Tried and True
The Suzuki Z400 was first brought to the ATV world in late 2002 and I’d have to say it was a keeper. I personally bought my first LT-Z400 in June of 2003 and rode the wheels off the thing. I fell in love with the comfort and controls on the quad and began to mesh with the design immediately. After racing the Z400 for a few years I couldn’t hardly get on another ATV and feel comfortable. I built my motor until it wouldn’t hardly run on pump gas and spent more on my suspension than I had in my truck at the time. I say all this to let you know that I love the original Z400, and when I was invited to ride the newest version of my favorite ATV, I was stoked - but intended to hold it to high standards.
The 2009 Suzuki QuadSport Z400 is the new breed of my old four-wheeler friend and it has changed a bit. The new Z400 looks similar to its full blown racing brother the QuadRacer R450. The bright yellow snaps your head to attention and the sleek new front end points its way forward as if to say, "we are moving on-ward with this product." The T-shaped seat brings the same comfortable feel with a closer design to the R450. Having a T seat allows plenty of movement from side to side without machine interference, and when you're riding hard with your buddies or racing through the knarliest tracks and woods, this is definitely a benefit. Controlling the new ride is the same but with some improvements that were much-needed. The new front brake lever adjustment makes the lever position more user-friendly, as it can be positioned in or out for each rider's hand size or angle preference.
The riding position was redesigned on the 2009 Z400. The handlebars were moved forward 10mm and lowered 5mm. The foot pegs had also been moved down about 5mm and positioned rearward 2mm. These increments do not sound like much but I can tell you it feels like a totally different machine. The rear brake pedal shaft diameter was increased to improve brake feel and strength. There are other places of improvement as well and one is the rear shock upper mount tube has had its wall thickness increased along with the swing linkage mounting section which Suzuki claims will increase the feel and operation of the rear suspension.
Some items were redesigned to facilitate maintenance easier. The rear brake master cylinder was moved from the seat rail or rear sub frame, to the main frame so you can remove the back half easier.
Speaking of the rear sub frame this too has been modified from a round tube design to the rectangular tubing to add rigidity. Suzuki claims strength enhancements for this part alone are increased 30 percent vertically and 12 percent horizontally. The rear sprocket was also redesigned to work more like the R450 and to make it easy to remove for replacement as well. Maintenance has always been a mild issue with this machine and I personally love these small yet huge changes to make it more enjoyable to work on the machine.
So here’s a part of the Z400 that has been the center of many angry conversations with my dealer since day one. The frame has been known to have strength issues, especially in the front. For 2009, Suzuki engineers added wall thickness to areas on the frame and strengthend mostly the top and back half of the frame components. The fuel tank rail tubing was increased .4mm. This will enhance the frames torsional rigidity.
These additions to the quad's frame sections are welcomed and will be appreciated by those of us who ride hard and count on a frame that will stick together. However I feel the front of this machine needed attention as well and maybe they will focus on this in future models.
Let's get to the most impressive part of the new Z400, and that’s the power plant. I spent several thousand dollars to build my 2003 LT-Z400’s motor for racing. Back in the day with the carb setup the task of setting jet sizes for different tracks was a job. But all that’s changed now, as the newest Z400 is fuel injected and ready to raise hell! This motor feels so smooth and has most of the power from the bottom to the mid range. Don’t get me wrong - it has plenty on top as well but the immediate difference is felt off the start.
The fuel injection world has grown in this market over the last few years and it finally made it to a well-deserved ride. The twelve hole design on the new injector for the Z400 quad gets plenty of spray right into the engine through the 36mm throttle body. Elevation changes are not a problem anymore and with the sharper smoother feel of the throttle, this has awakened a new side to the old friend. The cam profile and timing have also been redesigned for a more powerful bottom to midrange boost. The intake ports or runners have also been straightened to assist in the goal of more power on the lower rpms. All of these changes were initiated to gain more bottom end and mid range power without giving away to much of the top end as a sacrifice. There is plenty for the novice and experienced allike, so don’t go thinking this is still a slug - it will surprise you.
