2019 Yamaha Grizzly SE Review- The Big Bore ATV Stalwart
2019 Yamaha Grizzly SE Review- The Big Bore ATV Stalwart
Throughout history there are legends that we know by name. Albert Einstein, Picasso, and John Wayne come to mind just to name a few. In the ATV world there is one name that comes to mind immediately, and that is the Yamaha Grizzly. The Grizzly has made a name for itself for many reasons, and it seems to embody what an ATV should be. The Grizzly is a measuring stick, a standard, by which others are judged. Even if you have never owned a Grizzly, or ridden one, if you are an ATV rider, you know the name. So how does the latest version of the Grizzly stack up? That is what I wanted to find out when a spanking new Grizzly showed up for my riding exploration.
At A Glance
At first glance the Yamaha Grizzly makes an impression. It has an aggressive stance with the looks to match like the way a bull looks at you when it is a little angry. The Grizzly seems to say “Bring It On” from the top of its handlebars to the tread of its tires. The front-end alone, with the grill, headlights, scoop, and integrated big grill guard, just looks mean. Taking that a step further are the SE features including the matte Backcountry Blue color with 27-inch Maxxis Zilla tires on 14-inch black aluminum wheels, all of which give the Grizzly SE an aftermarket look. I think the Backcountry blue is the best looking Grizzly EVER, and the best looking ATV color I have ever laid eyes on. Yes, I just drew that line in the sand, and will stand by it!
The Backcountry Blue is the best ATV color I have ever seen! It is even better in person.
The front end really does look the part of a tough ATV. I appreciate the heavy-duty metal grille guard.
For The Rider
The Yamaha Grizzly is setup for rider comfort, offering a comfortable and confident riding experience. Swinging a leg over the Grizzly shows all the rider-centric design features one could want, proving to be a little like going to the candy store and being able to taste a bit of everything without any negative consequences. Start with the riding position itself. Whether you like riding sitting down or standing up, the Grizzly centers the rider on the ATV in a way that not only offers a comfortable riding position but also a feeling of control, giving you confidence. The large body panels offer both excellent splash protection and rider protection in general. The seat is very comfortable even after an all day ride. I am a big fan of the large footwells which offer plenty of space to move your feet around to find the perfect riding position. I find the width of the hump in front to be about right. The hump keeps you from being thrown forward but the width still offers a feeling of space between your legs. No matter what your riding style or size, you will find a good riding position on the Grizzly.
The insurgent cluster is informative, easy to read in sunlight, and rocks a sporty design.
Now other rider features add to the overall positive riding experience. The instrument cluster comes to mind right away. It is very bright, has different colors, is easy to read, and tells you everything that is going on with the ATV, including what drive mode the ATV is selected. The front LED headlights put out great light to make sure you see the trail in front of you. The centered mounted light is a feature anyone can appreciate. Then there is the storage. There is front fender storage, storage in front of the rider on the hump, and rear storage under the taillight. It is feasible to carry quite a bit of stuff for a full-day’s ride without needing to add rack storage. On the longer trail rides, I discovered an appreciation for all the onboard storage.
There is a lot of onboard storage that will hold a significant amount of gear without using the racks.
I spent many miles riding the Grizzly in all different terrains and for different lengths of time. I found the Grizzly to be comfortable in all of these situations. I also found the riding position to be spot-on. Whether I was going up and down hills, screaming down straights, tackling rocks, sliding corners, or just leisurely riding, I found myself having a confident, controlled feeling.
For The Ride
The Yamaha Grizzly has a trifecta of features for a great riding experience. This includes a predicable suspension, powerful engine, and durable transmission. The ride itself is what I want in an ATV. The suspension has dual a-arms in the front and rear with 7.6 inches and 9.1 inches of travel respectively. The shocks are adjustable with 5 levels of preload, which gives some level of customization to the ride. While the travel numbers are not quite as large as some competitors, the ride translates into a controlled and comfortable one. I like how quickly one can learn how the Grizzly is going to handle when being pushed some. The ride is predictable for those who are more aggressive riders. This means confidence, and that is important for aggressive riding. The suspension soaks up bumps very well both a slower and higher speeds, which I find a little astounding that the Grizzly is good at both. I also appreciate the front a-arms having an arch in them, making the maximum ground clearance span more of the width of the ATV. The Grizzly is a utility ATV, but if you want to push it around, it is happy to oblige. When you hang the rear-end out in a corner, you are going to get body roll, but I found that to be easily learned and anticipated. The Grizzly suspension is set up well, and offers a great ride.
