Kawasaki’s Brute Force 650 straight-axle 4×4 is a blast to ride! Even with all of the hype these days on the independent rear suspension ATVs, you hop on this Ute and realize why Kawasaki still offers the straight-axle rear end.
Most aggressive riders will appreciate the control. Riders switching from sport ATVs to the straight-axle 4×4 will ride just as fast, if not faster, on technical trails than with their track quad. Match these handling characteristics with Kawasaki’s explosive 650 V-twin powerplant, and you are in for a furious day on the trails.
With its stable stance and explosive power, the Brute Force 650 makes for one wheelie-busting machine.
WHAT YOU GET
The Brute Force 650 4×4 starts right up with an electric starter. The engine can be started in any gear when a brake is applied. Since it runs via dual 32mm Keihin carburetors, there is a bar-mounted choke lever. This was needed in colder weather, or when the machine sat for longer than a day between rides. With the choke engaged, the 650 fired right up, every time.
Although electronically fuel injected motors have become a way of life with 4x4s these days, we were content with the carbureted setup. When we head up to our mountainous rides at elevations around 9000 feet, power loss is not even noticeable.
The dual carburetors feed regular unleaded fuel to the 633cc four-stroke, 90-degree, V-twin engine. The throttle response is quick and snappy!
Mated to the V-twin engine is a fully automatic, continuously variable transmission (CVT) with low or high range, and reverse. The gate style shifter is the easiest we have ever used.
The Big Brute offers a two- or four-wheel drive operation selection, which is adjusted by pressing a button on the right side of the handlebars. In four-wheel drive, the Brute Force offers a limited-slip front differential with a variable diff-lock. This allows you to manage the amount of power to both front wheels with a lever differential control. This small control lever is found on the left handlebar. For deep mud, slippery uphill trails or large logs or rocks, this is a must-have feature on a 4×4 machine. It’s one of the more convenient switches we have tested. On the fly, you can engage the diff-lock and keep yourself out of trouble as the trail gets slippery. Once the hazard has passed, let go of the lever, and the steering lightens back up.
The Brute Force 650 4×4 offers great wet weather protection. Even the air for the CVT and airbox enters from a reverse-facing snorkel located beneath the handlebars to help protect against water and mud. This can be attributed to the fuel tank location. Rather than installing the fuel tank above the seat and below the handlebars, the fuel is kept safe under the rear of the seat.
The plastic front and rear axle boots provide solid protection from debris as well. The radiator is compact and placed high in the chassis for protection against mud and debris.
The rear of the Brute Force 650 is set up with an aluminum swingarm, single shock and 7.2 inches of wheel travel.
The Kawasaki Brute Force has an overall length of 86.4 inches. It is also has a seat height of 35.6 inches, a width of 45.9 inches, and a wheelbase of 50.6 inches.
A major difference between an IRS 4×4 and a straight-axle 4×4 is in the ground clearance department. The 650i, which is the independent rear suspension version of Kawasaki’s Brute Force, offers 9.7 inches of ground clearance all around, which means it is the same from the front center of the chassis to the rear center of the chassis. This straight-axle Brute Force 650 has nine inches of ground clearance, from the front center to the mid center of the chassis. However, at the rear axle there is only 7.3 inches of ground clearance. Mud guys should take note. If you’re spending a majority of your time in the mucky muck or terrain that is more susceptible to high centering, an IRS-equipped 4×4 should be your best selection.
The front end is outfitted with MacPherson struts, which provide 6.7 inches of wheel travel. The shocks are preload adjustable only. While MacPherson struts have been proven solid for many years now, we’re not sure why Kawasaki didn’t upgrade to dual A-arms up front. The IRS version of the Brute Force 650 comes standard with dual A-arms. The rear end is setup with an aluminum swingarm with a single preload adjustable shock.
The Brute Force 650 offers a smooth ride over the harshest of terrain. It’s not as plush of a ride as the IRS version, but if you’re an aggressive trail rider, you will prefer the handling characteristics. Why? IRS-equipped ATVs have more flex, caused by having shocks on all four corners. This gives them somewhat of a tipping sensation while cornering. The straight-axle Brute Force handles more like a sport quad. You know exactly where the suspension is at all times. It rides like it’s on rails.
