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By: Jason Giacchino

Can-Am Tricks Out the DS450 So You Don’t Have To



For 2009, especially where the 450cc race class is concerned, many of the OEMs have decided to step up their game in the form of specialization. Sure they’ve all had entries in the class for the past few seasons, but the big news of late comes in the form of limited edition models designed with specific race needs in mind. KTM, for example, expanded its cross-country-intended XC line of quads to now include SX versions designed for motocross specifically. Yamaha intends to release a motocross-built version of the YFZ450 (called the 450R) for 2009, and Can-Am has a similar trick up their sleeve as well.

Introduced only a year ago, the Can-Am DS450 has quickly become one of our favorite 450cc quads--thanks in no small part to a laundry list of innovations not shared with any other ATV on the market today. While a single year may not seem like a whole lot of time for a model to become stagnant, Can-Am realizes that the competitive nature of the premier racing niche will require constant R&D attention in an effort to keep their edge. So for 2009 the DS450 will receive not one but two siblings, each designed with a specific racing application in mind. Yes, the base model DS will still be available (in a slick red and white color scheme to celebrate Can-Am’s racing heritage no less) for the lowest MSRP ($7599) of the bunch.

The two new DS450s will each bear the X moniker (meaning that Can-Am has tricked them out right at the factory) followed by two letters to indicate their design intentions: XC and MX. As you may have already figured, XC denotes Cross-Country and this version of the X package comes set up for GNCC style race courses. With an MSRP of $8799, it sits right in the middle of the three models. We took a look at the motocross-package (MX), which, while the more heavily modified version of the DS family, sits on top of the price scale at $8999. Both X models are distinguishable from the base model DS from afar thanks to an all black color scheme broken up with just enough yellow trim to remind us of a killer bee. We unloaded the 2009 Can-Am DS450X MX right at our local MX track to see if Can-Am invested the $1400 (over the base model’s cost) wisely.

Before we dig into the new top-of-the-line X package, we should probably get up to speed on the base model DS450 because, after all, Can-Am has actually made a handful of changes to what we already considered a very well-rounded machine. Aside from the plastic color variation mentioned above, Can-Am went back to the drawing board and ditched the small round lenses found on last year’s DS. In their place are redesigned headlamps with more angular charms (a la Yamaha). Additionally Can-Am added a quick-adjust clutch perch, which completes the theme on the bars (last year had only the quick adjust brake lever). Aside from these small tweaks, the base model DS is essentially the same 450cc Rotax powered beast we’ve known and loved.

And loved it we have, thanks to a whole host of intriguing ingenuity found nowhere else in the industry. Offering up such features as a weld-less ALTEC aerospace grade dual pyramidal frame (riveted like the fuselage of an aircraft) cast aluminum A-arms, a hollow rear axle, inverted brake calipers, what wasn’t to love? Besides, after a year of abuse, we can speak pretty openly about the impressive reliability the machine boasts. For the X package, the Can-Am design team wanted to push the envelope even further and specifically targeted customer requests/complaints when laying out the spec sheet. Even more impressive still was the knowledge base the factory had to work with coming in the form of feedback from racers such as John Natalie, Jr. and Jeremy Lawson. In truth the end result of a bone stock DS450X MX isn’t all that different from the machines beneath said champions!

Here’s what Can-Am added to turn the DS450 into the X MX variation: Aluminum nerf bars, heel guards, and bumpers, factory installed kill switch (and tether), adjustable width axles (46-50 inches), +1 inch anti-vibe steering stem, and ITP Quadcross MX Pro tires mounted on ITP wheels (T-9GP front/ T-9 Trac-lock rear). The front end is now full regulation width at 50 inches (up from 46) via trick +2 inch A-arms (camber and caster adjustable). Can-Am also managed to lower the ride height of the DS for the specific demands of the MX track through an absolutely gorgeous Kashima-coated KYB HPG suspension package. Although difficult to discern visually, Can-Am assures us that the MX version’s shocks offer longer stroke, larger diameter shock bodies, pistons and shafts over the base DS and X XC package. The shocks are, as expected, fully adjustable: High and low-speed compression damping, high and low speed rebound response, and preload (on the shock reservoirs). All told the X MX boasts an impressive 10.7 inches of wheel travel! Can-Am says its goal with the X packages is to make machines that can be raced with absolutely zero modifications. The spec sheet certainly seems compliant, but what about the ride?

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