Yamaha Kodiak 450WAN

While the latest Kodiak keeps all the impressive characteristics of the 2003 version, it has a little bit more to offer.

By Terry Stevenson

I tested the 2003 Kodiak 450 18 months ago, and I was pretty impressed with it back then. Times change and so do ATVs, so I tested Yamaha’s latest offering in the popular 450cc stakes.

The 2005 Kodiak 450WAN has evolved to become easier to ride, more user friendly and more reliable. The Kodiak has good lines and everything on it is laid out in practical places. From the front it now looks like the big Grizzly 660 ATV.

The biggest change comes from the re-arranged rear suspension package resulting in an extremely smooth ride over any type of terrain.

I chose the toughest terrain to test it on and, while I got the Kodiak stuck a few times, it also got me out under its own steam. Let me explain. The new rear axle and independent rear suspension system has increased ground clearance from 180mm up to a huge 275mm. The incredibly rough turf I rode over had multiple dirt mounds bigger than that – spaced only a wheel diameter apart.

Just like the old model, the Kodiak is quite agile for its size and, while I could feel its 268kg weight (18kg heavier than the 2003 model), it wasn’t much harder to steer and manoeuvre than the smaller Bruin 350. Helping this would be the new suspension arrangement but also the longer travel front and rear shocks.

The old model had a measly 99mm of travel up front and 126mm of rear shock travel.

The 2005 Kodiak features 160mm at the front and 180mm at the rear, all with five-way adjustable spring preload. A vast improvement in itself to help ride the bumps better. The rear suspension also has an anti-sway bar fitted directly in front of the rear wheels. This helps the overall handing by reducing body roll (and therefore roll-over tendency), and if you use a trailer the anti-sway bar prevents crabbing as it drives along.

The independent suspension system is the same double wishbone system as on the Grizzly and I can say, after riding it, it is an amazing leap forward from the old model. It is definitely more stable and a lot more comfortable over bumps.

Overall, there’s a lot less stress on the chassis because it’s not getting so twisted while you ride it.

Our Waikato Yamaha-supplied machine came standard with 4WD switching on the fly and diff lock, which is exactly what I needed to get the Kodiak unstuck. The diff lock was all too easy to use; just press the handlebar-mounted button to activate the electrically controlled differential lock mechanism. Just as easy was the ability to flick it into 4WD before riding up or down a steep slope or through slippery pasture.

The 26hp liquid cooled four-stroke powerplant is the same as fitted to the older 2003-2004 model. It went pretty good, then still does, too. A big 33mm Mikuni carburetor feeds the 421cc single-cylinder engine giving it plenty grunt whenever it was needed. It has a good strong engine that grunts up the hills no problem, and I could certainly feel the engine braking on the way down. The Ultramatic variable speed transmission on the Yamaha now has full engine braking, which takes a lot of the strain off the brakes and concentration from the rider going down a hill. You don’t have to change clunky gears each time you ride the Kodiak.

Like the 2004 model, it has high/low ratio and “Park”, instead of a handbrake, activated by manually positioning the ratio lever on the left hand side. Farmers will still be appreciating the near zero maintenance stainless steel exhaust, too.

The hydraulic brakes work a single disc on the rear and twin discs at the front – all mounted right inside the completely redesigned wheel hub for maximum protection and minimum mud accumulation.

The digital dash is the same unit used on the last model with a speedo, hour meter, temperature gauge, two trip meters and a 2WD/4WD display. LED lights provide rider indication of ratio position. The diff lock light might not be necessary as the rider will know the diff lock is engaged because the unit is driven off the front axle, so the ATV will want to drive straight ahead rather than turn. A good horn is also included.

At $14,195, the latest Kodiak continues a welcome trend towards better use of current mechanical technology. It really is superb to ride and will be a popular seller when farmers upgrade.

Engine: 4-Stroke, liquid cooled single w/fan, SOHC, 2-valve
Transmission: Yamaha Ultramatic V-Belt with all-wheel engine braking
Displacement: 421cc
Bore x stroke (mm)): 84.5 x 75
Starter: Electric w/ Auxiliary Pull
Suspension front: Independent Double Wishbone, 6.3″ w
Suspension rear: Independent Double Wishbone, 7.1″ w
Fuel tank: 15 litres
Wheelbase (mm): 1232
Dry weight (kg): 268
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