Wolverine 450 4x4 Durability Test
How does Yamaha's lil' 4x4 handle four seasons of our abuse?
November 08, 2006
For those who believe that getting out and enjoying the fun of ATVing is a year round sport, but don’t want to deal with 600+ pound ATV, Yamaha proudly offers you the Wolverine 450 and we give it the nod of long term approval. Back in 1995 when Yamaha released their Wolverine 350, they were looking to close the gap between the sport and utility market. Their ’95 Wolverine handled better, offered good usable power and didn’t weight as much as other ATVs in the 4x4 utility ranks. The Wolverine 350, along with the Polaris Scrambler 400, sent a wake up call to all of the manufacturers. In the utility ranks, suspension travel increased, motors displacement grew each year and handling became more important among the work horse quads.
Recognizing that their machine was falling behind the times, Yamaha decided to start from scratch with the Wolverine and released an all new Wolverine 450. Even with his racing history, ATVScene’s head honcho, John Pellan, couldn’t stop talking about how much fun he had while riding the Wolverine on the challenging trails of the Mark Twain National Forest where he first rode the machine. A one day ride was one thing, but when a typical ATV buyer runs down to his local dealer and plops down $6k for a new ATV, they usually have to live with their purchase for years to come. JP and the other media guys rode the machine for one warm day, but we wanted to see how the Wolverine performed after an entire year. Our objective in this feature article is to determine what type of rider the Wolverine is best suited for and what kind of reliability issues might pop up during a year’s worth of use.
If we decide to hop up a Wolverine, we won’t toss the stock Maxxis tires. The low profile Maxxis meats gave us a sporty ride, while their tall widely spaced knobs got us through some nasty situations most of the time without even having to engage four wheel drive.
Photo by: Jeff Kardas. The mighty little Wolverine isn't afraid to get wet. A high placed air intake, easy access belt drive drain plug and a large capacity high mounted aluminum radiator help its water traversing habits well.Four Seasons
Our Wolverine was ridden throughout the entire season. During the summer months, for the most part, we used the Wolverine as a chase quad while we were out doing photo shoots. For the rest of the year, the Wolvy was commonly used by our editors on those weekends when it was too wet to ride our high-performance machines. With the Wolverine awaiting us in the garage, the Ohio weather had no role in our quad-riding-cravings.
When we first rode this machine, we noticed a slight bit of hesitation accelerating from a dead stop. This can be attributed to the Wolverine’s CVT transmission. Less experienced riders, or riders not accustomed to riding machines with a gear box and manual shift may not even notice the hesitation. In the slick Winter months, this hesitation actually works to the machine’s advantage however.
The CVT’s smooth engagement makes it easier to climb slick inclines from a dead stops without spinning the tires. The CVT in the Wolverine 450 isn’t maximized for drag racing, instead it is set up for maximum ride-ability out on the trail.
Adding to the machine’s ride-ability is its super smooth 421cc motor borrowed from Yamaha’s Kodiak 450. This motor builds revs smoothly with a seamless power curve. With no hit in the power and no manual clutch, the Wolverine makes the most of the worst trail conditions. . In wet conditions or in loose terrain, the Wolverine has enough power to throw it sideways with ease. On drier days the machine’s super sticky Maxxis tires made breaking the rear end loose a little more difficult. We had the most fun on the Wolverine when conditions were less than perfect.
During Ohio’s wet season, the Wolverine 450 was a blast to pitch sideways through the trees like a full on sport machine. At times like these, we felt as if we could beat Bill Ballance with the mighty little 4x4. Something the 450 has that the Wolverine 350 didn’t was the ability to switch between two and four wheel drive. With the extremely versatile Maxxis tires, we rarely used four wheel drive unless we were going through a deep creek, mud hole or climbing a steep slick hillside. With the advantage of Yamaha’s push button four wheel drive, we could simply engage the 4wd system for these tougher trail obstacles and quickly revert back to two wheel drive where we could pitch the machine sideways through the turns.
We give Yamaha a lot of credit for the way this machine handles. Compared to most utility machines of the same displacement, the Wolverine is extremely stable. This is due in part to Yamaha’s preload adjustable sport tuned suspension, and the machine’s low profile 23 inch rear Maxxis tires. If conditions are slick enough to break the rear end loose, the Wolverine is a blast to slide around the trails, pitching it sideways in every turn like a full on sport quad. In drier conditions, the machine feels stable with less tire roll than typical stock ATVs of this nature. If you did happen to high side a little the Wolverine’s good stability and relaxed steering made correcting the situation relatively easy.
The Wolverine’s brakes have good power, but lack feeling. Fortunately, Yamaha’s engine braking system is so good at low RPMs that you can rely on it to do a lot of the braking work for you on long gradual decants.