Yamaha’s Bruin 350 4×4 sells for a remarkable $4999. This makes it one of the better bargains out there in the entry-level four-wheel drive market. Bombardier introduced an all-new Outlander 330 H.O. for the 2003 season and it sells for a suggested retail price of $5499.

What we wanted to know was, when you compared these two machines head-to-head, in a price, value and feature shootout, how would they fare against one another? To find out, we packed up both machines and headed out to one of our favorite industrial-strength torture test courses.

We first tested the Outlander 330 in our April 2003 issue. We found it to be a competitive and frisky 4×4 steed over the course of our testing in the wilds of Canada. It had superb suspension, great brakes, fantastic handling and a perky motor.

Venturing to Kentucky’s Turkey Bay recreation area, we tested the new Yamaha Bruin (Dirt Wheels December, 2003) and found it to be a exceptional value for the money. It had a spunky powerband, was fun and easy to ride, and had decent overall handling manners with a light, agile feel on the trail.

When you look at these two machines in a spec-for-spec basis, it soon becomes evident that they are quite different from one another. While both use SOHC (single overhead cam) engine designs, the Bombardier Outlander 330 uses a 325cc, liquid-cooled, four valve, four-stroke. Yamaha uses a less high tech, but slightly larger displacement, 348cc air-cooled, two-valve four-stroke motor. Yamaha scores a 23cc displacement bonus but Bombardier roosts back with a higher tech, four-valve, liquid cooled engine.

Both machines come with belt drive fully automatic CVT transmissions. The Yamaha is limited, though, with only forward, neutral and reverse gear ranges while the Bombardier has a high/low/neutral/reverse and even a park feature on its gearbox. A selectable 2WD into 4WD switch comes standard on both machines as well.

Outlander gets the nod for largest capacity fuel tank at 4.2 gallons versus the Bruin’s 3.6 gallon tank. Amazingly, the wheelbase on the two quads is not that far off with the Bombardier coming in with a slightly longer wheelbase of 49 inches versus the Yamaha’s 48.5 inches.

However, the close wheelbase measurements do not take into account the much longer and wider dimensions the Outlander has over its Bruin rival. Overall length on the Bombardier is a huge 86 inches; compare this with the Yamaha’s 78.1 inches in length. The Bombardier also has a much wider stance than the Yamaha, coming in at 46 inches versus 42.7 inches. Seat heights are close on the two machines with the Yamaha’s a bit lower at 44.1 inches and the Bombardier 45 inches.

The difference between the two machines’ frames is fairly substantial. We feel this is where the two machines differ the most. The Bombardier uses an SST or Surrounding Spar Technology frame. It consists of a square tube design that literally wraps itself around the engine. This lets them make a lightweight but durable chassis that is very cost effective by allowing mounting of external aluminum sub frames to further save weight.

Yamaha uses a conventional steel tube, double cradle frame on the Bruin (the same type as found on the Kodiak 400 4×4). The overall dry weights between the two machines differ by a whopping 54 pounds, with the Yamaha coming in a much lighter 538 pounds dry versus the 592 pounds of the Outlander 330 H.O.

Another major difference between the two quads is in suspension systems. The Bruin uses conventional double A-arm, independent front shocks with 6.3 inches of travel up front. The Outlander has dual MacPherson struts with 7.01 inches of travel.

On the back end, the Bombardier comes with a unique TTI or Trailing Torstional Independent suspension system. Like the Bombardier’s chassis, this rear suspension system is state-of-the-art, and offers true independent rear wheel movement, with eight inches of travel. It uses seperate single side swingarms or trailing arms that operate through a torsion bar to give the rear end a more consistent arc through its travel. Yamaha’s Bruin comes with a more conventional single shock rear swingarm with 7.1 inches of travel on the back.

Brake systems on the Yamaha consist of dual hydraulic discs up front with a single drum on the rear. The Bombardier comes with a set of inboard-mounted front disc brakes for added protection from the elements and a single rear engine-mounted disc brake. Bombardier uses a single lever braking system while Yamaha chooses to use seperate front and rear brake and foot levers.

Clearly, the Bombardier has several advantages right off the bat. It is liquid-cooled and has a higher tech four-valve motor design. The Outlander has a high/low range (the Bruin does not) and more fuel capacity (.6 gallon). It definitely has a wider and longer stance, and more suspension travel.

The Yamaha retains a lighter weight ( by 54 pounds) more displacement (23cc more) and is $500 less expensive.

But nothing replaces pitting two of the top entry-level 4x4s and comparing them under the most severe conditions available. Lucky for us, (and you too), our 4×4 test area is an excellent outdoor laboratory to see how well these two quads would perform in the most taxing of four wheel drive environments.

