Published on October 9th, 2023 | by Joe
2024 Yamaha YXZ1000R Test Review: VIDEO
The Yamaha YXZ1000R is arguably the most updated and refined sport SXS on the market. When Yamaha released the YXZ in 2016 ,it was clearly a niche machine, focused on the high-performance driver with a good amount of off-road experience, with its high-revving, upper RPM focused engine and manual clutch equipped, five-speed transmission.
Throughout its life, its precise, agile handling and flat cornering manners have lent themselves to the YXZ’s performance both on the track and on the trail. In the years since, Yamaha has made a number of key updates to the YXZ, improving its versatility for trail riders while improving its performance for both recreational drivers and racers alike.
The 2017 model year brought with it the addition of the Sport Shift model adding an electronic auto clutch paired with steering Column mounted paddle shifters. It featured Launch mode, allowing the driver to engage the clutch by holding in both paddle shifters, rev the engine to redline and dump the clutch in 1st gear for drag racing. The Sport Shift would also automatically downshift at slow speeds protecting the clutch from excessive wear and slip the clutch at slow speeds to maintain or create momentum.
2019 brought with it a number of upgrades and improvements. Yamaha’s accessory turbo rods were added to the engine, improving durability and saving over 16 hours on installing Yamaha’s accessory turbo kit. The Sport Shift’s computer controlled clutching was reprogrammed to match new gear ratios with a 24% lower first gear for improved crawling. A 7% reduction in gearing throughout the rest of the gears balanced out an increase in tire size from 27” to 29”. Power steering was recalibrated to match the larger tires. The Fox shocks received new dual-rate springs and adjustable cross-overs along with updated internals, delivering a plusher ride at lower speeds while improving balance and tracking in rough high-speed sections. The radiator’s size was increased, and it was relocated to the front of the bed, farthest away from the elements. Larger braking components were used with new steel braided brake lines to improve power and feel. All this was in addition to a number of other refinements to improve strength, form, function and performance. We strongly suggest watching our 2019 test of the YXZ1000R if you want to get fully up to speed on all the changes made through the years.
While not nearly as numerous, 2024’s upgrades are perhaps the most impactful thus far. For 2024, Yamaha YXZ1000R returns in both manual and Sport Shift versions with a new close-ratio, 6-speed transmission in search of enhanced low-speed performance and improved acceleration especially at lower speeds. New for the Sport Shift models are dual automatic shift modes adding appeal to a broader audience.
To put the updated YXZ to the test, we sent Ed Teixeira, owner of Teixeira Tech Chassis Components, to Yamaha’s press ride at the Sand Hollow State Park located in Saint George, Utah. Sand Hollow provides a great mix of low-speed rock crawls and high-speed whooped out rails, providing a well-rounded test of Yamaha’s pure-sport machine.
For 2024, trim packages include the Team Yamaha Blue edition, available in fully manual and Sport Shift models, with a $1,000 price reduction for 2024; both start at $20,899.
The XT-R edition is available in a Sport Shift version only. For an additional $2,800, it adds Titan / Black painted bodywork, Maxxis Carnage tires mounted on beadlock wheels, a Warn VRS4500 winch controlled by a dashboard switch, sun top, rear view mirror, XT-R front bumper, and auxiliary lights for $23,699.
For 2024, the YXZ1000’s top-end remains unchanged. It’s powered by a 998cc, triple-cylinder engine featuring four valves and double-overhead-cams per cylinder. Yamaha fuel injection delivers the gas via three 41mm Mikuni throttle bodies. An 11.3:1 compression ratio on the high-performance side contributes to its 112hp output, 8hp more than the gearbox equipped, twin-cylinder engines used in the Honda Talons. Air for the engine is drawn from inside the cabin between the occupants with both a foam and paper filter for maximum filtration. For those craving more power, installation of the GYTR turbo kit has been made easier with brackets now preinstalled on the YXZ.
The YXZ fires right up and runs flawlessly. Power characteristic remains the same, with the engine pulling its best from around 7,000 RPMs all the way up to its 10,500 RPM redline. The engine will happily growl around in the bottom third of the RPM range, steadily building power at a comfortable, casual pace until it reaches the upper midrange. At that point, the engine rapidly comes to life ripping hard and quickly building RPMs until the rev limiter kicks in. It’s a type of powerband those of us who grew up riding Yamaha Banshee Sport ATVs will fondly remember. Keep the RPMs up and the YXZ is a riot to drive. But the Banshee featured a 6-speed transmission to help harness its top-end focused power and now, so does the YXZ1000R.
The new 6-speed transmission has a 40% lower first gear than the 2019-2023 gearbox that’s 6% lower than the original accessory TAG Kit transmission. The gap between 1st and 2nd gears was tightened significantly to make it easier to keep the YXZ in the power band. The entire gearbox has closer ratios throughout, with 6th gear slightly taller than 5th gear in the previous transmission. Top speed remains the same, governed by the ECU tuning. If you want additional top-speed, a simple ECU flash from an aftermarket tuner and /or larger tires should help. The new gearbox is also claimed to allow for better performance with the use of larger tires. Yamaha tested the new gearbox to work with 26-inch to 32-inch tires.
