At the press intro, one of the many charts and graphs the men in blue showed us A.D.D. journalists was a graph of where they intend this latest Raptor to fit into the Yamaha line. It was at the top of the performance (versus the trail/racing) orientation with some crossover into the racing half. After spending a day on the new machine, we think perhaps that graph reflected where it sits in relation to all the other sport/trail ATVs. Yes, it was that much fun and that good.
The number-one complaint riders had about the Raptor 660 was its top-heavy feeling. It was a tall, yet narrow machine, and despite a decently performing engine, the handling held it back. Fixing that was one of Yamaha's goals for the 700. Add in creature comforts, more power and less weight, and you're looking at a complete redesign, which is exactly what the engineers did. About the only things that survived were the chevron-style grille and the blue color, though you can get the Raptor in a white/silver combination, too.
But does it work? Heck, yeah! We took our machine into the tight, rock- and brush-filled canyons of Ocotillo Wells to give the suspension a shakedown and ended our day at Imperial Dunes (aka Glamis) to see how she handled the big dunes. We also brought along a Suzuki QuadSport Z400 to act as a pack mule while we shot photos. A yardstick to which all trail machines are compared, the Z400 allowed us to fully appreciate the 700R's abilities.
The Yamaha Fuel Injection (YFI) system was the first part of the machine we sampled, and the engine fired right up and was ready to go in seconds. There is no choke to fiddle with and, as we later discovered, no petcock either. When the fuel level sinks low, a get-to-a-gas-can-fast light on the idiot panel glares at you just like in your truck. Since the fuel pump provides a positive pressure feeding to the EFI system, there is no need for a petcock-cut the juice and the gas stops flowing. We tested Yamaha's claim that the YFI circuitry would adjust for any mods when we removed the airbox lid to see if we could boost the power for scaling some of the big dunes at Glamis. It never even hiccuped.
The 686cc engine is plenty powerful, delivering the boost with electric smoothness. Torque is where the Raptor excels, and wheelies are not hard to do-just ram the thumb throttle forward hard, lean back and she lifts her nose skyward. In fact, easily looping out might be the only downside to the performance gains of the '06. For tight, nasty terrain, the power is about right. Head out to more open spaces or start climbing soft sand dunes and the engine feels a bit choked. A freer-flowing pipe is probably the answer here; we'll surely be sampling what the aftermarket will be cranking out for this beast. Overall, we were very pleased with the engine and transmission. Switching between it and the Suzuki highlighted the easy-to-manage but big bottom-end boost and torque of the Raptor.
The wider and longer footprint was the best part; after all, wider A-arms and axles grace practically every pro racer's machine. No tippy behavior from this Raptor. Even when I nailed a big rock hiding behind a bush that ripped the handlebar out of my paws and bounced the quad up on two wheels, it resisted rolling. The suspension was decent; we crawled over rocks of all shapes and sizes, ran it through baked river beds and aired it out in the dunes to sample the cushioning abilities of the shocks, and they handled the job fairly well. Fast guys-the kind earning money from riding-will demand more from their suspension, of course, but for the average trail hound, this machine will be just fine. Equip with a set of hand shields to keep the digits safe, add gas and the 700 is ready to hit the dirt.