Is anyone else tired of hearing about side-by-sides? Vikings, RZRs, Mavericks, Wildcats, blah, blah, blah. After a recent track test at "The Ranch" in Anza, California, my muscles were sore, hands raw, and Yamaha's latest YFZ450R delivered a relentless smile and reassured my passion that was temporarily muddled by a steering wheel. Track, trail, or dune, the term "high performance" for me will forever be associated with a 450cc sport quad, and for 2014, it will be hard to beat Yamaha's YFZ450R.
At $8,799, the YFZ450R offers everything you'll need in a high-performance ATV. Its titanium five-valve, 449cc powerplant has always been exciting to ride, but tweaks to the 2014 cam profiles and exhaust system, as well as a new cylinder head, which increased compression from 11.4:1 to 11.8:1, improved performance across the board.
Yamaha's fuel-injection system, with 42mm Mikuni throttle body and 12-hole injector, was improved with a harder-hitting throttle valve, and the trouble with the YFZ's stiff throttle lever has been eliminated with a new, easy-pull design. The end result is a YFZ450R that hits as hard as the carbureted YFZ450s but without the hassle of jetting and the thumb pain caused by the stiff throttle lever.
The new, easy-pull throttle lever was helped dramatically by the addition of an assist and slipper clutch, which is the first to come standard on a production ATV. This setup uses lighter clutch springs, which results in a 25 percent lighter clutch pull. At the same time, the slipper clutch increases clutch plate pressure for positive engagement and reduces the engine-braking effect, which allows for faster cornering when downshifting and also allows the suspension to absorb bumps better during braking. It works well. Just ask Chad Wienen, who used a similar clutch design to win back-to-back AMA ATV Motocross Championships aboard a Yamaha YFZ450R.
The YFZ450R is 49 inches wide, and with the addition of only nerfbars and a kill switch, it's ready to race. Up front, double A-arms are matched with two, high/low-speed compression, rebound, and threaded preload-adjustable KYB shocks. These shocks were increased 2mm in length for 2014, which increased suspension stroke and improved bump absorption and anti-bottoming characteristics on the track. There is 9.8 inches of wheel travel up front, and the stock compression, rebound, and preload settings were pretty dang good for a 190-pound rider. Out back, a cast-aluminum swingarm is matched with a fully adjustable 46mm KYB piggyback shock that offers a super-plush ride and 11 inches of wheel travel. The single rear KYB matches the fronts with high/low-speed compression, rebound, and thread preload adjustments. For the novice and intermediate rider, the overall performance and adjustability of the YFZ450R's suspension will eliminate the need to spend big bucks on an aftermarket setup.
Almost as important is the suspension setup, the YFZ450R benefited from some of the best stock treads and brakes on the market. Not everyone who purchases a 450cc sport quad will be dedicated to the motocross track, which makes the stock 21x7-10 and 20x10-90-inch Maxxis treads a good all-around choice. They provided excellent traction on and off the track. Bring those meats to halt are four-wheel disc brakes. The front offers dual twin-piston caliper and ventilated hydraulic discs, and the rear uses a single twin-piston caliper for dual wave-style ventilated hydraulic disc. This machine stops before the dime, so you can pick it up and save it for a rainy day.
Yamaha gave the YFZ450R a more spacious cockpit by moving the front fender forward 300mm and down 10mm. Blue also lowered the front part of the rear fenders and moved the footwells back 30mm for more leg space and kept the back part of the rear fenders level with the seat, which made sliding from side to side very easy. Along with the on-the-fly clutch lever adjuster, adjustable front brake lever, and four-position adjustable handlebar mounts, it's pretty easy to adapt to the YFZ450R's ergonomics. The increase in space and lower rear fender fared well for our larger test riders, and the addition of quick-release fasteners on the bodywork will eliminate hours of wasted time on maintenance.
While most of the sport ATV market is sitting on their hands, Yamaha made great improvements to its 2014 YFZ450R, which also includes a new Blaze Orange and White or Special Edition Crimson Red and Black color schemes. The SE model features a GYTR black front bumper and runs for $8,999. Yamaha's GYTR department also has more than 100 genuine and co-branded products from nerfbars and skid plates to exhausts, chains, sprockets, and motor builds.
450cc High-Performance Sport ATV Comparison Chart
|Can-Am DS 450||$7,799||46 in. width, EFI, 20 in. rear ITP tires|
|Can-Am DS 450 X mx||$9,699||+2 in. double caster/camber adjustable A-arms|
|Honda TRX450R||$9,699||Carbureted, countless aftermarket accessories|
|Kawasaki KFX450R||$8,299||Only 450cc sport quad with reverse|
2014 Yamaha YFZ450R
Type: 4-stroke, DOHC titanium 5-valve
Bore x stroke: 95 x 63.4mm
Cooling: Liquid-cooled w/ fan
Compression ratio: 11.8:1
Fuel system: Yamaha Fuel Injection, 42mm throttle bodies
Starting system: Electric
Drive system: Sealed O-ring chain, eccentric adjustment, 2WD
Transmission: 5-speed manual clutch
Front: Dual A-arms/9.8 in.
Rear: Cast-aluminum swingarm/9.3 in.
Front: Maxxis 21x7-10
Rear: Maxxis 20x10-9
Front: Dual ventilated hydraulic discs, twin pistons
Rear: Wave-style ventilated hydraulic disc, twin pistons
Wheelbase: 50 in.
Claimed wet weight: 405 lbs.
Ground clearance: 9.3 in.
Length/width/height: 70.7/48.8/41.9 in.
Fuel capacity: 2.6 gal.
Seat height: 31.9 in.
Lighting: Removable dual front headlights
Instrumentation: Front fender indicator panel for low fuel, coolant temperature, check engine, and neutral gear via a straightforward LED display