Pounding through gnarly rock sections, the suspension was stable and never reached its travel limits. The 7.3 inches of ground clearance is good for a solid axle. In thick mud and large rocky sections, you will hardly miss the taller ground clearance that an IRS 4×4 provides.
The Kawasaki turns sharply with a light steering effort and goes where you point it with an even throttle. Cornering under acceleration, the Brute Force has a slight pushing sensation, which is caused by the peppy V-twin motor. It makes the front-end light and takes away traction.
The Brute Force rides on black 12-inch wheels, which are mounted with aggressive Maxxis tires (25×8-12s up front and 25×10-12s in the rear).
Slowing the Brute Force 650 down are dual front disc brakes with two-piston calipers and a sealed, oil-bathed, multi-disc rear brake system in the rear. The motor’s electronically controlled engine brake control helps in this department as well. In fact, downhill descents are at the top of the market. Put the Ute in “low,” ease off the throttle and you can slowly and safely descend even the steepest of hills.
Front and rear racks can handle nearly 300 pounds of whatever.
The Kawasaki Brute Force features scratch-resistant, high-gloss bodywork found in Kawi green or the brilliant red featured in this test.
The ergonomics of the Brute Force 650 4×4 are right-on. The ride is comfortable and spacious, which is good for aggressive riders. It feels good for longer trail rides, too. The seat is soft on your backside, and it puts you in an upright and comfortable seating position.
The floorboards and integrated metal footpegs provide plenty of traction. They also serve as good mud and debris deflectors. However, when we found ourselves in the deep mucky muck, the footpegs filled up at times.
Instruments found on the center of the handlebars include a digital speedometer, odometer, twin trip meters, clock, hour meter and fuel gauge. The fuel gauge keeps tabs on the Brute Force’s large, five-gallon fuel tank, which offers well over 100 miles between fill-ups. The front of the machine offers four-bulb, 40-watt headlights to light on the nighttime trail. This Brute can tow a hefty 1250 pounds and can also handle nearly 300 pounds of combined weight on both of its racks.
Our biggest concern for this 4×4 is the lack of storage space. There are no cavities on the front fenders like there are on the larger Brute Force. The only storage space is under the seat, and it’s barely large enough for a trail snack. What’s the deal, Kawasaki? We’ll take care of this problem with a Project Brute Force 650 later this year.
The 2010 straight-axle Kawasaki Brute Force 650 runs for $7549. The only other straight-axle 4×4 you could purchase these days that is 500cc or larger is Honda’s $7699 Rubicon 500. It is over 130cc less than the Brute Force 650, but it is equipped with power steering and push-button shifting that can be switched to fully automatic mode.
The Brute Force 650 also compares to Can-Am’s $8399 V-twin Outlander 650, which had dual front A-arms and IRS. The $5999 Polaris Sportsman 500 H.O. has MacPherson struts and IRS. Arctic Cat’s 700H1 ($8499) and 650 H1 ($7199) compare, and for about $1000 more, the 700 H1 comes with power steering. The Brute Force 650 also compares to Yamaha’s $8699 Grizzly 700, which offers dual front A-arms, IRS and, for $600 more, a power steering system.
The $7549 Kawasaki Brute Force 650 4×4 is built for an aggressive 4×4 rider. While an IRS 4×4 is the most comfortable riding ATV built, we prefer the straight-axle 4×4 on some technical trails. You feel in complete control at all times with the straight-axle Brute Force 650. If you find yourself on rougher long rides, Kawasaki has you covered with their IRS-equipped Brute Force 650 4x4i, which oddly runs for a lower $7399. As far as power is concerned, not once did we reach for more power on the gnarly trails—633cc from this V-twin is all you will ever need. Our favorite thing to do on this quad is drift around high-speed corners, slam into four-wheel drive and skip through rocks. Stay tuned for our Project Brute Force 650 4×4.