I love wheeling my 4x4 truck just as much as the next guy, but there are still those times when I just wish I could get behind the wheel of something completely different, an off-road machine that is simply fun to drive. No more annoying dash rattle, creaking doorjambs, or taking it easy because come Monday it has to haul my butt to work. I wanted a simple machine I could just drive and beat the snot out of.
If this sounds like something you're dealing with, then take a look at Yamaha's new Rhino 660. This bad boy will fit easily into the bed of your fullsize pickup or tow nicely on a mild utility trailer that you can purchase at most home improvement stores. No longer will you have to worry about building a purpose-built rig for just one terrain when the Rhino comes out of the box ready to tackle them all. How many vehicles on the market come straight from the factory with a rollcage, selectable locker, knobby off-road tires, two- and four-wheel drive, and low and high capability? And did we mention that it's about half the size of a fishing boat?
With the price coming in at just over 10k, it's not the cheapest toy on the market, but when we think of all the insurance and fees that we've paid over the years, and the fact that a fully loaded Jeep Wrangler Rubicon goes for 27k, it doesn't sound that bad. There is the issue that now you may need to trailer, but at least you won't need a huge trailer like those rockbuggy guys need. Heck, you could even tow it on a small trailer with most short wheelbase four-wheel-drives, so now you've got two vehicles for you or your spouse to drive while trail riding. Now I don't want everyone to go and sell all their 4x4s and start overpopulating the trails with Rhinos, but I do think that this is the type of vehicle that could pull a smile out of anybody sitting behind the wheel, regardless of age or experience. One thing you should note is that this Yamaha likes to get a little tipsy when pushed into extreme articulation situations, but that's true of most modified 4x4s as well. Just use your noggin when driving and you'll be able to get the most out of the Rhinotherapy as possible.
You have got to be kidding me! Who in their right mind would think some four-wheel-drive golf cartcould ever compare to a true 4x4? Last month I showed you how we modified my '91 Suzuki Samurai so it could run head to head against the Yamaha Rhino ("Rhino Hunter," Oct. '07) with lockers, lift, tires, gears, and such. Now this month I took the Samurai out to hunt some Rhino being driven by Feature Editor Ali Mansour. Needless to say, the Samurai did great as would be expected. When driven through the dirt crevasses and small V-notches it easily pulled its way through, and that silly Rhino followed along. Of course in the high-speed section the Samurai totally dominated the course, bouncing along like a short-wheelbased 4x4 does; by the way, the Rhino did the same. Of course when going through the obstacle course, my Samurai really showed that Rhino how to slowly get through the technical stuff. Oddly enough the Rhino did it 5 seconds quicker; maybe Mansour and the Rhino didn't realize that going slightly slower is much cooler. In the turning radius my Samurai did a whopping 34-foot-diameter circle where the golf cart did only 25 feet. Not bad if you like turning really sharp, but think of all the extra terrain I get to go wheeling on with my wider turning radius. When seated in the driver seat of the Samurai I could see over the hood to the nearest object about 14 feet away, while that darned Yamaha has visibility up to just 7 1/2 feet in front of the vehicle. Hmm, I guess that great visibility is fine if you can't remember what's in front of your rig while moving down the trail. Otherwise, who needs it
Finally, in the rocks I was sure I was going to leave that fully independent Rhino gasping for traction, and so I battered the old Sammy up through a boulder field. The Samurai sliced at the rocks like a skilled swordsman, and other than one slight issue where the passenger rocker panel got a bit ruffled, the Suzuki made short work of the rock pile. So as I sat off to the side waiting for Mansour to hopelessly get his grocery cart stuck. He laid into the throttle of that little bugger and gave it a merciless beating. I was digging around in the back of the Samurai for a recovery strap while he spun tires and bounced from boulder to boulder, lifting a tire left and right. As I scrounged under the passenger seat for the strap, finding mostly old candy wrappers and about 48 cents in spare change, Mansour popped the Rhino off the rocks and right up behind me! You have got to be kidding me! That darn thing was following me everywhere and it isn't even modified! With all its stock selectable lockers and crazy "Ultramatic" transmission/transfer case thingies I was starting to wonder about my old Samurai being able to slice through the tough skin of the Rhino. I realized that the Samurai was cheaper to buy, but by the time I modified it I had as much invested as a new Rhino. In the end the one place my Samurai could out-do the Yamaha Rhino was that I could drive it legally on the street, albeit a bit slow with its 1.3L engine, bouncy with its 80-inch wheelbase, and deathly frightening when on the highway with huge semis racing by.
Of course you would need a tow rig or pickup to haul the Rhino so that is another mark against it. But if you were going any extreme distances you would probably want a tow rig for the Samurai as well. In the end I'd still take my Samurai over the off-road golf cart any day, but I guess I like having older junk that is slightly finicky and modified in my own way instead of an out-of-the-box wheeler. However, as much as I hate to admit it, the Rhino was quite impressive, probably not as competent off road as a longer-wheelbased bigger-powered 4x4, but in its size range definitely a valuable machine even if it is a glorified golf cart.