After a 10-year run in the side-by-side (SxS) utility vehicle market, the Yamaha Rhino is being replaced by a leaner, tougher model called the Yamaha Viking, new for 2014. The vehicle was officially launched this week, but Yamaha gave us a sneak preview of the new model before showing it to dealers.

Some would say the Rhino chiseled out the category of SxS’s, with iIs multi-passenger seating, a large cargo bed, diff lock, On-Command steering, and an automatic transmission that made it fun to drive.

While those features were nice, young buyers expressed a need for a roomier vehicle that was easier to access, vibrated less, allowed for more passengers, and had more cargo room. The Viking brings all those features plus some of the hallmark bells and whistles the Rhino was known for.

“We started with a blank canvas,” says Yamaha marketing manager Steve Nessl. “It is not based on the Rhino design and it has no shared parts.”

The name Viking was chosen for its toughness. It is designed to be a three-person “worker vehicle,” for people who have land. Yamaha says is offers many breakthrough features and a lot of application in agriculture. It can drive through the woods, carry seed pallets and heavy bales, drive up hills, and work in crop fields with a tread width that is row crop friendly.

Yamaha puts the new Viking in the “multi-purpose” category of UV, designed for both chores and transportation. It is for the customer who wants to get in and drive it like a pickup truck.

It is built with three bucket seats, a low seat height and the roomiest cabin in its class, Yamaha says. It has extra cargo capacity and, for the first time, a full cab enclosure.

It can be used for both towing and carrying stuff. It has a larger, 600-lb.-capaicty cargo bed and the longest wheelbase in class. The cargo bed is made of steel instead of polymer plastic so you can make repairs by welding instead of having to buy new bed.

The seating was redesigned and recreated from scratch.

 “It is the only “true” 3-person seating on the market, and offers best-in-class ergonomics,” Nessl says.

The seat is more reclined than the traditional bus-style seating and is lower to the ground, allowing for more head room. “It’s like getting into truck,” Nessl says.

It features three-point seat belts, all-around headrests, adjustable handholds for both passengers and a floorboard with dedicated foot wells. 

The vehicle is powered by a 686cc liquid-cooled, fuel-injected 4-stroke engine, its most powerful to date. A huge air intake allows for efficient cooling. The engine has been optimized for working conditions with strong low-end torque and a quick throttle response that delivers power throughout the rev range.  A 9.7 gallon fuel tank allows for long work days.

One of its coolest features is electric power steering (EPS), which Yamaha says allows for precise and predictable steering with less driver fatigue. “We were first to market electric power steering on ATVs five or six years ago,” says.  “It is still one of the most sought- out features.” Power steering will also still be offered.

Other features include an automatic transmission, fully independent suspension, twin-caliber disc brakes, and a mechanical parking brake. The automatic CVT transmission has three drive selections: low, high, and reverse. Diff lock puts power to all four wheels.

The machine is equipped with all new tires for better traction and comfort. Maxxis Big Horn 2.0 tires are exclusive to the Viking.

It can be ordered with a sun top and is available in four colors: blue, green, red, and camo.

Production of the new Viking SxS begins in August. It  being manufactured exclusively in the U.S.A. at Yamaha’s factory in Newnan, Georgia, for worldwide distribution.

Pricing will range from 11,499 (non-EPS) to 12,499 EPS. Accessories like the sun top, rear window, mud flaps cost extra.

The Rhino goes off the line at the end of this year. However, Yamaha says it will it will continue to support the product.

For more information, visit www.YamahaOutdoors.com

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