Putting it through its paces
2006 Yamaha Kodiak 450
Okay, I'll admit I was skeptical about whether the 2006 Yamaha Kodiak 450 would be an improvement or not. After owning a couple of older Yamahas - a 1998 Timberwolf and a 2000 Big Bear - I'm used to them being solid-but-spartan utility quads. Boy, was I surprised!
The new front end has the tough look of the Grizzly. Way cool! I really like the steel blue color of the body panels and the wrinkle-finish on the racks, which seems to be much more durable than the older painted racks.
The first thing I noticed is that the machine doesn't feel as wide between your feet like most CVT transmission quads, and the seat is very comfortable. The fenders provide lots of splash protection from mud and water. Plus the full floorboards give excellent protection from sticks and rocks and foot traction for the rider.
Another nice addition is the brake light. It sure is nice to have a warning when your riding partners are stopping in front of you, especially in near dark or dusty conditions. (Good to know, since it seems like I'm always tail-end Charlie on trail rides.)
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION
The 421cc liquid-cooled engine feels peppy for its size and is very smooth for a single-cylinder with 10:1 compression. The final drive is CVT belt driven shaft drive with hi, low, neutral, reverse and park - “Thank you Yamaha!”
The only flaw I observed was the transmission has a tendency not to engage in low range until you give it some throttle, and park doesn't engage until the quad moves a little, but we experienced no failures. Park and reverse are a little awkward because of having to apply the left hand or the foot brake to shift into or out of park or reverse, with the shifter also on the left, but you get used to it.
The 4x4 and diff lock are awesome. I did some water crossing with large under-water rocks, and traction is great - after I discovered that you have to push the diff lock button after flipping the lever over to the right. Opps!! There is also an override button that allows full engine RPM when the diff lock is engaged. When climbing steep hills with very loose soil at low speed I spun out in 4x4, then engaged the diff lock and motored right on up the hill. Ya' gotta love that!
The exhaust system has a stainless steel header and muffler for performance and durability. The radiator is a large capacity aluminum unit which provides excellent cooling. The fresh air for the drive belt cooling is pulled from high up under the seat so it stays dry.
I really like the air filter access. Remove the seat, loosen four clips, remove the lid and pop out the filter. No tools needed. Plus the filter is a quality element with an oiled foam pre-filter. Its nice to see manufacturers stepping up in these areas.
BRAKES AND SUSPENSION
Fully-independent double wish bone front and rear suspension that has an excellent ride quality. With 6.3 inches of travel front 7.1 rear and 10.8 inch's of ground clearance with the 25-10-12 rear and 25-8-12 front tires. Five position preload adjustable shocks.
It feels a bit tippy at first because it is a little narrower than some comparable-sized machines, but you get used to it quickly and it is very nimble in the woods or tight terrain. I think some aftermarket aluminum wheels with a little offset would improve the stability, at least the feeling of stability. It would also improve the looks; wheels are the one visual improvement the Kodiak could use.
The Kodiak turns and handles very lightly despite its 591-pound dry weight. It feels much lighter then expected. The brakes are dual-disk in the front and single disk in the rear. Add four wheel engine braking and it stops pretty well
A trailer hitch with an 1,100-pound capacity is standard. Dual 30-watt krypton multi reflector headlamps that make those late night rides or ranch chores easier.
Easy read LCD dash with trip meter, odometer, clock, hour meter, speedometer, 4x4 and diff lock status, and transmission gear position. Four-gallon fuel tank with fuel guage.
Besides the very minor shifting issues, the only fault we found during several ride days was was some loose bolts on the rear anti-sway bar. We replaced two lost ones and tightened another two loose ones. Other than that it has been flawless.
This has quickly become one of my favorite quads - very easy to ride, simple to learn on and very user-friendly. I put a first-time rider on this machine after safety and basic riding instruction. Then we went on a 22-mile ride to see what the Kodiak was like for beginners. Now the riding community has a new convert - an Emergency Room nurse who used to think ATV'S were too dangerous. *Remember - safety through education and training.
We've put this Yamaha through its paces with new riders and old hands. So far everyone that rides it likes it. Through rough rocky terrain, loose soft ground, water, mud, steep uphills and down, the Kodiak takes it all in stride and asks for more. The power is very smooth and, the CVT is flawless.
There are more powerful quads. There are bigger quads. Do most of us need huge displacement heavy weights? Probably not. This is an all around good solid machine that should provide years of reliable service and recreation.
What more can you ask for than dependability and style in the same package? You can pick up the standard version in Steel Blue, Red or Hunter Green for $6,299 MSRP, although the Camo edition at $6,649, is always in demand for us stealthy hunter types. For those who want the full-meal-deal for hunting, you can go to the Outdoorsman layout for $6,699 in Hunter Green, or $7,049 in hardwoods Camo. For the extra money you get a deluxe gun scabbard, front brush guard, rear rack extension and rear rack bag.
Ride safely. -rc