We rode the Troy Lee version...
We rode the Troy Lee version of the Predatoroit went well with our new MSR gear. A custom seat cover, unique graphics and cool wheel stickers all designed by the master artist himself are available for an extra $200
A few months ago at Yamaha's YFZ450 press intro, we were excited to hear that, like two-wheeled motocrossers, the redevelopment cycle for big blue's new quad was going to be one year. Meaning changes, refinements or outright redos would occur every new model year. We're glad to see it isn't the only company to think that way.
Polaris has taken two of our testers' biggest complaints (from "Open Class Mayhem," April '03) about the 2003 Predator and reduced or eliminated them on the '04 rendition. The biggest beef we had with the Predator was a problematic transmission that would miss shifts with alarming regularity. The 2004 Predator features an updated tranny with decreased shifting effort and better durability.
Another needed change is the switch to a shorter and much cleaner-looking swingarm. Most of our testers resented the fact that the anti-squat suspension setup would keep the nose on the ground way too effectively, subduing the rider's ability to lift the front over obstacles or, for that matter, wheelie. Really aggressive testers would punch the throttle hard and lean back, first getting no lift from the front, then way too much (see Rejected, page 98).
When aggressively cornering, the suspension would also limit weight transfer to the rear, and instead of grabbing a good bite and driving out of corners, the wheels would just spin.
The new swingarm is 5o8 inch shorter and features a more integrated design for a cleaner look and a pound plus saved in weight. The more-compact design uses far fewer welds and retains the same eccentric chain-adjuster system.
Other refinements to the Predator include new 9-inch rear wheels, new ball joints in the front suspension, new rear fenders, a new chain guide, a new top motor mount, new suspension valving and a redesigned heat shield. The press and Predator owners spoke, and Polaris listened.
We thought Polaris' decision to use nonstandard 10-inch wheels in the rear, which also included a proprietary bolt pattern, was a miscue, and apparently its engineers agreed. While the '03 Predator came with high-quality pieces from Douglas, the odd size caused some buyers to resort to new aftermarket wheels to run their tires of choice. The '04 Predator comes with traditional 9-inch wheels in the now-standard "Honda 400EX" bolt pattern.
These are the new transmission...
These are the new transmission parts, new shifter forks with differing leverage ratios and altered shaft lengths.
Only two things we criticized in previous testing were not addressed: weight (more than Yamaha's Raptor, let alone new MX quads) and the lack of reverse.
We did some riding in the Black Hills of South Dakota on the redesigned machine and found Polaris' claims to be true. While still retaining the Predator's innate ability to stay flat in corners and stick to the ground, Polaris hasn't given up on its anti-dive and anti-squat geometry; the '04 Predator predictably lifted the front with judicious application of the throttle. It's far easier than before, especially in tacky terrain. On loose gravel or sand, it was still more likely to spin the rear wheels than wheelie on demand. In fact, those with a heavy throttle hand will notice the back end will swim when given liberal applications of juice. On the tight trails we rode this was asking for trouble, so more-moderate throttle inputs were required.
The transmission seemed much improved over the prior version's, shifting with or without the clutch on demand and not missing a single shift. We still had a little trouble finding neutral, but it was altogether a huge improvement over its progenitor.
We have no idea if the revised suspension valving and higher-profile rear tires improved the ride; the Black Hills trails we traveled were so rough and full of rocks that comfort was far from our minds. However, the frequent water-bar jumps made for good fun as the Predator flew predictably and true, at least on these little poppers, and we noticed in this very hostile environment that not one of the eight machines being ridden got a flat and there were few dented rims-- testament to the quality of the components from Maxxis and Douglas.
The Predator is a good machine that has improved substantially--perhaps enough to take on Suzuki's QuadSport Z400, which has bested it in a couple of our tests. However, the landscape has changed, and there are new, lighter and more potent quads in the offing from Yamaha and Honda. Only further testing will tell who comes out on top.