Though not the power level seen in the 800cc+ ATVs, the Grizzly has plenty of power to have a lot of fun while riding!
Next would be the engine, which has been rebuilt for 2019 with a 686cc displacement returned to the Grizzly. To say this engine is the flagship of the fleet would be an understatement. This is a torquey single-cylinder big-bore engine. This year’s improvements focused on midrange power and engine smoothness. Steps were taken to decrease vibration from the engine and driveline for an improved riding experience. I noticed the lack of vibration in the handlebars except at idle. I would like see that improved. The throttle to power response feels seamless between your thumb and engine power. The power is on tap from idle to 45 MPH or so, with the engine responding very quickly to the rider’s throttle desire. This really does make the Grizzly fun to ride when you are feeling aggressive. It also gives the ATV the power to tackle terrain aggressively. I found this to be true in all the trail riding I did, but I also noticed times I wish the Grizzly had a little more torque. When approaching small whoops and wanting to throttle the Grizzly to throw the ATV off the top, I found myself left wanting more. Maybe I am spoiled by the extremely high-powered ATVs on the market that drip power and torque. I just wish it had a little more. Maybe… if we keep our fingers crossed, the 850 Twin will find its way to the Grizzly, which would give me “more”. That said, it was still fun to throw the Grizzly off the top of whoops, and I didn’t feel the same in any other situations while riding the Grizzly. If aggressive is what you want to do on the Grizzly, then have at it because it will do it for you.
Suspension travel coupled with preload adjustments offer a comfortable, customizable, and sporty ride.
Final in the Grizzly trifecta would be the Yamaha Ultramatic Transmission. Let’s face it, we media people tout the Ultramatic transmission so often it is like a buzz-word, so what does it mean? The Ultramatic transmission is designed to have a mechanical centrifugal clutch (hang with me) that keeps the belt tight no matter what. The belt doesn’t slip… period. That is why Yamaha can offer a 10-year belt warranty on its ATVs and side-by-sides. This also makes riding the Grizzly, both aggressively and leisurely, so much fun and enjoyable. You are not going to burn the belt, and power can be on tap whether you are throttling it from a standing stop or going from throttle to less throttle and back to throttle again. I can tell you it works so well no matter the situation or riding style. The belt stays tight. Many in the industry consider the Ultramatic transmission from Yamaha the best CVT transmission in the industry. It is durable, responsive, and effortless to operate. I am also a fan of the gated shifter that doesn’t tend to bind. It is easy to shift 99-percent of the time. There is also a “Park” position in transmission for which I am a grateful.
For The Trail
The trail is the place where an ATV must be able to perform well and be designed to handle everything the trail can throw at it. The Yamaha Grizzly doesn’t blink at any terrain, nor should it. There are handful of reasons why this ATV can have a “bring it on” attitude towards extreme terrain that matches it looks, and more importantly, as a rider, why you can have confidence the Grizzly can do it!
Engine braking on the Grizzly is as good as it gets in the industry. If you are looking for a standard for the way engine braking should perform on an ATV, this is it. I have the ability to ride all sorts of ATVs with all kinds of CVT transmissions, and not one of them, though they have become better over the years, is quite as good as the Grizzly. It is the most natural-feeling and quick-yet-gentle engaging EBS of any ATV. Letting off the throttle immediately results in deceleration, but there is no jerk to it. The deceleration is gentle and continues to be gentle all the way to a stop. There is also no pull to the side while the EBS is slowing you down. If you are in 2WD the rear wheels have EBS, and if you are in 4WD then all wheels slow you down. Put the Grizzly in Low and 4WD, and you will be astounded by what descents you can crawl down with no brakes needed. The real test of any EBS is to let off the throttle and then get back on the throttle and see what happens. In fact, this is a great test of both EBS and the CVT transmission. On the Grizzly, the EBS engages gently and does not throw you forward. Then, when back on the throttle, the Grizzly does not lurch or jerk forward. This dance on the Grizzly is dialed in perfectly, and I can only wish others would be as good.
Since Yamaha changed the industry by being the first to put electric power steering on the 2007 Grizzly, every other manufacturer has been playing catch-up. Yamaha continues to have the most natural-feeling EPS on the market. The Grizzly has that balance between making it easy to turn the front wheels while at the same time allowing the rider to feel what the wheels are doing. The EPS constantly changes the amount of assist based upon speed and what the front wheels are doing such as hitting obstacles. This means that when you are riding around the yard at slow speed, there is more assist than at high speeds. I have noticed the difference many times as I am riding along and whether I am tackling really aggressive rock-filled terrain, or just slowly moving along a tight trail. The Grizzly EPS allows me to steer easily based upon the situation, and there are no adjustments for me to make. Yes, there are systems out there which let the rider choose the amount of assist, and I am a fan of those. That said, the “feel” of those systems is not quite as good as the Grizzly. The Grizzly EPS is simply the industry standard.
