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Staff Report:

New for 2006
The Yamaha Rhino 450

Yamaha Rhino 450
Yamaha Rhino 450

Move over single seat ATVs, there is a new machine in town.  The Yamaha Rhino 450, which is priced to compete with the top of the line ATVs on the market.  The new Rhino 450 is closely related to the Rhino 660, released in 2003.  The sporty 4x4, side by side seated unit with a rear cargo-box is well accepted.  The 660 Rhino is powered by Yamaha’s well known five valves, liquid cooled, power-house, 660 ATV engine.  New for 2006, Yamaha introduces the Rhino 450.  The new 450 uses the same chassis, frame, and body.  The only features that have changed are the engine size and a reduction in gearing within the automatic transmission.  Seems Yamaha has come up with a way to offer the Rhino at a better price, going from $9,199 with the 660 version to $7,999 on the 450, a savings of $1,200.

Why A 450?
The marketing game is based on finding the needs of your consumer and filling those needs efficiently.  We see this with many ATV manufacturers, they find out through surveys and dealers what the needs of the main stream purchasers are and fill the need with comparable products.  For example, the top of the line ATV is now priced anywhere from $7,000 to as high as $9,000.  Due to the above mentioned demographics, ATV prices reflect the market segment they are targeting.  Many times new ATV owners will receive a mail-in survey card asking what income bracket they fit in, how old they are, and why they purchased the product.  This information supplies the marketing team with valuable incite as to who is looking to buy what and how many of these potential buyers are out there.  Where is this all leading?  I’m laying a basis for why Yamaha would release a smaller version of the already successful Rhino 660 side by side, cargo box, ATV.  Frankly, there is a customer who is looking to buy a top of the line ATV, so Yamaha wants to hit the mark and supply this customer with an alternative.  An equally priced but more efficient side by side, thus Yamaha has produced good marketing strategy.  Yamaha has produced a good marketing strategy by offering their customers an equally priced but more efficient side by side unit.  We have seen this with other manufacturers; they produce a high end product and then reduce the engine size to provide a better price.  This philosophy is exactly what Yamaha did with the Rhino; they kept the same structure and changed the engine size.  This lead to more sales due to crossover patterning, as price can determine which machine a consumer will purchase.  That may sound a bit confusing, but if a buyer wants to spend $8,000 maximum, and a top of the line ATV is $7,999 and a two seat, cargo box, utility model is priced the same, many purchasers will see the differences in buying a typical ATV or a side by side unit.  First off, they can bring along a friend, do yard work, and have more fun anytime they ride.  What would you buy?

More On The 450 Engine:
Yes, the Rhino is being powered by a 450 but I think the 450 engine size is only small by today’s standards.  Especially since it was not that long ago that a 400cc engine was quite large, only since the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Consent Decree expired, running from 1988 to 1998 have we seen larger than 400cc engines.  Think about it, really it’s only in the last few years that we have been exposed to large bore ATV engines.  The Rhino 450 engine is the same power-plant used in the now available Kodiak ATV.  Yamaha incorporated the same 421 cc liquid cooled, two valve engine found in the Kodiak into the new Rhino.  Yamaha decided to use the configuration because of the engines vast amount of low-end torque and mid-range power, making it the perfect choice for a smaller version of the original Rhino.  Matted to the 450 engine is Yamaha’s tried and true Ultramatic automatic transmission with high, low, neutral, and reverse.  One of the only changes made to the basic components of the new Rhino is related to the Transmission.  Yamaha has changed and lowered the high and low gear ratio in the original Kodiak Ultramatic transmission to increase the power level needed to efficiently power a larger side by side ATV.

Yamaha has seen many advantages to the reproduction of the Rhino in a smaller version.  One advantage we have not discussed is how many components of the Rhino have trickled in from other Yamaha ATVs, such as, the Grizzly’s, On-Command Four-Wheel drive, and the fully independent suspension.

Ready to tackle the extremes with its push button on the fly four-wheel or true locking four-wheel drive modes.

The On-Command four-wheel drive starts out with a dash mounted switch that enables the driver to in-gauge the machines four-wheel drive.  Your first option is two-wheel drive which is for normal driving conditions.  At the push of a button, you can go into four-wheel drive for mucky situations, and lastly, true locking four- wheel drive, which locks all four wheels into a direct drive and produces the most efficient amount of power to each wheel.  The system may sound complicated but its simple, just push the first four-wheel drive button for four-wheel drive, and if that’s not enough, slide the locking lever over and push the locking differential button.  This will produce the fully locked front differential and supply power to each wheel.

The Rhino uses a fully independent suspension.  Components include a double wishbone suspension with 7.3 inches of wheel travel and 5-way adjustable shocks, both in the front and the rear of the Rhino.  This wheel travel translates into 12 inches of ground clearance.

Actual Ride Time:

I know the side by side cargo-box type ATVs are not for everyone, there is a demographic age that specifically enjoys the camaraderie of having a friend along to talk with.  I now fall into that category, as in a few months I’ll hit the big 40.  Years ago, I wanted to go fast and run light.  Now, I find myself enjoying more of my time with family and friends.  My point is, I like the Rhino and the side by side concept so I may sound a bit biased it could be my age or it maybe that the Rhino fits many lifestyles.  Actually, I found the 450 Rhino to be as satisfying to drive as its big brother the Rhino 660.  The slow woods operation is quite similar; the only difference I noticed was the 660 had better acceleration in the long haul and produced a higher top speed.  The speeds are as follows: The Rhino 450 comes in at 37 mph and the Rhino 660 hits just around 47 mph, a 10 mph difference.

The Rhino is a very capable off-road two seated vehicle, which will surprise many off-roaders'.  We found that the Rhino keeps a low and centered weight mass, and the engine, and transmission are both placed in the optimum position.  These are also low and centered in the vehicle producing a great driver confidence of how the vehicle will handle in extreme situations.  The Rhino 450 is one of the most capable off-road, side by side units I’ve tested.  If you’re in the market for a true four-wheel drive, side by side utility ATV, get to a Yamaha dealer and look at the options.  You may find the side by side comfort offered by the Yamaha Rhino is more your style.

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