To improve on the YXZ’s appeal for a broader audience, in addition to manually shifting the Sport Shift model, Yamaha added two auto-shift modes selected by a knob on the dash. You can override the auto-shift modes manually with the paddles for enhanced control.
The three shift modes are Sport Shift, (manual), Sport Auto, and Auto. Auto is optimized for increased comfort and easier communication between the occupants by maintaining a lower RPM with less aggressive downshifts. Sport Auto shifts up and down through the gears more aggressively to maintain peak power for more aggressive driving. Yamaha tells us that shift timing was tested nationwide to maximize shift timing in different terrains and conditions. Sport Shift gives you full manual control, only downshifting at low speeds to protect the clutch on acceleration.
Clutch durability is said to have been radically improved, thanks, in part, to the lower 1st gear and closer gear ratios. Clutch temperatures are said to be reduced thanks to increased oil volume and oil flow to the clutch with an updated basket and pressure plate. Cooling fins were also added to the outside of the clutch cover. The electronic clutch on the Sport Shift models has been recalibrated for smoother engagement and a reduction in feel and sound, aided by rubber mounts on the Sport Shift’s transmission. They weren’t used on the manual shift version to maintain a more connected feel between the driver and the powertrain.
The new 1st gear is super-low with the clutch staying fully engaged down to around 2mph, beneficial when crawling. The sound and feeling of half clutching have been reduced in addition to being far less frequent. Ed spent a lot of time shifting manually to thoroughly feel out the new gearbox. The gear ratios of the 6-speed transmission were a huge implement allowing you to better take advantage of the engine’s power.
1st through 3rd gear have been notably tightened. Fourth through sixth have as well, but not to the same degree. The tighter gear ratios throughout helped make the engine’s low-end and midrange power more effective, not requiring you to wring the engine out as much before upshifting. The new transmission seems to help the YXZ’s engine work more effectively at all speeds, but especially at lower ones where it needed it most. The tighter gear ratios seemed to help the YXZ accelerate more quickly everywhere. Although the transmission added a few extra pounds, if anything, having the engine’s power more easily on tap made the YXZ feel a bit lighter on the trail.
Looking at the new auto-shift modes, the standard auto shift mode definitely seems more suited to casual driving. Upshifting takes place more in the middle of the RPM range helping keep the engine noise down. Shifting under less power makes upshifts feel smoother. Keeping the engine operating more in the low-end and midrange also makes the power delivery feel a little more controllable and easy-going. On steep dunes, the shift algorithm will allow the engine to fall lower in the RPMs than we’d like before downshifting. We found ourselves preferring switching to Sport Auto or manual Sport Shift in the dunes.
Sport Auto works pretty intuitively at responding to what the driver is demanding from the engine. Drive around at half-throttle and the transmission tends to upshift sooner at a lower RPM. Bury the pedal and the transmission upshifts at higher RPMs with the engine screaming to maximize acceleration.
To help prevent unwanted upshifts racing up steep dunes, Ed times his demands on the pedal to keep the RPMs up and the engine accelerating. Being able to manually override the auto settings was definitely a benefit at times. Sport auto worked as well as could be expected from a sequential gearbox. Utilizing the manual Sport Shift setting will help you get a little more performance out of the YXZ, but it was certainly not necessary to navigate the diverse terrain of Sand Hollow.
Of course, as experienced off-road racers, we’ve always enjoyed the added control that being able to manually shift the YXZ provides. It adds to its “race-car” appeal allowing you to keep the engine at the precise RPM and amount of power you want for a given situation. . You can let off and shift, or keep the pedal buried and grab the next gear. Shifting is quick and flawless. Of course being able to downshift on demand lets you harness as much or as little engine braking as you want. If you have a skill set or are willing to learn, a gearbox equipped SXS like the YXZ takes the fun factor to another level.
With the new gear ratios, launch mode can now be used for holeshots in both 1st and 2nd gear. Don’t want to shift? Launch mode works in both auto and manual shift modes.
The drivetrain offers 2WD, 4WD, and 4WD with front differential lock selected by a knob on the dash. With traction reduced by the loose sand, Ed spent most of the day in limited slip 2WD, helping pull the machine up hills and out of turns with greater steering predictably. Limited slip 4WD was all that was necessary to conquer any climbs he attempted, leaving the front diff lock in reserve for even more challenging conditions.
Additional updates worth noting include the YXZ’S charging system being upgraded from 420w to 1000w to power accessories, like whip flags, which the YXZ is now prewired for.
Overall, the auto-shift modes should definitely improve the YXZ’s appeal for beginner and casual drivers. Aided by its new close-ratio six-speed transmission, die-hard motor heads like us can appreciate the updates just as much as the noobs.
