From the July/August 2011 issue of ATV Rider Magazine
Way back in 2002, Kawasaki took the ATV world by storm when it unveiled the Prairie 650. In my opinion, that machine started the whole sport-utility class that’s so competitive today. On the GNCC circuit that year, you couldn’t flick a booger without one landing on a Prairie. Over the years, the power and reliability of the Kawi V-twin left most other machines in the dust. As the sport-utility market grew, demand for a more comfortable Independent Rear Suspension (IRS) sealed the Prairie’s fate, replacing it with the more civilized and comfortable Kawasaki Brute Force 750 and 650. The Brute Force had the same killer powerplant as the Prairie, but weird handling and tough steering often made buyers look elsewhere. In 2007, Yamaha and Honda took ATVs to a whole new level by integrating Electric Power Steering (EPS) into their product line. As editors, we all knew that for anybody to compete, they’d have to do the same. As the last major ATV manufacturer to finally add EPS to its lineup, Kawasaki would finally debut its version on an all-new Brute Force 750, and we were stoked.
Obviously, the biggest change for Kawasaki’s new flagship ATV is the EPS system. It’s very similar to current EPS systems, meaning it’s speed-sensitive and provides variable assist. At slower speeds where steering input typically requires greater effort, more assist is provided by the EPS than at faster speeds. While Honda, Polaris, Can-Am and Arctic Cat provide assistance even when the machine is sitting still, Kawasaki’s system is similar to Yamaha’s, providing no assist until the machine is in motion.
The venerable 90-degree 749cc Kawi V-twin also gets an update in ’12. At the top of the list of improvements is a new cylinder head that provides a higher compression ratio. The result is an increase in low-rpm torque. New camshaft profiles, changes in engine timing and an increase in valve lift also enhance the power emanating from the V-twin thumper. To complement the engine enhancements, a new fuel map for the Digital Fuel Injection (DFI) system maximizes performance by compensating for the engine changes made in 2012.
The Kawasaki Automatic Powerdrive System (KAPS) returns as the CVT system of choice. However, changes to the transmission are plenty. Clutch weight and clutch spring settings have been reworked, and a thicker belt and enhanced belt material allow the clutch to work more efficiently. Also, gear ratios have been reduced from 3.098 to 2.884, which in turn puts less load on the CVT belt by lowering engine rpm at top speed.
The 2012 Brute Force 750 rolls on a new, stronger, double-cradle frame that sports additional reinforcements at critical points, like the front A-arm mounts, rear stabilizer mounts, engine mounts and footrest mounts. Up front a revised double-wishbone independent front suspension design includes preload-adjustable single-rate shocks with 6.7 inches of travel. Out back, Independent Rear Suspension (IRS) provides 7.5 inches of travel. With the shock absorbers mounted at a more splayed angle between the upper and lower A-arms, sag is minimized with a rider on board and provides 9.4 inches of ground clearance.
Styling enhancements abound on the new Brute Force. The aggressive new bodywork is constructed of high-gloss, scratch-resistant thermoplastic olefin and incorporates a covered hood storage bin with enough room to hold two 16-ounce bottles. The upgraded cargo racks are 25 percent larger than their predecessors, have integrated tiedown loops and are able to hold a combined 264 pounds. Finally, stylish new six-spoke cast-aluminum wheels not only give the new Brute Force a mean look, they also are much stronger than the steel wheels they replace.
As I threw a leg over the new Brute Force 750 and tagged the throttle, the engine sparked to life and settled into a calm, thumping idle that makes fans of this engine tingle inside. As a longtime fan of the Kawi V-twin, I found it amazing to see how much better this engine is with EFI than the old carbureted models that required begging to keep them idling after a cold start. Sitting in the saddle, the pilot will immediately notice a few things. The seat is very comfortable, and all of the controls are not only easily within reach; they also are also very intuitively located. The handlebar, however, seems to be unchanged and remains very narrow, as in years past.
With a flick of the throttle, the incredible thumper comes alive like my Dad’s 1970 Chevy Nova SS I remember riding around in. The smile that hid under my helmet is also the same one I remember my old man sporting every time he stabbed the throttle or grabbed another gear on that old SS. The Brute’s CVT allows the engine to always run in the sweet spot, and that sweet spot I speak of also happens to sound like seven million angry bees sitting between your legs. That rumble is absolutely intoxicating, and it is truly the heart of the Brute Force!
I immediately pointed the Brute Force to the tightest, gnarliest trail I could find and began terrorizing the terrain. Having spent way too much time in the saddle of the first-generation Brute Force during one of the legendary 12 Hours of ATV America races, I found the EPS steering a welcome addition. No longer do your arms need to be the size of Hulk Hogan’s to steer it and wrestle with the bumpsteer the old chassis subjected the rider to. Most of those characteristics have thankfully disappeared. Having tagged a few massive rocks with Brutes both with and without EPS, I also found it refreshing for the bar to not jab me in the abdomen. In choppy terrain, the new EPS also does a great job of controlling most of the bumpsteer that transfers up through the bar. It’s not to say the steering is perfect, though. On off-camber terrain, the Brute Force’s steering felt a bit unstable. Also, when pushing the Brute hard, the outer front wheel often felt like it was trying to tuck and roll, allowing the front end to push and the suspension to roll unusually toward the outer front wheel. This strange characteristic may very well be the fact that the Brute Force is wearing a two-ply tires with a very flexible sidewall. Although, as of press time, we haven’t had the opportunity to swap out the tires, I feel a switch to six-ply meat with a little stiffer sidewall might cure this ill.
