Yamaha recently invited a passel of farm and outdoor magazine journalists to test out its new Rhino 450 at the Turkey Bay Off-Highway Vehicle area in Kentucky. To a sometime 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 actually safer to stay safety belted inside the machine than to try walking around.

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 ATV and utility vehicles that included the Rhino 660. The Rhino scored among the top contenders in the UV category.

Though the Rhino 660 could only haul 400 lbs, about half as much as many slower competitors, 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 is more expensive than even the largest ATV, and an excess of power that make 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, just over 54 inches wide and 1031 lbs. It also hauls the same 400 lb. payload as the 660 and reaches the same 37 mph speed-limited top speed. The only difference is the smaller engine on the 450.

After driving both 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 it my view, that’s what the low range on this machine is for. 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.

Perhaps the reason that 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 shares the same features as the 660, including a standard 2 in. receiver hitch that lets you to 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 2WD/4WD system with differential lock. An extended skid plate design allowing 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” 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.

After performance, the biggest selling feature for 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 roll over protection system. Other features include a 7.9 gallon fuel take for all-day operation, a waterproof automotive-style DC outlet for a floodlight, GPS system or a cell phone charger. Tie down hooks in the cargo bed to 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 be about the same as a full-sized ATV.

For more information, contact Yamaha Motor Corporation, 800/889-2624 Yamaha-motor.com.