2019 YAMAHA YFZ 450R
— High-Performance ATV Test —
By the staff of Dirt Wheels
Yamaha’s YFZ450R isn’t simply a sport quad, it’s an experience. The smooth body lines fade into aggressively angular points, so the YFZ looks fast and focused just sitting still. But, you don’t really get the thrill until you firmly depress that little start button. The EFI and the ignition brings the Yamaha YFZ450R’s potent powerplant to life. To further intensify the excitement, shift into gear, boost the rpm and release the clutch.
We have been seeing a healthy resurgence in the quad market lately, and Yamaha remains at the forefront of it. Could that simply be because they never stopped offering—and updating—the 450R and Raptor 700? Well, it doesn’t hurt. Whatever the reason, Yamaha has stayed strong, because their sport quads continue to sell through the height of the UTV boom. Yamaha didn’t have to twist our arms to get us to test a 2019 Yamaha YFZ450R Special Edition for the pages of Dirt Wheels.
The engine remains an aggressively tuned 449cc, fuel-injected four-stroke. This dual overhead cam powerplant has a five-valve head with titanium valves. It is liquid-cooled. All of the power generated by this sophisticated engine is multiplied by a five-speed manual transmission.
Yamaha incorporates a wet multi-plate assist-and-slipper clutch in the drivetrain. Four-stroke engines have strong engine deceleration, which is helpful in slowing you down with less rear brake required, but in a racing scenario, it can cause the rear suspension to bind and buck over braking bumps. A slipper clutch prevents rear-wheel chatter and over-rev when you downshift and hard engine braking occurs. To put it simply, it acts more like a two-stroke engine. During hard throttle chops the machine feels as though it freewheels, due to low compression, but in actuality the clutch is slipping to ease engine deceleration to the rear wheels.
Another benefit of Yamaha’s assist and slipper clutch setup is a light engagement and feel. Ramps built into the clutch pressure plate increase pressure on the clutch pack as rpm increase. Thanks to this mechanical advantage on the clutch pack, Yamaha was able to employ much softer springs in the clutch. That requires less effort at the lever making it easier to feather the clutch lever to put down as much power as you need, translating into more control over the machine.
Even if there were other entries in the 450cc sport quad class, Yamaha would hold an advantage by providing a race-ready steed right off the showroom floor. The YFZ settles itself at a healthy 48.8 inches wide, while sporting a long travel suspension setup. The front end rides on 9.8 inches of travel through dual A-arms, while the rear has 11 inches of travel via a linkage and straight-axle swingarm.
The riding position of the 450R is low and sporty feeling. It is great for inseam-challenged riders, but tall guys like Yamaha’s multi-time quad national motocross champion Chad Wienen do just fine as well. Yamaha incorporated adjustability in the handlebar mounting department to open up the rider compartment. The steering stem has two holes in front of the standard bar clamp mounting holes. That allows you to push the bars mounts forward by 20mm over stock. If you don’t need them moved that far, the bar clamps can be swiveled around to move them back 10mm. In stock position, you can also shift the handlebar clamps around to gain 10mm of rearward movement.
Yamaha’s YFZ450R controls are natural in feel and function. Lever action is smooth and precise for the front hydraulic disc brake. The rear brake is just as easy to modulate, but equivalently strong in comparison to the fronts. Throttle feel is crisp, but we do tend to get some thumb pump with Yamaha throttles, and this one is no different.
The Special Edition YFZ gains a GYTR front bumper and heel guards that are made of aluminum, however, we got to test a model with their $458.99 GYTR nerf bars that include height adjustable foot pegs. The nerfs have a very strong construction and mount similarly. The pegs are 2.5 inches wide and 0.75 inches longer than stock with a kick up at the ends. The pegs start off 0.75 of an inch lower than stock and can be lowered to 1.25 inches lower than stock. Our main test rider for this ATV stands 6 feet tall, so he welcomed the lower setting. The GYTR nerfs are perfect for closed-course competition use only, and they meet all AMA and ATVA racing requirements.
FEEL IT OUT
Upon swinging a leg over the 2019 Yamaha YFZ450R, there is an instant feeling of connection to the quad. The aggressive angles of the bodywork, comfortable cockpit and controls, and feel of the four-stroke engine vibration all heighten the experience of what a true race-style sport quad feels like. The low and smooth seat starts wide in the rear and tapers to a slim section between the rider’s legs. The fuel tank is also quite slim between the rider’s knees and encourages moving around on the 450R.
Carving corners, blasting over whoops, and landing jumps is what this machine was designed for. Turn initiation is quick and loose feeling on the YFZ. That nimble feel is craved by motocross racers, but an aftermarket stabilizer is a reasonable item to install for cross country or desert riding. Yamaha’s suspension feel is competitive off the showroom floor. The KYB coil-over piggyback reservoir-style shocks are compression, rebound and spring preload adjustable with a progressive rate spring setup. They handle chop, hard hits and much more quite well, and the ability to tune them as required is a big plus. We would like them to be a bit plusher in some situations, but no one shock is designed perfectly for every rider.
Shifting through the gears is smooth and easy. They engage with solidarity, selected through an adjustable foot shifter. The Yamaha’s power is similar to a light switch. On or off. There is ample torque from the instant you open the throttle. That is a trait of EFi engines, and it ramps up through the mid-range to settle smoothly at the peak of the power band. The 450R engine likes to be ridden at the mid to top of its power range. Clutch control is important on this machine. Thanks to the EPA, it doesn’t enjoy being ridden slowly, and if you don’t properly shift down to the correct gear needed at slow speeds, expect the YFZ to stall out on you.
Fortunately, the clutch actuation is smooth and easy, so keeping a finger on the lever ready to pull is not really a drawback. The clutch has a linear pull, and so does the throttle once you break it past the closed position. The slipper setup is great on deceleration and we can easily feel the rear suspension working through chatter and braking bumps without binding or bouncing too much.
ROUND IT OUT
We hold Yamaha in high regard for keeping die-hard quad enthusiasts content by continuing to provide their YFZ450R and Raptor 700. The YFZ is undoubtedly one of the best sport quads ever produced, and has remained at the top of national podiums with minimal changes over the years. There is nothing quite like the feel of a fire-breathing, race-craving, sport machine like the 450R, and we are glad to put some miles on this one! The starting price of the 2019 Yamaha YFZ450R Special Edition is $9,399. It comes in red or Armor Grey. Go to www.yamahamotorsports.com, or travel to your nearest dealer to learn more about their entire lineup of ATVs and UTVs!
2019 YAMAHA YFZ450R SE
Engine Single, DOHC, liquid-cooled, 4-stroke
Fuel system EFI
Fuel capacity 2.6 gal.
Final drive Chain
Front Dual A-arms w/ 9.8”
Rear Swingarm w/ 11”
Front Dual hydraulic discs
Rear Hydraulic disc
Ground clearance 9.3”
Curb weight 405 lb.
Colors Armor Grey and red
Contact www.yamahamotorsports.com, local dealer