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MORE COMING SOON!
Of The Biggest Sport Quads Battle For In California
Thursday January 15, 2004
So, we gathered these
four big-bore sport quads for a battle in the
dry-and-dusty desert of Southern California. We chose not to include
new 450cc “racers” because they are niche specific and don’t fit in the
Open class. As much as we like the high-performance 450cc four-strokes,
we like cruising, racing and playing on these big bore quads equally.
foursome is comprised of different technologies and
setups with one thing in mind: Providing an entertaining ride in a
variety of terrain. The cast credits read like a dream sequence of top
performers: ardier DS650, Kawasaki V Force 700, Polaris Predator
500 and Yamaha 660R Raptor. “But,” you may ask, “where’s the Yamaha
Banshee?” Well, Yamaha declined to include it in the shootout this
Last year, the
Bombardier took some knocks for being big and heavy.
This year, the manufacturer cut away 20 pounds and made it both
narrower and shorter. With these changes, the 2004 DS650 was much more
pleasant to ride, and still had that strong and energetic 653cc
four-stroke engine. One tester said the DS650 had the best bottom-end
power of all the machines tested. It doesn’t take much of an effort to
point the bars, give it gas and hang on. With the strong powerplant, we
had to pay more attention in the whoops and when exiting corners. With
too much throttle, the front end would leave the ground.
Overall, the DS650
Rotax engine is hearty enough to make it potent down low and at the
top-end; it also proved to be the fastest unit in our radar runs.
Most of our test
riders said the Kawasaki V Force had a fast engine and
was fun for cruising. The 697cc, twin-cylinder, four-stroke powerplant
is unique to the sport market. Teamed with a continuously variable
transmission, the V Force is the simplest ATV to operate in this group.
Our test riders said
the power was amazing, especially for an ATV with
an automatic transmission. “Not only is the auto tranny easy to use,
but it works well,” one tester said.
Every rider said the
Kawi’s stock clutch setup was almost perfect and
were pleased with its steady, consistent power from the bottom end to
the top. But one rider said a heavier driven clutch spring and more
backshift could help this quad. Wheelies are simple on this ATV thanks
to clutching and big power and torque transferred to the traction-happy
The Polaris Predator
500 is powered by a potent single-cylinder,
four-stroke engine. Although the Predator’s overall power felt
muscular, the bottom-end power lacked immediate punch. Most of our test
riders said the power felt slightly delayed, but was impressive up top.
The power is delivered smooth and efficiently, however, there’s a
slight issue with the transmission, though it’s improved from last
season. One tester had trouble finding neutral. Another described it as
“rough,” especially when shifting and clutching from third gear to
fourth and back to third. This quad required the most input to loft the
front end over bumps and whoops.
Our test riders said
the 660cc single-cylinder mill powering the Raptor
proved to be both throaty in exhaust note and fast for a four-stroke
single. A few testers said the engine had enough torque to take off in
second or third gear as long as the rider provided good clutch and
We also found our
test Raptor had better bottom-end power than the
Predator, but not as much as the DS650. We liked its top-speed
abilities and didn’t find the serious gearing issues that were
noticable on past Raptors.
| ATV News
We lumped all these
categories as one because they all affect one
another in testing. For example, a poor suspension will produce
handling issues. And a quad with its weight bias shifted too far
forward will also handle poorly.
Bombardier lightened and reduced the size of the DS650, it
still was heavy on the trail. But it’s definitely better than a year
ago. Our group of riders liked the 2004 DS650 improvements, but when
compared to the quads in this class, said the front end was quirky when
lighter and easier to loft, the front end still had sluggish
tendencies, but not to the point of being uncontrollable. “It can, on
occasion, grab the side of a narrow trail and try to turn when you
don’t want it to. It’s a bit sluggish and takes a lot of work in tight
technical applications,” one tester indicated.
Smaller riders said
the DS felt tall compared to other quads, yet still
provided a stable ride thanks to the suspension and power. The
suspension was forgiving in the terrain we rode, and the DS was at home
in the whoops most of the time. As the majority of testers wrote, the
machine still feels like it is best-suited to wide-open desert
“The suspension is
plush, and well suited for open, medium-fast terrain
— a good fit for Baja,” one said.
Most of the riders
said the Kawasaki V Force was tall and heavy. Maybe
because it’s more than 40 pounds heavier than the next heaviest quad,
the DS650. Surprisingly, however, none of them said they felt out of
control on this quad. “It’s a little heavy for the whoops and jumping,
but still lands smooth,” said a tester.
One test rider found
the weight bias made the quad a little more nose
heavy than the other quads during rough sections and high-speed turns.
A stiffer front suspension setting should improve this feature. “The
suspension handles many areas well, but the rear shock bottoms a lot,
and also tends to pack up in the whoops.”
Our test Kawi had
heavier steering than the other quads in this group
and it seemed as though we had to work harder to ride as sporty as
either the Raptor or Predator. One rider said aggressive cornering was
more difficult on the V Force because it didn’t powerslide like the
rest of the s in this group.
