Most riding in North America is confined to the trails and track, but in many countries you can enjoy your ATV on the street too! That makes us a little jealous, and we'll admit that many times we've found ourselves sitting at a traffic light, imagining how great it would be to drop the clutch and rocket forward past the other vehicles. While we see only the ATVs meant for dirt, there quite a few other models and manufacturers of road legal ATVs, and even cross over models that are equipped for the tarmac or the trail. Recently we were able to test one from Hyosung Motors called the TE450S.
Hyosung is a division of S&T Motors, the largest motorcycle manufacturer in Korea, and they have been building power sports vehicles since 1978. Today they build motorcycles, scooters and ATVs ranging from 50cc to 650cc, and after partnering on manufacturing and development with some of the big name OEMs for many years, most notably Suzuki, Hyosung has been quietly building their own product line.
The TE450S is the only ATV they offer directly through their dealers, although it is our understanding they build smaller models for other brands. One walk around the TE450S will reveal many of the features found on every other high performance sport ATV. It comes equipped with dual disc brakes, a modern 4 stroke engine, dual A-arms, adjustable suspension, a beefy aluminum swingarm, and stylish, racy bodywork. It looks like it's built for speed! There are a few other features that are a dead giveaway to its road going capabilities. On the handlebars you will find a button everyone initially mistakes for the starter but is actually a horn, mirror mounts, and side reflectors for the road as well. The biggest feature everyone is curious about with the Hyosung is only found in the brochure however. Hyosung boldly claims the engine cranks out a very impressive 51hp, which would place it at the top of the 450 class along with KTM! We were itching to find out for ourselves.
Engine & Chassis
The engine on the TE450S looks like any other modern, high performance ATV engine, and is a 449cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC single cylinder engine fed via a Mikuni 42mm carburetor. Mated to the engine is a 5 speed manual gearbox with reverse, and chain drive gets the power to an enormous 44 tooth sprocket at the rear axle. Just ahead of the engine are the radiator and an oil reservoir, and oil changes should be no problem since the screw-on style filter is located on the right side of the motor. The airbox on the TE450S is located under the seat and is a dual foam element that is easy to get to. The exhaust system is routed neatly inside the frame rails until it reaches the stainless steel muffler, which is bolted to the right side of the removable sub frame. We're glad the muffler is stainless for long term corrosion protection, but we could not determine if it had an internal spark arrester. On the one we tested we are certain that it did not, but since it was a long term demo unit we are wondering if it had been removed. Either way, to ride in many areas you will need one.
If the engine looks similar to other 450 motors, the chassis is a nearly identical clone of the 2003-2008 Suzuki LTZ400. That's a great base to go on! When the original version of the LTZ was released it won about every championship on the planet, and the LTZ400 is currently the top ATV in the 400cc sport class. We're very familiar with the Z-400, and many of the brackets, mounts, tube layout, and design features are the same. Some of the brackets even look like they came off the same tooling, and in checking A-arm dimensions we believe the two to be identical. We think you could bolt a set of LTZ 400 A-arms to the TE450S with no problem, and it may be something you want to consider. Where the TE450S falls a little behind is in weld quality. The welds are not as smooth or consistent as those found on the LTZ 400 frame. Overall though, the workmanship and fit and finish of the TE450 is surprisingly good.
Controls & Bodywork
The Hyosung is comfortable to sit on and feels sporty. The foot pegs are well placed, the handlebars are a familiar bend and reach, the seat is comfortable and easy to move around on, and the levers are all of a quality and style that would be at home on any of the Japanese ATVs. In fact, the front brake lever is even adjustable! One feature that gets everybody's attention is the small extra lever on top of the clutch lever; it's the parking brake! In the center of the steering column is a lighted display that shows speed, rpms, mileage, and a few warning lights for temperature, fuel level, reverse gear engagement, and headlights.
Bodywork on the TE450S is a high gloss plastic like most other ATVs, and it seems flexible enough to take plenty of abuse without cracking, and can be had in either Black or Red. Behind each foot peg is a foot basket with a very secure mounting system. An external tube skeleton follows the edge of each basket to help support your foot, but the other advantage is it protects the basket and bodywork as well. At the rear of the ATV and just under the grab bar are a couple tabs that are certainly for a license plate, but they would be excellent for holding a number plate too! Racers will want to ditch the license plate light, but the rear LED tail light is cool!