The transmission is 5 speeds with reverse, and is still the typical chain drive hooked to an eerily-similar adjustment setup on the rear swinger. The rear swingarm hasn’t changed much at all and is missing adjustment marks for the home mechanic that were on previous models. The rear axle has had a taper make-over to add rigidity and balance to the machine.
The suspension of the 2009 QuadSport Z400 brought the piggyback shocks from last years model with a slight redesign for a firmer feel. These changes should, according to Suzuki, make the ATV more neutral to the rider's style of riding and input.
READ ON FOR RIDE IMPRESSIONS...
So what did we think of the newest addition to Suzuki’s champion stable? As I said in the beginning I have been a loyal Suzuki Z400 rider for years. It just seem to fit me and I love, it but there are some things that on the new machine kind of made me feel out of place.
We rode this beast at Vessels Stallion Farm in Fallbrook California. There wasn’t a dramatic amount of trails but enough variety and elevation change to get a feel for the Z400.
At first I felt very comfortable sitting on the machine. The controls were easily reached and the seat was a classic comfortable feeling saddle. Being slightly larger than the industry’s typical rider, I was good with the rider placement while sitting, but the problem with this is I do not sit long during my riding. I stand most all of the time. Standing gives me more of an attack position and it lets me feel more in control of the ATV. While standing on the machine I could hardly bend my arms and I felt like I was straining to get to the bars. I personally felt uncomfortable on the machine at first. The pegs were lowered but I couldn’t tell it.
There are a few things that a taller, heavier rider like me would need to do to make this machine more suit my riding position. All can be remedied with a longer steering stem and a different bend for the handle bars.
The first impression I got from the suspension of this machine was it was very harsh and seemed to buck like a PBR championship bull. In stock form, the suspension is set really tight and needed some tweaking to get the comfort level up a bit. Also with such a stiff setup in the first ride of the morning it was hard to keep the front of this machine on the ground. After talking with a couple other riders we decided to adjust the suspension on one machine while leaving the others stock and each of us took turns feeling how our changes helped or hurt the ride. It was apparent that after taking 4.5 rounds of preload out of the rear shock and almost all the preload out of the front that we were getting somewhere. We then tweaked 1.5 rounds of rebound out of the rear shock and with the fronts already being a one click away from the softest setting we took half of that away as well.
That’s when I started gaining my confidence back on the 2009 QuadSport. It was apparent that with some adjusting the Z400 could become a more trail-friendly quad and stable in the tight stuff. These adjustments allowed the power to be put to the ground and kept the front end down for better control, though I still couldn’t reach the controls like I wanted while standing. The steering was effortless as well and the redesign made the feel to be on the twitchy side but manageable.
Riding the Z400 all day brought back some final thoughts to my mind as a loyal LT-Z400 owner and basically it just reinforced the fact that everything needs tweaking for each different rider. Factories try to get a common ground for riders to work with and from there its up to us to make it our own. Was I disappointed in the newest Z400? Absolutely not. It’s a great machine and its come along way since I bought my first in 2003. The power is probably the most improved of anything on the quad. Its incredible and is light years from my Z440 of old.
Specs and dimensions
Engine: 4-Stroke, Liquid Cooled, DOHC
Bore-Stroke: 90.0mm x 62.6
Compresion Ratio: 11.3:1
Fuel system: Fuel Injection
Lubrication: Dry Sump
Ignition: Electronic CDI
Transmission: 5-forward and 1 reverse
Chain drive: RK520smoz10s, 96 links
Overall length: 72.0 in
Overall Width: 46.9 in
Overall Height: 45.1 in
Seat Height: 31.9 in
Ground Clearance: 10.4 in
Wheelbase: 49.0 in
Curb Weight: 425lbs
Suspension Front: Independent, Double wishbone, coil spring, oil damped
Suspension Rear: Swingarm type, Coil spring, Oil damped
Brakes Front: Disc Brakes, Twin
Brakes Rear: Disc Brake single
Tires Front: AT22X7 R10 Tubeless
Tires Rear: AT20X10 R9 Tubeless
Fuel Tank Capacity: 9.5L or 2.5 Gallon
Colors: Yellow and White