YAMAHA recently invited a passel of farm and outdoor magazine journalists to test its new Rhino 450 utility vehicle (UV) at the Turkey Bay Off-Highway Vehicle area in Kentucky. To a flatland farm boy like me, driving conditions, including boulder-strewn 60-degree climbs and descents, were beyond extreme.

Though it took some coaxing and reassurance from Yamaha staff that we could actually drive over large rocks and logs without destroying ourselves or the machines, it wasn't long before we were all crossing seemingly impassible gullies and climbing grades that were too steep for two-legged humans to stand on. On this terrain, we soon learned that it was safer to stay safety belted inside the machine than to try to walk around.

Less expensive sequel

The Rhino 450 is a sequel to the Rhino 660, which Yamaha introduced a couple of years ago. I had driven the 660 just a few months earlier at our FIN ATV/UV Rodeo on considerably tamer Minnesota ground. The event allowed 10 Team FIN farmers to test a varied field of ATVs and UVs that included the Rhino 660. The Rhino scored among the top contenders in the UV category.

Although the Rhino 660 can haul only 400 lbs., about half as much weight as many slower competitors can haul, our farmers gave it high marks for performance and deemed it a good vehicle to buy for a compromise between work and fun. Their main criticisms of the Rhino 660 included a $10,000 price tag that makes the 660 more expensive than even the largest ATV, and an excess of power that makes it a bit too fast for practical farm use. With its smaller engine and smaller $7,999 price tag, I believe the new 450 addresses both of those concerns.

In fact, the 450 is exactly the same size and weight as the 660 version, at just more than 54 in. wide and 1,031 lbs. It also hauls the same 400-lb. payload as the 660 and reaches the same 37-mph top speed. The only difference is the smaller engine on the 450.

After driving the 660 and then the 450, I personally could find no situation where I would want the 660 over the 450. Maybe you wouldn't have to downshift to low range as early on extreme steep slopes with the 660, but in my view, the ability to shift to low range provides plenty of torque in either machine. I never felt the 450 lacking power. Nevertheless, the folks at Yamaha assured me that there would still be an ample market for the 660 because it can get to top speed quicker and scramble up hills faster. I don't know, maybe some people just always want the most powerful machine they can buy.

Specifications

Perhaps the reason I found the 450 more than adequate is that it borrows its powerplant from the Kodiak 450, which has won numerous accolades and awards over the years. The torque-producing, 421cc, SOHC four-stroke engine packs more then enough power for both work- and play-related activities. A 33mm BSR carburetor gives crisp, immediate throttle response.

Contributing to the machine's performance is Yamaha's fully automatic Ultramatic transmission with both a centrifugal clutch and sprag (one-way) clutch. This design keeps constant tension on the drive belt. The result is immediate power to the wheels and minimized belt slippage and wear. The Ultramatic transmission also eliminates downhill “freewheeling” and supplies engine braking at all four wheels. I often found it reassuring to downshift to low range on the steepest slopes for a controlled descent.

The Rhino 450 has the same features as the 660, including a standard 2-in. receiver hitch that lets the UV tow up to 1,212 lbs. The same lightweight cargo bed is capable of carrying an additional 400 lbs. The cargo bed features tilt levers on both sides of the bed for easy unloading.

Also the same is the on-command, push-button 2-wd/4-wd system with differential lock. An extended skid plate design allows the Rhino 450 to slide over anything in its path. A fully adjustable and fully independent, front and rear dual A-arm suspension offers more than 7.3 in. of travel and an overall ground clearance of 12.1 in.

Like the Rhino 660, the Rhino 450 has Maxxis all-terrain tires and all-new CV joints for increased durability regardless of trail conditions. Brakes are twin piston, dual hydraulic discs up front and a shaft-mounted, self-adjusting hydraulic disc in the rear. An easy-to-operate parking brake is located on the center console.

Comfortable ride

After performance, the biggest selling feature of the Rhino may be comfort. Most of this is due to long-travel suspension that eats up bumps at high or low speeds. Padded bucket seats and three-point seat belts hold both driver and passenger securely in place inside a full rollover protection system. Other features include a 7.9-gal. fuel tank for all-day operation and a waterproof automotive-style DC outlet for a floodlight, GPS system or a cell phone charger. Tie-down hooks in the cargo bed keep gear or tools secure.

Overall, the Rhino 450 seems an even better compromise between work and fun than the 660. You can haul a small load, it's still plenty fast, and it takes less skill and effort to drive than a standard ATV. Better still is that the Rhino 450 is now competitively priced to have about the same price as a full-sized ATV.

For more information, contact Yamaha Motor Corp., Dept. FIN, 6555 Katella Ave., Cypress, CA 90630, 800/889-2624, visit Yamaha-motor.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 216.