Yamaha XT660Z Ténéré Review
By, Trevor Hedge
Yamaha’s new Ténéré has been on sale for some time in Europe but only landed Down Under late in October. An eager buying public has quickly taken to the Ténéré with 114 of Yamaha’s new adventure-touring middleweights finding homes in the first ten weeks of going on sale in Australia.
The Ténéré follows a familiar recipe; one cylinder (660cc), big fuel tank (23 litres), good ground clearance (260mm), long travel suspension (210mm) and great luggage options.
So what’s different?
Well the engine is about the best single cylinder mill I have sampled. Virtually identical to the somewhat brutal engine in the previously reviewed XT660R, it somehow seems much more manageable in Ténéré guise.
At 48hp (35Kw) claimed power is the same as the XT660R but the Ténéré certainly feels much more controllable off the bottom. The two fuel-injected machines run identical (45/15) gearing so it must be the extra 20kg the Ténéré carries over its lithe sibling that contributes to the difference. Or maybe it is far more refined mapping than found on its sibling that takes away the hard bottom end hit.
That’s not a bad thing. I felt the XT660R was too brutal off the bottom and thus in the dirt the Ténéré is certain to prove easier to manage for those not all that comfortable with wheelspin every time they touch the throttle.
There’s still plenty of power there and a grunty 58Nm of torque peaking at 5500rpm. It’s certainly one of the most formidable single lung thumper engines ever made. A well proven lineage should ensure it proves bulletproof and a generous 2.9 litre oil capacity in the dry sump gives the oil an easier time than many comparable machines.
The five-speed gearbox is relatively smooth shifting and well matched to the four-valve engine. Short enough in the bush for obstacles, while tall enough to turn a leisurely 4000rpm on the open highway, the gearing strikes a fine balance. The clutch has quite a rapid take-up but offers plenty of feel.
Our test machine was fitted with enduro style (17/21) full knobbly tyres. While great in the dirt, they were as to be expected, simply appalling on the road. Despite pumping a high 25psi in to the knobblies the tube simply shredded during a fairly tricky descent from Victoria’s Mount Terrible, something rim-locks would have in all likelihood prevented. Something to remember should you ever decide to put serious dirt tyres on your mount for serious adventuring as without rimlocks fitted tubes can easily be torn.
The standard Metzler Tourance rubber is more road biased and would make the Ténéré quite a weapon on tight sections of blacktop. Unfortunately that is something that we never got to put to the test, but I have little doubt the Ténéré would prove great fun on tight backroads.
Aiding that tarmac side of the dual-sport equation is a pair of 298mm discs up front clamped by Brembo rotors. I found the brakes on the XT660R model faded a little under severe punishment but that’s unlikely to ever be a problem on the Ténéré thanks to its twin disc front end.
The suspension on the Ténéré is perhaps a little soft but preload adjustment is available at both ends to tailor the machine to your liking. No damping adjustments are provided.
I would be happy enough with the standard suspension if undertaking one-up touring but if travelling two-up with luggage a visit to your local suspension tuner for some stiffer springs might be on order. To be fair, that criticism can also be leveled at all comparable machines. The Ténéré is in no way a bouncy castle and displays good enough damping control to get a little air over erosion banks or jumps. Just don’t expect it to carry a couple and all their gear without a little suspension tuning.
Ergonomically the bike responds well to both sit down and up on the pegs riding styles. A few vibes are evident above 5000rpm but that doesn't become a factor on the highway as at 110km/h the Ténéré is turning well below that mark.
Of course with long travel suspenders and plenty of ground clearance the Ténéré will pose problems for those caught short in the leg department. The 895mm seat height is manageable for anyone over 175cm but inexperienced shorter folk might find the Ténéré a little daunting in the parking lot.
Once on the move though the Ténéré proves quite light and agile once you become accustomed to the balance of the bike, which can at first seem a little top heavy. With the cavernous 23 litre fuel cell full to the brim the Ténéré tips the scales at 208kg but even in the bush you would never guess the Ténéré is hiding that much mass. On the road the standard screen does a reasonable job of protecting the rider and the Ténéré remains fairly vibe free and comfortable.
Fitting out the Ténéré with tough Yamaha branded 30-litre aluminium side cases will cost you an extra $1750 over the $13,999 sticker price. A matching 30 litre aluminium topbox sets you back another $800. Replacing the huge cannons that act as mufflers on the Ténéré for a tasty set of Akrapovic mufflers upsets the bank balance by another $1857.
