A few years back, people were asking if Yamaha was going to get out of the snowmobile business. Ha! What a joke. They plan on taking it over.
The 2007 line-up from Yamaha is the first 100% 4-stroke line-up in the industry. Yamaha knew long ago that the EPA thing was not an issue for them, and theyâ€™re not only good for now but good through the entire schedule of phase-ins. And, right now they are spending their time and energy at making their sleds better, filling all gaps, and getting rid of their two-strokes. Theyâ€™re all gone with the introduction of their all-new Phazer models â€“ five in total.
Yamaha has launched three major engineering projects in the past few years, demonstrating their full-scale engineering skill and capability. Theyâ€™re very serious about snowmobiles, from the drafting room to the board room, and theyâ€™re focused on developing the products people want, at a value they will love.
Up to this point, the Yamaha 4-strokes have been received well, but many two-stroke lovers still felt the 4-stroke sleds were heavy. The engines were derived from street bikes, and the power and weight showed it. Yes, they got better each year, but not everyone wants to ride sleds so big and powerful. Where was the 4-stroke smaller displacement, lightweight sled? Where was Yamahaâ€™s dirt-bike-influenced snowmobile? Here it is.
Yamaha had five primary design goals with the Phazer. First, they wanted it to have (true) lightweight and super-nimble handling. Second, the Phazer had to be a high value to the consumer; low price is important, but so is a quality product. Third, the Phazer needed to have trend-setting styling, like its namesake. Fourth, it needed to be built around a core of fun and sporty excitement. Finally, the Phazer needed to be comfortable enough to ride all day.
These design goals allowed the Yamaha engineers to develop a very nimble package. They began with adapting their proven dirt bike engine technology into a unique, lightweight 2-cylinder engine and proceeded to build the sled around it. The compact chassis is constructed with their exclusive Controlled Flow die casting technology that allowed them to build a very rigid chassis without a lot of weight. That rigidity allowed the suspension engineers to develop a very precise handling suspension setup.
Besides the light, mass-centralized, compact tubular chassis, the Phazer also has a rider forward ergonomic package. The narrow, YZ-style seat and tall, wide forward-mounted handlebars put the rider into a â€œsport aggressiveâ€ posture for instant inputs and feedback from the chassis. Riders will discover a new level of integration with this snowmobile, unlike any Yamaha before this.
The second mandate was to be a great value to the consumer. The new Phazer base-model is the lowest priced sled in their line at $6,399, priced competitively against many 2-stroke models. Yamaha chose the components very carefully, as we find a fine balance between cost and benefit in areas like the shocks used on each specific model. This allows the entry-level consumer to get a good value for their dollar, and also allows the customizing customer to buy a sled that is a perfect starting point for building a very unique and personal custom sled. The possibilities here are wide-open.
The third goal for the Phazer was to develop trend-setting styling, in the same tradition of the original Phazer (1984). Yamaha set their stylists to work cutting all of the empty space out of the sled. If it didn’t serve a purpose, a gap was eliminated and the outer body work moved inward. This approach can be seen in the hood and bellypan, but it is best executed in the front end. Never before has a snowmobile been designed with a â€œnakedâ€ front suspension. It’s somewhat common in the sport ATV market, and it looks like Yamaha borrowed some styling cues from their popular Raptor ATVs as well as the YZ(F) dirt bikes. The seat is tall and narrow, like the YZ dirt bike. The same holds true for the styling cues on the seat and exhaust. Style-wise the Phazer is a very good blend of ATV, dirtbike and snowmobile. (Only the Ski-Doo REVs and Freestyles have been this bold with new design elements.)
Yamahaâ€™s fourth objective was to build a sled that was fun to ride; for everyone, from novice riders to experienced veterans. Not â€œkid funâ€ like a 20 hp one-lunger, but the kind of fun you can go out and enjoy with anyone. The Phazer is light and nimble with a broad and user-friendly power band that you can’t help but have fun on it. Yamaha wants to expand the market and appeal to newer, younger buyers and this sled will do that.
