SxS Field Test: 2014 Yamaha Viking

During the summer I mentioned the highly anticipated release of the new Viking, Yamaha's latest addition to its side-by-side family. Last week I was lucky enough to test this machine on a whitetail hunt in western Oklahoma.

As expected, the Viking has smart updates that did not disappoint. The Viking holds three across in bucket seats and the stance is 61.8 inches wide to accommodate for this. The center seat is tilted back to ingeniously keep all the occupants from rubbing shoulders.

The Viking is all about utility with its 600-pound payload. I have loaded other machines that said they were rated to 300 pounds in the back, only to find they sagged and changed the trail dynamics of the machine significantly -- not the case with the Viking. I put 500 pounds of feed in the back and found the ride level and still practical to drive in nasty terrain. I spent two to three days running this machine, and it pulled effortlessly while going up steep, dry river beds.

There are graduated rock guards covering the underframe that are pitched in a slight V, like the bottom of a boat. These guards keep the machine from being sucked into mud and allow a much smoother transition if you ground out the frame.

Yamaha's diff locker is a total beast. Like the Rhino, this thing can climb anything you think your skill level can handle. I had high expectations of the electronic power steering, and I wasn't the slightest bit disappointed. It was extremely smooth with no feedback at all. Comparable to the Rhino, look for exceptional mechanical downhill breaking with a new disc brake system that seems impervious to heating up or fading.

Power wise, the Viking is completely capable of heavy farm chores, including pulling food plot implements with its standard 2-inch receiver. The 686cc engine is snappy with plenty of torque and the governor kicks in at 50 mph. You'll get there quickly, but not as fast as a racing machine.

Overall, I would credit the Viking with balance and common sense. It concentrates on practical features an outdoorsman, rancher or farmer will find useful. Although the fully independent suspension isn't ready for racing, it is sturdy, extremely smooth, and highly capable in technical off-roading.

I need to call your attention to the price. With several machines hovering in the $14,000 to $16,000 range, and up to $19,000 with extras, the Viking's Base SRP with EPS is an amazing value at $12,699.