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DIRT WHEELS TEST: SUZUKI LT R-450

 
(7/27/2006)
When Suzuki released the QuadSport LT-Z400 for the 2003 model year, the face of sport riding was changed forever. It was the equivalent of blowing on a campfire to get it hot. In response, both Yamaha and Honda kicked their development divisions into high gear. The resulting machines, the TRX450R and YFZ450, outperformed the Z400 on the track, but the 400 was still the superb trail machine.
The Z400 was not without problems, however. Early models had weak frames, an awkward chain adjuster, and a seat latch that wasn’t too secure. For 2005, the Z400 received some improvements; all the while, rumors started flying of an all-new Suzuki being built for the track. That machine is the Quad Racer LT-R450.
Prior to its release, the 2006 LT-R450 was the most anticipated race quad to date. Rumors and even released specs sheets showed that the new Quad Racer would be the closest to a race ready quad a Japanese company has ever produced. The Cannondale Moto 440 was actually 100-percent race ready, down to the kill switch and nerf bars. Those parts for the R450 are available through Suzuki’s aftermarket division, called Suzuki Genuine Accessories.The Cannondale Moto came with a price tag of $12,000, while Suzuki’s LT-R450 sells for $7300.


LOW BOY
For the past few months we have bombarded you with all the details and specifications of the new R450. So this month we will spare you the minor details, touch on the major ones, and go right into what it is like to ride this exciting new quad. At first glance, the Quad Racer sits low to the ground. Overall it stands 42.7 inches tall, has a seat height of 30.7 inches, and less than four inches of ground clearance. Those readings are lower than both Honda’s (43.3"/32.8"/4.4") and Yamaha’s (42.9"/31.9"/4.4") numbers.The number one factor contributing to the LT-R450’s lower stance is its low profile, 18-inch rear Dunlop tires. The YFZ450 and TRX450R both come stock with 20-inch tires in the rear. Sitting on the LT-R450, it feels very comfortable. The controls are all well placed and feel solid, although we did have to immediately raise the shift lever before beginning our test ride. To do this, we had to remove and not re-use the countershaft sprocket cover. With the shift lever raised, it would hit the sprocket cover when up-shifting. The aftermarket will fix that mistake in no time.

START UP
The fuel-injected, 450cc, liquid-cooled motor fires up instantly at a push of a button, as long as the clutch is pulled in. There is no backup kick-starter; however, Yoshimura R&D has an aftermarket unit available for about $100.
On the left side of the handlebars sits what Suzuki calls a fuel enrichment lever. It looks like a choke lever, and acts like a choke lever. We didn’t find it useful or necessary to get the machine running. Fuel injection gives the LT instant throttle response. Not that the YFZ or TRX lag in this department; the LT is just exceptionally crisp at the crack of the throttle. The center-mounted muffler helps keep weight centralized as well as bringing noise levels down to suitable levels.  Our initial test ride was on a poorly groomed track in SoCal so it was the perfect opportunity to see how the new Suzuki works in all conditions.

POWER
With a push of the light thumb throttle, the LT-R450’s power comes on very smoothly. It revs quickly with very little vibration. Unlike with the Honda or Yamaha 450s, the engine doesn’t have a noticeable burst of power down low.
This engine likes to be revved and run at higher rpm. At the bottom, acceleration is not arm-jerking hard but is still sportscar fast. After a few laps we learned to keep the revs up, or we were forced to downshift at inopportune times. The five-speed transmission is easy to use and the gear spacing is correct for track riding. A 14/36 gearing ratio and eighteen-inch rear wheels keeps the stock top speed reading under 70 mph. When we were able to run the LT-R with the airbox lid and the spark arrester/quiet core removed, the need to downshift lessened. Compared to the Honda or Yamaha, the LT feels like it has slightly less bottom-end torque but just as much peak horsepower.

