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SHOOTOUT: 2008 Raptor 700 vs. Honda 700X

When we got the call that our Honda 700XX was ready for testing, we had just finished up our big-bore sport shootout. That contest featured the Polaris Outlaw 525, the KTM 525XC and Yamaha’s Raptor 700. The results were very close with the $7400 Raptor just edging out the 525 from KTM. So we decided to jump right into a shootout between that winning Raptor and Honda’s new $7900 700XX.

The Raptor is powered by a big SOHC, liquid-cooled single cylinder four-stroke engine. It’s actual cc reading is a bit smaller than advertised, at 686cc. The same displacement is found in the Honda powerplant. It too features a SOHC, liquid-cooled, single cylinder four-stroke engine. Both machines feature fuel injection.The only difference in this department is that Honda supplied the 700XX with an external fuel pump while the Raptor’s pumper is in the tank. This limits the Raptor’s fuel capacity to 2.9 gallons while the Honda’s tank will hold 3.6 gallons.

Those extra ounces of fuel may be needed since the Honda weighs in at over 500 pounds while the Raptor is around 425 lbs. full of fuel and fluids. The added weight can be attributed to the Honda’s unique independent rear suspension system. The only other big-bore sport ATV with this setup is the Polaris Outlaw 525IRS. Look for a shootout featuring that machine in an issue very soon.

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SURPRISES
One of the benefits of independent rear suspension is the amount of ground clearance it offers the machine. For serious trail riding, extra ground clearance is a big plus. We found an impressive 10.2 inches on the Honda, while the Raptor’s straight axle setup only offers 4.4-inches.

Wheel travel numbers are a bit more comparable on the machines. That single shock swingarm setup on the back end of the Raptor offers 10.1-inches of fully adjustable wheel travel. Honda’s IRS system is only preload adjustable, allowing for 9.3-inches of movement.

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Up front, dual A-arms systems are used on both machines. Again, the Honda shocks have only preload adjustment while the Raptor’s are compression, rebound and preload adjustable. At this end, the Honda has more travel with 10.5 inches of movement while Yamaha only gave the Raptor 9.1 inches of travel.

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Yamaha uses aluminum upper A-arms in the front and an aluminum swingarm in the rear, while Honda outfitted the 700XX with aluminum lower A-arms and used steel for the rest of the arms. Another oddity of the new Honda 700XX is its use of 11-inch wheels on the back end. Standard sport quads typically have a nine-inch rear wheel. Eight and ten inch wheels are also widely available. Honda’s use of an eleven-inch wheel was necessary to have the longest A-arms possible for added wheel travel. The rear A-arms actually go into the wheel several inches.

The problem this will pose is that aftermarket tire selection for the 700XX will be limited for some time. As of now, only Skat Trak has a replacement tire for the 700XX and it’s a paddle tire for dune riding only. Maxxis tells us that they are working on an eleven-inch Razr trail tire that should be available to the public by late this summer.

MORE FEATURES
Mounted on those eleven-inch rear wheels, Honda is using a tall 22-inch radial Dunlop knobby. Up front a 21-inch radial Dunlop is found. This is the only sport quad we can think of that has taller rear tires than it has up front. Yamaha also uses Dunlop knobbies (21-inch front/20-inch rear) on the Raptor.

Honda has jumped on the bandwagon with Kawasaki and outfitted the 700XX with removable fender flares. That bodywork can be ordered in red/black or silver/black choices. We are sure aftermarket companies like Maier and Full Bore will be offering more color choices for this machine in the months to come. Yamaha offers the Raptor in blue/white, silver/red, white/red and black.

Both machines have an easy to access air filter located under the seat and plastic skidplates cover the engine drain plugs. Electric starters are found on each machine along with an easy to use reverse gear selector. Both machines have fairly sparce instrument panels that include a few indicator lights.

DRAG RACE
For this contest, we rode at an area with a perfect mixture of steep sand dunes, tight rocky trails, water crossings, and flat-out high speed dirt roads. Our first comparison took place on the way to the dune area; we had a two-mile stretch of flat land perfect for drag racing. Off the line both machines were equally quick. As you first dump the clutch on the Honda, you have to be prepared for the machine to veer slightly to one direction or another if you are not perfectly centered in the seat. It is easy to correct in the first few feet of the run, yet it takes some getting used to. Honda used a very thin swaybar that is supposed to combat this and reduce body roll in the corners. We also noted the shifting was a bit notchy on the Honda.

