2009 Kawasaki Brute Force 650i and 750i ATV Review 0
The big-bore sport utility ATV division is packed with tough, high-power quads ready to tow anything or go anywhere. Kawasaki’s 2009 Brute Force 650 and 750 machines are right there in the mix for the utilitarian who bleeds green. We were briefly introduced to the bullish duo for a day of riding the Mines and Meadows ATV Resort in western Pennsylvania. During the jaunt, we spent most of our time on the bigger model, the 750 4x4i, but also sampled the straight-axled 650 4×4 and independently suspended 650 4x4i.
The Kawasaki Brute Force 750i gets its nasty name from big V-Twin power courtesy of a 90-degree cylinder arrangement. Each piston moves through an 85 x 66mm bore and stroke of the aluminum, electrofusion-plated cylinders with an 8.8:1 compression ratio. A single overhead cam operates four valves per cylinder and the engine produces a total of 749 brutish cubic centimeters of stump-pulling displacement.
We found the throttle to be very light and responsive which had us tap-tap-tapping with the right thumb all day. Kawasaki claims it’s due to light rates on the throttle return spring and smooth ball bearings in the 36mm Mikuni throttle bodies. Fuel injection dispenses the proper ratio of gas from the five-gallon tank and air from the rear-facing intake but it isn’t as simple as splashing the two together. Sensors in the 32-bit CPU keep track of air intake pressure and temperature, coolant temp, throttle position, vehicle speed and crankshaft position to determine the necessary air/fuel ratio. This feral 4-wheeler can be a gentle giant if restraining your right thumb, but it responds well to big doses of the go-juice to get its 653 claimed pounds up to speed.
Starting was simple even in the morning with no need for a choke. The Brute Force can be started in any gear so long as the operator squeezes the brake lever. Fueling during operation was never an issue. We did manage to stall the motor after repeated full-throttle passes through the water holes. Emerging on the other side and chopping the throttle would kill the motor, but it always fired right up again without complaint. The 650 and 650i make use of dual 34mm Keihin carburetors rather than the more sophisticated FI of the 750i. However, we were pleased to find that the smaller model fuels predictably as well, but adjusting for altitude and other air variables will require manual jetting changes.
None of the Brute Force trio makes use of power steering, and the MSRP figures reflect that, but Kawasaki might want to consider offering it for the 750i. We thought the biggest machine was pretty agile for its size, but the extra displacement definitely slows it down compared to the smaller model and it lacks against competitors in the market which do provide power steering. In our opinion, consumers who want to spring for the technological benefits of fuel injection on the 750i might also be interested in power steering as well.
The Brute Force 650 is easier to maneuver in the slow stuff and feels fine without power assistance. It was for this reason that I generally preferred the smaller machine. The easier handling easily outweighed any need during our ride for the extra displacement. Riders needing extra torque for pulling loads might feel otherwise, but our trip was solely recreational and the 80 x 63mm bore/stroke (633cc) of the smaller Brute was more than adequate.
A belt-driven continually variable transmission (CVT) is fully automatic using the Kawasaki Automatic Powerdrive System (KAPS). Shift timing is higher in the rpm range for less lag between shifts and better throttle response. A hand lever is located on the right side, next to the key and below the handlebars, to select high and low range, neutral or reverse. Even during our most technical climbs and deepest water crossings, we never needed low range. Of course we tested it just to make sure it works, but high range was sufficient for all our applications at Mines and Meadows. Kawasaki reps pointed out that low range is targeted for heavy pulling or continued low-speed action. The only time we used it on our play ride was to help lighten the front end on occasion. Heavy automatic quads like this are impossible to do wheelies on but the low range does improve response and can be beneficial for sporty riding.
The CVT has an easily accessed drain plug which came in handy when failing to keep the front end up in deep water crossings. The tranny has a breather vent which is up near the air intake snorkel for the motor. Water in the transmission causes belt slippage but Kawasaki has taken precautions to ensure that it’s no big deal. Simply drain the water and ride easy for a couple minutes and everything is back to normal. However, wet or dry the Brute Force makes a lot of noise in the transmission. The belt whines mercilessly, easily heard inside a helmet and over tire and exhaust noise. It probably fades into white noise as it becomes more familiar, but it bothered us all day.
