Pull up to any local riding area with an '03 Yamaha Raptor 660R in the bed of your truck and you're bound to turn heads. Drop the tailgate, unload the wicked-looking Yammie, don your riding gear, hit the Raptor's electric start button, pull in the clutch, shift into First, and it's bye-bye competition. Not much can keep up with the mighty Raptor, other than its 350cc twin cylinder, two-stroke brother, the Yamaha Banshee. Yamaha has upped the ante in the Sport ATV category with its flagship, high-performance, big-bore quad, the Raptor 660R.
We tested a Limited Edition Raptor, which was stylishly dressed in black plastic with a contrasting bright-red front cowl and red-accented bodywork. The body design of the Raptor is very aggressive and cutting edge, with the front cowl, fenders, and headlights reminiscent of its slithery namesake. Set back into the front cowl are dual 30-watt halogen YZF-R1-inspired headlights that turn night into day. Plant your cheeks on the long, motocross-style seat that allows for maximum comfort, reach for the handlebars, and you are ready to tackle any type of off-road terrain.
Starting the Raptor experience is easy: Press the push-button electric starter to fire up the beefy 660cc, five-valve, SOHC, liquid-cooled four-stroke motor, and you're ready. No kick-starting necessary, thank you very much! Blip the throttle and you can feel, and hear, the tremendous torque of this big single. Dual 33mm Mikuni carburetors deliver excellent throttle response and maximize airflow and power, thus creating an impressively broad powerband. The hard-hitting, quick-revving powerplant will hit a max of 9,000 rpm. Along with the Race-Breed five-speed transmission, there is a Reverse gear, enabling quick turnarounds when things get a little too tight on the trail.
The chassis is truly state-of-the-art. To keep the 660R's weight down to a respectable 398 pounds (dry), the Yamaha is equipped with numerous aluminum components, including the rear swing arm, the front upper A-arms, the oil tank, and the wheels. Once seated, a Raptor rider will feel as if the big ATV is more like a 400cc-class chassis, especially with the ultra-compact 49-inch wheelbase and low center of gravity. The 33.9-inch seat height enhances the balanced steering, low center of gravity, and rider control.
The independent dual front A-arms with 9.1 inches of travel and the single rear shock swing arm with 8.7 inches of travel gobble up the rough stuff with impressive control and fade-free function, thanks to well-thought-out spring and damping rates. Whether riding on tight forest trails or wide-open sand dunes, we never experienced a loss of suspension control. And when you have to stop on a dime, there are awesome dual front and single rear hydraulic discs to bring the Raptor to a halt. With the blistering speeds the Raptor can attain, it's reassuring to have excellent binders.