Ranchers, hunters and those who actually need an ATV to get work done in the great outdoors have long favored Yamaha's Grizzly product line. In fact, the Grizzly 450 is the best-selling model in the utility ATV class today. Popularity aside, the previous-generation Grizzly 450 left engineers ample room for improvement, or so it seems based on the plethora of upgrades found on the new 2011 model.
We jumped at the opportunity to evaluate Yamaha's handiwork during a recent trip to Capitol State Forest in Washington. The region is known for its expansive pine forests laced with some of the nation's best ATV riding trails. The trails consist of narrow tree-lined pathways that wind all over the Black Hills mountain range-the perfect setting for testing a nimble utilitarian quad.
The first thing we noticed about the new model was the lack of effort required to steer the machine. It is hard to believe that some manufacturers don't offer electronically assisted power steering (EPS) on utility models. It absolutely changes the way a rider interfaces with the trail. After five hours of virtually nonstop ride time, Yamaha's EPS had us begging for more, as our upper body didn't feel nearly as fatigued as it once did with non-EPS quads we've tested. The system employs a microprocessor that works in conjunction with potentiometers and a DC motor coupled to the steering shaft to minimize the effort required to steer the vehicle. Yamaha's EPS reacts so quickly to driver inputs, we could not even tell it was on-until we turned off the ignition switch and attempted to steer without it. This surprised us because most other power steering arrangements have a slight but noticeable lag time that occurs during abrupt driver inputs. The Grizzly's system was so responsive, it made the machine feel very nimble and predictable at speed or while negotiating tight technical sections of trail.
The other major improvement we realized right away on the new Grizzly 450 was its braking system. Unlike all other ATVs in its segment, the Grizzly 450 utilizes a combination of exposed discs up front with a robust wet brake housed inside the rear differential housing. This enables the rear portion of the braking system to work free of the grit and grime that affect all other traditional disc-brake configurations. The result is stopping power that simply cannot fade despite environmental conditions or even abuse. The system is effective because the friction materials never get hot. Even when we attempted to overheat the unit by dragging the rear brake lever for well over two miles, the brakes easily overcame the vehicle's momentum and stopped it with ease.
Also new to the 450 platform, Yamaha's engineers developed an all-new tubular steel chassis with fewer intersections and bends, netting an additional strength improvement while reducing overall vehicle weight by 10 pounds-even with the additional ESP componentry.
The 421cc liquid-cooled single overhead cam engine did an adequate job, thanks to the machine's nimble proportions, though we suspect the mill might be challenged by Yamaha's claimed 1,322-pound towing capacity. However, given the fact that unloaded acceleration happens quickly, with no lag time to speak of, we didn't take notice of the lack of displacement. This can be attributed to the instantaneous engagement of the Ultramatic CVT transmission-another exclusive feature you won't find elsewhere. The machine simply snaps into action whenever called upon. We found the end of the very linear powerband on some of the longer uphill jaunts, but surprisingly, these were rare. All in all, the Grizzly 450 is a great entry-level utility quad with tons of added value to offer consumers.
Vehicle model: 2011 Yamaha Grizzly 450 EPS
Price as tested: $7,849
Color: Real Tree camoufage
Type: 4-stroke liquid-cooled SOHC
Displacement (cc): 421
Aspiration: Mikuni 33mm carburetor
Transmission: Yamaha Ultramatic V-belt w/all-wheel engine braking
Final drive: Shaft
Front: Independent double wishbone; 6.3-in travel
Rear: Independent double wishbone; 7.1-in travel
Front: Dual hydraulic discs
Rear: Sealed oil bathed, multi disc
Front: 25x8-12 AT
Rear: 25x10-12 AT
Weight (lb): 1,199
Length (in): 78.5
Width (in): 43
Height (in): 44.1
Ground clearance (in): 10.8
Fuel capacity (gal): 4
Wheelbase (in): 48.5
Towing capacity (lb): 1,322
Cargo rack capacity (lb): 88 front/176 rear