23 November 2001

Muscular Grizzly can easily bridge your energy gap

Is your ATV short of muscle?

Yamahas latest offering

should sort out a power crisis,

as Andrew Pearce discovers

ATVS keep on getting bigger. New king of the hill on engine size and power is Yamahas Grizzly, reworked and quietly launched in September with plenty changed.

Headline news is a 660cc four-valve motor, watercooled for the first time and bustin with 42hp. Backing it is fresh rear suspension (now independent, with a unique-to-Yamaha anti-roll bar) and lower speed engagement for the long-serving auto transmission.

Price has popped up to £5945, positioning the 660 below Hondas new auto (£6229) but above similar offerings from Polaris (£5495) and Kawasaki (£5850).

On our week-long test of the Grizzly on a mixed farm, it was soon that the new engine is a belter – docile in normal running, but able to deliver a real hang-on-to-your-hat punch when let loose.

The energy waiting beyond half throttle could be more hindrance than help if the driveline couldnt tame it, but unless you are silly with the power it is totally controllable.

Selectable 4WD is not unique by any means, but it does let you tootle about on light duties in 2WD (gaining easier steering, tighter lock and less tyre wear), then click to 4WD as the terrain or work changes.

For back-up there is a 100% front diff lock, which when engaged makes for interesting steering and generates maximum traction. We pulled a very lumpy irrigation pump though sticky gateways, explored boggy hollows solo and negotiated wet clay banks without needing either tranquillisers or the front diff lock.

The Grizzly is stable and predictable on uneven steep climbs and runs true at speed over grassland. The riding position is good – you are not perched on top of it – and there is plenty of room to shift your bodyweight about without tangling with the bars.

Steering is light in 2WD, tighter, but still manageable, in 4WD, while ride quality is generally comfortable, though the back end harshens on knobbly going.

Brakes are now all-disc with a third rotor on the back driveshaft. Stopping power is a match for the engines urge. Even without muscles like Popeye, it is possible to lock all the wheels on dry tarmac and lever feel is OK.

Independent front and rear systems give the rider a choice of how to spread braking effort in 2WD.

Belt-based automatic transmission carries over unchanged from the last Grizzly. High/low ranges, reverse and park are on a single stick alongside the tank, up in easy reach.

The basics are fine – average-to-good engine braking in low range, a clutch that takes up drive quickly (very comforting on tricky hills) and the ability to start the motor in gear.

Shifting can be a fight and would be simpler if the lever moved only in a straight line. As it is, you have negotiate a wide gate to find reverse and park, then a narrower one to get into the forward ranges.

Take your time, think whats what and the set-up works well, but its unnecessarily complicated. Lamps in the dash panel are the only sure way to check where in the gearbox you are, but short operators cant easily see all of them.

The 660s motor feels particularly busy when running light, which cant help fuel consumption. Peak torque is high up the scale at 5500rpm, so unless you are towing something very heavy or in a hurry the motors ability wont often be exploited.

But its sheer size means there is plenty of torque at lower revs and this, plus the transmissions relative insensitivity to load change, promises well for fieldwork.

Racks have high rated carrying capacity and a 12v outlet is standard, so mounting a pelleter or other stuff looks straightforward.

Sitting on the bike all day should not be too much of a trial because, from the riders perspective, the engine and driveline noise are quiet.

Not so the exhaust, which puts out enough chug-chug to agitate neighbours when getting cows in early. And there is something else that Yamaha should sort out.

The Grizzly boiled up one morning after the radiator fan packed up. No disgrace in that – stuff happens – but it is just plain daft to fit a fancy, non-resettable circuit breaker (available only from a dealer) to such a vital supply, where a user-friendly fuse would do.

So whats the bottom line? Seven short days with Yamahas newcomer show there is little to moan about. For many farms, 660cc and 42hp is clear overkill, but if you really need that sort of power, this Grizzly is a friendly way to get it. &#42