Kawasaki invited us to beautiful San Diego, California, to preview its 2005 ATV models. Sport types need not hold their breath waiting for a KFX450-there is no such model for '05. Management at Kawasaki would not confirm or deny that a 450 sport machine was in the works but stated that if such a model were in development, it would not be released until it was absolutely perfect. We'll have to wait and see on that one.
Instead, Kawasaki unveiled one new utility machine, the Brute Force 650 4x4. Available in Woodsman green, Aztec red and Realtree Hardwoods Green HD Camouflage, the 650 shares the same styling as the 750 Brute Force down to the cat's-eye headlights; but the similarities stop there. One walk around the new Brute Force 650, and you will immediately notice the absence of independent rear suspension as used on the larger 750 model. In fact, if the frame and suspension components look remarkably similar to the Prairie 700's to you, it's because they are.
The '05 Brute Force 650 is essentially a rerelease of the former Prairie 650 with contemporary bodywork and a new name. Wondering why Kawasaki would crowd showroom floors with both a 650cc- and a 700cc-class machine may initially hurt your brain-until you take a look at the price tag. The 650 fills a void created by the more-expensive 700 and 750 models. At $6599 ($6899 for the Camo version), the Brute Force 650 has been positioned as a 650 model available at a 500cc-class price. The base model costs less than both Polaris' Sportsman 500 H.O. ($6699) and Honda's 500cc Rubicon ($7199), allowing customers to leave their favorite dealership with either more gear and accessories or a fatter wallet.
The 650 engine has shown to be bulletproof, and in some applications it may even be preferred to the Prairie 700. For instance, the new Brute Force 650, 2003 Prairie 650 and 2005 Prairie 700 all share the same 4.5-gallon gas-tank capacity. You don't need a degree in math to figure out that the 650 should get a better fuel range. In fact, we've tested both Prairie models on the exact same trail system and repeatedly run low on fuel piloting the 700, while the 650 had fuel to spare. We look forward to testing the Brute Force 650 and sharing our findings with you. If the machine runs as good as it looks, it's bound to be a winner.
Kawasaki asked us to remind you that all first-time buyers of a new Kawasaki ATV are eligible to receive $100 if they complete an ATV rider safety course conducted by the ATV Safety Institute. For more information, check out www.kawasaki.com. -Len Nelson
International Spy PhotosStraight from the lens of our very own international man of mystery came these cool sights from the Intermot show in Munich, Germany. Intermot is one of the biggest international motorcycle shows and is where many manufacturers debut their latest wares. Mostly a schmooze-fest for the two-wheelers, the 2004 event indicated a growing trend toward street-going ATVs. Here are our favorites.
Cobras Sighted near Children!Cobra Motorcycles has thrown its hat into the ATV ring with a new competition youth model. While this may seem to be a strange way to enter the market, Cobra first cut its teeth producing highly capable competition minis for the two-wheeled crowd.
According to the Ohio company, the ECX70 "will be ready for the winner's circle right out of the crate." With a patent-pending chassis designed by Arens Brothers Racing, the new machine features dual-A-arm front suspension adorned with Fox Shox, hydraulic disc brakes front and rear, a high-output engine with a six-speed sequential gearbox and a hydraulic clutch, DirectLink rear suspension with a fully adjustable shock and a 24mm D-slide carb. Rightfully, Cobra is proud of its newest creation and says, "This product will not be for everybody. We are seeking out only the most-talented kids who are experienced racers. This quad is not designed for the backyard."