At low speeds, the single-rate suspension is very plush. If you’re a hunter or a low-speed trail rider, you’ll notice vast improvements over the previous Brute Force. However, if you tend to ride your quad like you stole it, cranking the wick up a little tighter will cause the front end to find its travel limit rather quickly. The rear suspension takes advantage of almost an extra inch of wheel travel over the front, and thus, doesn’t bottom out nearly as easily as the front end. The changes in the front end are evident, and as stated earlier, steering effort is vastly improved. What hasn’t changed, though, is the fact that the Brute Force engine is absolutely pissed off from the word “go,” and as such, it treats the pilot to limitless two-wheel and one-wheel blasts out of the corners. My riding pal commented that he “had never seen the bottom of a utility quad so often.” If wheelies or steering the quad with the throttle is your thing, the Brute Force will not disappoint!
The engine-braking on the Kawasaki is top-notch and for the average trail rider; you’ll likely only ever need the brakes to bring you to a complete stop. The 200mm dual-piston front brakes are excellent and bring this beast to a stop very quickly. Rear brakes continue to be Kawasaki’s enclosed wet multi-plate design. They work particularly well in the mud and are very resistant to fade. But since they are cable actuated, riders used to hydraulic pedal feel will find them somewhat numb.
The new cast-aluminum wheels on the Brute Force are stellar. They are not only much more handsome than the old stamped steel wheel used in previous generations, they’re also much tougher! We subjected our wheels to an absolute beating in the sharp, jagged rocks of Pennsylvania, and other than a few scrapes they came out unscathed. The stock Duro tires, on the other hand, didn’t fare as well. Two-ply tires are light and typically give a nice, cushy ride without adding much weight. That’s great if you ride in the sand or areas with no rocks. It’s my humble opinion that they don’t belong on a $10,000 ATV, because they puncture too easily and often add numbness to the handling characteristics. To date, we have four plugs in our left front tire, and as the miles add up on the odometer, I predict that number will most likely climb.
If buying a new Kawasaki Brute Force for the EPS doesn’t much matter to you, then go buy one for the looks. The new bodywork is not only badass looking, the scratch-resistant thermoplastic olefin material it’s made out of sheds abuse better than Charlie Sheen’s immune system. The high-gloss material allows mud and water to roll off really easily, and the new splash protection is also much improved. We spent a great amount of time on the trails the day after my favorite ride spot got several inches of rain, and after plowing through every mudhole I could find, the Brute Force never skipped a beat.
Kawasaki is legendary for its cultlike followers who generally sport more green than Gumby ever did. The 2012 750 is certainly the best Brute Force Kawasaki has ever produced. With an engine that has the heart of a lion and the welcome addition of EPS to keep up with the other manufacturers, Kawasaki has just made the decision on which new ATV to buy even more difficult! ATVR
“If wheelies or steering the quad with the throttle are your thing, the Brute Force will not disappoint!”
2012 Kawasaki Brute Force 750 4x4i EPS
MSRP: Red, $9,299; green or black, $9,999; camo, $10,349
Type: 90-degree, four-stroke, four-valve, SOHC, V-twin
Fuel system: DFI with two 36mm Mikuni throttle bodies
Starting system: Electric
Drive system: Shaft, selectable 4WD with variable front differential
Transmission: Continuously variable belt-drive with high/low range, reverse, engine-braking
Front: Dual A-arms/6.7 in.
Rear: Fully independent, dual A-arms/7.5 in.
Front: Dual hydraulic 200mm discs with two-piston calipers
Rear: Sealed, oil-bathed, multi-disc
Claimed curb weight: 684 lb
Ground clearance: 9.4 in.
Length/width/height: 86.4/46.5/48.0 in.
Turning radius: 10 ft 6 in.
Rack capacity, front/rear: 88/176 lb
Towing capacity: 1,250 lb
Lighting: 35-watt headlights, 5-watt taillight, 21-watt stoplight
Instrumentation: Speedometer, odometer, dual tripmeters, fuel gauge, engine temp, clock, hourmeter; 2WD/4WD icon, plus indicators for neutral, reverse, belt, oil pressure
Colors: Aztec Red, Scout Green, Super Black; Realtree Camo APGTM HD, Metallic Tungsten Gray SE
|2012 Kawasaki Brute Force 750 4x4I EPS|
|+||Power Steering… Need we say more?|
|-||Tires not up for par for the quality of this machine|
|=||The Brute Force lives up to its name and is better than ever for 2012|