2003 Yamaha Kodiak 450 vs Bombardier Outlander 400

Shoot Out - or Hunting Partners?

Apr. 01, 2003 By ORC STAFF

We generally have two ways to compare a quad - get on one and decide if we like it, or set one (or more) side-by-side to pick a winner - we considered reviewing these two quads both ways, and found that they were generally pretty happy just hangin' together.

With a shootout, we are trying to pick a clear winner. With an in-depth review, we want to find all the features that sets a quad apart. With these two mid-size utilties in the ORC stable for several weeks, we found it difficult to do either. With 6 - 8 different riders and reviewers, of varying riding skill levels and testing environments, there was no clear winner - in fact, in some cases, reviewers preferred one over the other for the exact same reason another reviewer disliked the first quad entirely.

Overall approach - Yamaha comes from a sport-quad success, so their quads are designed and styled with a "sporty" look and feel. The seat and gas tank are slighly narrower, the riding surface in fact lower to the ground; most of the controls, including shifter and foot brake (too tiny?), appear to be made as small as possible.

Bombardiers are born and bred in the harsh demanding Quebec back woods - they are proud of a reputation of solid, reliable utility quads, built for work and the comfort of a Cadillac on long trail rides.

Knowing that, and expecting the differing approaches from the manufacturers, here's how the Kodiak and the Outlander fared with our reviewers:

Yamaha Kodiak 450 Bombardier Outlander 400
Suspension 1. Very rigid & stiff
2. Very forgiving & comfortable
1. Very plush & comfortable
2. Stiff and rough
Racks / Storage 1. Plenty of room to carry everything you need
2. Limited, but sturdy
1. Like the out-of-the-weather storage
2. A lot of space and storage
Guages 1. Very clear and readable
2. Easy to read and see
1. Very clear and easy to read
2. Good, easy to read
Shifter 1. Very simple, shifts very smoothly
2. Smooth, easy to use
1. A bit stiff; not sure why you have to step on brake to put it in gear
2. Stiff, hard to shift
Power/speed 1. Good top end power; could use more "grunt" in lower end
2. Good power and speed
1. Great low end and mid torque; could use a bit more top end
2. Felt limited
Comfort 1. Okay, but not as good as others I've ridden
2. Excellent; very plush ride
1. Very comfy seat, comfortable bars, easy to use controls
2. Fair, enjoyed the seat
Traction in 4wd 1. Good traction in 4WD, climbs well
2. Good - climbed everything I tried
1. Great traction, fells like it could go anywhere
2. Good - climbed everything
Looks 1. Very boxy and squared off
2. Good
1. Sporty and well-rounded
2. Too much plastic
What I liked 1. Top speed, full floor boards
2. Steering, gear shift, indicators and display
1. Most everything - seat, independent suspension is awesome. Great storage, tough fenders (well-supported)
2. Comfy seat; looks cool, brakes work well
What I didn't like 1. Seat could use a bit more cushion; suspension way too stiff
2. Small racks
1. Lack of top end speed, having to step on brake to put in gear
2. Steering very hard in rocks and under load; power felt limited
Overall Impression 1. Fun to ride, would suit most off-road enthusiasts
2. Very fun to ride
1. Great 4x4 utility with a sporty feel
2. Enjoyed riding, but wold prefer Kodiak for power and comfort

Okay, even back at the office, it looked to us like these testers got their quads mixed up; how could one say that the suspension was too stiff on one, and the other tester said that about the opposite quad? The only thing they agreed on was the Outlander lacked the top-end speed they found on the Kodiak. However, on a different day, two different testers took them out for head-to-head speed tests. Even with a 50cc disadvantage, the Outlander surprisingly proved faster in multiple flat drag test runs.

Overall it's a very fair judge of these quad to say there IS no clear winner. You need to get on them and ride them yourself, before selecting your favorite. Your body size will affect how they handle, your riding requirements may show a clear preference. Cost may be a factor; available aftermarket equipment differs for some models. Just looking at these two quads you will see a very different approach to styling - while the Outlander is going for the "SUV-look," many feel it has just too much tank-looking plastic. You will probably either love it, or hate it. The Kodiak has a much more-traditional look, with nothing especially memorable about it.

What we will admit to, that may help you out -

Outlander takes it for rock crawling. The independent rear suspension and visco-lock win the day. If stealth is important, you will also notice a definate difference in engine noise - the Outlander can sneak though the woods, while the Kodiak will give you away long before they see you comin'.

In rough high speed sections and whoops, we'd rather be on the Kodiak
. It tracks straight and reliably, the front end never noses in.

Mechanical Note - We must say we had some mechanical issues with the Outlander - a pinched gasket caused massive oil leak after it's first trip to a rough snowy trail; dealer took care of that under warranty in no time. Next trip out, we developed a major "clunk" in what appears to be the rear diff or CV joint; it's headed back to the dealer tomorrow. We'll update this story if we have a diagnosis prior to press time. The Kodiak - reliable, but has a clunk of it's own in 4wd, and engine braking does make a rather grinding whine we'd rather not hear.

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