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By: ATV Source Staff

Kawasaki's KFX450R a Race Worthy Machine Straight from the Showroom Floor

KFX450R with Tribal Graphics
KFX450R with Tribal Graphics

Kawasaki's entrance to the ATV 450 sport class market may have come a little late in comparison to the competition, but the wait was well worth it. The 450R is their most advanced machine yet, and the most advanced from any Japanese competitor. Not only is the KFX450R a fun machine to ride, but also it’s built with the racing crowd in mind. It comes in three styles, which are traditional lime green and black, white and black, and the special edition model with all black plastics, tribal graphics, and all black wheels for a small price extra.

The KFX450R easily power slides around corners keeping the power to the dirt and keeping the machine pointed in the direction you want to go.
The KFX450R easily power slides around corners keeping the power to the dirt and keeping the machine pointed in the direction you want to go.

Handling
For a stock machine the KFX450R handles like a dream, has the least amount of bump steer of any current 450 machine on the market and is very predictable. If the rear end starts to get loose, it is easily corrected. Point the machine in any direction, and it’ll take right off without fault. In the woods the KFX feels so nimble that you can just flat-out whip it anywhere you want, and it’ll go. Even in the air on a good-sized jump, you can easily correct any sideways momentum and make crucial changes to keep a rider safe and from having a tough landing. The KFX incorporates a new single tube front-end design, which allows for longer, lower a-arms to be used to increase handling and lower bump steer. It would be quite interesting to see what a fully built motocross machine will do such as factory riders Jason Luburgh and Josh Creamers‘ quads.

The stock suspension can easily withstand huge jumps like this 40-foot step-down.
The stock suspension can easily withstand huge jumps like this 40-foot step-down.

Suspension
On par with the industry and as good as you’ll find without putting down a large chunk of change, the KFX shocks take the track and trails pretty well. With compression and rebound adjustments in the front with low and high-speed compression with rebound on the rear, there’s a lot with which to work with. On initial tests the machine was not adjusted too much and kept a happy medium for the woods and trails, which really did not allow the machine to shine. Since the initial press release, I myself have bought a KFX450R and have ridden it on an MX track. After taking some time to dial in the suspension for that specific type of riding, I was very impressed with the control and feel of the suspension. It takes a brief period for the shocks to break themselves in, but once done it is a very plush ride. The stock suspension was able to handle a 90-foot tabletop without bottoming out or being too harsh. In initial tests there was a slight problem with rear shock bucking but was corrected with dialing in the shocks. Take the time to dial in your shocks no matter what you have as it will completely change your mind on how good your stock suspension could be.

The KFX450R comes with dual front hydraulic disk brakes.
The KFX450R comes with dual front hydraulic disk brakes.

Brakes and Tires
With dual front hydraulic disc brakes and rear disc brake, the stopping power is consistent, and there is little to no sponginess from either. The rear disc brake comes with a petal-type rotor, which will help reduce unsprung weight and helps clean the brake pads for more efficient braking performance in muddy or sloppy conditions. The KFX450R has an integrated rear parking brake. When the rear parking brake is engaged, the clutch lever is inoperable.

The KFX450R is wrapped in Dunlop rubber. The front tires are AT21x7-10 and the rears are AT20x10-9. Specially designed rear wheels feature reinforcing plates for the rims, which are mounted on the axle side. One thing we noticed with this type of reinforcing plate, mud, leaves, and rocks can easily build up inside these rings. This can be of concern for those that race GNCC style events.

There's enough power on tap to help even where power robbing conditions like mud are present.
There's enough power on tap to help even where power robbing conditions like mud are present.

Power
The KFX450R ATV uses a powerplant based on the KX450F motocross engine. With a more efficient and very responsive 32-bit digital fuel injection system, the power delivery on the KFX is very smooth but with a big hit. With the rev limiter at the 1st stage @ 10,500 RPM and the 2nd stage @ 11,000 RPM, you will have a hard time hitting the top RPM range. First and second gear are almost identical. Therefore, you’ll find yourself clicking through them rather quickly. A quick sprocket change will correct this and provide a little more torque and a better gear ratio for 1st and 2nd gear. We personally loved the hit because the KFX450R loved to be revved, but those who ride the woods would rather have the torque over the quick burst of power. The KFX450R likes it when the RPMS are revving. There is a small learning curve in keeping the RPM up, but once mastered, the power delivery on the track is sick and still does very well in the woods, but can be too much for the average rider. Without actually trying riding the dunes yet, we feel the KFX450R will have the ability because of its RPM delivery and loads of power. The KFX450R powerplant is hungry for higher-octane gas; the minimum grade is 91 octane, but runs better on race fuels.

Fast trail section are a blast with the EFI system, as power is always available without hesitation.
Fast trail section are a blast with the EFI system, as power is always available without hesitation.

EFI
The Kawasaki electronic fuel injection (EFI) system is another continuation to new technology and the removal of carburetors from the racing world. The system allows for very crisp throttle response and an instant hit at the blip of the throttle. Riders new to EFI will have to get used to letting the fuel pump prime before starting. Being fuel injected has a lot of advantages but is new to a lot of riders. The days of changing your jets because of temperature or altitude changes are in the past. The EFI incorporates a vehicle down sensor. The vehicle down sensor is necessary due to the fuel injection system, as it is pressurized to 42.6 lbs; this is a safety feature that shuts off the fuel pump in the event of a tip over.