Like all ATVs in Yamaha’s fleet, the Grizzly sports the OnCommand 4WD system. This lets the rider choose between 2WD, 4WD, and 4WD with diff-lock, all with the push of a button on the handlebar. I am a fan of OnCommand because it has not let me down in any situation. I find myself riding in 2WD most of the time because that is all I need. When I tackle more aggressive terrain or something a little less predicable, than a quick push of the button puts the Grizzly in 4WD for that extra traction. If it is rock-crawling time or deep mud diving, then another push locks the front diff for maximum traction to all 4 wheels. I choose when I need any of the above, and there is no waiting for the system to engage while I am losing traction. OnCommand also doesn’t engage unexpectedly causing the ATV to do anything funky like pull in an unexpected direction. It just works well, and has always pulled me through.
4. Ground Clearance & Skids
When you look at the Grizzly, you know it has a lot of ground clearance. On paper, it has 11.3 to 11.8 inches of ground clearance (depending on the model), but it seems like more than that. It takes a major trail obstacle to hit the skids, but, if that happens, the full-length skids are there to protect the ATV. The front and rear a-arms also have protection for that occasional rock or branch that wants to come up while riding, and the front a-arms are arched offering maximum ground clearance across more of the ATV.
If You Want to Work
If you want to work some with the Grizzly, then you can do just that. It will tow 1322 pounds or haul 110 lbs. up front and 198 lbs. in the rear. I appreciate the fact the racks are made from steel and not plastic. In my time with the Grizzly I have towed a trailer around some to haul some things from point A to point B. The fact the Grizzly has a 2-inch receiver hitch makes it easy to go from truck to ATV, and that is the way it should be. I will say if your purpose is to primarily work with an ATV then think Kodiak 700, but if you want to work some but play most of the time then the Grizzly is what you want!
Simple, effective, strong, metal, racks adorn the Grizzly and I love them!
There is one item that has stuck out to me that I would change, and that would be the Zilla tires. These tires are certainly a good tire, but they really are more on the mud-side of the market. The Zillas are designed to tackle deeper mud and trail terrain. I have found that when you really push the Grizzly that they are a little unpredictable as to what they are going to do. The Zillas are not a precise tire on hardpack, and for that reason I would prefer Maxxis BigHorns. In deeper mud the Zilla tires will shine, but most of us simply don’t ride deeper mud most of the time. Traction in rough or slick terrain also is good with these tires, and the ride itself is comfortable. I do greatly appreciate Yamaha putting premium tires on its ATVs from the factory.
Bringing It Together
The Grizzly is everything I look for and want in an ATV. It is just that good, and that is why it is the industry standard in the big-bore class and the number one selling ATV in the big-bore class. The Grizzly has big-bore power, an excellent and predictable ride, the industry standard in with the Ultramatic transmission, EBS, and EPS, and rounds out all the ATV goodness with OnCommand 4WD system. It looks good, performs well, is easy on the eyes, and is a blast to ride. In all the miles on spent on the Grizzly, it went everywhere I wanted to go effortlessly, and I confidently knew it would get me back without issue. Most importantly, however, the Grizzly is a fun ATV to ride. Whether just slowly cruising along or hanging to back end out in a corner, it is fun to ride. Yes, there are faster ATVs out there with some fancier features, but if you want a solid big-bore ATV then you need to look at a Yamaha Grizzly. Did I mention the Backcountry blue is really sharp! Yeah, I thought so.
2020 Yamaha Grizzly Update
Since writing this review, the 2020 Yamaha Grizzly was released. There are no significant changes for the 2020 Yamaha Grizzly model year, with only color changes and the XT-R package which is a step above the Grizzly SE package. Casey had the opportunity to ride and review the 2020 Yamaha Grizzly XTR package, and you can read that review here https://www.atvescape.com/atvescape-reviews/atv-reviews/2020-atv-reviews/1752-2020-yamaha-grizzly-eps-xt-r-first-ride-impressions-review.
For more information on the Yamaha Grizzly, check out the Yamaha Website https://www.yamahamotorsports.com/utility-atv/models/2019/grizzly-eps-se