Test: Yamaha Grizzly 700

By: Mark Fouhy


Test: Yamaha Grizzly 700 Test: Yamaha Grizzly 700
Test: Yamaha Grizzly 700 Test: Yamaha Grizzly 700
Test: Yamaha Grizzly 700 Test: Yamaha Grizzly 700
Test: Yamaha Grizzly 700 Test: Yamaha Grizzly 700
Test: Yamaha Grizzly 700 Test: Yamaha Grizzly 700
Test: Yamaha Grizzly 700 Test: Yamaha Grizzly 700
Test: Yamaha Grizzly 700 Test: Yamaha Grizzly 700

Farm Trader reviews the Yamaha Grizzly 700 ATV

In the animal kingdom, the Grizzly bear demands respect. The same applies to the world of ATVs. Yamaha’s Grizzly range offers machines with high levels of comfort as well as the ability to transport rider and cargo across extreme terrain where few other vehicles would dare to go.

The Yamaha Grizzly family boasts models from 350cc up to the big daddy Grizzly 700 we tested this month. In terms of ATVs, there is not much Yamaha hasn’t thought of for this top of the line machine – in standard spec.

With ultramatic auto transmissions, push button 4wd/diff lock engagement and power steering, it is all packaged in a rugged looking, well-constructed machine suitable for everything from daily farm chores to getting away into the back blocks on the weekend.   

Test

The guys from Yamaha NZ arranged for the mean looking camo Grizzly (also available in Yamaha blue) to be delivered to the Matamata farm for a week of testing. This involved daily use, towing trailers, mustering and following stock, as well as taking it into more extreme conditions to check out its capabilities under pressure. To put it simply – I was impressed. Like all ATVs, appropriate clothing (helmet, eye protection, sturdy boots, etc.) should be worn at all times. Yamaha recommend not fitting ROPS structures to their ATVs, encouraging rider training and education for safe operation.They also suggested wearing gloves to ensure the safety of the rider.

Construction

When making purchasing decisions, build and quality are key considerations. Yamaha has done a great job putting the Grizzly 700 together as you would expect from such a reputable brand. Nothing has been overlooked, such as the large, one-piece guards to avoid the need for extensions and fittings (which can come lose).

The lower guards and footwells on each side are one piece, cutting down places for mud to get into. Front and rear cargo racks are finished with durable wrinkle paint, which should handle daily knocks without chipping. The front carrier is rated for 50kg and rear carrier 90kg, remembering to factor in the load you carry with potentially affecting handling of the machine. The towing capability of the machine is 600kgf.

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The three storage compartments are a useful feature, particularly the central one where the fuel tank is often mounted. This is great for little things such as a fence tester, gloves in winter, and drink bottles in summer.

The Grizzly comes with a three-year Yamaha warranty, demonstrating the confidence the brand has in the machine’s ability to get the job done and handle whatever farmers and the great New Zealand outdoors can throw at it.

Ride quality

A strong point of this big Yamaha is the comfortable ride, thanks to a redesigned seat and independent suspension. With loads of travel (193mm on the front and 232mm at the back), the Grizzly eats up the bumps without leaving the rider feeling like they have been severely shaken. I found the ride quality particularly good on the hills where cattle had been after a wet winter.

If you happen to be a bigger person or have the front or rear racks loaded, you can adjust the spring load on each shock to handle the conditions accordingly. Another feature that aids in the ride of the Grizzly 700 is the electronic power steering, now almost standard on bigger ATVs (very sensible as the power they can put to the ground can make them a bit of a handful at times). With 288mm of ground clearance, it is a bit of a step up onto the Grizzly. In saying this, the stability of the machine while operating around hillsides felt fine.

Weight and balance going up and down hills also felt good. I do, however, wonder about how much you can affect the balance of these bigger heavier ATVs in terms of active riding to improve the stability.

Engine

The latest version of the Yamaha Grizzly 700 comes in at 708cc. Usually manufacturers round up (e.g. 685cc = 700 model). With the Yamaha, you get plenty of power from the single cylinder, four-valve, fuel-injected engine.

The Yamaha engineers have made refinements and tweaks to the design adding an extra six percent of peak power, with a torque rise of around 10 percent over the previous model. With all this power on hand, in an attempt to make it work, I headed for my swamp testing ground to see if we could challenge it. I threw it into some pretty demanding situations and it did indeed work and without struggling.

If you get this bike stuck, you really shouldn’t be there. In terms of towing, you barely even notice a calf feeder behind a machine like this.

Transmission

The Ultramatic transmission (Yamaha’s version of a CVT belt-driven system) is a simple and functional system. The Yamaha system keeps the tension on the belts for faster, smoother response to throttle. This also offers the added benefit of engine braking without having to add throttle to keep the belts driving, making them easier and safer to operate in hill country. A five-stage gated transmission with park/reverse/neutral/high/low is simple to operate. Low range is great on the hills, in wet conditions, and towing. High range is great on the flat and for getting from A to B quickly.

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As a safety feature, you need to apply the rear brake to go from reverse to forwards or forwards to reverse, ensuring the bike is stopped to prevent damage to the transmission. If you have turned the bike off in gear, you can still start it by applying the brake. 

I would like the option of a park lock on the rear hand operated brake, partly because it is what I am used to. I understand they probably haven’t done this as a safety feature to prevent the bike being left in the wrong gear when getting off to open a gate, etc.

Instrumentation

A central LCD display clearly displays all of the bikes functions. You do have to scroll through for some of the different functions: clock/hours/distance travelled, etc. But this is easily done and can be set for what you want to see. My personal preference is to show hours, so you know when the next service is due. Should you require them, lights on these new bikes have come a long way from those on the old one.

At the rear, an efficient red LED tail/brake light is built on the back storage compartment. Up front is a large central halogen light (operated only on high beam) and two lower LEDs built into the front guards. The display also shows the four-wheel drive status of the bike, 2wd no display, 4wd and locked when in diff lock.

The four-wheel drive function is controlled from the right handle bar, without needing to take your hand off the controls. All other controls are mounted on the left handle bar – lights, start, stop, and an override function for the transmission when in diff lock or reverse. Although the speedometre is in miles per hour (American-manufactured), it can be changed to kilometres like we use here.

Given the power of the 700 Grizzly, an option to decrease power, such as an eco-mode would be a good option. I know some brands do this with encoded keys and on side by sides with seat belt sensors.    

Servicing

The Yamaha Grizzly features most electrics and the battery is easily accessible under a clip-in plate in front of the handlebars. The seat is clipped in place and so can be easily removed to clean the air filter mounted beneath to clear mud and dust. The oil level can be checked by removing a side panel. The dipstick has reasonable access and hole large enough to top oil up without spilling more than you add.

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Yamaha has opted for a large 18-litre fuel tank mounted underneath the seat, keeping the weight and centre of gravity down to further improve the stability of the big Grizzly. Grease nipples on the double wishbone suspension are also a smart addition to keep wheel bearings greased and push out any foreign material that would otherwise damage bearings.

Verdict

Being a top-of-the-line machine from any brand, expectations are usually a bit higher than average. In this case, the Yamaha 700 Grizzly certainly scores well for the things somebody working the land would require to get the job done. Ease of operation with Ultramatic transmission, efficient four-wheel drive system, great suspension, and ride quality at competitive pricing and a great warranty all rate highly.

Also, If you were into getting off farm trail riding and seeing some different country, the Grizzly would be great for this. And for heading into the back blocks, chasing that ever-elusive wild game, the camo version is the machine for the job.

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