your feet up and sprinting to open field. It might be possible to change tire pressure to smooth rough trails out a bit, or to add a couple passengers and some gear in the bed, but that’s about all the suspension adjustment you’re going to do since the stock shocks are non-adjustable. With an adjustable hand hold on the dash, shock adjustment would be a welcome feature as well.

Game Stats


Looks – We like the tough, aggressive looks.

Great for three – No problem with three riders. Also, full seat belts for all.

Flooring – Plenty of room for three sets of boots and great traction.

Brakes – Strong and always stop safely

Maintenance – Great oil filter, air filter, & dipstick access


Towing Capacity

51 mph top speed. Not exactly Pro-Bowl speed, but

CVT system. Always engages smoothly and easy on belts

Under armor – Fully protected down below with steel skids

Good ground clearance

Doors and Shoulder guard – Helps you feel safe

Handling – Corners flat with almost no body roll

4th and LONG

Seats – Comfy but with no texture or sculpted area, they can feel slippery. Clearly this was for easy access, but we would rather feel firmly planted inside.

Full time, fully locked rear differential. Would be nice to unlock on sensitive terrain.

700cc Engine. A little lacking compared to 800, 900 and 1000cc competitors.


Heat & Dust control – needs a rear

Harsh Ride – Suspension designed for heavy load

No Tilt???

Vibration at idle and high RPMs – almost as scary as a full runback after the punt.

Playoff Bound?

The Yamaha Viking has some nice features and the ability to make a play. We like how Yamaha made it extremely stable, capable, and maintenance tasks were not forgotten. We also believe it will be extremely reliable and ready to play, season after season. Just like the team from Minneapolis, it has the making of something special, but a little work in the off-season can make it even better.

March 3, 2014

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