The All-New 2013 Yamaha Raptor 700R

By Jason Zittel
Photos by Frank Hoppen

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The 2013 Yamaha Raptor 700, 700R and 700R SE are made in Yamaha’s production factory in Newnan, Georgia, where the company has made a significant investment to guarantee the highest quality products are assembled right here in the United States, which is the world’s largest ATV market.

When I first discovered that Yamaha would have something new to offer in their sport line-up my ears perked up and my curiosity began to run rampant. I could not wait to find out what the boys in blue had up their sleeves. My enthusiasm tipped the scale when I was informed that I was the lucky guy that would be the first to ride the new machine at its maiden voyage in Oregon.

I woke early to catch the first flight out of Pittsburgh and should have been tired but the anticipation of the journey and Yamaha’s unveiling amped-up my eager morning. After a rocky propped airplane ride into Bend, Oregon I grabbed my EVS gear bag from baggage claim and made my way to join my fellow ride testers and Yamaha staff at the prestigious Oxford Hotel. I headed to the top floor for our pre-mission brief for the next couple days and met up with other magazine guys, who were almost as eager as I was to find out what Yamaha’s latest release was.

The anticipation grew as it was time for the red carpet event, the unveiling of the new 2013 Yamaha Raptor 700, 700R, and 700R S/E. Yep, three all-new and much improved versions of an already bad-to-the-bone ATV. They sure didn’t disappoint! Boy, was I getting restless at this point. As I learned more and more about the machine and how proud they were of the many improvements I noticed the other test riders were now sharing my same excitement. Everyone was impressed and the room was electric.

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Jason Zittel stands in awe of Yamaha’s impressive all-new Raptor 700

I have to say my mind was absolutely blown by what I would discover the next day when it came time to throw a leg over Yamaha’s all-new 686cc Raptor monstrosity.

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For the first time ever Needle Bearing Rocker Arms are used in an ATV. Yamaha says this reduces friction and allows for quicker revs. Also included in the Raptor’s engine is a forged aluminum piston, twin counter balancers, a 5 speed wide ratio transmission and much more.

Engine
As I hit the start button the Raptor 700R’s 16 bit ECU and Yamaha Fuel Injection kicked in and fired the beast right up despite the high altitude and near freezing weather. The Yamaha Fuel Injection System features 7 sensors for optimum performance at any altitude and regardless of any future modifications you might want to make, as in a GYT-R exhaust or full on engine mods. I laughed to myself a bit while I thought how I would have been kicking my TRX450R over and over, while using the choke. And I surely would have been fumbling around trying to re-jet my Honda as well.

The stock exhaust was a bit quiet and the dual counter-balancers made the engine feel precise and reliable, but I could tell as I allowed the engine to bark with a few snappy stabs at the thumb throttle that this bad-boy was ready and eager to let me have all the power I could want. I took off a bit late with the group of advanced test riders, but I quickly discovered how fast I would be able to catch up, as the new Raptor seemed to have endless throaty power as I shifted through the gears. Surprisingly enough though, the lightweight aluminum piston revved as fast as a 400cc quad, but had the mid range grunt of a 450cc racer.  Needless to say, I was instantly impressed.

One of the first things I noticed when I punched the throttle was how insanely fast the throttle response was. But wait a second I thought to myself, the Maxxis tires, designed specifically for the new Raptor, were hooking up great but the front end stayed glued to the ground and I was able to steer effortlessly. The power in this engine was so controllable and fun! Don’t get me wrong though, if I wanted to show off and get the front end off the ground, all I had to do was yank the bars and the Raptor would lift off and allow me to wheelie away. Controllable power from an engine this large was a relief! I can only imagine the snappy improvement that a 700R equipped with a GYT-R piston, exhaust and filter might add. Speaking of GYT-R goodies, Yamaha will have a full line of GYT-R engine modifications and accessories available for the new beast if you so dare.

The Raptor’s speed and power sure is comparable to that of its dinosaur’s namesake. As we continued to weave in and out of the Oregon trails, I found myself sometimes not even bothering to shift when coming into some tight spots in 4th gear. As I slowed with the brakes and got back on the gas I noticed hardly any bog. All I needed to do was punch the throttle in the same gear and the 686cc 4 valve engine revved back up so effortless and fast it seemed impossible to miss a shift, until it was time to go faster!

Image2013 Raptor 700 in white

Image2013 Raptor 700 R in blue and white

Image2013 Raptor 700R SE in red and black

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The all-new Raptor comes with a powder coated steel front frame and a cast aluminum rear frame and offers optimum weight balance and rigidity.

Chassis/Brakes/Suspension
The unique style of the new hybrid frame on each version of the Raptor 700 features a new powder coated steel front frame portion combined with an
aluminum rear section and subframe. The frame seemed to have the perfect amount of flex. Personally, I think this innovative style of frame is ideal for this type of ATV. Not only is the ride improved, but while riding under harsh riding conditions, many things can happen causing a frame to become damaged. The removable subframe makes it possible for portions of the frame to be replaced rather than the entire unit. Nice job on this Yamaha!

