2006 Yamaha Wolverine First Ride, by Off-Road.com

Feb. 01, 2006 By ORC STAFF

2006 Yamaha Wolverine 450
Yamaha's Sport-Segmented 4x4

by ORC Staff


October 2005  •

The Yamaha line has seen plenty of up-graded ATV models over the past few years. The Grizzly, Kodiak and the Big Bear are all up-dated from the later year original models. Yamaha has been working hard to place a significant model in each segmented class - each class except the Sport Utility or Very Terrainable Sport segments (which as quoted by Yamaha, referring to the Wolverine).

As with the original Wolverine 350 4x4, this model stayed unchanged since its introduction back in 1995. As enthusiast journalists we often wondered why Yamaha had not changed the unit for over ten years. With an answer only known to the manufacturer, we now have the new 2006 Yamaha Wolverine 450 4x4, a 4-wheel drive ATV that Yamaha has classed as a "very terrainable sport segmented 4x4 ATV."

The Yamaha new model invitation placed us in Branson Missouri, home of the Mark Twain National Forest and the gateway to the Ozark Mountains. This area is a great place to test many aspects of a sporty 4-wheel drive ATV. The trails consisted of tight, narrow paths that wind themselves through heavily forested mountains, from high ridge-tops into dark hollow bottoms. The Chadwick riding area is a marked trail system with quite challenging occasional rock ledges and technical areas.

Getting technical

The Wolverine is not a totally redesigned model from Yamaha. This unit is quite similar to the Kodiak before IRS. Same frame and same engine, but due to a few changes, the unit now weighs in at 75 pounds lighter, which translates into a more efficient ATV.

Powering the Wolverine is a 421cc, SOHC engine that uses a 45-degree inclined cylinder head, which is liquid cooled, breaths through a Mikuni BSR33 carburetor and exhausts through a stainless steel muffler with increased flow end-cap. The engine is quick revving and responsive, producing a sporty feel.

Mated to the Wolverine's 450 engine is the widely-used-by-Yamaha Ultramatic automatic transmission. Yamaha also uses this same transmission design in their Grizzly and Kodiak units. The Ultramatic performs well in many aspects and can produce the required sporty operation. The automatic transmission supplies forward, neutral and reverse. Unfortunately there is no supplied low range for instances when extreme slow-moving power is needed.

Located on the right handlebar near the hand-grip, is the On-Command, push-button in and out four-wheel drive control which switches the unit into four-wheel drive.

Braking is done by dual disk brakes front and a single wheel mounted disk brake rear. We noticed that engaging the 4-wheel drive made for more efficient downhill engine braking and overall better foot brake stopping power.

The Wolverine has the tendency to skid the back tires more when using the foot brake without engaging the 4x4 system. Although braking power was quite good, we did notice some squeaking and chattering sounds when the brakes were applied quite hard. This is a common occurrence with dusty or muddy trail conditions.

The Wolverine uses a double A-arm suspension with 6.3 inches of travel front and a swing arm rear with 7.1 inches of travel. Both front and back shocks are five-way preload adjustable and supply a good ride, along with a surprising amount of sporty feel and comfort. The suspension is completed by a newly-designed set of front and rear Maxxis radial tires mounted on all-new 12” aluminum wheels. The new rims lighten up the ATV and the newly designed low profile rear tires have a great new tread pattern that worked well in the rocky, wooded trails of the Ozark Mountains . The rear tires are definitely a sport-oriented tire with a racing look, the low profile made the side wall stiff and made for great slide steering ability.

The Wolverine boasts low seat height, low center of gravity and a fairly tight turning radius in its category. The unit really does retain some impressive handling characteristics. We used the new Wolverine 450 as hard as we could hitting jumps and pounding the trail without any noticeable problems. This really is a tough machine!

Ergonomically the Wolverine is well styled and has a do-everything-well feel, most of the controls are located in the proper positions.

Although after riding and analyzing the machine for a complete day we could only come up with two complaints worth mentioning:

The rider seating position is quite good for a normal size rider, six foot tall or less. However, a larger rider that tends to ride in a more aggressive position seated toward the front of the ATV, may find less knee room on the left side. The drive selecting shift lever is positioned on the left fender side adjacent to about where the rider's knee would be positioned. In this foreward riding position, a rider may have issues with hitting their knee into the plastic lip of the body formed plastic just under the shift lever. Although a small problem, we did feel the pain a few times when riding hard.

Second, the new style body makes for large and quite roomy floorboards. But we do feel there is room for improvement in the operation of the foot brake, as the rider must lift their foot from the low floorboard mounted foot peg in-order to hit the foot brake. Another and perhaps better way to position the riders foot would be to raise the foot peg a bit higher and move the brake lever out about ¾ of an inch. This would allow the rider's foot to sit directly over the foot brake and be in the best ergonomic position for quick and efficient use. Again, these are not large problems but we must point out our findings.

Looking at the Wolverine you see the sport stylings of the Raptor and YFZ 450 coming into play, with the same long sharp fender lines and similar head and taillight incorporations. Information is dialed in with the use of a new and sporty digital LCD display with speedometer, odometer, tripmeter and 4WD/2WD indicator light.

Also, there are no steel racks on the new Wolverine, instead the rear plastic body has incorporated a useful storage platform on the rear of the machine which allows you to take along a small cooler or other necessities.

The 2006 Wolverine 450 4x4 will be available September 2005 in Team Yamaha Blue and White/Silver color schemes.

Rider Impressions

The Yamaha Wolverine answered the every day ATV riders call for a sporty 4x4 ATV. The question is, does this fill the actual needs of the more-aggressive sport ATV rider? That is a question that only the actual rider can answer. This unit is a good at everything ATV. Actually, the basic machine comes from a utility background but due to the light sporty changes, Yamaha has produced the right results. Our testing indicated a stable unit with great sidehill balance, good acceleration, a comfortable ride, excellent high speed handling on tight trails and the unit turned out to be a true Wolverine in the tough stuff. 

The Kodiak lists for $6,299
The Wolverine lists for $5,999




Engine Type

421cc, 4-Stroke Single, Liquid Cooled w/Fan, SOHC


Bore x Stroke

84.5mm x 75mm


Compression Ratio




Mikuni 33mm BSR





Starting System

Electric w/ Auxiliary Pull



Yamaha Ultramatic V-Belt w/ All-Wheel Engine Braking


Drive Train

Yamaha On-Command Push-Button 2WD, 4WD ; Shaft





Independent Double Wishbone, 6.3” w/ 5-way Preload Adjustment



Swing Arm, 7.1” w/ 5-way Preload Adjustment





Dual Hydraulic Disc



Hydraulic Disc





AT23x8-12 Radial



AT23x10-12 Radial







Seat Height



Wheel Base



Ground Clearance



Fuel Capacity

3.8 Gallons


Dry Weight

516 Lbs


Towing Capacity

1,102 Lbs (with optional hitch)



Digital Speedo, Odo & Fuel Gauge



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