Sunday, May 8, 2011

2008 Suzuki QuadRacer LT-R450

2008 Suzuki QuadRacer LT-R450
The Suzuki QuadRacer LT-R450 is exceptionally well-suited to the rigors of motocross which makes it unique in the sport quad market.
For a few years now, manufacturers have carted out the "ready for the track" label. While it's invariably only true to a degree, the whole un-spun statement should be: "a trail quad that can also be used as a race quad with proper modifications, do this at your own risk, conditions may apply.." You get the idea. The bottom line is that with sport quads, unlike their two-wheeled motocross brethren, almost all of the time they are trail machines first and racers second.

The exception that makes the rule is Suzuki's QuadRacer R450. The real difference between it and its competition is focus. The others, no disrespect, try to straddle some invisible line giving a bit of capability to the several venues a sport quad might end up; a nod to the sand, solid capability on trails (sloppy eastern and speedy western), and just enough moto capability to keep you from wrecking on the first couple laps or just enough to be fun. Since its mid-2005 release, the R450 is truly as good a MX quad as Suzuki can sell you for a class-competitive price. That's focus.

Sure, they may lighten up the suspension for better trail comfort as they did on the '08, but that also helps in stutter bumps on the track. How that focus translates to the real world is basically less necessary aftermarket dollars. If you're a quad MX enthusiast, or would like to be, the R450 is capable right off the showroom floor, and downright spectacular with very little work.

While the LT-R450 has changed a little every year of its existence since being introduced as a 2006 model, the '08 version is by far the most updated. According to Suzuki, there are over 100 changes to the machine, with 50 in the chassis alone. With a couple years of racing under its belt, Suzuki updated the chassis to make it even more ready to take on the unique demands of motocross racing, and eliminates the need for gusseting before taking to the air. The additional stiffness in the chassis results in better and more predictable handling as well.

2008 Suzuki QuadRacer LT-R450
One of the problems with the R450 is that the rear end gets a little loose in turns.
The Electronic Control Module, which controls the spark and fuel injection systems has been updated too, which along with new cams makes for a stronger engine. Gains are especially noticeable in the low-midrange, which was a slight weakness in the past. Complementing this change are new gear ratios designed to better distribute the newfound power spread. The powerful motor isn't scary in the least, instead providing abundant power in a very usable fashion. Other changes included coated suspension components for less stiction, a new gripper seat cover, a lighter transmission countershaft for better shifter feel and rubber-mounted bars for less rider fatigue.

Appropriately enough, we spent a good deal of time on the MX track testing the LT-R. Out of the box, it is the best machine for a newbie MXer to get out and start finding his way around the specialized milieu of the moto track. Due to its basic design principles of a low center of gravity and a wide stance, it confidently rails the corners with the front stuck to the ground and the rear sliding around easily. The competition-style suspension can handle the big hits of the track, while the new anti-friction-coated components move very well in rough conditions as well for a smooth ride.

More advanced and aggressive riders will swiftly run up against some of these same confidence-inspiring advantages as liabilities, though. The front weight bias and the stock suspension settings keep this quad from transferring weight to the rear at corner exits, which then limits how much traction one can gain while blasting out of a tight corner and on to a quick jump. The easy-slidin' rear can be an issue for a very on-the-gas rider who needs to pay careful attention to his throttle control to keep from over-rotating. A good pilot can ride around the problem to a degree, but it's less than ideal since getting all of that usable power to the ground becomes the new challenge. However, some aftermarket re-valving and tuning on the stock components can solve the problem. As all engineering is a compromise, it's not so bad to have this made-for-the-track machine work better for novices, is it?

2008 Suzuki QuadRacer LT-R450
Stock suspension on the Suzook impressed our testers with its ability to soak up big landings as well as keep the machine under control in the rough stuff.
On the West Coast, moto-prowess translates very well to trail riding. That same confident handling, long travel suspension and big power makes it an ideal mount where the trails are wide and fast. The revamped suspension settings are even better on rough, rain-rutted desert than on the track, while the abundant power will propel the R450 to serious velocity. Deep sand whoops are a regular feature out here, and nothing handles them better in stock trim than the LT-R. Power, balance and superior suspension combine for smooth sailing over the whoop-tops.

In tighter, rougher forest terrain, some adjustments are needed. Taller tires/wheels for more ground clearance and possibly shorter aftermarket A-arms and axle to shrink the wide stance will fix it right up for cross-country duty. But, as these are the exact changes (in reverse) that most quads need to go moto racing, you see that it isn't best suited for this duty. We did some riding in the forested trails of Oregon and while it just barely fit on government-approved and maintained 50-inch wide trails (it clocks in at 49"), it did high-center occasionally. However, on the plus side, its light, razor-sharp handling and explosive power helped it get out of trouble on most hang-ups.

In the sand it's thoroughly decent, but quads with a higher center of gravity are actually better to get more bite in corners, while lower quads will get less traction. Still, with low weight and a hearty engine it's still a good choice, and few stock machines will handle doing big dune jumps like the R.
2008 Suzuki QuadRacer LT-R450
Strong, usable power highlights the R450's moto attitude. It doesn't take much to get the total output into the 50 HP range.

Across all disciplines, the transmission is a typical Suzuki unit - smooth as butter through shifts, with positive engagement and minimal effort. Its 2008 update was just icing on what was already a sweet cake.

A strength that the QuadRacer has always had is its easy upgradeability. Yoshimura, which runs the factory team, works very tightly in concert with Suzuki and their $40 Cherry Bomb plug-in EFI upgrade takes the quad out of the realm of California Green Sticker legal, but for racers (or riders from other states) that is of no consequence. What is does do when combined with an aftermarket pipe is bring a relatively stock quad up past 50 hp. That kind of output was rarefied air on a quad with serious engine work just a couple years ago. These days you can get all the 450-class quads into the same performance ballpark, but none gets there quite as quick and easy as the LT-R.

The suspension, while very decent in stock form, is good enough that with merely some re-valving it's in the ballpark with some very expensive units from the top aftermarket firms for a fraction of the cost. Suzuki's pro racers like to brag to the press that they ride basically stock machines in competition, but in reality even they need some upgrades to compete. The strength of the R is that it requires less than just about anything to be a truly competitive machine at any level of competition.

2008 Suzuki QuadRacer LT-R450
The aftermarket has been kind to the LT-R450 which helps offset the finicky maintenance.
Maintenance on the 450R is a mixed bag. The air filter is a universal size common to several Suzuki models, but on the small side for a high-performance machine like this. It is, however, easy to change out. One headache that comes with the EFI territory is the fuel filter. Unlike most other machines you may have ridden, the QuadRacer needs almost laboratory-levels of cleanliness in the fuel supply. Just a few specs of dirt on the LT-R's filter will affect fuel pressure enough to screw with power output and make the engine run poorly. You have to be sure to clean the cap, top of the tank and fuel nozzle before filling it or risk a 45-minute trip under the plastic to clean out the filter. The R is a finely tuned machine and accepts nothing less than full fuel pressure to run correctly.

Its refreshing to have a manufacturer really accept a specific direction for a machine in order to make it really, really good at one thing, even if that means sacrificing a little in all of the other categories. In fact, it loses little compared to what its competitors' jack-of-all-trades quads give up on the motocross track. Despite the LT-R450's seemingly single-minded pursuit of moto mastery, it's actually a damn fine machine for many sport enthusiasts. Unlike the two-wheeled world where very similar, narrow-focus machines duke it out for slices of a small pie. The QuadRacer helps complete the ATV landscape by giving choices far different from other sport machines.

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