After a fun, albeit grueling, ATV ride through narrow, steep trails at Capitol State Forest, I was bushed. All I could think of is how exhausted I’d be if the new Yamaha Grizzly 450 hadn’t had electric power steering (EPS) and double-wishbone suspension.

Talk about a perk of the job, putting an ATV through its paces in a scenic Pacific Northwest forest is downright fun.

“The new 450’s best feature for me is the mid-size chassis so it’s lighter weight and has a lower center of gravity feeling,” says Pat Biolsi, Yamaha testing supervisor. “It has all the features of a full-size model, including electric power steering, independent rear suspension with 6.3 in. of travel up front and 7.1 in. out back, and Ultramatic transmission with engine braking.”

The new mid-level utility vehicle has an all-new rear sealed wet brake that moves the brake discs inside the rear gear housing, making them impervious to outside elements. In addition to keeping mud and debris away, the new brake system requires less pressure for equal braking force, resulting in less heat due to reduced friction. All this adds up to an improved braking feel for the rider.

The 2011 model also gets a new one-piece frame with increased strength and a new rear anti-sway bar. And even with EPS, the new frame brings down the overall weight by almost 10 lbs. Plus, it has 11 in. of overall ground clearance.

“Farmers should like the light weight and ease of handling for less fatigue,” Biolsi says. “It’s reliable and easy and simple to maintain.”

The Grizzly 4x4 continues to be powered by the 421-cc liquid cooled, SOHC four-stroke engine. It also comes with a 33-mm BSR carburetor, and a durable stainless-steel exhaust.

Equipped with the Yamaha exclusive Ultramatic automatic transmission and engine braking, riders end up being less weary. For me, the engine brake made those downhill twists and turns less strenuous. The On-Command 4WD system allows riders to match the machine to the terrain selecting between 2WD, 4WD limited slip, or 4WD with full differential lock – all with a convenient pushbutton system.

The Grizzly 450 has a plush seat design with full-sized floorboards and oversize fenders. Front racks hold 88 lbs., rear racks 176 lbs. with 1,322 lbs. of towing capacity.

Besides the regular LCD readouts, the 450 also sports a water-resistant DC outlet for charging your cell phone or GPS unit.

Models start at $7,499 and are available from Yamaha dealerships.