Tuesday, March 15, 2011

2009 Kawasaki KFX450R ATV Review

Kawasaki introduced the KFX450R with an early-release 2008 model, and the Kawi quad is still throwing roost in the 450 sport market. Don’t get worked up about a host of major upgrades. Instead, Kawasaki changed nothing except the available colors for 2009. Our associates at ATV On Demand gave the fresh-looking Kawasaki a shakedown.

2009 Kawasaki KFX450
The new Sunbeam Red colorway was as pleasant to look at as it was to ride. The 2009 KFX450R gets a refreshed look, but nothing substantial.
Even though Yamaha equipped its new YFZ450R with an aluminum chassis, the KFX remains the only other Japanese offering to utilize the alloy. The double-cradle frame with dual A-arms and aluminum swingarm is far less of a motocross-specific machine than the Yamaha. Kawasaki still targets a wide variety of sport riders by keeping the width to 46.1 inches and equipping the five-speed transmission with a very handy, simple-to-use reverse gear. Test riders found that the KFX is capable of moto duty, but really needs a wider stance and more power to be a true MX contender. Josh Creamer proved just how effective it can be last season by finishing fourth in the AMA/ATVA National Motocross Championship aboard a factory Monster Energy Kawasaki version.

However, the stock layout gives trail riders plenty of space for most standard routes and being able to back out of situations is a huge advantage for off-roading. A-arm length is maximized by using a single lower front frame rail that minimizes the distance between mounting points. This adds to overall stability and the Kawi gets praise for its ability to hold a straight line. The dual shocks up front can handle 8.5 inches of travel and offer preload, compression and rebound adjustment. The rear end is managed by a single unit which also adds high-speed compression tailoring as well as 10 inches of travel. Both ends were too soft for our tester, Allen Knowles, on the motocross track, though his large stature and expert ability should be considered. Knowles noted that off-road use will put the suspension in a better light, especially the rear end. He cautioned that aggressive riders will likely still find the front to be undersprung.

However, the ergonomics were acceptable for the riders thanks to reversible mounts for the Renthal handlebars. Moving around the cockpit is comfortable and the bike’s light front end responds well to input. Wheelbase extends 49.4 inches and ground clearance is the lowest from comparable Japanese quads at 4.3 inches. Front brakes are dual-caliper units with a 163mm standard rotor on each side. The rear features a 200mm petal-style disc grabbed by a single piston. All proved adequate for what the rest of the machine can offer.

2009 Kawasaki KFX450
Allen Knowles called the Kawasaki's reverse system the best available.
A single cylinder uses a 96 x 62.1mm bore and stroke to produce 449cc. The DOHC motor transfers fuel and exhaust through a set of four titanium valves. Tapping the electric button for cold starts and varying operating temperatures and elevations were no problem for the 32-bit digital fuel injection fed through a 42mm Keihin throttle body. Smooth delivery was the standard and test riders used that to their advantage when trying to power out of corners early. This technique is extra important for the Kawi since the relatively mild motor needs every ounce it can get to make some of the larger jumps. Even though it doesn’t rip your arms out, the KFX gets power down best in the lower rpm range. Shifting early worked best for our riders and the 450R never complained about excessive clutch abuse. Moving through the transmission is clean, including the transition in and out of reverse.

As the sport ATV market becomes increasingly specified, Kawasaki still offers a quad that can do it all with fun levels of performance. The 2009 KFX450R aims more heavily at the trail crowd, but green-blooded motocrossers can make a living on this 4-wheeler with just a few upgrades. This is a thoughtful do-all with features like a quick-change clutch cover, easy-access airbox, removable headlights for racing applications, reinforcing rings inside the rear wheels and a USFS-approved spark arrestor. With some new color options for 2009, the KFX450R is a good-looking option for many sport riders.

2009 Kawasaki KFX450R Specs:
Engine: Liquid-cooled, four-stroke, DOHC, four-valve single
Displacement: 449cc
2009 Kawasaki KFX450
Serious racers will still need to address some of the KFX450R's shortcomings, but the list is relatively small.
Bore x stroke: 96 x 62.1mm
Fuel Injection: 32-bit digital, with 42mm Keihin throttle body
Ignition: Digital AC-CDI
Starting: Electric
Transmission: Five-speed with reverse
Final drive: Two-wheel drive, chain
Frame type: Aluminum double cradle, racing type
Front suspension / wheel travel: Dual A-arms, coil-over shocks / 8.5 in.
Rear suspension / wheel travel: Swingarm with piggy-back reservoir shock, dual-rate spring / 10.0 in.
Front tires: AT21x7-10
Rear tires: AT20x10-9
Front brakes: Dual 163mm discs with two-piston calipers
Rear brake: 200mm petal-type rotor with single-piston caliper
Overall length: 71.1 in.
Overall width: 46.1 in.
Overall height: 41.9 in
Seat height: 30.9 in.
Wheelbase: 49.4 in.
Ground clearance: 4.3 in.
Lighting: Dual removable headlights
Curb weight: 394.7 lb
Fuel capacity: 2.6 gal
Footpegs: Sport-style serrated
Color choices: Lime Green, Sunbeam Red, Monster Energy
MSRP: $7,549

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