First of all, the machines would have to face the ledge. This is a brutal, rock lined hill that climbs in elevation several hundred feet in less than a 1/2 mile. It is steep, technical and leads to our top-secret mountain top test loop. It is an excellent test of a machine’s climbing ability and power characteristics.

In the initial assault at the bottom of the hillclimb, the slightly larger displacement and much lighter Bruin got the jump on the Outlander 330 H.O. However, before you could say rev limiter, the higher revving Bombardier Outlander motored past the struggling Yamaha 350. The pure torque available through the Outlander 330 H.O. motor was impressive.

As it motored away from the Bruin while the climb got steeper and rockier, we began to notice that the overall stability and easy to ride nature of the Bombardier made it much more comfortable. The steeper and rockier the hill, the more the Outlander felt at home. The Bruin, while having a fair amount of zip, was much harder to keep on the powerband.

All our test riders noted that you had to keep the Yamaha engine pegged and revving to climb, while the Outlander 330 could be torqued and tweaked without constant attention.

As we bounced off first one, and then another, rock ledge, we kept our momentum up on both machines and headed straight up to the mountaintop ridge line. The Outlander 330 had a sizable lead by this time, so when we got to the top we stopped and waited for the Bruin to catch up.

Once both machines were on top, we set out on a 40 plus mile mountain test loop. The trails would take us through snow, mud, water, rocks, whoops, jumps and several off-camber sections. There were also quite a few flat-out straights that would help us determine how these two machines handled heavy duty off-road abuse.

In our straightaway drags, the Bruin would get the early lead (same as at the bottom of our hill climb test). It wasn’t long, though, before the Outlander reeled it in and blew past it for the lead. Top indicated speeds on the speedometers of each machine were 50 mph on the Bombardier and 45 mph on the Bruin.

Both quads responded well on the tight twisties and turns with the lighter-weight Bruin having somewhat of an edge on the smoother, fast road sections. But as soon as the terrain became the least bit technical, with ruts, whoops, rocks, or any type of off cambers, the Bombardier had a distinct advantage over the Bruin.

The Outlander’s longer and wider chassis helped, of course, but the suspension action was what really came into play when it was rolling over anything rough or technical. It felt more stable and much less tippier than the narrower Bruin. Overall stability was excellent on the Bombardier and a tad spooky on the Bruin.

Off camber sections were particularly bad on the Yamaha. Even though it has a lower seat height than the Outlander, the difference in the center of gravity of the two machines and the action of the front suspension on the Bombardier make it a much better ride in real 4×4 terrain.

The Bombardier’s MacPherson strut front suspension and fully independent TTI rear suspension gave it a much more precise and comfortable ride than the Yamaha’s conventional double A-arm, single shock rear swingarm suspension.

Brake action was judged best on the Bombardier Outlander 330 H.O. over the Yamaha Bruin. With its dual inboard mounted front disc brakes and single inboard mounted rear disc it was much easier to slow down the Bombardier on the steep decents we encountered coming back down the hills. The Bombardier has a decelleration device inside the CVT tranny that helps slow it down on steep downhills. The Yamaha also has an engine brake, but it had a tendency to freewheel down hills a bit.

The Bruin’s overall braking was judged weak and spongy compared to the Outlander’s, which performed excellently with good control and a solid, predictable feel at all times.

We also favored the Bombardier’s Visco-Lok front differential drive over the Yamaha’s standard front differential drive. The Outlander’s speed sensitive front drive gets power to the wheel needing it the most and operates better than almost any other front wheel drive differential out there. Both quads’ selectable 2WD into 4WD operating systems worked well, no complaints there.

The CVT’s on both quads operated as they should, but the lack of a low range on the Yamaha Bruin tranny makes it less of a value when it comes to using the machine for serious work-related chores.

These are two machines that, while seemingly similar, are actually quite different. We like the Bruin 350 4×4 Auto as a fun-to-ride, economy priced four wheeler that has a good motor and a light and agile feel to it. But when compared to the much higher tech Bombardier Outlander 330 H.O., it pales in terms of performance, handling, suspension and braking action. The Outlander 330 is far superior when the trail takes a turn for the worse.

If you ride mostly on smooth, well maintained trails, you might not notice all the advantages the Bombardier 330 has over the Yamaha Bruin 350. Then again, if you do ride where it’s really rough and nasty, the Outlander 330 H.O. is a machine with few equals in the entry-level 4×4 ATV world.

Even with a $500 higher price tag, the Outlander takes a solid win in this matchup. Sure, the Bruin 350 is fun and affordable, but the Outlander 330 H.O. takes the cake for the serious performance ATV enthusiasts looking for the best buy for his buck.

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