HANDLING
It’s not hard to see why this quad corners better than any other quad on the market. In stock trim, it is 49 inches wide. That’s as wide as a BRP DS650 and nearly three inches wider than the Honda and Yamaha 450s. Plus, the Dunlop tires like to slide. If you like to do doughnuts or fishtail down gravel roads, then this is your quad.
If you are looking for a quad to buy for Motocross racing, then this is also the machine to look at. Right off the showroom floor this thing could be raced competitively with only safety modifications. The suspension is completely adjustable front and rear and provides at least ten inches of travel at each end. We found the front shocks to be a bit harsh initially, like the Honda. They were very forgiving in the whoops, but their stiff nature caused the machine’s front end to slide in the turns. Steering is very light, almost too light. If you plan on racing this machine or riding the trails hard, a steering damper is definitely in order. Ergonomically, the machine was built spot-on. The seat to footpeg to handlebar relationship is nearly perfect. None of our test riders even complained about the handlebar bend. That’s a first! However, we do suggest purchasing a softer set of grips while you are at the dealer. The spade-shaped seat was comfortable while still remaining sleek and racey.

VISUAL EFFECTS
Suzuki styled the LT-R450 with racing in mind as much as Yamaha did with their 450. The headlight is removable with only one bolt. We didn’t get to test the headlight yet, so we are not sure how good of a night-rider the new Zuke will be. The front fenders are small and streamlined but still do an adequate job keeping mud from hitting the operator while cornering. The rear fenders and heel guards are a bit bulky and could use some trimming. Also, out back, we had one test rider complain about the bent-up, rear grab bar hitting his bum. It should aim straight out and be as small as possible. You can bet the grab bars on the race teams’ LT-R450s are not the stock shape.
With a 2.5-gallon fuel tank, you won’t be winning any endurance races in stock trim. The fuel injection system does not seem to be easy on the mileage, either. We were constantly topping off the tank so we didn’t run low.

CONCLUSION

For motocross racing the Suzuki LT-R450 will be a low-cost alternative to modifying a Honda or Yamaha. At $7300 ready to go, the $3000 you will save on wider A-arms, shocks and an axle will buy a lot of entry fees and race gas. Sure, the experienced racer will always look into aftermarket components to keep the edge over the competition, and we would too. If we were to race the new Suzuki, we would use up the stock tires then invest in a set of ITP Holeshots or Maxxis Razr, then change the shocks with our next paycheck. You can bet companies like Elka, Works, Progressive and Fox will be building stock replacement shocks for this machine in no time, with even more travel. For the dunes, this machine will be stable and a fun quad to slide around with a set of paddles or with twenty-inch radials, of course. Is Suzuki building the best high performance race ready quad on the market today? Actually, they are building the only one. It will only be a matter of time before Honda and Yamaha come out with wider versions of their 450s. And you can bet they will be very competitive with the Suzuki. If you can’t wait that long, head to your Suzuki dealer.

 
Engine: Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 4-valve, 4-stroke
Displacement: 450cc
Bore & Stroke: 95.5mmX62.8mm
Transmission: Manual-clutch 5-speed
Fuel system: Electronically injected
Starting: Electric w/no backup
Overall length/width/height: 72.6"/49"/42.7"
Wheelbase: 50.6"
Seat height: 30.7"
Suspension/wheel travel
Front Dual A-arms w/10"
Swingarm w/10.9"
Brakes
Front: Dual Hydraulic discs
Rear: Hydraulic disc
Tires
Front: AT20x7 R10
Rear: AT18x10 R8
Fuel Capacity: 2.6 gal.
Claimed dry weigth: 368 lb.
Ground clearance: 3.9"
Final drive: Chain
Colors: White/Yellow
Price: $7300
Contact: (800) 828-7433

Topic: Tests

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WARNING: Much of the action de­pict­­ed in this magazine is potentially dan­gerous. Virtually all of the riders seen in our photos are experienced ex­­perts or professionals. Do not at­tempt to duplicate any stunts that are be­­yond your own capabilities. Always wear the appropriate safety gear.
Copyright 2008 Hi-Torque Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.
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