We demand the best. No matter if we are looking for trails to ride or machines to ride on them, we look for number one. When Can-Am introduced the G2 chassis in 2013 for their Outlander line of sport utility 4×4 quads, we said the entire line got a whole lot better. For our style, the Outlander 650 seemed to have the best mix of power and handling. We had so much fun on this machine, when Can-Am first let us ride it, they had to peel it away from our testers.
To see if the new product from Can-Am would measure up to our old favorite, the Yamaha Grizzly 700, we had to ride them head to head. But before we could do that, Yamaha added a few improvements of their own to the old bear. A slightly wider stance, new Maxxis tires and a tad more power were the highlights. Some additional emission devices were also added to keep the man happy.
Detail-wise, these two machines are about as close as they come. Both machines measure right at 46 inches wide, with a wheelbase that is almost as close at 51 inches for the Can-Am and a tick under 50 inches for the Yamaha. You sit about 35 inches off the ground no matter which machine you are on. Another number that is just as close is the price. Can-Am only asks $100 more for the Outlander 650 DPS than Yamaha does for the $9499 Grizzly 700.
Even though the Grizzly’s 700cc engine is larger than the Outlander’s 650cc engine, the Rotax V-twin smokes it. On a flat trail with perfect traction, the Outlander jumps out to an early lead and stretches it all the way to the finish. On the top end, the Outlander will reach 77 mph, while Yamaha only allows the Grizzly to reach 67 mph. On a similar trail with perfect traction but on a slight incline, the more powerful Can-Am beats the Yamaha again, this time by 4 mph when the Outlander reaches 65 mph. Power is by no means soft on the Grizzly; it’s just a tamer animal than the Outlander.
We have always said that going over 70 mph on one of these 600-plus machines is a bit crazy. And chances are, you’re not going to find a trail that is safe to do so on. However, if you are also considering big mud tires or riding at very high altitudes, peak horsepower should be a priority.
Power is very smooth on both machines. Neither wants to wheelie or rip your arms out of their sockets, but they do offer an equally thrilling ride. It’s more of the same while towing or dragging. Power is smooth and traction is excellent, unlike what you would find on many 850 or 1000cc machines.
Yamaha placed a hydraulic disc brake on all four corners of the Grizzly. You can operate them via separate handlebar-mounted levers or through a pedal for the rear only. They manipulate perfectly. They are easy to pull and stop the Grizzly very predictably.
Can-Am uses a single handlebar-mounted lever to operate two hydraulic discs up front and a single disc on the right rear corner. You can step on the rear brake separately, but the high-pedal position is somewhat awkward. It’s awkward on the Grizzly too. Using the handbrake, you have to muscle the lever in to get hard on the binders. This Outlander uses steel-braided brake lines, which help combat fading, but doesn’t offer a good sense of brake feel.
On the other hand, the Outlander’s downhill engine braking was superb. On a super steep section of our test loop, we stopped at the top and placed both machines in low gear and completely let off the brakes. The Outlander literally crawled safely down the steep mountain at 2 mph. The Grizzly was equally as impressive, crawling at 3 mph.
At this steep of an incline going up- or downhill, neither machine felt like it was going to wheelie over backwards or endo. They are both very stable platforms.
Each machine in this comparison is equipped with electronic power steering. In fact, it’s rare that we ever test big utility 4x4s without it. The difference is night and day on every machine. If you haven’t had a chance to ride a machine with EPS, do yourself a favor and do so. If you are looking to upgrade an older 4×4 with EPS, SuperATV.com is one of the biggest retailers marketing this upgrade at the moment.
Can-Am uses the Tri-Mode EPS system on their machines. Also, if you plan on installing snow tracks, an additional fourth “Track” mode module can be installed into the quad’s ECU for even more assistance. On this machine, we liked the “Max” setting the best. The other two settings (“Min” and “Med”) seemed to make the rear end fishtail too much.
Both brands’ systems do a great job reducing steering effort and combating feedback through the handlebars. To buy either of these machines without EPS, you would save $600.
On the trails, the Grizzly went exactly where you pointed it. It knifed through trees and in between rocks precisely. Cornering was spot-on, and sidehilling was much improved over the older model.
We felt just as stable on the Outlander on the sidehills. The G2 chassis is way better than the old version. Steering effort was light but not as precise as the Grizzly. There was noticeable front-end push around some corners, and the Outlander would two-wheel more often. Also, when you chopped the throttle, the nose would dive more than we liked.
Bump absorption was a little more jarring on the Outlander too. You could feel the heavier springs and quick rebound bounce the Outlander in the chop. The Grizzly was much more plush and forgiving. Our riders said they could sit down over most bumps and have a smooth ride, where on the Outlander you had to stand. Neither machine has compression or rebound adjustments on the shocks. They do have preload adjusters on all corners. Handling is not bad on the Outlander, but it’s just not as plush or predictable as the Grizzly. And, we do feel this 650cc machine handles better than the 800 and 1000cc versions.
There is ample room to store small items away from the elements on both machines. Can-Am does it by outfitting a large truck under the rear rack. You can fit tools, supplies and a small jacket in there if needed. Yamaha outfits the Grizzly with two much smaller, semi-sealed boxes: one under the seat and one located under a screw top on the right front fender. Here, you definitely have to split your supplies to get them to fit. We could always use more room, though. Another thing we like about the Outlander is its rack system. It has tons of provisions for hooking tie-downs or ropes, and they both have a nice rubber texture to keep things from sliding around.
The texture-coated steel racks on the Grizzly are sturdy but leave very little options for tying down cargo. We wish, at the very least, Yamaha would add the same corner braces that most of the other Japanese companies are using on their racks. These hook points keep ropes and tie-downs from scooting and sliding and ultimately coming loose.
To see how easy or hard it is to service these machines, we did a quick run-through. To get to the Outlander’s air filter, you have to do the following: remove the seat, remove the center cowling, turn the airbox lid and you’re done. You don’t have to use any tools to access the filter. On the downside, the main filter element is made out of paper, which cannot be cleaned or reused.
On the Grizzly, you have to do the following: remove the seat, unscrew (tool required) the center cowling, unclip the top of the airbox and remove the thin foam-filter element. It’s tedious.
For an oil change, you can access the automotive-style screw-on filter and fill the spout on the Grizzly the easiest and without tools. On the Outlander, you need a flat screwdriver to remove one bodywork side panel and a Torx bit that will help you access the cartridge-style filter. Both machines require a 17mm socket to drain the oil.
As close as the specs, size and price of these two machines are, the way they operate are quite different. We like the superb handling and more-than-enough power on the Grizzly 700 slightly better. It provides a ton of excitement on the trails, is easy to work on in the shop and holds up well to our abuse.
The Outlander 650 has also held up extremely well in our riding conditions. The machine’s ample storage space and easy-to-use cargo rack system is definitely among the best. The Outlander’s 650cc power output is also smooth, easy to use and more than enough for trail exploration.
If sheer straight-line speed is what you are looking for, then the Outlander 650 smokes the Grizzly 700. The Outlander 1000 will smoke everything else. If you are searching for a great all-around machine with precise handling and plenty of power, the Grizzly is still it.