2008 Can-Am DS 450 Review

First impressions on our long-term evaluation

Apr. 22, 2008 By Justin Waters
atv review 2008 Can-Am DS 250 Snow Racing

With a lot of anticipation we finally received our long-term 2008 Can-Am DS 450. We had ridden the pre-production model at the June release in Tennessee but we wanted to get our hands on a production model and see if it was everything we expected. Due to the time of year, most of our initial riding would have to take place in the snow and the local indoor MX facilities, however one of our test riders was able to get some time on the DS 450 in the desert.

Suspension and Handling

All of our test riders have been extremely pleased with the suspension on the Can-Am DS 450. The suspension is supple for small bumps yet stiff enough to soak up larger hits. It is obvious that the lightweight components and improved geometry are doing their job. We have to say that we are very impressed with the stock KYB shocks that are on the Can-Am.

The DS 450 turns extremely well and the bump steer is greatly reduced. In fact one of our test riders rode a DS 450 over 75 miles in the desert with no steering damper. You wouldn’t want to do this on other stock 450 quads.

We have found that coming out of corners hard, the front end does tend to lift a little easier than the Yamaha and the Suzuki, but similar to the Honda. If you are running a race motor, a slightly longer swing arm may be the trick. We believe that in stock form the DS 450 has the best overall suspension that is available on any 450 sport quad.

atv review can-am ds 450 mx racing

Engine and Performance

One of the first things we would experience is that the EFI worked very well in the cold weather - No choke required. Cold starts were a breeze. Some other quads we have tested that are equipped with EFI have still experienced problems starting in cold weather but this does not appear to be a problem with the DS 450.

Our test riders were happy with the overall power from the DS 450 but commented that you had to ride it more like a 2-stroke than a 4-stroke. The power was there but not on the bottom end. After putting some time on the stock bike with no changes, we tested the bike with some "FREE performance mods". What we did was pull the air box lid off, pull the baffle out, and cut the "pink wire".

Note: The DS 450 computer is equipped with a race map that works much like the cherry bomb on the Suzuki LTR, only you don't need to buy any additional equipment. Simply pull your front plastic off and you will find a pink wire that is exposed from the wire harness. Cut this pink wire, tape it off, and the race map is automatically enabled in the computer. This adjusts for better flow on both the intake and exhaust side. We should advise you though, that as with any modifications, this may affect factory or dealer warranty on your DS, so check with your dealer first if you are concerned about that.

Our riders noticed an immediate improvement in the performance mainly in the bottom end. This simple mod brought the bottom end to the level of the other 450's. In fact one of our test riders was able to pull several holeshots with just this mod against other 450's with various modifications. You could tell that the 2008 Can-Am DS 450 is still restricted on the exhaust side so we anticipate that a slip-on exhaust and performance filter will add another boost to the performance.

atv review can-am ds 450 mx racing on snow

Clutch and Tranny

Our riders have found it takes some time to get used to the clutch on the Can-Am DS 450. The feel is quite different than other 450 performance quads. The adjustment is also much different, as you are required to use a special tool that comes with the DS 450. You can't just make the free-play adjustment at the lever.

There seems to be a lack of oiling when cold as the clutch will initially make a screeching sound that goes away. We believe there is a lot of opportunity for the aftermarket to improve the clutch on the Can-Am DS 450 and we will be looking forward to testing later developments.

On the tranny side we found it to be very smooth, shifting well, but we have experienced a false neutral a couple times between second and third gears. We are looking into that more - cause and solution.


The Can-Am DS 450 is a remarkable machine that is going to have a deep and lasting affect on the sport quad market. Their successes at several national circuits already this season is showing that, and the field of amateurs aboard them is growing steadily. This summer should find them flying down trails and up sand dunes coast to coast as well.

The suspension works amazingly well, the engine performance is excellent - we only wish the clutch was a little better. Watch future issues for a complete DS 450 MX build-up as we build a pro-level MX race machine and test it on the track.

atv review can-am ds 450 justin waters

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