There’s an old adage that goes, “If it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it,” and in Yamaha’s case that is a saying the company has been able to stand by when it comes to the mighty Raptor 700. If you’ve been locked in a closet or can’t remember its roots, this machine derived from the original Raptor 660, which was in production from 2001 through 2005, and took the big-bore sport ATV community by storm. In 2006 is when the Raptor received a complete overhaul in the way of its trick hybrid two-piece steel/aluminum frame with aluminum subframe and monster 686cc engine. As the 660 people loved the machine and with the full overhaul that it received even more fans fell in love with the powerful beast, it became the best-selling sport ATV on the market today.
Since its makeover in 2006, not many tweaks have been made to the Raptor 700 aside from suspension upgrades in the way of fully adjustable shocks, different color/graphic schemes and a tremendously popular SE package. Every year we (ATV media) speculate what changes lie in store for the various machines from every manufacturer, and the Raptor 700 wasn’t left out of this. Rumors, or should I say hopes, of a wide track machine similar to that of the popular YFZ450R were running rampant and would be put to rest only when we were invited by Yamaha to ride the newest version of the machine at the East Fort Rock Trail System in Bend, Oregon.
What’s The Big Difference?
As with any new ride location for me, I was looking all over the place as we drove to the staging area where a handful of brand-new 2013 models would be waiting for our best testing, or abuse, depending on how you look at it. My only experience with riding ATVs in Oregon has been in the coastal sand dunes of Coos and Winchester bays, which in my opinion is like riding in Glamis if it were dropped in the middle of a forest. This location is nothing like I expected when I was told we would be in Oregon. Since Bend is in more of the central/eastern side of the state, the areas that surround it are more of a desert, like home for me. There were plenty of trails that I could see from the maps that we were handed, and the terrain could vary from tight 50-inch trails that wound through trees to fast high-speed fire roads. This was definitely an ideal place to test the new machine. As the rental pulled up to the staging area I got my first glimpse of the new machines; it was almost instantly that you could see what the differences were. All of the other testers and I were told to gear up as soon as we got out of the vehicles so we could be briefed on all of the changes and upgrades before we headed out on the trails for the day.
The first of the changes is a redesigned and more aggressive-looking front fender. The new nosepiece/radiator cover gives the Raptor a much more aggressive look in my opinion, but the front fenders also were revised to offer the rider 50mm more legroom. This is great for riders with longer legs, such as myself. Another very noticeable change is the decreased fuel tank height. In order to lower the center of gravity, the fuel tank was lowered and widened, which also gives the Raptor 700 a flatter profile, making it much easier for riders to maneuver around the machine. This is where the instantly noticeable changes stop. On the front and back of the machine, a new tire pattern and compound have been designed to provide optimal traction in a wide variety of conditions but still be able to slide with predictability when the rider chooses to do so. Finally, to increase the stopping potential of this machine, the old rear caliper has been thrown to the wind and replaced with a new twin-piston model that is also found on the YFZ450R.
For the new year, the chassis was left the same with the exception of becoming powdercoated instead of painted, and in all reality there isn’t really anything that I feel needs to be changed on it. The chassis design is really what gives this machine its Cadillac comfort on the trail while still having a sporty feel and response when you want to wick the speeds up. The engine also has remained untouched, and just like the chassis, it doesn’t really need anything for the general consumer to enjoy it. I’ve ridden plenty of these machines, both stock and highly modified, and unless you’re a highly skilled rider who needs extreme amounts of power, the stock 686cc powerplant has more than enough for the average recreational rider. At most the simple addition of a GYTR by FMF slip-on exhaust system, high-flow intake kit and fuel reprogrammer would be the only power upgrade that anyone would need to do.
In the past Yamaha has graced fans of the Raptor 700R with two versions, the standard model and the 700R SE, which is outfitted with a special graphics kit, GYTR heel guards and front grab bar. For 2013, potential owners now have a choice of three option packages with the 700R, 700R SE and now the standard Raptor 700. What is the big deal, you might ask? Well, the main difference from the basic 700 and the 700R or SE is what you get and the price tag you get along with it. For the riders who don’t necessarily need the added benefits of fully adjustable shocks, the Raptor 700 gets basic five-way preload-adjustable front shocks and a piggyback YZ-style piggyback preload-adjustable rear. This model is only available with white fenders, but the kicker to this is that buyers also get their choice of a graphics kit to dress up the machine. The highlight of this model is the price. At $7,699, the Raptor 700 is $700 less than the price of the 2012 Raptor 700R. Not to be beaten, the 2013 Raptor 700R is $8,099—$300 less than last year as well as the SE model, which is $200 less than last year’s model as well. It’s obvious that Yamaha knows this hard economy has taken its toll on everyone’s pocketbooks, and blue is doing its part to help its customers.
With all of the pleasantries out of the way, it was time to get down to business and hit the trails.
Time To Ride
Just as we all gathered our gear and were ready to throw a leg over our machines, we were given a slight surprise by Mother Nature in the way of a late spring storm system which brought us a mix of snow and rain throughout the day. This could be considered good or bad depending on how you looked at it. First for the good, the moisture would saturate the ground and leave our ride virtually dust free in a usually dusty area, but on the other hand those of us who didn’t bring cold weather gear would get soaked riding in the low 40-degree temps and nearly get frostbite. Hey, sometimes we have to make our sacrifices to ensure you readers get the best for your buck in our reviews, so I opted to hit the trails.
As soon as I switched the ignition key to the on position and pressed the magic green start button, it was easy to appreciate the precise fuel delivery that Yamaha’s fuel injection provides. With the low temps we were experiencing at around 5,000 feet of elevation, the 700 fired up with no hesitation. The engine did seem a little cold-blooded, but after about two minutes of idling to warm up, it was ready to roll and take on the surrounding terra firma. The output of the engine was exactly as I had predicted it to be with its linear power that also has a snappy throttle response when needed.