The original EPS ATV remains an industry leader
Introduced back in 2006 (for the 2007 model year), Yamaha’s Grizzly 700 hit the market as the first ATV offering power steering. Since then it has won a ton of big bore shootouts and set the standard for its class in many ways.
Last year we tested the Grizzly 550. We were blown away by what a capable all around machine the 550 was, especially when it came to having fun out on the trail. The Grizzly 550 was based on, and is virtually identical to its slightly older sibling, the Grizzly 700. The only real difference between the two machines is a bit more displacement and power for the 700. We loved the sporty and nimble handing of the 550, and knew that more power would only up the fun factor, so we decided to grab a 2011 Grizzly 700 and revisit what makes this ATV so popular with so many riders.
The Grizzly 700’s engine shares much if its design and technology with Yamaha’s phenomenal Raptor 700 sport ATV. The 700’s engine displaces 686cc, and features a four-valve single overhead cam design, a ceramic lined cylinder, forged piston, and chromoly connecting rod work together to reduce weight and heat while maximizing durability. A Mikuni fuel injection system regulates the air fuel mixture, which is fed to the engine by a 44mm throttle body. Push button electric starting brings the engine to life.
The Grizzly’s fully automatic transmission features both high and low ranges, plus neutral, reverse, and park, selected by compact, gated shifter. The continuously variable transmission features an automatic centrifugal clutch that maintains constant belt tension for reduced belt wear. The drive case is sealed to keep out water and debris.
Yamaha’s electronic servo activated On-Command four-wheel drive system allows you to choose between two wheel drive, four wheel drive, and four wheel drive with front differential lock. The Grizzly features the slickest operating drive selector switch on the market, looking and functioning like something out of a fighter jet.
A tubular steel frame mates up to dual A-arms at both ends. Yamaha’s WideArc front A-arms provide maximum ground clearance over a wider area, with the undercarriage featuring a very healthy 11.8 inches of ground clearance. At 46.5 inches wide, the Grizzly’s width is typical of its class, however its wheelbase is one to two inches shorter then most at 49.2 inches.
Five-way preload adjustable shocks at all four corners provide some tunability. Suspension travel numbers are very respectable – 7.1 inches up front and a lengthy 9.5 inches out back.
Yamaha was the first ATV manufacturer to bless enthusiasts with easy steering with reduced feedback thanks to electronic power steering. Yamaha’s system measures speed and torque applied to the steering through the handlebars and impacts with the front wheels, helping optimize the EPS’ effectiveness. As speeds increase, the power steering’s assistance decreases, preventing the twitchy feeling found with some systems.
To minimize the Grizzly’s already light weight, Yamaha paid a lot of attention to mass centralization, moving as much weight as possible to the center of the machine. The cylinder was tilted forward 35-degrees, allowing for higher ground clearance and a low seat height of 35.6 inches. To further help lower the center of gravity, the 5.3 gallon fuel tank was located under the seat, although filling takes place under a flip up panel in front of the seat where you would expect the fuel tank to be.
Independently operated hydraulic disc brakes slow the 700 and are operated by the handlebar-mounted levers, and the right side mounted foot pedal. Assisting the brakes is an engine braking system, providing four-wheel braking when four-wheel drive is engaged.
Wrinkle paint coated steel racks feature 99 pounds of capacity up front and 187 pounds in the rear. The Grizzly can tow an additional 1300 pounds with its canter mounted trailer hitch. Enough dry storage for a few pairs of gloves, goggles or a rain jacket is available in the right front fender’s storage compartment.
Front 25×8-12 and rear 25×10-12 Dunlop tires are mounted on basic lightweight aluminum wheels, which are dressed up by Yamaha emblem center caps. The Grizzly’s digital instrument display is one of our favorites. It’s easy to read and Yamaha was smart enough to mount it in the front bodywork, not on the handlebars like so many others. This allows you to select an aftermarket handlebar without fear of having to relocate or remove your instruments.
We have spent the last few months putting several hundred miles on our Grizzly. Its been ridden at Wilderness Trail Off-Road Park in southeast Kentucky, we’ve taken it on several one-day rides and used it as a camera mule while testing other models.
The Grizzly starts reliably regardless of temperature, thanks to its fuel injection and electric starting. The engine warms up quickly and is ready to go, even in freezing temperatures.
Power output alone doesn’t define this ATV, though it does deliver adequate power for work applications or fast trail rides. It feels a lot like the Grizzly 550, producing smooth power throughout the RPM range; the only difference being that the 700 produces a bit more torque, most notably in the bottom end and lower midrange part of the RPMs. There was plenty of power for steep climbs, and to spin the stock tires in deep mud or out of corners, but it lacks the arm stretching pull and excessive power of the big bore twin cylinders.