The new Raptors feature a twin piston rear caliper, which came very handy in emergency braking situations as the trails tightened and two-way traffic approached on the narrow trail system. The 700R’s adjustable front brake lever also made it a breeze to adjust perfectly to my riding style and ergonomics.  The matching twin aluminum piston front brakes mated with drilled rotors made the Raptor slow down just as fast as it accelerated. I would have been panicking in some situations if the stopping power was not up to par with the Raptor’s extremely impressive get up and go!

 

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ImageHandling/Suspension
When I first got on the all-new Raptor 700R, I instantly noticed a lower seat height, and an increased distance between the fenders. An extra 50mm of space was added between the fenders for increased comfort and maneuverability, something I would soon appreciate after a couple hours of intense riding.

As we began to weave in and out of the very-fun trail system, it felt nearly effortless to move around on the quad. Coming into some of the first tight turns, the Raptor steered quick and nimble with minimal body-English needed. I did not see this coming at all, I sort of assumed there would be somewhat of a tipsy feeling not the low-profile predictable 450-like ride I was experiencing. As much as I enjoyed the powerband this was one of my favorite things about the new 700R. It just felt right to me, completely opposite of what I felt riding other big bore ATVs like Honda’s 700XX. Coming from full blown motocross race bikes, I set my expectations high when I hop on a new bike, especially a stock one without aftermarket shocks and A-arms, and I must say I was thoroughly impressed with the precise lightning-fast steering of the Yamaha monster.

The 700R and 700R S/E feature fully adjustable front and rear shocks. With high and low speed compression, rebound, and preload adjustments, it’s my firm belief that we are starting to see an era in this sport where there’s no need for aftermarket shocks on some of the new sport ATVs, especially this one. I had a very long in-depth conversation with a few of the members of Yamaha’s staff about the suspension on this ATV and their other models offering similar suspension setups. Most riders don’t have the slightest clue how to properly tune their suspension, and automatically jump the gun and purchase aftermarket shocks because they think they should.

Before you spend thousands of dollars on new shocks, take the time to tune the suspension and you will have a quality ride just like an aftermarket shock. I found this to be true, I had the shocks on my 700R steed dialed-in to my liking on this test ride and I could have sworn I was riding with an expensive set of Custom Axis shocks under me. I was able to hammer down in the rough sections with little kick. I never once felt as if I was out of control even though I pushed it at race speeds throughout the day. And even while hammering through a few big G-outs and blitzing across bumps and tree roots nothing seemed to phase the 9.1 inches of travel in the front, and 10.1 in the rear that the new Raptor line boasts.

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ImageOverall Impression
Keep in mind, I have been racing motocross quads for 13 years, and ideally look for a quad that is widely competed on and raced in the pro ranks. I’m not a Sunday afternoon trail rider but strange enough I would recommend this machine to either type of rider. Its comfortable ride and controllable powerband would make a non-racer dune or woods rider quite happy, but at the same time I honestly think the new Raptor would make for an Open class motocross dominator!  Sure, you could take a 450cc machine and bore it out, but it would cost a lot and wouldn’t be as reliable. And you wouldn’t get the kind of power that a mildly modified Raptor 700 has the potential to make.

The innovations made to the handling and suspension and combined reliability of an already potent 686cc engine make the Raptor 700R a perfect candidate for my kind of riding, which is Open class ATV MX racing. A slightly wider stance with the already immaculate suspension would make this a hands-down podium finish in the amateur classes as far as I’m concerned. And I’ll go further and say that Yamaha’s much improved Raptor 700R, with some professional motocross changes, would give any machine in its class a real run for the money in the Pro-Am Unlimited Class.

ImageWhile I’m talking racing, it almost goes without saying, with very minimal changes, the all-new 2013 Raptor 700R very well could impress GNCC racers enough to switch their rides for next year’s series. The quick-revving engine and tractor-like torque makes the Raptor the perfect woods racing machine. The Raptor offers a nimble and light-feeling ride (something not normally said for a 700cc machine) and its powerband doesn’t beat you up. This combo in my opinion is what wins races, especially long  ones. Not to mention the added benefit of reverse will get you out of some sketchy situations that a 450cc machine wont. I also think the Raptor 700R would be my first choice if I were racing the Baja 1000 or any WORCS event.

All in all, whether you race or ride, you owe it to yourself to go ride a new Raptor 700  for yourself, I think you’ll be equally as impressed as I am.

I feel without a doubt the Raptor 700 is going to continue to dominate the sport ATV market. My hat’s off to Yamaha. They were able to greatly improve on an already outstanding machine, offer it in three different versions (700, 700R and 700R Special Edition) and lower the price tag by a few hundred dollars from last year’s model!

 

Learn more about Yamaha’ all-new 2013 Raptor 700, 700R and 700R SE at www.yamaha-motor.com

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