2008 Yamaha Rhino

By: Terry Stevenson

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A safe and powerful ride-on ATV

2008 Yamaha Rhino
2008 Yamaha Rhino

The demand for ride-on ATVs is taking off as people realise the vehicle’s true potential for carrying a passenger and cargo with greater stability.

The Rhino will be of particular interest to farmers who currently can’t access much of their property due to the recent heavy wet weather around New Zealand, especially if they want to carry a new-born calf back to the shed or take a couple of small hay bales out to a new mother.

The main change to the latest Rhino offering is a new fuel injected powerplant with more power and slightly better throttle response.

The Rhino is fast on its feet too. Out on the road I had it up to a maximum speed of 70kmh, all the while feeling rock solid on the tarmac. What really did impress was how well the five-way preload adjustable suspension handled the bumpy race when I was going 40 to 50kmh. Again, the Rhino was rock solid, smoothed out the bumps and never gave a hint of wanting to go off-track. All thanks to the healthy 185mm travel of the four independent suspension units.

The massive 307mm ground clearance will be of interest to the likes of asparagus growers and farmers with overgrown tracks. This is up 34mm from the 2007 model.

The wide 1381mm wheel track also means greater than normal stability on the hills – ride-on ATVs are becoming more popular as they really are much safer than an ATV.

I tried the four wheel disc brakes to good effect. Each brake caliper has two pistons, helping the Rhino stop in really good time.

The new liquid-cooled 686cc four-stroke engine is the same as offered on the new 700cc Grizzly ATV, which I tested in February, with the main feature coming from the economic yet more powerful fuel injection system. The engine is controlled by an electronic fuel injection system (EFI) with a 32-bit electronic control unit (ECU). I didn’t think it had quite the responsive power of the big Grizzly and the spec sheet backs it up with the Rhino having a 3mm smaller 41mm diameter fuel injection body.

That said it does feel like the 2008 Rhino has more power than last year’s carburetted model, which has a slightly smaller powerplant with a different bore/stroke ratio.

An important change was the repositioning of the air filter induction inlet to under the bonnet and out of the way. It’s good to know Yamaha is still supplying its vehicles with stainless steel exhaust systems! This means no rusting, less downtime a few years on and a higher resale value.

The Yamaha Rhino has a fully automatic transmission system with options for high and low ranges. I tackled some pretty steep hills on my Waikato Yamaha supplied Rhino test drive, and easily drove up them all in high ratio! To establish its true pulling power I deliberately stopped on the steepest slope for a hill start in two wheel drive. It didn’t surprise me that I went backwards when I tried to get going. Simple, I slipped it into 4WD and easily drove uphill.

Until it was pointed out that to get optimum drive I should lightly paddle the brake pedal while accelerating off. This tells the ‘Ultramatic’ transmission to drive all four wheels at the same time without slipping any single wheel. I tried this and the 480kg Rhino pulled away perfectly. I didn’t even need to use the diff lock!

The switchable on the fly 2WD to 4WD button brings up a simple four-wheeled chassis graphic (similar to a modern tractor) on the informative digital speedo, which also gives readings on time, ‘dual’ tripmeters, high/low range and fuel level for the 30-litre tank.

The latest Rhino has an improved cab area including a passenger grab rail, side grab rails on each seat that also help keep you in, in the event of an emergency. An important aspect that Yamaha takes seriously, to the point where it enclosed the footwell zone and even added small doors to the sides – not for looks, just safer because it keeps you inside the vehicle.

Waikato Yamaha fitted several aftermarket options to our test Rhino, including mag wheels, roof, windscreen and windscreen wiper.

In standard trim the 2008 Rhino currently sells for $19,495 incl. GST, and must be a consideration for anyone who wants a little extra carrying capacity.

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