The Yamaha Grizzly 700 has proven itself as one of the top 4X4 quads of all time. Year after year, shootout after shootout, the Grizzly has been right at, or near the top of every magazine’s 4X4 shootout. While Yamaha has refused to deliver us a monster bore Grizzly to compete with the Can-Am Outlander and Arctic Cat 1000cc machines, they have instead refined and improved upon already great, mid bore packages in the Grizzly 550 and 700.

What is it, you ask? What keeps the Grizzly up on a pedestal with so many loyal enthusiasts? The 2007Grizzly 700 was the first utility 4X4 quad to feature electronic power steering. The groundbreaking 07 Grizzly 700 was updated to a newer, fuel injected 686cc power plant, derived from the potent Raptor 700. The new Grizz also received a 4 wheel disc brake upgrade from the previous 3 disc system. At the time, that would have seemed like huge news, but what really shocked the ATV industry was the optional Yamaha EPS. In 07 Yamaha was the first to offer Power Steering on its flagship 4X4, the Grizzly 700 FI EPS. Even as the first OEM to offer power steering, the Yamaha EPS was a well thought out, reliable and functional system.

The Yamaha EPS system monitors wheel speed, rpm, and rider input to calculate the optimum amount of steering assist needed, providing more assistance at low speeds and less assistance at higher speeds, through a lightweight, electric motor. The Grizzlies EPS system quickly set the standard, and all the other manufacturers were scrambling to develop and release their own power steering systems. At the time of its release, the Yamaha EPS was groundbreaking and its benefits were incredible. The EPS system not only lightened the steering effort drastically, it also acted as a high tech steering stabilizer that demolished negative bar feedback, yet assisted steering instead of adding resistance.

Yamaha EPS allowed the Grizzly rider to ride longer, with increased comfort and safety. As the next few model years unfolded, other manufacturers released their versions of EPS, using Yamaha EPS as a model/template and trying to improve upon it. It was only as EPS became commonplace in the 4×4 market, that anyone even thought about the Yamaha system needing any improvements. If there was ever a complaint about the Yamaha EPS, it would be that it provided slightly too much assistance in some cases, taking away the connected feeling with the ground. While this was a minor complaint in comparison to how great system was, Yamaha engineers calibrated it to perfection for 2012.

The overall feel is another thing that keeps people buying Yamaha Grizzlies. The 550 and 700 models share basically everything, except Bore/Stroke and a price tag. The Grizzly is not quite as big as some of the other big flagship Utility ATVs. The slightly more compact Grizzly is not as intimidating to smaller riders or women, yet well placed controls and ergonomics could keep a 6’4″ test rider happy all weekend. The handlebars keep you slightly to the front of the very comfortable seat, ready to attack any obstacles the trail may throw your way.

Yamaha’s Ultramatic CVT type transmission is another, well thought out Grizzly feature. The Ultramatic tranny features High, Low, Neutral, and Reverse like its competitors, but it is also very different. The other CVT clutches on the market leave the belt spinning or slipping on the clutch sheaves when you’re at idle, while the Yamaha Ultramatic has a one-way sprag clutch that completely disengages from the belt. This leads to less heat and drastically longer belt life – more time riding, less time changing clutch belts.
Another notable feature unique to the Grizzly is the WideArc suspension. Yamaha uses their “WideArc” front suspension to combine maximum ground clearance and useable wheel travel. The front A arms use a reverse gull wing design, similar to many long travel A arms found on a race built, sport quads. The lower arm arcs down at the end, allowing for a longer shock and opening up ground clearance considerably. The resulting 11.8 inches of ground clearance is industry leading for a machine that still wears 25 inch tires.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO RIDE?

The 2012 Grizzly is, in my opinion, one of the most comfortable, versatile Utility machines on the market. The fuel injection/jetting always seems to be spot on, whether you’re riding the desert floor or the top of a mountain peak. Easy starts and crisp throttle delivery can be expected, regardless of your location. The 700 and 550 versions both have plenty of midrange and top speed, with the 550’s only downfall being slightly less punch off the bottom. The rider can easily lift the 700 front end at will, while it requires some effort, skill and timing to do it on a 550.