The TE450S suspension has all the features to make it a serious competitor in the sport ATV ranks. It features dual A-arms at the front, disc brakes at each end with an enormous rotor in the rear, and a very beefy looking aluminum rear swingarm with a linkage type suspension. We're especially happy to see the shocks at each end are fully adjustable for compression and rebound, and since the chassis geometry is clearly based on the LTZ400 they have a fantastic head start. It needs some help in two major areas however, and if the 'Z was the platform to base this design on, we can't understand how these two items can be so far off.
Every sport ATV counts on dual front A-arms. Usually the wheels have about 2 degrees of negative camber for sport riding, and it's even adjustable on some models. This helps it corner much better as the wheels lean into the turn. On the Hyosung there is a major design problem as the wheels have a couple degrees of POSITIVE CAMBER! The wheels actually lean out, and as the suspension goes through its stroke it only gets worse. As a result it can't hold its line in the turns.
The second area that needs a MAJOR change is with the rear shock, or more specifically the spring on the rear shock. The rear end is clearly WAY oversprung. It's really impossible to tell how the shock valving is working since the spring over rides anything the shock is trying to do regardless of adjustment. In fact, even when the test riders flung themselves down on the seat, the rear would only compress a couple inches. We're not sure who the Hyosung test riders are, but they must weigh about 400 pounds if this suspension was working for them. The spring on the Hyosung is by far the heaviest (meaning stiffest) we know of on any sport ATV, and probably on any utility ATV as well. As for the front shocks, we like that they are fully adjustable, but we wondered if they had much oil in them as you could hear the pistons clap against their internal travel limiter.
We're always anxious for some quality ride time, and we flipped the key on and hit the start button. It took a few cranks but the TE450S fired up, and we adjusted the idle position on the carb for a little better idle response. The first thing everybody noticed is that it seems a little louder than other ATVs. Again, our model had been a demo unit with more than one or two test rides, and we're not sure if somebody had removed the spark arrester, but it made a little more noise than we expected. It wasn't excessively bad, but it was louder than the typical 88db of most new ATVs. The exhaust did sound good and it flows extremely well. A stab at the gear shifter brought the TE450 smoothly into gear and we were off.
The engine builds power rather progressively, but it likes to be ridden at higher RPMs. That is where it makes the most power, although changing the gearing on the front and rear sprockets might help bring it in line with other models. A 44 tooth rear sprocket is a lot to pull! As the test riders turned in laps on the track and then in the woods the comments were the same regardless of rider. The engine makes very good power, but it completely over rides the chassis. The chassis flaws come down to two major items. The front end geometry and its current positive caster needs to be revised. Give it 3 degrees of NEGATIVE camber, and 6 to 8 degrees of caster and it will hold its line MUCH better on the track and in the turns. Basically a shorter top A-arm would do it! As it rides right now, each front wheel is working against the other, and as a result it darts around on the track or trail like a rabbit. When one wheel hits a rut or berm it squirts to the other side of least resistance, pinball style, and that is tough and scary way to ride.
The second area that must be altered is the rear suspension, at least with the rear spring for starters. The Hyosung needs a MUCH lighter rear spring and then we can tell how the rear valving is working. As riders charge into the whoops or rough stuff now, the front end works like normal, but the back end hits the whoop and spikes the rear end into the air rather than soak up the bump. The spring is not letting the shock do its job. Fiddling with shock settings on either end will do nothing to improve handling until these two issues are solved. Luckily they've got a great base chassis to start with, and the changes will be easy for them. In fact, we'll make the Hyosung factory an offer... Get us to your testing facility, and we'll work with you to get this ATV dialed in. We believe this ATV has potential, and we're willing to work towards it. A third area we would change would be the brakes. The brake lines on our test unit were spongy and you could feel them flex under pressure, especially when we really clamped down for a berm or corners. Steel braided lines would solve that problem.
The engine on the TE450S definitely offers impressive power. In fact, it will easily break the back end loose if you simply stab at the throttle. It wants to go fast, but the A-arm geometry and rear suspension are the limiting factors. A couple simple fixes at the factory will make a vastly improved machine.
Hyosung has been building models for their OEM partners for years and has learned many valuable lessons. The overall fit and finish of the TE450S is quite good, although we would like to see them clean up and smooth out the welds a little, and get rid of the road legal parts we don't need in North America. Their manufacturing expertise clearly has worked for them on this model, and other than the stickers that seem to have no more adhesion than a stamp, we have no reason to questions its reliability. The factory even offers accessories such as nerf bars and bumpers to go along with it.