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The Yamaha Rhino is an off-road vehicle made by Yamaha Motor Company. The two-person four-wheel drive vehicles are in a unique class called "side by side", which is in-between the size of ATVs and mini SUVs. Rhinos are gaining popularity in racing with customizations similar to the full-size vehicles. Polaris and Arctic Cat have made vehicles in the same class.
Production for the Rhino began in Yamaha's facility in Newnan Georgia in 2004 and ended with the 2013 model year. Many have regarded the Rhino as one of the industry's most versatile UTV machines. The Rhino's size is well suited to many different tasks ranging from recreation to work due to its medium-size chassis and cargo bed. The smaller nature of the design suit those who prefer to operate in tighter riding environments like wooded areas, while the cargo bed is still big enough to carry equipment or supplies. Prior to the Rhino's debut, the UTV market was dominated by slow, heavy, oversized machines designed strictly for work use. The Rhino's faster top speed, powerful engine, nimble independent suspension, and overall smaller size proved popular.
The basic premise involves the chassis, engine, transmission, suspension and basic characteristics of a large utility 4x4 ATV, but with two side by side bucket seats with seat belts and an overhead protection framework. Yamaha has acknowledged that the overhead protection is not ROPS certified and is not represented as such. The controls are similar to those of a golf cart, with pedals and a steering wheel rather than the handlebars of a conventional ATV. It is mainly targeted for general utility and recreational use by farmers, ranchers and hunters.
The Rhino was released in 2004 and was offered with a 450cc or 660cc engine with a carbureted fuel system. The 450cc engine was based on the Kodiak 450 ATV engine architecture, and the 660cc engine was based on the Grizzly 660 ATV engine architecture. Both engines were modified for use in the larger Rhino chassis. In 2008 Yamaha upgraded the big bore Rhino to the 700cc fuel injected engine that was again borrowed from the Grizzly 700 ATV. Yamaha did not offer the 450cc engine size from 2011 to 2013. All engine configurations were single cylinder four-cycle designs, mated to Yamaha's Ultramatic transmissions. All Rhinos use an electronic speed limiter system to restrict the top speed of the machines to approximately 38 MPH (61 KPH).
All configurations of the Rhino use a constantly variable transmission (CVT) design with a subtransmission assembly providing two forward gear selections (high and low range), a reverse gear, and a neutral position. Yamaha's unique CVT design differed from most other CVT designs at the time in that the Ultramatic separated the clutch and drive functions from each other. This design allows the Rhino (and all Yamaha Ultramatic ATVs) to eliminate the problem of belt failure due to excessive slipping.
Yamaha was the first manufacturer to offer doors as a standard feature on all side-by-side vehicles and has provided additional handholds. Yamaha only recommends the Rhino for operators age 16 or older who have a valid drivers license.
The Rhino was built in Newnan Georgia from 2004 to 2013. Yamaha produces all its ATV and side by side vehicles south of Atlanta Georgia in Coweta County. Yamaha's production facilities at that location employ over 1250 workers as of July 2013.
2009 free repair program
On March 31, 2009, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced a repair program for Rhino 660 and 450 models. Yamaha subsequently and voluntarily included the same offer for Rhino 700 models in order to reduce confusion and ensure customer satisfaction. According to the CPSC, the following two repairs were needed “to help reduce the chance of rollover and improve vehicle handling”:
- Installation of a two-inch spacer on each of the rear wheels
- Removal of the rear anti-sway bar
Yamaha also announced that same day that the company was temporarily suspending sales of the Rhino until the affected models could be repaired, and the CPSC advised owners not to operate the vehicles until taking them to a dealership for the modifications. All subsequent Rhino 450, 660 and 700 models have the same modifications. The sales suspension lasted less than two months.
The Rhino was the first of a new class of vehicles known as recreational utility vehicles (RUVs). Another popular classification for the vehicle is a utility vehicle (UTV).
As is common practice when a new class of vehicle is sold, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is reviewing the ROV product category, including the Rhino. Manufacturers of ROVs have also formed the Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association (ROHVA) to develop standards specific to the ROV product category, develop and promote model state safety legislation, and provide other safety initiatives in consultation with the CPSC.
ROHVA obtained approval by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) of the first standard for ROVs on March 5, 2010, setting an initial benchmark for vehicle design, configuration and performance. To allow it to continue to address ROV performance criteria in this expanding vehicle class, ROHVA initiated the ANSI process for revising the newly approved standard on March 9. As part of the revision process, ROHVA also will continue its efforts to solicit and exchange information and views with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and its staff.
Other main competitors of the Rhino include the Polaris Ranger, Polaris RZR, Arctic Cat Prowler, Honda Pioneer, Kawasaki Teryx 750 4x4, the new Can-Am Commander and the John Deere Gator. The Ranger is a mostly utility based side by side, while the Polaris Ranger RZR is more of a sports vehicle.