2005 Yamaha Kodiak 450, Making the Best even Better

Sep. 01, 2004 By Dean Waters
With the Yamaha Kodiak 450 already leading its class in marketshare, it was somewhat surprising that Yamaha would do a major remodel. But after our first ride on the new 2005 Kodiak 450, we were pleasantly surprised.

The big change is the addition of IRS (Independent Rear Suspension) to both the Kodiak 400 and the Kodiak 450. High on the list of what previous Kodiak owners love, is the nice "planted" feel that the model has with the straight axle. Some of its competitors with IRS suspension don't have this stable ride, so Yamaha had its work cut out designing a new IRS for the Kodiak, while still maintaining the feel that the Kodiak already had.

Yamaha has done a very admiral job achieving this goal.

The seat height of the new 2005 Kodiak is only 1/8" taller than the 2004 version, yet the new IRS maintained 7.1 inches of rear wheel travel and a full inch MORE ground clearance - now 10.8 inches. Nice!

How does it ride?

The new Kodiak IRS Suspension

We believe the Kodiak is going to grab even more marketshare in its class. The new IRS on the Kodiak works VERY well. We were able to ride it in a variety of terrain, including a rock-strewn stream bed that is would substantially test any suspension. We felt it was a much nicer ride than would be experienced on any solid axle machine, as well as many of the IRS machines. We never felt any tippiness like is often a problem on machines equipped with IRS. The swaybar, along with the 5-way adjustable shocks, did an excellent job. We didn't have an old Kodiak to test side-by-side, but we believe even long-time Kodiak owners would have to admit the new IRS Kodiak feels just as stable on sidehill terrain.


You won't win a drag race against a big bore, but you will have plenty of power to tackle any obstacle.

The Kodiak 450 has the same powerplant as it did in 2004. Top speed is somewhere around 52 MPH. The Kodiak 450 doesn't have the kind of performance that you can pound your chest about, but it has good power for a 400cc-class machine. We expect the only competitor that can beat it in the power category is the Bombardier Outlander HO.

Yamaha surveys show that most riders and owners in this 400cc category ride their machines with an average speed in the sub 20's. The Kodiak has good power in this speed range and enough to get you out of trouble when you need it.


The Kodiak was very comfortable to ride

The Kodiak has a comfortable ride and seating position. All the controls are easy to get to and seem to have good placement. We did find the digital guages somewhat hard to read when riding. A little bit of dust on them and they were pretty much impossible to read without wiping them off. We like the new placement of the 12-volt power and we think most users will find its protected horizontal location much easier to use.

4WD System

The Kodiak 450 has the Yamaha OnCommand system, which is the same as is found on the Grizzly 4x4. The 2WD/4WD button is located on the right handlebar and when engaged, gives you a limited slip differential in the front. As expected, the effort required to steer when 4WD is engaged increases, but it is still very rideable.

Now get it into a really tough spot - Engage the locking differential. This is done by moving the 4WD button over to expose the yellow locker button then pressing it. You have now fully locked the front wheels and have a true 4WD machine. In this mode, steering effort is greatly increased - but you are usually only using this option when one or more wheels are not in a place to get any traction. In the 4WD Jeep world owners, have to spend nearly $1,000 to get an "OnCommand" locking differential installed in their 4x4. This system gives you the ultimate in traction and is quite different from the 4WD systems found on competing models.

The only change we would like to see is a way to engage it without removing our right thumb off the throttle. Yamaha says it is that way for safety reasons, since the machine handles very differently with the front end locked up and it could be dangerous to engage at speed. In a situation where you are climbing a hill or obstacle and find yourself needing that locker, we found that we didn't want to have to let off the throttle and lose our momentum just to engage the locker.

Red 2WD-4WD button on the right handlebar
Move the lever to the right over the 2WD-4WD button and the yellow diff lock button is exposed


The Kodiak is mucho fun to just play around on. The Kodiak can take on most any obstacle with 4WD and Diff lock.

It works well with no problems. One interesting fact about that Yamaha transmission used in the Kodiak, is that there is no belt slippage during normal use. What? Many of the competitors have a system such that when the transmission is not engaged or in the process of becoming engaged, it is actually slipping against the pulley or sheaves. This causes belt wear. The Yamaha system is quite different as the belt is always at tension and instead there is a centrifgul clutch that engages and disengages. Belt life should be much longer than its competitors.

Also new is an easy-to-reach drain plug on the transmission. If you happen to submerge your Kodiak 450 (would you really do that?), you can simply unscrew the drain plug, release the water, and you are on your way.


The new 2005 Kodiak 450 is another major step in All-Terrain Vehicle evolution.

Yamaha has made some awesome improvements to an already great machine. Previous Kodiak owners will not be disappointed and new Kodiak owners will have a hard time finding anything wrong with this 400-class 4x4.


* For More Information

Yamaha Motor Corporation USA
6555 Katella Avenue
Cypress CA 90630

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