When Yamaha introduced its revamped Grizzly 700 a few years ago, it delivered several upgrades to the nameplate, but also some key innovations--most notably, the industry's first use of electronic power steering. It seems only natural, therefore, that the brand's mid-size model would become the beneficiary of the big Grizzly's enviable hardware.
The Grizzly 550 FI 4x4 platform carries a heavy burden, which is to deliver all the features and benefits sportsman have come to expect from a modern sport-utility 4x4, but at a price and with handling characteristics the majority of general duty ATV buyers demand. From our field testing, it seems that the Grizzly 550 hits the ten-ring on all accounts.
Powering the Grizzly 550 is a single-bore 558cc engine that's based on the Grizzly 700's Raptor-inspired 686cc powerplant. Lightweight and low friction internals were designed to keep down weight while reducing heat and improving durability and energy efficiency. Both engines offer electronic fuel injection for instant, no-hassle starting and computer-controlled air/fuel adjustment for changing climates and altitudes. The significant contrasts between the two engines include displacement and throttlebody size (40mm for the 550 vs. 44mm for the 700). Nevertheless, from a seat-of-the-pants perspective, most folks would not be able to detect the differences between the two. Both offer quick and crisp throttle response, with pleasing low-end torque and high-end power.
As with all of Yamaha's automatic sport-utility ATVs, the Ultramatic continuously variable V-belt transmission channels power from the engine downstream to the wheels. Highlights here include strong all-wheel engine braking for excellent downhill descent control and a revised open-gate shifter that's buttery smooth to operate between the available H, L, N, R and P gears.
The Grizzly 550 makes driveline control easy thanks to Yamaha's exquisite On-Command system. A simple pushbutton module located next to the throttle control provides instant switching between 2WD and 4WD. When the going gets especially difficult and all four wheels are needed to pull in concert, the rider can move a lever on the module and with the push of another button engage four-wheel lock. This locks the front differential so that both front axles distribute torque equally to the front wheels.
One common thread we've always appreciated with Yamaha's utility models is the smooth, yet highly capable, suspension system, and the Grizzly 550 is no different. Each corner is supported by an independent double wishbone system with five-way preload adjustable shocks. This system is never harsh even on the roughest trails, but with 7.1 inches of front and 9.5 inches of rear wheel travel, it handily conquers uneven terrain. The generous 11.8 inches of ground clearance also helps climb the occasional log or rock.
From an ergonomic standpoint, the Grizzly 550 is about as comfortable as a sport-utility ATV can be. The seat is well designed for a full day in the saddle, with handlebar placement and gear shifter reach engineered for a range of riders.
The biggest comfort equation, however, is the electronic power steering offered on the Grizzly 550 EPS model. This clever system is both torque- and speed-sensitive. The more torque the rider applies to steer, the more torque the system applies to help; The higher the vehicle speed, the less torque the system inputs. We've found it to be most beneficial in low-speed technical riding conditions, where muscling over rocks and logs can be difficult. Basically, the system detects steering input torque from the rider and uses its electric motor to assist in the turn. It also works in the opposite direction by minimizing steering kickback, such as occurs when you hit a solid object.
Now here's the kicker: With the exception of the engine, the Grizzly 550 EPS is nearly identical to the brawny Grizzly 700 EPS. The dimensions, the weight (600 lbs. dry), the rack capacities and the 1,212 lb. towing capacities are all the same. Ditto for the transmission, driveline, wheels, tires and so on. What is significantly different is the price. With an MSRP of $7,799, the Grizzly 550 EPS is $800 less than a similarly equipped Grizzly 700 EPS. If you really want to pinch pennies, you can buy a Grizzly 550 non-EPS and save another $700.
In short, Yamaha's Grizzly 550 FI 4x4 EPS lets you put high-content and high-performance in camp without putting out a hit on your bank account.