Most riders use their ATVs for trail riding, for work, and even as a hunting buddy, but the best times are when out play riding with friends. For the simple joy of play riding on the trials or the dunes, we want an ATV that offers all-day comfort, a sporty look and nimble handling, and an excellent engine with enough power to conquer hills and provide plenty of thrills. Kawasaki’s KFX 450R fits the bill perfectly.
The KFX450R is a 449cc, DOHC thumper with four titanium valves fed by EFI. Overall horsepower is slightly less than some other 450’s but it’s got enough of a hit to keep things exciting. It’s also incredibly easy to ride, especially in the low to mid-range part of the power band. Blip the throttle and you’ll easily pop over whoops. Gear spacing in the 5-speed gearbox seems well spaced, and the transmission also features reverse which trail riders love, even on sport machines.
We like the suspension on the KFX which offers a lot of adjustability with piggyback preload, compression and rebound adjustable shocks at both ends. It can be dialed in for a wide variety of terrain and does a good job on big jumps, but it can be a little harsh over the small stuff. Handling is precise and nimble thanks to long, front A-arms, a narrow, lightweight aluminum perimeter chassis, and a beefy cast aluminum swing arm. Excellent ergonomics make it super comfortable to ride all day, although some riders thought the seat was a bit too stiff.
The KFX 450R isn’t perfect, and it’s not the most powerful 450, but it does offer a high performance, modern 4 stroke engine with EFI, it has the reverse gear a lot of trail riders love, and it’s comfortable to ride all day on the trails, the dunes, or even at the motocross track. It’s so easy to ride it makes many riders better. Every time we throw a leg over it, we’re reminded of why we started riding in the first place - it’s a blast! For those reasons, the Kawasaki KFX 450R is our Playmate of the Year and the Best Sport ATV of 2011.