In the off-road world, having complete control over gears and engine speed is sacred. Which begs the question of why, until 2016, every side-by-side on the market came with a continuously variable transmission — essentially a gear-less gearbox.
It’s awkward to think that the first manual side-by-side didn’t hit the market until this year, but the execution from Yamaha in the YXZ1000R is incredible and deserves applause. Baja 1000-racer styling, a spartan interior, a performance-focused gearbox — just let the revs hang in the upper 8,000s and watch the rooster-tails fly all day. Not to mention the On-Command 4WD system, full-diff lock and piggyback twin-wall Fox 2.5 Podium X2 Shocks with 17 inches of travel. Dunes, dirt, rocks — the YXZ1000R attacks them all with equal poise. It may be Yamaha’s first pure sport side-by-side, but it makes the competition look amateurish.