Top 10 Best Yamaha Ténéré models

Yamaha has made a huge variety of different Ténérés over the years, so we’ve tried to make sense of them all

2019 Yamaha Tenere 700

With Yamaha’s announcement of yet another new Ténéré model for 2024 – the Ténéré 700 Extreme, a more off-road version of the firm’s popular twin-cylinder adventure bike – it got us wondering: just how many Ténérés have there now been, and what were they exactly?

So, we decided to find out, and the short answers are: ‘Over 10’ and ‘everything from air-cooled 600cc singles to liquid-cooled, 1200cc twins – and much more besides’.

To simplify things, we’ve condensed it down here to the 10 key models, listed in chronological order. As for which is the best, we’ll leave that to you!

1983 Yamaha XT600Z Ténéré (internal designation 34L)

Yamaha won the very first Paris-Dakar Rally motorcycle category in 1979 with a modified XT500 ridden by French ex-motocrosser Cyril Neveu, who repeated with a more ‘factory’ entry in 1980. Yamaha then decided to produce a limited edition, commemorative ‘replica’ which was basically a bigger-bore, 43bhp version of the then XT550 with a rally-style 30litre tank, longer-travel suspension, front disc brake and race colours. 

It was unveiled at the Paris Show in October 1982, with a name that came from the Ténéré desert (which, incidentally, was organizer Thierry Sabine’s inspiration for the whole event after he got lost there in a different event in 1977) and it was an immediate hit, particularly in France.

1986 Yamaha XT600Z Ténéré (1VJ)

The first major revision was unveiled at the Paris Show in October 1985 and was intended to make the Ténéré even closer to rally bikes with power up to 46bhp thanks to bigger valves, modified carbs and a new airbox (under the tank, which also reduced fuel capacity to 23 litres). It also received an electric starter for the first time.

1988 Yamaha XT600Z Ténéré (3AJ)

The third generation Ténéré saw the biggest changes so far, the most conspicuous being a new frame-mounted fairing incorporating twin headlights and new instruments. The engine was also reworked with a modified cylinder head and longer cooling fins, the lubrication system was updated, there was a new ‘low’ front mudguard, and a disc replaced the drum rear brake.

1989 Yamaha XTZ750 Super Ténéré

An all-new, monster, 749cc, 70bhp, parallel twin built to rival Honda’s initially 650cc, V-twin Africa Twin. Along with the new liquid-cooled, five-valve engine, chassis and bodywork, it had twin front discs and a massive 26-litre tank. The race version, first as a 750, then an 850, went on to win the Dakar a total of seven times, six by rally legend Stephane Peterhansel who later won eight more in the car category.

1991 Yamaha XTZ660 Ténéré

Fourth generation Ténéré single got an all-new, liquid-cooled, 660cc five-valve engine in a larger but slimmer, more road-orientated chassis including a smaller, 20-litre fuel tank, larger fairing with a single rectangular headlight and shorter stroke suspension.

1994 Yamaha XTZ660 Ténéré

Essentially a facelifted version of the 660 with more streamlined bodywork and a new dual beam headlamp ‘face’ inspired by that of the Super Ténéré. This model was dropped in 1998.

2006 Yamaha XT660Z Ténéré

After eight years away, the Ténéré name returned on an all-new, single-cylinder machine based on the 659cc, four-valve XT660R trail bike (and its sister supermoto, the XT660X) which had been introduced in 2004. The core mechanicals were unchanged but there was the traditional big tank (22 litres), touring screen, longer travel suspension and race-inspired colours.

2010 Yamaha XT1200Z Super Ténéré

The Super Ténéré name returns on an all-new, 1199cc liquid-cooled, fuel-injected parallel twin with shaft drive. There’s 110bhp, two riding modes, traction control and more but although a great all-rounder it fails to stand out in a class now dominated by BMW, Ducati and KTM. This model was deleted in 2021.

2019 Yamaha Ténéré 700

The Ténéré name is kept alive by an all-new, ‘middleweight’ adventure bike derived from the 72bhp MT-07 roadster twin. It’s an immediate hit, partly due to its sub-£10K launch price and spawns a series of spin-offs including the accessorized 2020 Rally Edition and 2022 World Raid with a bigger tank and improved suspension.

2024 Yamaha Ténéré 700 Extreme

The latest version of the Ténéré 700 is intended as a more serious off-roader so gets the longer travel, fully adjustable KYB forks from the World Raid (but not its bigger tank), a more off-road, one-piece seat and an off-road style, two-piece, raised front mudguard.