The 10th anniversary of Yamaha’s first 4-stroke snowmobile ... … and why it’s worth celebrating.
Now that Yamaha occupies the premium brand position in the fast-moving world of snowmobiles, with a full range of class leading 4-stroke machines, it would be easy to assume that the decision, a decade ago, to launch the ground-breaking RX-1 was simply to harness the clear improvements in performance, economy, handling, reliability and environmental cleanliness inherent in our unique 4-stroke technology. These advantages were certainly major factors in convincing us to change over almost exclusively to 4-stroke power and they also enabled us to develop the strong, confidence-giving Yamaha Advantage now so readily associated with our snowmobiles; in reality though, there were also other significant reasons behind the decision.
We have always felt that the varying and increasingly demanding requirements of snowmobile customers could only be met by designing the machine as a whole, rather than simply regarding the power unit, the suspension, the skis or the track as individual elements; to create snowmobiles which allow the relationship between man, machine and snow to be much closer and more direct. Rather like a skier feels the snow conditions and monitors the effects of his balance and control changes through the ski edges, so should a rider enjoy a similar feeling of directness, close contact and ‘feel’ on a Yamaha snowmobile. In fact, the pioneering advances we were making at the time in our latest 4-stroke technology, for high performance motorcycles, outboards and other demanding applications, meant we could move ahead even faster with the evolution of this integrated rider/machine/snow approach, just as we had always wanted to. So for us, 4-stroke was the key. That’s why it has been our mission since the successful launch of the RX-1 to fully use the flexibility and capability of our unique 4-stroke concept to expand the sheer ‘driveability’ and technical capabilities of all our snowmobiles well beyond those of other machines; to give Yamaha riders the feeling that in addition to matchless power and ultra-reliable performance, they can also enjoy much higher levels of integrated design and engineering, bringing greater balance, stability and riding comfort than ever before. Alongside that of course, comes a new confidence in handling the machine and a whole new world of fun and excitement, whether from racing, on and off-trail sport or leisure touring.
Having a clear ‘vision for the future’ and using it to bring higher and higher standards of technical quality to its customers across the world has always been a Yamaha hallmark, and the ‘new world’ started with the 5-valve DOHC 4-cylinder engine introduced on the RX-1. Later upgraded to EFI (Electronic Fuel Injection) and with a state of the art engine control system run by an ECU (Engine Control Unit) with the in-built warning systems so well proven on our motorcycles and outboards, this was the remarkable engine that pioneered the change to 4-stroke across the Yamaha snowmobile line-up.
While the change to 4-stroke brought huge advantages in terms of smoother, quieter, more reliable performance, not to mention economy and a smaller environmental footprint, it also helped us develop completely new ancillary technologies, particularly in electronic control of systems and functions. Here are just a few prime examples of how, along the way, we’ve harnessed our constantly evolving 4-stroke technology in everything from outboard engines to motorcycles, to develop the latest generation of more integrated, rider-friendly snowmobiles.
• EXUP – Exhaust Ultimate Power-valve. Another Yamaha exclusive and yet another snowmobile world first, the DOHC, 5-valve version of our 4-stroke engine incorporates Yamaha’s unique EXUP technology. Originally developed for Yamaha motorcycles, EXUP features a variable valve in the exhaust collector which opens and closes with changes in RPM, effectively altering the area of the exhaust pipe in use. EXUP improves torque in the important low and mid RPM range and by dramatically improving intake and exhaust efficiency, delivers more powerful acceleration.
• EFI – Electronic Fuel Injection. The Yamaha EFI system was developed specifically to handle extreme operating conditions and temperatures. The result is improved starting performance with smooth, progressive throttle response right through the RPM band. EFI contributes to the ‘driveability’ for which the Yamaha 4-strokes are renowned. In addition, the injection system is so accurately monitored and controlled by the engine’s computer that it greatly improves fuel economy and reduces exhaust emissions.
• Electric Start – An advantage that riders really appreciate every time they step on board – and another feature we fit as standard, helping to set a Yamaha 4-stroke snowmobile apart from the rest.
• ISC – Idle Speed Control. A very comforting feature which, combined with our standard electric starting, makes a Yamaha snowmobile as simple to start as your car. There’s no manual choke control to fiddle with, because on start-up from cold, the engine automatically runs at a higher idling speed which gradually drops as the engine warms up. The system controls normal engine idle speed too.
• TORS – Throttle Override System. Another convenient safety feature, TORS protects the engine, in the event of a malfunction of the throttle cable or throttle valve, by lowering the engine RPM until the problem is remedied.
So the move to 4-stroke technology 10 years ago played a major part in helping us establish what has become known amongst snowmobile enthusiasts around the world as The Yamaha Advantage. Naturally though, it includes many product attributes that still have as much to do with our mastery of snowmobile design, manufacture, ergonomics and research as with the engineering of the power unit itself. Our massive experience helps too of course.
Here’s how we like to summarise The Yamaha Advantage.
• Performance and handling – the driveability, power, stability and agility of a Yamaha snowmobile makes it the most satisfying and sporting machine to own and enjoy. As an example, the well proven ‘Rider Forward’ position brings outstanding control and balance to the handling, inspiring confidence and making everyone a better, more relaxed rider.
• Comfort and convenience – Everything from electric power steering (our world-first EPS system) and expertly tuned suspension to electric starting – and from smooth, variable transmission clutch control (CVT) to hi-tech skis, comfy seats and heated hand grips. On a Yamaha, everything works together to create the greatest possible sense of comfort and unity between rider and machine; and to deliver a matchless experience out on the snow.
• Reliability – This is where our 4-stroke technology is at its most effective, with its well proven EFI systems, computer controlled engine monitoring and sheer ruggedness. Yamaha’s huge production engineering experience comes into play too, providing state of the art technologies, like aluminium forging for strong, rigid main frames and other vital components. Latest technology tracks and skis of the very highest available strength and quality complete the picture.
• Economy and ecology – The super-efficient Yamaha 4-strokes reduce fuel and oil consumption with their miserly EFI systems, computer controlled combustion efficiency and specially designed intake and exhaust layouts. Reduced exhaust emission is another advantage of these constantly evolving technologies, so the environment benefits too