2014 Yamaha Grizzly 700 FI EPS First Ride 0
Yamaha’s Grizzly 700 FI EPS has been a solid performer in the big bore utility segment despite having one of the smallest displacements in class. What it gives up in cc’s the Grizzly makes up for with excellent handling and a user-friendly design. For 2014 the Tuning Fork company has reworked the Grizzly 700 with a wider track, improved power steering and reworked engine specs. To find out how these changes affected the overall package we joined Yamaha up in the mountains above Southern California for a day of trail riding.
The impetus for the Grizzly’s engine changes stems from new emissions standards that required Yamaha to install an air induction system (AIS) to clean up the exhaust. Knowing that power would be diminished because of the AIS, Yamaha bumped up the power output through a new piston with increased compression, a new cylinder head, changed camshaft timing and a new heat treatment on the connecting rod. All of this brings the power back to the level of the previous model while enhancing the engine response.
Although our testing area was at the 6000-foot level, the power feeling of the Grizzly was still snappy in the mid- and top-end. Right off the bottom the hit was softened by the altitude but came on strong once in the midrange. On the top end, power begins to taper off yet is more than adequate for spirited trail busting. Throughout the test we wished for more low-end pop, but we’d expect all facets of the engine’s performance to wake up significantly at lower elevations.
Power is sent to the drivetrain via Yamaha’s tried-and-true Ultramatic automatic transmission that features a centrifugal clutch that maintains constant belt tension for reduced belt wear. A sprag clutch gives the Grizzly downhill engine braking in four-wheel drive and in reverse.
Rocky trail sections are the ultimate test for auto transmissions, and the Grizzly performed with aplomb. As previously mentioned, the altitude softened the initial hit, but the Ultramatic hooks up and moves the 700 forward without belt burning or squeal. Once on the move, the CVT responds quickly to throttle input. Throw in the easy-to-use 4WD and front differential lock and you’ve got a machine that is capable of going over or around any obstacle.
Yamaha found that the majority of utility ATV buyers actually use the their machines for trail riding and exploring over work or hunting. With that, Team Blue decided to give the Grizzly better handling for trail busting fun. First and foremost, both the front and rear A-arms have been widened 30mm, giving the 700 a 60mm wider track. The front and rear shocks have been lengthened 66.6mm and 38.9mm respectively for more suspension travel. The front strokes though an additional 19.8mm and the rear gets 9.9mm more movement. Damping settings are also reworked to improve comfort while still maintaining excellent handling.
Suspension action feels plush in the bumps and rocks, but firms up nicely when the pace increases. Bouncing through whoops and bumps highlights what I feel is the most impressive handling trait of the Grizzly. Even when the suspension bottoms or is pushed beyond its design, the 700 goes where you want it and is always predictable. Body roll is what you would expect from a utility ATV, requiring some body English to keep the cornering flat. Overall it is a nice mix of trail comfort with sportiness when the mood strikes.
With the longer suspension came new, lighter steering thanks to revised pitman arm geometry and Electronic Power Steering settings. The EPS assist power has been recalibrated for the longer suspension arms using input on vehicle speed, handlebar torque and handlebar speed.
The Cactus Flats riding area presented a plethora of opportunities to test the power steering with its mix of crawling, tight turns and high-speed rocky trails. In every situation the EPS worked as advertised giving a light steering while still offering excellent front-end feel. Bashing through large boulders and roots highlights the need for power steering, allowing the rider to pick and line and stick to it. When the trail opens up and is littered with rocks the Grizzly’s EPS is invaluable, keeping bump steer and handlebar feed back to the bare minimum. More than once (actually often) I hit large embedded rocks expecting a huge kick to the bars but it never came.
Hitting massive rocks at speed not only highlights EPS but the new Maxxis tires developed exclusively for the Grizzly. These tires are darn near bulletproof. More times than I can count I expected a puncture or tear, but the Maxxis tires just took the abuse and asked for more. At the end of the day the Grizzly’s wheels looked much worse for the wear, but not a single flat was encountered.
Although the list of changes is short on the 2014 Yamaha Grizzly 700 FI EPS, it has become an even better ATV. The Grizzly’s fun potential has been maximized with changes to the handling and suspension. The toughness of the new Maxxis tires also increases the smiles, as you won’t be stopping often to fix flats. Yamaha has succeeded in making the Grizzly 700 a better trail machine without losing its tough utility character.