July 31, 2015
In the outdoor world, the idea of a modular system isn't new. All one needs to do is go and grab a modern sporting rifle off the rack of a sporting goods store too see that. You have a basic frame, and from that, you can pick out the caliber, barrel, trigger and all the bells and whistles that make shooting these types of rifles so much fun.
Yamaha has basically brought the notion of a modular system to their ATV line with the all-new 2016 Grizzly and Kodiak 700 ATVs.
The Grizzly has been one of the most popular big-bore utility ATV for many years running. For 2016, Yamaha resurrected the Kodiak moniker, which was a smaller utility ATV in the past. The machines are now very similar and yet extremely different at the same time. To be honest, it's a genius move on Yamaha's part.
What's the Same?
For starters, the engine is the same 708cc dual overhead cam, single-cylinder beast that drives the new Wolverine UTV. We all suspected it was coming in the Grizzly, but it is also powering the Kodiak. Confused yet? Don't be. Just wait a moment. The transmissions are the same to a point, too, but we'll get to that.
The frame is also identical on each machine. Yamaha completely redesigned the frame for the 2016 Grizzly, improving on the already outstanding handling and feel of previous model years. Even the front and rear all-steel racks are the same.
The rider of each machine gets fully-independent suspension front and rear with 5-way preload adjustment and 7.1 inches of travel in the front and 9.1 in the rear.
Where Things Differ
Starting from the outside, the plastics, while they look similar, are not. The fenders on the Kodiak 700 are actually lower, to accommodate getting on and off the machine repeatedly.
The seats are also different. The Grizzly has a taller seat that gets narrower toward the top. This was designed, along with the handlebars, to make it easier for the rider to stand up for more aggressive riding. The Kodiak 700 has a flatter, wider seat that gives the rider that "sit in" feel. The seats can be swapped if you need something a little different.
The braking systems are a little different too. The Grizzly has hydraulic disk brakes at all our corners. The Kodiak uses a sealed, multi-disk wet brake that doesn't wear like the standard disk set up.
The advantage is longevity of the brake, which comes at the cost of the crisper feel of the Grizzly's disk set up. The CVT transmission, which is an area Yamaha really shines, is the same yet not the same.
That is a major part of the difference between the two rides. Basically, without getting too technical, the Kodiak is geared different. It isn't as punchy and aggressive with the power delivery. Both are fun to ride, but they play into the markets that Yamaha is covering. This is where it gets fun.
There are several markets that Yamaha wanted to be a major player in with their full-size utility ATVs. The recreational rider looking for a sportier, faster-paced ride is going to go for the Grizzly. The Kodiak is geared for the working rancher and hunting crowd. They have variations of these two models that hit different price points, too.
Like I said — genius.
The Grizzly is available in four trim levels, starting with a non-electronic power steering (EPS) model at $8,899. From there, you go to the EPS model for $9,699, the SE for $10,299 and the SE for $10,899. You can get one in a wide range of colors, including Realtree Xtra camo.
The Kodiak starts out with a non-EPS model at a low-price of $6,999. That is comparable to other manufacturers' solid-rear axle machines with smaller engine sizes. The EPS will set you back $8,199, which also gives you the handlebar-mounted headlight and a 2-inch receiver hitch. The Kodiak EPS SE model is a sweet looking ride that costs $8,899.
Riding the machines back-to-back really shows the differences in the two. The throttle response in the Grizzly is fun, but not for the faint of heart. If you're not used to aggressive riding, try the Kodiak first. The Kodiak 700's lower fender height does indeed allow you to get on and off the machine easier.
The seat is very comfortable and the ride is nothing short of amazing compared to other machines in the price point. Seriously, you're not going to get this level of engine and suspension in anything similar.
We rode both machines in some of the most challenging terrain around — the mountains of eastern Tennessee. The suspension handled the rocks and ruts with ease, and the tires, which are designed for each machine specifically by Maxxis tires, hooked up everywhere we went.
At one point, while on the Kodiak, we even rode the edge of a serious rut that only offered at most two inches of wet muddy surface for the tire to grip. It handled it with ease.
Yamaha once again knocked it out of the park with two very different machines built on a modular concept. Between them, they cover the entire range of full-size utility ATV. If you're in the market for one, you really should take a serious look at either machine.