Story: Eli Madero Photos: Adam Campbell (ACP Photography)
Love it or hate it, the Yamaha Raptor is the best selling Sport ATV on the market and it won’t be any looking to hand over the title anytime soon. Some may say it’s because none of the other manufactures aren’t brave enough to design a sport oriented big bore ATV, but truth of the matter is that Yamaha will never stop making improvements on an already proven platform. It was just over a year and a half ago when Yamaha released the 2013 Raptor 700R that had been revamped with redesigned front body work and a lower center of gravity, which made the unit much more comfortable for larger riders. Additionally Yamaha upgraded the rear brake caliper with the same twin-piston unit found on the sporty YFZ 450R to ensure that the beastly Raptor could stop as quickly as it can accelerate.
I was recently invited by Yamaha to Winchester Bay, Oregon where I would have the chance to throw a leg over the 2015 Raptor 700, at what I think is one of the best duning locations in North America. Out of the entire dune area along the Oregon Coast, Winchester Bay offers the steepest dunes where the power of the mighty Raptor 700 can be put to the test and also has great sandy trails where I could put its proven handling characteristics to the test. When I was originally invited for this event, the organizers were fairly secretive in discussing what we would actually be seeing for the first time. All I was told was that the group of media outlets would be testing the latest Sport ATV that they had to offer. Since the YFZ 450R received a substantial list of upgrades last year (click on the link to read the review), I quickly ruled out that machine, which left us with the Raptor 700.
I’d always hoped that the Raptor 700 would get and upgrade in the way of a wide track long travel suspension, similar to that of the YFZ 450R. My mind raced with the possibilities of what all of us were in store for when the cat was finally let out of the bag, and as we finally arrived to our rental condos at Discovery Point we were about to find out. Was it the wide-stance dune monster that I was crossing my fingers for? No, but after the presentation on the specifics of what had been done for the new year, I am still impressed with what has been upgraded for 2015.
For 2015, upgrades to the Raptor 700R are fairly subtle, but definitely appreciated. To start, Yamaha has had to incorporate an air-injection system into their engines like what they did with the YFZ 450R and Grizzly 700 last year, and since they had to do some reconfiguring of the cylinder head the engineers decided to wrangle a little more HP out of the already strong motor. The cylinder head was redesigned with a single-port exhaust instead of the old dual-port, the head was reconfigured, the compression of the piston has been upped from 9.2:1 to 10:1, the camshaft was reconfigured and a new muffler helps to expel all of the gasses.
To improve comfort and handling, the fully adjustable shocks found on the R and SE models have been given a slight overhaul with new settings and springs. The most notable change that will improve the handling of this machine is the new Maxxis front tire. By increasing the sidewall stiffness, changing the overall profile of the tire and pattern and finally increasing the tire size to 22” tall, the 2015 Raptor 700R should offer a pleasant ride for both aggressive and casual riders.
That said, it was time to suit up and hit the dunes. With a simple push of the start button on the handlebars, the big-bore single cylinder thumper roared to life. With Yamahas fuel injection on this machine it knows just how much fuel to deliver based on air and engine temp as well as altitude. Not only does the fuel injection offer effortless starting, it gives this machine some of the smoothest power during acceleration out of any ATV that I’ve ever ridden. As we took to the dunes, I did everything from stabbing the throttle for instant acceleration to kick the rear end around in the tight corners to being in third gear and rolling into the throttle from low RPMs and allowing the torque of the engine to pull me up some of the steepest climbs. The engine never so much as had a slight hiccup and is truly a great powerplant that offers great performance and cruising comfort.
The new shock settings felt great on this machine right out of the box. I’m a fairly heavy rider tipping the scales right around 260lbs and without having to make a single adjustment. I rode for hours and blitzed this machine through endless whoops on high speed sandy trails, where the Raptor 700R never felt like it was getting out of control under me. My favorite upgrade for 2015 is definitely the change in the tires up front. I’ve always felt as if the Raptor seemed to push in the corners under acceleration and by increasing the tire size and stiffening up the sidewall, Yamaha has ensured that you have more tire contact on the ground thus giving you more control. Ultimately this is the best version of the Raptor 700 that I’ve had the chance to ride since it’s release and look forward to what can come in the future.
Is this the Raptor 700R that I was hoping for? Not really, but it doesn’t mean that I left the tree filled Winchester Bay dunes disappointed. Yamaha regularly gets feedback from its customers on what they want in a machine or where they feel it may need improvement and they have delivered for 2015. Along with upgrades you will traditionally find a steep price increase, but not with this machine. The 2015 Yamaha Raptor 700R is available at an MSRP of $8,199 with the traditional Yamaha Blue/White color scheme. A Special Edition model that is equipped with unique black-white plastics, red painted frame and GYTR aluminum heel guards and front grab bar will be available for $7,799, while those who are a bit more budget minded may prefer the standard Raptor 700, which comes without fully adjustable shocks, at a price of $7,699. Regardless of which version you opt for, you are getting a bargain for a quality Sport ATV that is great in the dunes or on the trail and is proudly assembled in the USA.