First Ride: KFX450R ATV unleashed!
This new 2007 Kawasaki quad is making a big entrance on the race and sport scene
March 15th 2007
So the Media finally gets the chance to dispel the myths behind the fantastic machine that Kawasaki would slate as their "next big thing".
Tucked in South Carolinas best new ride area, Kawasaki had hidden ten or so of its new race ready ATVs that would revolutionize they way we think about competition. The Carolina Adventure World had been chosen to host our Press intro and the terrain couldn't have been better. With two long motocross tracks and miles of wooded trails there had to be a spot for any rider to get the KFX 450r tuned to their liking. The motocross tracks had varying styles of jumps and most on the better of the two tracks would send you into orbit with to much throttle. The bermed corners had been prepped on the better of the two courses and they made for great slide education for everyone.
I guess the reason we are here though is to find out just what the hype is all about. Kawasaki has built a race ready and motocross friendly ATV that can be tracked right off the trailer. The first thing I noticed was the front of the KFX's frame. It reminded me that there is a dispute going on in the GNCC series about this very modification on this new quad. No it doesn't involve Kawasaki but looking closely at the frame on the bottom near the lower A-arm mounts you will see some "old school" technology. It seems that Kawasaki has took a time honored engineering marvel from the world of the aftermarket 250r frames. More rake and better steering / handling geometry is what most guess is the benefit of having the lower A-arms meet almost flush in the middle of the lower frame. This is probably the first that is actually in production though. Its amazing how engineering from twenty years ago can still be traced in the blood of our newest machines.
This machine would get its birth in the minds of skilled engineers in 2004 with the forward thinking future model concept. The specs for the new machine came in around late September 2004 and the styling wasn't completed until mid 2005. The building of this new machine is completed in Lincoln Nebraska and the dealers began receiving the first of the flock around the first of March.?
With all this in mind the designers at Kawasaki wanted to know, who is our target customer? Well the answer was simple and the KFX450R can speak for itself. Kawasaki wanted confident, experienced and riders who are of a higher technical skill level. This would mean that the male population averaging around the age of 25 to 27 would take the top 91%.
The KFX450R is defiantly more than the average Joe sport racer will ever need. This machine has many new reasons for the go fast sporty trail rider to want a chance at greatness with all his buddies watching on the sidelines.
The sleek stylish lines of the KFX450Rs fenders are just the beginning. These fenders can be removed for racing and easily replaced if broken should you get too much of the Kawi's brutal 450cc power plant. The motor in the beast was derived from the MX side of Kawasaki's stable. The power plant produces massive amounts of torque in the low and mid range, which should drive racers like William Yokley and Jason Ludburgh to national championships. The engine breathes in a mix of octane through the fuel injection system that is becoming more popular in off road machines. The fuel injection not only allows the engine to start and respond with a quickness it will not need a choker to get the first wind out the tailpipe. The compression ratio in the KFX450R is 12:1 and there are two preset rev limits. The motor will turn up to 10,500 for the stage one preset and then on into 11,000 for the second. The high rpm's are courtesy of a two-piece balancer that helps reduce vibration. The engine can be started by electric start or there is a kick-start available. The injector is a ten-orifice injector for an ultra fine pattern, which directly relates to a complete burn in the cylinder. This just means more power for the rider. Unlike the competition the KFX450R will require high octane pump gas to run properly but who would buy a machine like this and treat it like a stepchild by putting low grade fuel in the tank? The exhaust is funneled through a titanium head pie and out through the steel muffler.
The frame is another subject. This baby is all aluminum and only weighs in at 26 pounds. This makes the Kawi's frame 20% lighter than its competition. The framework is ultra rigid and this will make the quad have little roll while cornering. The front travel on the stocker is 8.50 and with the added length in the A-arms this monster should hold to the track on even the harshest off camber obstacles. The rear suspension is an all-new UNI-TRAK setup. The swinger features stress relieving curved shapes and is a highly rigid torsional casting. This swinger shock combo will net you 10.0 inches of travel.
The shocks are another great advance in the ever changing world of production ATV's. These stockers have a 20 way adjustable compression and rebound feature that should let the beginner get a taste of the finer things in life while not worrying about getting beat to death on the track.
Stopping the monster is another story also as the folks at Kawasaki wanted to be able to control the power they had built into the machine. The 163mm front dual piston calipers will surely bring the ride to a stop in a hurry. The rear is a 200mm petal style setup with single piston caliper for the peeps that stick the rear in first on the motocross side of life.
The battery is located in the front of this machine and is of course located down as far as it will go in the frame to help with the center of gravity for a better handling racer. Some other features are the reinforced rear rims, a factory installed set of Renthal bars and a two-tone seat that has enough grip in the middle for hard acceleration and slick sides for those who hang off the nerfs for cornering. There are some factory accessories that are available for the new KFX450R and we should make note that for the timid the stock form is enough. The first of three engine management and horsepower add-ons would be the ECU programmer and signal conversion device. This will allow you to set fuel mapping from your laptop and program it into the computer on the KFX450R. The second is a highly developed silencer, which doesn't really silence the beast but awakens it for a few more ponies. Then last but not least for all those who like kicking on things the guys over at Kawasaki have made available a kick start and step guard to convert the machine to total performance.
Well I thought I would never get to this part, how did we like the Kawasaki KFX450R? The excitement was so intense that the mere thought of being able to ride the new machine brought Brandon Brown out from the west coast to give it a bashing. The next big thing has left a definite impression on the west coast quad warrior.
So we asked Brandon what he thought about the power of the new KFX450R and he says, "the new Kawasaki has really good power for being stock and the power is similar to the Honda with the HRC kit added. The power is linier and controllable throughout the power range".
"The KFX450R handles well with minimal feedback to the bars. This reminds me of my Lobo 250r chassis," claims Brown. It is light and easy to ride. If you come out of a corner on one tire its real easy to maintain control and you don't feel like you have to dump the throttle to keep moving forward aggressively. The suspension is probably the most forgiving in its class, as it is not overly harsh like the competition.
We have heard all about the awesome power and now we want to focus on the braking ability of the KFX450R. Brandon says the brakes are every bit as good as they appear and the stopping power should boost the confidence of any rider whose "late" braking techniques depend on them.
Ergonomically the quad feelsgreat with the factory "FAT" renthal bars and the perfect bend they only needed to be rolled forward a tad to make Brandon feel right at home. Brandon also fell right in love with the quick and easy to use reverse gear that he claims will be most helpful in bottlenecks.
There was however a couple of things that just did not "sit" well with our test rider.
Brandon lists his complaints as follows:
The seat was like sitting on plywood and actually felt like it was straight off the dirt bike. There seemed to be no comfortable position for the shift lever as it was either to high or to low and although the custom plastic is very trick it might make it a nightmare to sticker up for the sponsors.
With all these things in mind we definitely feel Kawasaki has been doing the homework for a successful race venture and most everyone who gets on the new KFX450R will really be happy because it does fit the trails or track and can leave its competition picking their jaws up off the ground!