Finally, the Phazer had to be comfortable. Yamaha utilized a second generation of the (torsion spring) ProActive rear suspension that works well for a wide range of rider weights. The sport rider-forward posture allows riders to transition easily from sitting to standing, without cramping or straining the legs and hips.
The prototypes weâ€™ve ridden demonstrate Yamaha is dead-nuts on target. If you were one who complained about 4-strokes being heavy and too expensive, take a ride on one of these machines. Trail riders everywhere will be excited when they try these models. Bottom line, the Phazers are very fun and agile, easy to ride, very predictable and not intimidating.
Some may think 80 HP isnâ€™t enough â€“ for what, we ask? This is 160 HP per liter, so 80 HP from a 500 is smoking! Yamaha tells us it will weigh less than a REV 500SS and equal to an F5, but it has electric start and reverse. Dry spec on the base model (for now) is 446 pounds. Also, an 80 HP 4-stroke has bottom end and midrange more like a 500-600cc 2-stroke. Consider the target users and apps, and it is plenty of zip. We had them going over 70 MPH, and the torquey response is gobs of fun. 80 HP is enough to accelerate the machine adequately. The thick powerband makes it feel more powerful than the number â€œ80â€ indicates, it really is more than youâ€™d first expect. Thereâ€™s no hard hit or wild transition, just a broad linear power delivery that is very fun to ride. For those familiar with dirt bikes, the Phazers remind us more of a YZ 250F (or Honda CRF250X) than it does a YZ 450F (or Honda CR450X), which makes sense due to the power to weight ratio. The 250 bikes pull good, the 450s pull a bit harder. Or, if an Apex is an R1 street bike, the Phazer is more the YZ250F than the 450 in dirt bike terms. Adequate; not excessive.
OK, so how does the Phazer differ from a REV? Or, a new Legend (4-stroke)? The Legend is closer than any other sled, or maybe a MX Z 550 X. Smaller, lighter and agile describe all of these machines. First is the Yamaha engine, this is a high output 4-stroke (the 800cc Legend is only 65 HP). We notice the handling and the steering to be easier effort-wise on the Phazer, with maybe less pitching and diving, but they are quite similar. The Phazer is very quiet, with a narrower seating position, and youâ€™re not quite as far forward so your knees donâ€™t get quite the workout. Again, not right or wrong, but different.
There are three 121â€ Phazers to choose from, a base model (without reverse) a GT model with better shocks and reverse and a windshield, and the all-out Phazer FX with good shocks all around and a low, sexy windshield to complement the boy racer riding it.
Then there is the two-up Venture Lite, a 144â€ version with a really good windshield and an incredibly surprising 144â€ x 2â€ Phazer Mountain Lite! Lighter, less expensive, quiet, this sled will bring back the playfulness to the mountains instead of all-out power wars that drain both the gas tank and the pocketbook. Many riders these days just donâ€™t have the cash they used to, and the timing of sleds like this is absolutely excellent for Yamaha. The Phazer models are the right sleds at the right time.
Yes, there are some changes to the rest of the Yamaha line-up as well. Extra models have been added, mostly with suspension package upgrades from the existing models offered for 2006. Overall, the shock upgrades are the biggest change for the 2007 RS and Apex models that have been added. New snowflaps jazz up the rear ends, a styling thing.
2007 is going to be the year of the Phazer. From the rad looks to the lightweight chassis to the dirt bike (YZF) inspired engine, the new Yamaha Phazer is the trail sled of the future. Our first impression was â€œa Sno Scoot on steroidsâ€. Second, take a REV, Raptor and YZF and you get the FX Chassis. We openly give Ski-Doo credit for the rider-forward REV and what it has done to the industry, and the Phazer is Yamahaâ€™s 4-stroke version.