CVT engagement was smooth with little lag. High range was ideal for all but the slowest of situations, and low range makes the Grizzly feel unstoppable while working, or negotiating a tough rocky section. The Grizzly’s drive system is near perfection. Two-wheel drive allows you to cruise along, braking the rear wheels loose for slides with ease. Cruising slippery, unpredictable trails in four-wheel drive provides the security of additional traction while having virtually no effect on steering effort. Of course, differential lock is available for the most demanding of situations. Obtaining full power with the differential lock engaged requires you to push an override button on the left handlebar. We say ditch the rev limiter and override button altogether.
Combine the Grizzly’s engine and transmission, with its light and nimble chassis, and you have one of the most fun-to-ride big bore 4x4s on the market. Yamaha’s extensive mass centralization really translates into a light and nimble feeling machine, on the ground and even in the air! We have ridden some compact, small bore 4x4s that feel significantly heavier then the 700. With good technique, or a small bump in the trail, you can easily wheelie the Grizzly out of corners or over small logs. On climbs the front end feels predictably planted, unless you find a sapling you’d rather leap over.
The Grizzly’s nimble feeling carries into corners, steering quick and precise, pushing a tiny amount when ridden hard. It exhibits some front-end body roll if you drive too hard through turns; sliding your rear end over and cracking the throttle easily overcome this though. In spite of its high ground clearance and long travel IRS, the Grizzly is an easy and predictable power slider. If you are waiting for Yamaha to release a big bore sport 4×4, there’s no need. If they did released one, here’s betting it would handle a lot like the Grizzly 700.
For trail riding, Yamaha has in our opinion the best power steering unit on the market. It’s so good, because you never realize it is there. Steering effort is light, but never too light. The EPS reduces its effort at higher speeds, preventing it from feeling twitchy at speed. It’s amazing how it shelters you from impacts with trail obstacles, while allowing just enough feedback to keep you feeling connected to the trail. Power steering also reduces the machine’s tendency to follow tire or water ruts, allowing you to more easily maintain line selection. If we could ask for more from Yamaha’s EPS it would be for it to offer assistance while sitting still or moving at a snails pace, for specific work applications or extra help when you’re hung up on a huge log.
The suspension action lends itself to the Grizzly’s nimble sporty handling. The shocks provide a firm yet never jarring ride over protruding rocks and roots. Square edge hits from ruts and saplings are eaten up, and well-landed leaps are easily absorbed. Whoops can get a bit bouncy, but the lightness of the machine lets you deal with it to a degree.
We don’t need a shootout to tell you who has the best brakes in the big bore class. The Grizzly’s offer power and feel on par with sport quad brakes. They are strong and silent in both wet and dry conditions. While the rear brakes may need maintenance more often than the sealed rear disc brakes some other manufacturers use, their light engagement and superior feel more then make up for having to occasionally replace brake pads. Being able to operate the brakes independently enhances control, becoming more of a benefit the more technical the trail becomes.
Yamaha’s engine braking system is extremely effective on downhills, allowing you to crawl down in low range. Four-wheel braking is a benefit on moderately steep and slippery descents, but we would recommend disengaging four wheel drive for the very steepest descents where you might not want engine braking to the front wheels. Chopping the throttle at speed, the engine brake feels very similar to letting off the gas on a manual shift machine, with smooth and predictable deceleration.
While its hard to get excited about the Grizzly’s wheel and tire package, its hard to fault them. The Dunlops seemed to work well in every situation and we felt that they were in part responsible for the machine’s good sliding characteristics. They could perhaps be partly to blame though for some of the front-end body roll. The wheels are kind of plain, but they are light, helping performance.
The Grizzly’s ergonomics are quite good. The relationship between the bars, seat, and floorboards with raised steel footpegs is comfortable for casual or aggressive riding. The machine feels reasonably narrow between your legs and its side panels provide a smooth contoured surface you can grip with you knees. The controls, levers, and grips are flawless and swapping handlebars for your favorite bend and sweep is drama free. While the seat is plush, the transition between it and the bodywork in front of it is a bit abrupt, but never left us talking an octave higher.
For utility purposes, tubular steel racks are the way to go. The Yamaha’s were easy to attach items to regardless of size or shape. The front is winch-mount equipped and this chassis does a good job holding up the weight of a plow, thanks to its adjustable front shocks.
The Bottom Line
The Yamaha Grizzly 700 is a great machine for many riders. There are machines that do certain things better, but the Grizzly’s overall package is tough to beat. That’s the main reason it has won so many shootouts through the years.
Adequate engine and super nimble handling blend together making the Grizzly 700 one of the most fun 4×4 ATVs on the market to take out on the trail, especially if there are a few tight, twisty or technical sections thrown in. Sport 4×4 guys looking to modify the Grizzly will be pleased with the number of performance parts available from the aftermarket. If there is work to be done, the Grizzly is a hard worker that won’t wear you out.
There are other good big-bore 4x4s on the market that won’t go down as one of the greatest ATVs of all time. The Grizzly 700 is a great one that will.