Mid-size utility ATVs are the heart and soul of the off-road industry. As Americans, we’re programmed by the media (I’m guilty as charged) to believe bigger is often better. I’d personally rather drive a $60,000 Chevy Duramax Diesel Crew than the Toyota Tacoma I own. But, at the end of the day, a Tacoma can do for me nearly everything the big diesel can do — at half the price. When you look at the data, a Grizzly 550 has all the towing and hauling capacities as the bigger Grizzly 700, and weighs the same; all while costing $800 less.
The 2014 Grizzly 550 FI Auto 4×4 EPS is built on the same chassis and is nearly identical in every way to the Grizzly 700 that Yamaha has produced since 2007. The only real difference are some minor engine changes in the top end that generate a smaller displacement of 558cc compared to the Grizzly 700’s 668cc. Power output from the engine is impressive, especially as RPMs increase in the mid-range and top end. The bottom end, off-the-line performance doesn’t have quite as much punch as the 700 Grizzly, but for outdoorsmen using it to hunt, fish, or do household chores like plowing snow, I don’t think they will miss it as much as the $800 premium the Grizzly 700 demands.
Yamaha’s Ultramatic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) is likely the best belt driven transmission in the industry. It’s smooth, quiet, reliable, and nearly indestructible. The transmission incorporates an effective and natural feeling engine brake that utilizes the engine’s natural compression to help slow the machine down, especially when negotiating downhill descents. Yamaha also employed a unique 4×4 switch that make the On-Command four wheel drive and differential lock actuation easy to engage and disengage, even with heavy work gloves or in muddy conditions.
Yamaha introduced the ATV industry to Electric Power Steering (EPS) in 2007, and the 2014 Grizzly 550 uses essentially the same system. Possibly the greatest safety enhancement ever injected into the off-road industry, EPS makes encounters with rocks, ruts, roots, and other hidden trail obstacles easier to negotiate by preventing the handlebars from being ripped out of the rider’s hands. Four wheel drive typically requires more steering effort from the driver, but EPS helps offset the energy required from the rider and thus, helps prevent premature rider fatigue. The Grizzly has a narrow body and a tall 10.8 inches of ground clearance, which allows the Grizzly to negotiate even the tightest, gnarliest trails with ease. The four wheel hydraulic disc brakes worked exceptionally well, and a parking gear eliminates the need for an emergency brake.
I’ve always felt that the Grizzly line has one of the softest and most comfortable seats in the industry, and the Grizzly 550 is no different. The handlebar bend looks a bit strange, but the “ape-hanger” design permits the rider to have an uninhibited view through the bars and out onto the trail, as well as a clear view of the gauge pod. The steel racks on the Grizzly provided an impressive carrying capacity; the round bar made it easy to attach ratchet straps and crank down gear of all shapes and sizes.
The battery and subsequent electronics are located under the plastic cowl on the front of the machine. For owners looking to add a winch or other electrical accessories, having all the electronic goodies up front and easily accessible is a godsend.
Mid-sized ATVs like the Yamaha Grizzly 550 may not possess all the machismo of their higher profile big-bore brothers, but the reality is they can accomplish any job those other machines can do just as effectively. In a society that preaches excess, where bigger, faster, and stronger always equate to better, the Yamaha Grizzly 550 breaks that stereotype. With a compact chassis, industry-leading transmission, available EPS, and big bore capability delivered at a mid-size price point, the Yamaha Grizzly 550 is an excellent ATV for buyers looking to stay within a reasonable budget.
- Engine is smooth, powerful, and incredibly reliable
- Ultramatic Transmission is smooth and operates very quietly
- EPS provides an added level of safety
- Real Tree HD Camouflage pattern looks great and resists scratches
- Body panels fit perfectly and have no sharp edges to snag clothing
- Winch hookup is simplified because the battery and all the electronics are mounted under the front hood
- Steel racks make securing all types of cargo simple
- Very comfortable seat
- The gear selector is notchy and requires the rear brake to be engaged before shifting
- EPS only functions when the ATV is in motion
- A hitch ball can be mounted, but the Grizzly doesn’t accept a 2″ receiver
- Additional storage space would be a welcome addition