For some, having the power and size of a larger, 700-class all-terrain vehicle (ATV) isn't necessary. Neither is the price. That's why Yamaha is introducing the smaller Grizzly 550. “We're trying to mirror the 700, but for people who don't need or want the extra power,” says Pat Biolsi, Yamaha ATV testing supervisor.

The new Yamaha Grizzly 550 FI features all the bells and whistles of the Grizzly 700 FI, but with a smaller 558-cc liquid-cooled, four-valve, single-overhead-cam (SOHC) engine. The 550 also features a forged piston for reduced weight and added durability, while an aluminum cylinder body with composite coating offers reduced weight and increased cooling ability.

(For a review of the Grizzly 700 FI, see “Turn On A Dime,” August 2006 Corn & Soybean Digest.)

But what really sets this machine apart is the electric power steering (EPS). As the rider turns the handlebars and the torque- and speed-sensing EPS system senses the twisting force, the electric motor kicks in and assists in the turn. The harder the rider turns, the more the EPS assists.

After a day of test riding this in the San Bernardino National Forest in southern California, the EPS gets high marks from me on how it easily helps maneuver the machine. Plus, it just plain kept me from getting sore shoulders.

The 550 is also offered without EPS with prices running about $700 less.

“The best feature on the 550 is the power steering,” says Biolsi. “It also has balance, with all the little things working together for a comfortable ride. Most parts are interchangeable with the 700, too.”

THE NEW 550 comes with the industry-exclusive Ultramatic automatic transmission system and industry-exclusive all-wheel downhill engine braking.

“We also have a centrifugal clutch for constant belt tension. That keeps our belt from wearing out,” says Travis Hollins, ATV product planning manager.

A fully independent wishbone front and independent rear suspension ensures optimal traction, Yamaha says. The adjustable suspension in both the front and rear offers the rider the versatility to set up the ATV for all riding conditions. It features 7.1 in. of travel up front and 9.5 in. in the rear. In addition, it offers 11.8-in. ground clearance and the Yamaha-exclusive WideArc front suspension, which has 5 in. of more useable ground clearance in front. “That's especially helpful when climbing over rocks,” says Hollins.

Another popular feature on the 700 is the four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes, now also incorporated into the 550.

On the comfort front, the Grizzly 550 has a 6-in. thicker, plusher seat and full floorboards. It also can carry 99 lbs. in the front and 187 lbs. in the rear and has a 1,322-lb. towing capacity. Plus, a sealed storage area has been added in the front and one under the seat.

Models are available in black metallic, hunter green and steel blue with a suggested price of $7,799. Two special editions will also be available along with the non-EPS models that come in the same colors plus camouflage.

A variety of accessories and apparel are available for the 550. For more information, check out www.yamaha-motor.com.