Once upon a time there were three bears - three ATV bears with power steering, that is. The 700 EPS, the 550 EPS and, then, the 450 Grizzly EPS from Yamaha for 2011. The addition of electrical power steering to the "mid size" ATV market is proof of what we predicted several years ago, "that the public would demand it."
And, after nearly 5 hours on a new 450 EPS slamming around on the most brutal trails I've ridden, I'm convinced this addition to the Grizzly lineup will be a popular one, particularly because you can get a base model for $7,499, and probably drive it for 20 years if you take care of it.
In addition to the new power steering, the 450 EPS also sports a stiffer, lighter frame for the 606-pound machine, and a new rear wet brake that takes cues from the handle bar and a neat little folded foot pedal that stays out of the way until you really need it! Actually with more than 30 miles bouncing around on the roots, ruts and humps of the narrow trails at Washington State's Capitol State Forest off-highway trail system, I realized I needed the super-efficient brakes on the "right sized" Grizzly very little - Yamaha's superior available-all-the-time engine braking system took care of most of my deceleration needs.
The 450 fits around tight switchbacks with ease and the steering assist took care of this 62-year-old quite well even after a full day in a forest so dark the headlights were of use much of the ride!
Never once did I challenge the ability of the 421 cc. SOHC engine, from sea level to nearly 3,000 feet elevation. In fact a steep incline of volley-ball-size boulders on the way to Capitol Peak were done at nearly half throttle in low and 4WD. That's another good feature in the 450 EPS - right hand thumb control of 2WD and 4WD (On-Command). If the terrain gets really bad, flip a guard and punch the 4-wheel differential lock to make sure all four wheels are turning at the same rpm and providing power for any traction available. That's not available on many competing machines that are designed to think for the driver. I like knowing what I ask for will be carried out dutifully, and the 450 Grizzly's traction system does just that.
Other "user" type features the 450 EPS sports are a spin-on, easy-to-reach full-flow oil filter, an easy-to-access foam air cleaner element that can be rinsed and reused almost infinitely. The LED instrument cluster gives you all the info you need at a glance, but Yamaha also added a good old fashion "floating" fuel gage in the 4.0 gallon fuel tank. (Which read only a "quarter down" after flogging around in the forest all day up and down grades!) Also, there's an easy to use CVT transmission housing drain if you ever get above the headlights in mud and water.
A double-wishbone independent front and rear suspension set-up takes advantage of the machine's 11-inch ground clearance, hardly scraping the optional "armor" - full length skid plates - on our mount. I admit I had some dicey moments with deep ruts in the course, but that was me and not the 450! Up or down, the new assisted-steering Grizzly is sure footed as a mule, and wants to run like a quarter horse. While not a racing machine, essentially, this ATV will run as fast as you want to drive it in just about any situation. Power is certainly not a problem.
Four of the unsung heroes on the 450 EPS are the 25-inch Maxis tires! You can't imagine the punishment those skins took up and down Capitol Peak. We did have one tire problem in the group, but that came from a "wrinkled" rim, and not the tire.
Capable of carrying a competition leading amount of weight on the racks, and towing more than 1,300 pounds - with the pin hitch or an optional 2-inch receiver hitch, the 450 EPS will earn its keep around most farm and ranch settings, and you can haul it around in a pickup truck if you so desire.
Yes, I liked the new Grizzly model, but I'd be remiss if I didn't complain a bit about the gear shift lever. The Yamaha Ultramatic transmission has won industry awards for guts, but to someone who doesn't ride every day, the gear selector for Park, Reverse, Neutral, High and Low, is an absolute hassle to use! The larger Grizzly's come with a gated shift pattern - something that's sorely needed on the 450 EPS.
Overall, to paraphrase Goldilocks during her encounter with THAT three bears, "This one is just right!"
The 450 EPS is available in Green, Steel Blue and Camo. They're in your dealer's showroom right now, along with a full complement of accessories from ag equipment to hunting and exploring gear. Also, check Yamaha's new Yamalube products designed specifically for ATVs, motorcycles and marine applications.
For a walk-around of the new 450 EPS, click the YouTube video above for an introduction by Yamaha's 405 EPS Project Design Manager, Travis Hollins.