Suspension and Handling
The YXZ1000R is built on a stout looking steel chassis protected end to end by composite skid plates. Dual triangular gussets were added to the frame at the front of the rear control arm mounts for 2024, along with larger stronger looking rear fender braces. Double wishbone suspension is used at both ends. The design of the rear control arms somewhat mimic the design and function of trailing arms and radius rods, but with a more rigid and robust design. The YXZ measures in at 64-inches wide with a 90.6-inch wheelbase, an overall height of 68.5-inches and 12.2-inches of ground clearance, down from 2023’s 13.2” of ground clearance due to the added weight of the transmission. The base model SS model has a claimed wet weight of 1,574 pounds, up 51-pounds due to the transmission and other updates. Dimensionally for a 64” track-width car, the wheelbase is somewhere in the middle with a slightly lower overall height and ground clearance than some, contributing to the YXZ’s stable planted feel.
Fox Podium 2.5, RC2 shocks are used at both ends across the YXZ lineup. They feature preload, spring crossover, high and low-speed compression, and rebound damping adjustments. The rear shocks feature Fox’ bottom out cups to help reduce any harsh bottoming sensations. For 2024, the rear shocks received stainless steel sear sleeves to protect the aluminum bodies from wear from the spring divider and debris. The shocks control 16.2 inches of wheel travel up front and 17 inches out back, putting suspension travel in the middle for the 64-inch, naturally aspirated, one-liter class. Electronic power steering is found on all YXZ models.
When we started testing, the shocks settings were in the middle on the sandy trails and the dunes. Ed backed high-speed compression damping out half way between the middle and fully soft to take the edge off high-speed bumps in rocky sections, which made a notable improvement. Overall ride quality is on the firmer side aiding its sporty handling, but we were able to make it comfortably plush with more adjustment left in the shocks to further soften the ride. The race-inspired suspension rarely bottomed.
The back end of the YXZ tends to dance a little in the whoops compared to some models with trailing arm rear suspension. With more time, we suspect we could have calmed the rear suspension a bit more, but trailing arm rear ends tend to perform better in whoops. A more traditional A-Arm style back end like the YXZ rewards you with flatter cornering without relying on width as much to gain stability.
The YXZ1000R corners relatively flat with enough weight transfer to keep the outside front steering precisely in turns. It’s stable and goes where you point it.
In lower-speed technical crawling the YXZ feels planted. Framing out was rare where we tested with slightly careful line selection.
Yamaha’s electronic power steering keeps steering feeling light, but natural, at all speeds while keeping bump feedback to a minimum.
The YXZ1000R is slowed by hydraulic disc brakes with dual-piston calipers at all four corners. Steel braided brake lines, larger front rotors, larger pistons, and a larger master cylinder were all added to match the tire size increase back in 2019.
Braking power and feel were both excellent. The braking bias seemed spot on, providing great traction at both ends when you’re hard on the binders.
Interior and Other Details
High-quality half doors with solid feeling interior handles have been standard on the YXZ since day one. Getting in and out is pretty easy and unobstructed, unlike some others. As a ride-in vehicle, we do wish that a roof came standard on all models, not just the XT-R edition.
The YXZ1000R cab features plush, high-back seats with extra lateral support and outside shoulder bolsters. Both the driver’s seat and passenger handhold are adjustable, in addition to the steering wheel, which features 5.8”of tilt adjustment. The steering wheel continues to gain praise for its compact size and high-traction rubber coating.
The seats are well-positioned. They’re low enough, providing a good feeling for how the YXZ is handling. Yet, they’re high enough when combined with the steeply sloped hood free of protruding fender wells that sight lines out of the car are excellent. Several editors in attendance complained about their knees becoming sore from resting against the door and the center console. Yamaha offers a soft touch point kit that adds padding in these areas. We’d like to see it installed as standard equipment as it is in the RMAX and Wolverine sport/utility models.
Inspired by Yamaha’s high-performance supersport motorcycles, the steering column-mounted instruments feature a combination digital and analog display with a speedometer and tachometer, in addition to the other usual fuel and trip distance information, plus the addition of a very cool, programmable, shift indicator light. The instruments move with the tilt adjustable steering wheel for easy viewing. LED lights at both ends will maximize visibility day and night.
In-cab storage is provided by a passenger side glove box and dual cup holders. Unfortunately, both are on the other side of the center console and out of easy reach of the driver. With the relocation of the radiator to the cargo bed in 2019 to help keep running clean, the bed is roughly 27.5” wide and 12.5” deep with a 300 pound carrying capacity. Yamaha offers an accessory tire mount and cargo box to maximize the bed’s carrying capacity. For those who like customizing their ride, all of the previous existing accessories carry over to the 2024 YXZ.
As impressive as 2019’s updates were, the update to a close-ratio 6-speed transmission with the addition of two auto-shift modes make the 2024 easily the most improved YXZ1000R to date since Yamaha added the paddle-shifter equipped Sport Shift model in 2017! The difference in drivability of the engine is profound thanks to the new gear set.
From its design, to the experience it provides, the YXZ1000R delivers the most race car-like experience in the naturally aspirated segment. With the addition of two well-tuned auto-shift modes in the transmission, the YXZ puts that experience within reach of many drivers building a skill set or who would rather simply relax and sightsee. We believe both casual drivers and racers alike will benefit greatly from Yamaha’s 2024 updates.
With dramatic improvements, thrilling performance and one of the most entry level price points in the Sport SXS segment, there are a lot of good reasons to consider or reconsider the YXZ1000R in 2024!