At 6 foot the Grizzly fits my frame perfectly, but it is also fits my buddy, Crazy Al – the 6-4 mini giant, and my 5-4 Wife just the same. The Grizzly really shines in rocky terrain. It clears over many rocks that you think are going to crush it, and the tough poly skid plates help it to glide over those that it doesn’t quite clear. The EPS does an amazing job of keeping the bars in your hands when you accidentally happen to tag a rock. The EPS also really lightens the load on your arms when trying to navigate around, and over the rough, rocky stuff as well.

The biggest testament to the Yamaha EPS is riding the machine in Diff Lock. Diff Lock gives true, equal drive to all four tires at the same time. This is a feature left off many Utility 4x4s, but it should be included on them all. In deep mud or extreme conditions, where traction is at a minimum, diff lock can be your last hope. Typically, while in diff lock, the machine is difficult to steer and handling is thrown out the window for an opportunity to not be stuck. On the EPS equipped Grizzly, you can actually put the machine in diff lock and maneuver it quite freely. The EPS works that well, and if you try to ride in diff lock without it, you will quickly understand.

One slight downfall of the Grizzly platform has always been high speed, aggressive cornering. By design, the longer travel, smoother riding, independent suspension of the Grizzly has always been a little divey in the corners. A sway bar in the back has kept it manageable, but for 2012, Yamaha gave the Grizzly both gas charged rear shocks, and new Maxxis Tires to further improve its cornering ability.  The new shocks are valved for less roll, and will provide better performance for a longer period of time without fade. The stiffer sidewall on the new Maxxis tires helps eliminate the roll feel as well as providing better forward traction. While you still can’t throw the Grizzly into a corner like a straight axle machine, the new mods were definitely an improvement.

Both the 700 and 550 Grizzlies can be ridden comfortably all day long. This is especially true with the EPS feature. Noticing that the 550 version with EPS is priced very close to the non-EPS 700, even being the HP junky that I am, I would pick the 550 with EPS if my budget was limiting me to that choice. It does everything that the 700 does, and it does it cheaper.

SPECIFICATIONS
2012 Yamaha Grizzly 700 FI Auto 4X4 EPS
Engine: 686cc, 4-stroke, single, liquid-cooled, SOHC, 4 valves
Bore x Stroke: 102mm x 84mm
Compression Ratio: 9.2:1
Fuel System: YFI Yamaha Fuel Injection; 44mm
Ignition: 32-bit ECU
Starting System:Electric
Transmission: Yamaha Ultramatic V-Belt w/ all wheel drive engine Braking; H,L,N,R,P
Final Drive: Shaft Drive
L x W x H: 81.3 x 46.5 x 48.8 in
Wheel Base: 49.2 in
Seat Height: 35.6 in
Front Suspension: Independent double wishbone; 5-way preload adjustable, 7.1 in travel
Rear Suspension: Independent double wishbone with five way adjustable gas charged reservoir shocks; 9.5-in travel
Front Brakes: Dual hydraulic disc
Rear Brakes: Dual hydraulic disc
Front Tires: Maxxis 25 x 8-12
Rear Tires: Maxxis 25 x 10-12
Fuel Capacity: 5.3 gal
Dimensions Length/Width/height: 125.2 x 62 x 77.3
Ground Clearance: 11.8 in
Curb Weight: 648 lbs.
Rack Capacity: 99 lbs. front; 187 lbs. rear
Towing Capacity: 1322 lbs.
Other Instrumentation: Digital LCD multifunction display: speedometer, odometer, dual tripmeter, clock, hour meter, dual trip meter, fuel gauge, gear position, EPS and EFI function
Lighting: Dual 35W halogen multi-reflector headlights & 21W/5W brake light
Colors: Hunter Green, Steel Blue, Real Tree HD Camo
MSRP: $10,999.00 CAN

 

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