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First Drive: 2014 Yamaha Viking Side-by-Side
If you need a three-passenger, cargo-carrying utility vehicle designed for rough terrain and tight spaces, spend a day behind the wheel of this multi-purpose machine
by Bruce W. Smith
Most UTVs found around jobsites these days make you feel like you are sitting up in the seat like a bus driver. The seating position is just as uncomfortable as the ride, and when you have to travel longer distances, the lack of power and power steering makes for really long days.
Sure they can haul a load and get you around in tight places pickups can’t. But the level of driver/passenger comfort and overall efficiency leaves a lot to be desired.
That’s where Yamaha’s 2014 Viking EPS brings a new level of performance, safety, comfort and efficiency to the utility side-by-side (SxS) market.
I spent a day and drove more than 40 miles in the mountains of Wyoming behind the wheel of the newest multi-purpose utility SxS.
Viking sits on an 84″ wheelbase with nearly a foot of ground clearance, so the longer footprint gives better ride and handling than its predecessor, the Rhino.
It also has more power and torque from the 686cc, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, SOHC engine that feels like its stronger than many 800s.
I found the new engine pulls strong from the low-end right through the rpm range to its top speed, which was about 52mph in the high altitude of the Red Reflet ranch at the base of Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains where I tested it.
Even with the bed loaded with 600 pounds of materials and a 1/2-ton load on a trailer attached to the Viking’s hitch, it still handles and hauls the load with relative ease and excellent stability.
Yamaha’s engineers have done a superb job of designing the suspension and drive trail for all levels of utility work.
I give them kudos for the interior as well. The three-across seating arrangement is comfortable, and the seats are positioned so you sit low like you do in a pickup. The driver’s seat is adjustable so it can be moved closer or farther from the steering wheel, and all three seating positions have lap/shoulder belts to ensure rider safety.
Yamaha says the new engine and Ultramatic® transmission with dual-range (Hi/Lo)drive and reverse is the most advanced drive system available. I drove the Viking in some nasty terrain and it never skipped a beat when it came to traction or braking.
The latter is the best of any UTV/SxS I’ve driven to date because it has true engine compression braking in all modes; you can lift of the throttle on steep downgrades and the engine braking is strong so you usually don’t have to ride the brake pedal.
My take on the Viking 2014 SxS is it’s quick, agile, safe, strong and well-desgned.
It’d be a great piece of equipment to add to any utility company, road builder, bridge builder, or pipeline company’s fleet. It’ll get three men and their equipment in and out of the places you don’t want, or can’t use a pickup. – Bruce W. Smith / Editor