One thing you won’t need to shell out for is engine and body protection bars as the Ténéré is fairly well kitted out in the protection department as standard. Even the clutch cover has a nice protection plate on it as standard which helps to protect from damage when the gear lever gets pushed into the cases during a crash.
Fantastic attention to detail like this is so un Japanese. The Ténéré has been developed over a long time by Yamaha Europe. If Japan had designed it they no doubt would have missed all the salient little points that really help to produce a true high quality offering. That's not so much a criticism of Yamaha Japan, but rather a criticism of all the Japanese manufacturers that just seem to have no idea how to truly complete a design process. No wonder the Japanese brands are losing market share while the European brands go from strength to strength. (Trev climbs off soapbox)
Further down the page we have links to a Yamaha XT660Z Pictorial and also examine the opposition. Before you head down further however, right click and select 'save target as' to start downloading this high quality video of a climb up Victoria's Mount Terrible. It is a formidable 138Mb DOWNLOAD.
Clearly the Ténéré is not cheap, but it is the most well executed ready to roll single-cylinder adventure-touring bike on the market. The final icing on the cake is that the Ténéré is learner legal in those states that have adopted the LAMS scheme. Unlike most of the very budget and hardly appealing machines that make the learner list the Ténéré is a bike that just about any discerning motorcyclist would love to have in their garage. I know I certainly would.
|Specs – Yamaha XT660Z Ténéré
Engine – 660cc, liquid cooled, four-stroke, single-cylinder, 4-valve, SOHC
Transmission – Five speed manual, chain drive
Seat Height – 895mm
Wet Weight –208kg ready to ride with full tank
Fuel Capacity – 23 litres
Touring Range – 400km+
Warranty – Two years
Price - $13,999
+ Big bike practicality but still manageable in the dirt
+ Strong engine
+ Great tank range
+ Excellent factory accessories
+ Fantastic finish
+ Looks the business
+ LAMS legal (some States)
- A little expensive for a single-cylinder machine
- Limited suspension adjustment
- Accessories not all that affordable
- Other than that, there’s not a lot not to like
Pictorial - Image Gallery featuring Yamaha's XT660Z Ténéré
- Image Gallery featuring Yamaha's XT660Z Ténéré -
Sizing up the competition…
Clearly the Ténéré is not cheap, but it is the most formidable single-cylinder adventure-touring bike on the market.
Does it justify almost double the price of a kitted out KLR650?
Well thanks to a much more powerful engine the Yamaha certainly proves more thrilling and looks quite sensational. Thus for riders that want to ride hard and can truly afford it then yes the price difference is worth it. Those that are happy to plonk along at a more sedate pace in the dirt and enjoy the scenery are probably best off saving the cash for some big trips on the KLR. In fact if you and a partner are planning a trip you can almost buy two KLR 650 machines with kit for the price of a Tenere with all the fruit...
What about BMW’s G 650 GS?
Well the BMW is $2000 cheaper than the Yamaha and while certainly not as strong off the bottom the BMW has enough top end power to compete on equal terms. The German machine also places the rider much closer to terra firma than the Ténéré. Despite proving reasonably capable in the dirt the BMW doesn’t really provide that dirtbike feeling in the bush. Still, the short of leg might be better off with the BMW. But to my mind the 2k extra for the Ténéré would be money well spent. The BMW is perfectly competent but does not offer the same thrills that aggressive riders will enjoy on the Yamaha.
Can the Ténéré compete with an affordable twin-cylinder mount?
Bikes like Suzuki’s hugely successful 650 V-Strom have the huge advantage of another cylinder to power them when running on the tarmac compared to the similarly priced single-cylinder options. The Suzuki doesn’t have the ground clearance or suspension travel of the Ténéré and certainly feels a lot larger in the bush. The V-Strom is a veritable couch on the highway and offers a similar touring range to the Ténéré but the biggest ace up the Suzuki’s sleeve is the meager $10,390 price of admission. If most of your kilometres are on sealed roads and you are happy to take it easy on dirt roads then it is fairly much a no brainer in the Suzuki’s favour. Conversely, if you like to get up on the pegs and serious on challenging dirt and really enjoy that form of riding then the Ténéré is likewise a no brainer in that scenario.
- Download 138Mb high quality onboard video showing a climb up Mt. Terrible -
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