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Back to the drags; the Raptor never gained more than a quad length on the Honda through the runs. In top gear, riders on the Honda had to feather the clutch slightly to keep it in the peak part of the powerband, while the Raptor was pulling perfect and geared correctly.

Eight out of ten of our 300-foot drag races were a dead heat. In that span, we could easily reach top speeds on both machines, which was around 75-mph at this ride area.

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When we raced up the steep dunes it was a different story. The heavier Honda was at a clear disadvantage in this terrain. Starting in second gear on both machines, the Raptor was the clear winner here. The extra traction of the sand made the Honda pull to one side or the other even more. Continuing up the hill, the Raptor would pull away from the 700XX. We were only able to shift up to third gear on the 700XX before it would lose momentum due to the lack of low end grunt. The Raptor kept pulling into fourth gear with ease. Every drag race in the deep sand was clearly won by the Yamaha.

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FUN IN THE DUNES
On the top of the sharp dune, the ground clearance advantage of the 700XX was much appreciated. You could straddle the tops of the dunes with ease. The Raptor did well here too, but if the dune was razor sharp and steep, the bottom of the Raptor would drag and sometimes get hung up. Looking back at our tracks on the Honda, not a grain of sand was disturbed at the peak. It made for one of those surreal moments you sometimes see in the dunes.

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The 700XX’s advantages in the dunes ended there. Side hilling was an awkward affair on the slightly taller Honda. Its pronounced body roll also made side-hilling feel sketchy. On the Raptor, you could navigate the steep dunes like a sidewinder.

When we tried to carve the large bowls found at this dune area, we were again disappointed with the Honda. Its squatty rear end forced the front end to push everytime we tried to sling any roost. Although you could navigate the dunes okay on the Honda, you weren’t having as much fun doing it as you can on the Raptor. Let’s face it, the Raptor is one of the best ATV’s you can ride in the sand.

Back down in the choppy terrain, and on the whooped-out roads through the sand, the machines were more equal. They each took a different riding style but both could blitz the whoops very well. On the Raptor, you want to ride with the front end light and let the rear tires drive through the bumps. On the Honda, your body position needs to be centered, letting the shocks do all the work.

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TRAIL RIDE
On rough trails, again the quads were very comparable. Each machine has a comfortable saddle, good ergos in the bars and are easy to move around on. While the IRS-equipped Honda should be able to soak up the chop better than a straight axle machine, the Raptor suspension settings are so perfect, it works great in the rough. We discovered this way back when we tested the Raptor 700 against the Polaris 525IRS on a rutted chewed-up trail.

We sought out some terrain that was a little more tight and technical to see how the 700XX would perform there. Its huge 10.2-inches of ground clearance was an asset on several boulder-strewn trails we encountered. When swapping between the two machines our staff of test riders noted how you didn’t have to worry about line selection as much on the Honda. You could aim right for bowling ball sized rocks without worry. On the Raptor you had to ride slower and decide whether to go around some obstacles, roll over them with one rear tire, or hit them with the skid plate. We have gone through our fair share of skid plates on the Raptor.

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On the tighter trails, the Raptor was again back in front of the 700XX in the power department. To keep the Honda engine pulling, you had to do lots of shifting between second, third and fourth gears. With the Raptor, there is enough torque on tap to keep it fourth gear for the majority of the time.

There is plenty of power to get the front of the Honda light if the trail demands it. You can wheelie the 700XX almost as easily as the Raptor, but again you have to be aware of its tendency to veer to one side or the other.

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CONCLUSIONS
Yamaha’s Raptor 700 has finished on top of every shootout we have put it in. It has tons of low end torque, great midrange power and a very fast top speed. It handles almost as good as the YFZ450 and is very light for its size. The only complaint we have ever had is its small gas tank.

The Honda 700XX with IRS is a good concept for a sport quad. For this machine, the rougher the terrain the better. It has tons of ground clearance, good suspension and offers a comfortable ride. However, when compared to the Raptor, it lacks excitement in the dunes and on the flatter twisty roads.

Having a sport machine weighing in at over 500 pounds is a shame. That should be the target weight of a sport machined with four-wheel drive. The IRS would be more welcomed in a machined like this. This is the same thing we noticed when we threw a leg over the IRS-equipped Polaris Outlaw for the first time. Beating the latest Outlaw 525 would be a better target for Honda and the 700XX, not the Raptor 700. The Yamaha Raptor 700 is easily a better all around machine. Look for a shootout between the 700XX and the Outlaw 525IRS in an upcoming issue.

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