Most of the testers
said the V Force was fun in the whoops if it stayed
straight. Once it got off course or off line, it became a chore to
regain control because of its weight and the need for quicker back
shift in the clutch. The faster the quad is able to get to the optimum
engine rpm and transmission ratio, the easier it is to get optimum
power when it is needed.
| ATV News
KFX700 V Force
competes with the Raptor in the “most nimble” category; the Predator’s
suspension package and 412-pound dry weight makes it so. Polaris shaved
more than three pounds off this ATV from last year’s . “I like it
because it’s light, nimble and good for jumps; it’s easy to lift, too,”
explained a tester.
All test riders said
the Predator had the quickest and most responsive
steering, but the rear tires still made the rider work to keep the quad
tame in high-speed corners. Others thought the slide-happy Predator
helped with cornering as it required much less effort. “When it comes
to turning, this is the machine. The Predator seemed to have the
tightest turning radius of all machines we tested. A tight turning
radius is great for tight, technical sections and high-speed sweepers,”
is how one tester summed up the Polaris.
Testers said the
Raptor’s suspension was one of the best despite issues
we had the first day of testing. During that first day, the Raptor’s
rear shock repeatedly bottomed-out on G-out ruts, causing the rear to
rebound harshly. Yamaha’s on-site engineers stiffened the shock and
none of test riders experienced the same effect on day two. The
bottoming was eliminated and the Raptor’s all-around handling was
trails we found the Yamaha smooth and effortless to
control. “Yamaha is the second best at cornering behind the Predator,”
one test rider said. “It would be my first choice for weekend
recreational riding and trail riding.”
The Raptor held up to
high-speed runs through the whoops. Many of our
test riders appreciated the crisp-and-snappy power and plush
| ATV News
All these quads are
comfortable in their own way. The ardier DS650
outshines everyone because of its plush ride and perfect seat. The seat
extends along the side of the fuel tank and provides padding for the
inside of a rider’s knees. This eliminates the need for knee pads, yet
doesn’t give the ardier a fat midsection.
One rider didn’t
appreciate the DS650’s unique fenders, however. “The
‘fenders’ are distracting, for me, because I can see the suspension
working under the trail conditions — weird,” a test rider commented.
Our lone female rider
said the DS650 was built for larger riders.
For her, it felt large, but had “Cadillac” comfort. She said it made
her feel perched on the quad and that the DS650 is best for cruising
and the occasional whoops section.
scored big in the comfort department for its long, cushioned seat and
for its simple power delivery approach. The handlebar-mounted shifter
takes some getting used to, but its design is clever. We appreciated
that it’s not near the fuel tank where we would hit with our knees.
Even though most
riders felt tall in the saddle, overall, we all came
away rather impressed. “I smiled from ear-to-ear the entire time riding
the V Force,” one rider said.
The Polaris Predator
is a comfortable quad for riding hard and for
competition, but it has a unique stance about it. From the footpegs, to
the rear seat and handlebars, the Predator seems to push the rider
toward the bars. Most of our test riders learned to deal with these
features, but commented on the design. This quad was considered one of
the best-handling machines in this test, so the awkward stance didn’t
detract from the benefits of the Predator.
One of the taller
test riders said the seat was firm and that he
continually hit his knees on the front fenders of the Predator.
Aside from a stiff
seat, the Yamaha 660R Raptor continues to offer one
of the best seat-to-handlebar positions in the business. “It offers an
ideal riding position and has a narrow fuel tank that lets me hug it
with my knees,” one test rider said.
Another rider said
it’s the Raptor’s fit-and-finish and stylish
looks that make it appealing. One of it’s brightest points is that the
Raptor can accommodate both big and small riders comfortably. And,
similar to the Kawasaki, we appreciated the reverse gear when we got
into sticky riding situations
| ATV News
Our test riders were
undecided on which they liked best because
they liked different s for different reasons.
With the major
changes, the ardier DS650 offers a much-improved
ride and package than previous DS s. It feels stronger in the
power department, and the weight reduction and new size make it even
better. It still carries a few of its old less-than-stellar tendencies,
but they are greatly reduced in the 2004 . Like the Kawasaki, the
DS is fun for the dunes and other fast, open rides. We’d even entertain
the idea of riding it in tight woods, which we hadn’t considered before
The Kawasaki is a
unique performance experience with gas-and-go
manners. It’s at home in many conditions, from our test locale in
SoCal, to the sand dunes and woods. Buyers looking for big power and
fun performance should consider the V Force. We admit, a
high-performance ATV with an automatic transmission sounds odd. But
there’s nothing odd with the Kawasaki’s abilities and radar numbers; we
came away impressed.
Polaris changed its
Predator from 2003, the we selected as last
year’s overall winner. The alterations give the Predator a better feel
and improve its handling and suspension. It still needs a few ergonomic
tweaks — body-to-bar positioning, rear tires — but overall it’s the
most ideal for competition and technical riding. The suspension is
tuneable and perfect for most situations.
Yamaha didn’t change
the Raptor for 2004, maybe it didn’t need to.
Described by our testers as an “all-around” performer, the Raptor
offers a pleasurable ride with excellent power. It’s a great quad for
many different rides, from woods trails to desert to dunes. It may not
be the best at top-speed sprints or pounding through the whoops, but
it’s capable of doing it all.
So there you have it.
You’ll have to pick your own winner based on your
riding style and needs. We wish picking a stand-out winner was a
cut-and-dry, straight-ahead decision, but, then again, it’s cool that
quad technology is evolving so rapidly and wonderfully that we can’t
pick which ATV is best.
Check out the March
issue of ATV
Sport for radar