Kawasaki is bringing forth their own racer kit to adjust the EFI system as well as other companies who already have products out like the Power Commander and the Trinity Racing kits. Many more will surely follow. The fuel injection allows for much more tuning capability and even ignition curve changes. Those who have researched Cannondale systems will see many similarities since the KFX system has sensors for things such as the crank and temperature, plus and internal hour meter.

Here is the available KFX450R Factory Race Kit accessories and their associated cost.

Kawasaki KFX450R Factory Race Kit Accessories
Item Number Retail Price
Adjustable ECU p/n 21175-0136 $649.95
Signal Converter p/n 57001-1504 $201.47
Computer Cable p/n 57001-1470 $134.31
Racing Muffler p/n 180973-4406-9 $349.95
Nerf Bars p/n K55020-0073 $189.95
Skid Plate Main p/n K55020-0285  $139.95
Skid Plate Swing Arm p/n K55020-0288 $176.95
Chain Slider p/n 92075-1829 $3.98
Front Bumper p/n K55020-0278 $199.95
Kick Start Kit
(Footwell Guards required)
p/n 99994-0097 $249.95
Footwell Guards p/n K55020-0086 $TBD
Headlight Guards p/n K55020-0283 $89.95

The EFI system also allows for amazing starting ability. New owners will disagree with that statement because upon getting a new KFX it is a challenge to start. Once the machine is broken in, it will start flawlessly every time on the first hit of the starter. This was something Kawasaki evidently did their homework on. Furthermore, if you stall or need to restart the KFX450R during racing situations, no more will the hot start symptoms plaque you.

You can easily powerslide into a corner and hit the gas and the KFX450R will pull through the corner with amazing agility.
You can easily powerslide into a corner and hit the gas and the KFX450R will pull through the corner with amazing agility.

Cosmetics/Ergonomics
The KFX has quite a unique appearance to it. It looks fast even sitting still, and provides the feeling the quad is in attack mode while still sitting idle. The handlebars are very low on the front, and you are placed quite differently on it than other 450 machines. We would like the see the handlebars raised a little, but it is all rider preference. The only complaint really for the plastic design would be the front fenders. Part of where they are designed has sort of a bulge around the gas tank, which will require racers or very aggressive riders to wear knee guards or some sort of protection, or you will regret it otherwise. That and the front fenders come back a little much. Leaning in hard on corners led to smacking of the front fenders on the knees. However, you can remove part of the front fenders by popping off the bolts and rivets to alleviate the problem. Other than that everything feels great ergonomically.

Shifting/Reverse
The KFX450R is unique as it is the first 450-race machine to have reverse. Some may feel this is not a big deal, but it has come in handy quite a bit already and was very useful in testing. It is the tradition 1-down 4-up design but incorporates the reverse gear below 1st gear. Kick to neutral, push in the reverse switch and kick down. When you’re done with reverse, you just shift up into first gear. It’s that simple, and you don’t even have to take your hands off the grips to do so. The transmission itself, out of all the 450 class, is definitely a contender for the best and smoothest shifting we have personally tried. It effortlessly shifts up through the gears and back down. No complaints whatsoever.

Carnage when an a-arm comes into contact with a tree stump.
Carnage when an a-arm comes into contact with a tree stump.

Problems
There wasn’t much to complain about. We bent a rear wheel on a rock, but anyone can do that to about any rim with a hard collision. The shifter had to be raised for MX boots like on all factory machines, but not a problem and quick and easy adjustment. Our test rider actually flipped one end-over-end and it landed upright without any breakage or other problems to report. After a quick look over the machine, everything looked great; and the Renthal Fatbars withstood the punishment, too.

Even though our test machine withstood the rigors of our hard riding, a few others did not fair so well. One in particular hit a tree stump and bent the lower a-arm pretty good. In addition, the plastic on another broke where the screw secures it to the framing. However, these types of problems can plague any ATV.

To new owners as mentioned previously, the KFX450R will be a little bit of a challenge until broken in to start. If the machine will not fire, then shut off the key, and let it sit for 15 seconds or so. Turn the key back on and let the fuel pump prime, then hit the start button. This procedure seemed to help out on the first-time hard starts. Once the starting is broken in, the problem will be gone. This is a small and temporary sacrifice for a great machine.

Conclusion
Kawasaki brought a real winner to the table. The unique design, EFI, the aluminum frame, and the new yet well-designed front end make it one quad that’s destined to be at the top before long. The way the KFX feels makes you feel more confident in riding. The harder you ride, the harder and faster the quad will take you. After riding hour after hour on the machine, it never let down or bobbled which was a big plus for such a new machine. It demands to be ridden all out, and riders need to have quite a bit of experience under their belt before jumping on one. We personally loved the machine and feel it has such a great potential as a race machine that our test rider went out and purchased one. Like all machines it has its pros and cons, but the question to ask is does it outweigh the cons of itself and the pros of the competition? That answer will have to come upon further riding and reviews, but so far the KFX450R is right there at the top of the podium in design and race potential.

See complete specifications here: KFX450R Specifications.


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