YAMAHA RHINO 700

Rhino by name, rhino by nature. It's not cumbersome or clumsy - in fact, it's remarkably agile - but it's certainly capable of charging. It gives you power when it's needed, but is sweet and smooth. This is a beast, yet it's gentle too.

In our test, the Rhino streaks down the sloping field at Sparsholt College and effortlessly sails back uphill. It can certainly outrun the Polaris EV, but then it does have a 686cc liquid-cooled four-stroke engine. It should make a good choice as a fast response vehicle in estates and country parks. It's a Rhino that's used in Bondi Rescue.

On the ATV circuit, the Rhino gives a smooth performance. Acceleration is swift. There is oodles of power - this Rhino is capable of clawing its way up the slopes and banks in tick-over.

Sitting in the Yamaha Rhino 700 is like sitting in a car. It even has two half-doors. They should at least keep some of the muck, mud and debris out. Inside there are two bucket seats rather than a bench. The seats are large, could even be described as "plush" and are supportive where you need it. "It's very comfortable," MacPherson confirms. "You sit in it more like a car, with your legs out in front, rather than sitting upright like you do in side-by-sides." He also notes the handy grab rail for the passenger.

The Rhino has a stylish steering wheel, footbrake on the left and accelerator on the right. The range shifter is centre-mounted, as is the handbrake. Best of all is the fully-automatic transmission. Yamaha calls it "Ultramatic". We call it fantastic.

As we expect, the ratios are hi/lo and reverse. There's also a two/four-wheel drive selector and a diff lock that, like the Grizzly quad bike, has a latch cover so it can only be engaged while in four-wheel drive. "It's very simple and easy to drive," says MacPherson. "The throttle is responsive and the engine braking is excellent - it's there when you need it." The Rhino has all-wheel engine braking. There's no freewheeling downhill in this one. It's a perfectly controlled descent.

Fully independent suspension combined with the thick seat mean a comfortable ride is assured over the bumpiest of ground and most of the jolting is removed before it gets to your spine. Four-wheel disc brakes provide real stopping power, bringing the machine to a halt quickly and smoothly. The rack and pinion steering is light and smooth, giving a tight turning radius, though like most ATVs you can scuff the grass if you turn too tightly.

All the information you need is supplied by the on-board digital instrument panel. There's a speedometer, hour meter, speed range and four-wheel drive status indicators, clock and fuel gauge.

At the front of the wheel are dual headlights. Dual tail/brake lights are well protected at the rear. Access to the engine means removing the seats, but it's a simple task and all components are then accessible. The manual-tipping cargo box holds just over 180kg so is fine for most things - just don't think you can put a tonne of fertiliser in it.

We first tested the Rhino (then the 660) in 2004 and said we felt it was the first time there had been serious competition to Kawasaki's Mule. The Rhino we test today is the latest version and has a few updates. With beefier engine, better torque control, four full-disc brakes, greater fuel capacity, more comfortable seats, doors and a passenger grab-handle, we reckon the Rhino just got better.

This is an ideal vehicle when you need to get somewhere quickly or send two people across a site with tools. The powerful headlights could be useful when working in woodland and other shaded areas.

SPECIFICATIONS

Engine: Yamaha 686cc single-cylinder, liquid-cooled, with fuel injection

Starter: Electric

Fuel tank capacity: Thirty litres

Gearbox: Yamaha Ultramatic V-belt

Drive system: On-command 2x4/4x4, differential lock

Final transmission: Shaft

Dimensions: 288x138x185cm

Wheelbase: 191cm

Ground clearance: 28cm

Brakes: Hydraulic double disc front and rear

Suspension: Independent double wishbone front and rear, 18.5cm of travel

Load capacity: 181kg cargo box

List price: (ex VAT) £9,799

Contact: Yamaha on 01932 358000

Nigel MacPherson, engineering lecturer and ATV driving instructor, Sparsholt College, Winchester, put three off-road vehicles to the tesat Sparsholt College near Winchester in Hampshire. It has a dedicated ATV and quad-bike training area - a circuit cut into the hillside, featuring bends, twists, embankments, sharp climbs and steep descents.


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