As a safety measure, only a limited amount of power is allowed while in reverse. Sometimes it just isn’t enough when traction is scarce and the wheels are slipping, the load is extra heavy or any number of reasons during work or play. For those instances, Kawasaki has included an override button on the left hand control which stops the ignition retarding and allows the Brute Force to apply its muscle. I used this feature on several occasions when I needed to scrap my way out of a jam.
Toggling between 2WD and 4WD is as simple as a switch on the right-side hand controls and it can be done while in motion as long as you aren’t traveling over 14 mph. The quads are easy to steer in standard 4×4 operation thanks to a limited-slip differential on the shaft-driven front end. However, Kawasaki knows that when the going gets tough, the Brute Force needs a locked 4WD, and that’s why the Variable Front Differential Control is available and located above the left-side handbrake lever. Locking the front differential severely hampers steering ability, so Kawi designed this system to give the rider control over when and how much lock is applied. Squeezing the lever adds lock incrementally until reaching a maximum of 90% when the lever is fully engaged. Reaching the hand-operated lever can be difficult at times since it is so far away from the bars, but Kawasaki engineers didn’t want riders snagging the diff-lock when they’re expecting a handful of brake. Once we got comfortable with its position, utilizing the variable lock feature helped on multiple occasions. The whole purpose is to give the rider the ability to change instantly so that maneuvering through difficult climbs or technical sections is more efficient – and that’s what it does.
The models with independent suspension ride on a double cradle, tubular steel chassis with dual A-arms up front. Out back are A-arms with torsion bars to complete the suspension package. Ride comfort is very good in the standard position but we didn’t get a chance to adjust the preload settings on the shocks. Riders have nearly seven inches of travel up front and eight in the rear. The additional ground clearance for the IRS models (9.7” vs. 7.3”) was a major bonus on the difficult, rocky trails at Mines and Meadows. However, the faster trails proved some challenges to the four-shock arrangement. Many of the easier, faster trails had sizeable ruts in them from recent rains which had dried up and left hard trenches. The IRS was adept at climbing out of them at mild speeds, but as the mph climbed these ruts really enhanced the body roll making high-speed riding treacherous.
The Kawasaki 750i and 650i models are definitely more comfortable at a milder pace, more comparable to a rock-crawling Jeep than a high-speed desert racer. The straight-axle 650 version has better straight-line acceleration, slides through corners easier and gets better traction in mud bogs. The downside is that it plows the front end in deep water, deflects more in gnarly rocks and slips easier on uneven terrain. The tradeoff seems to be one of personal preference.
We were willing to trade high-speed blasting for the awesome technical performance, but we still got the big Brute Force bruisers up to speed. Hauling them back down is the responsibility of dual-piston calipers up front grabbing 200mm discs. The rear end offers an oil-bathed, multi-disc brake. The sealed design prohibits damage from impacts or trail debris. Overall they do a good job of handling the sizeable weight of these monsters. If anything, the foot pedal is slightly far away from the foot rest, but we hardly ever use it since automatic ATVs lack a clutch lever.
One thing about the braking in terms of performance that concerned us had nothing to do with the actual binders. Kawasaki Engine Brake Control manages downhill speeds and provides controlled descents at low speeds. However, at higher speeds it acts differently. Locking the rear wheels with the brake is fine, but the heavy engine braking of the V-Twin and the KEBC system held the rear end in a slide long after we let off the brake lever. Just chopping the throttle hard can instigate the sensation as well and it can be a cause for concern entering corners, but we learned to ride around it for the most part.
Extra features on the Brute Force 750i make it especially accommodating. A small storage component on the right side uses rubber webbing and is open to the elements, but a water-proof box on the left was just right for protecting my wallet, GPS and trail map from the massive swamping we endured. The 650 does not have the sealed box but uses another web strapping setup. We were especially fond of the automotive-style electrical accessory outlet which came in handy during our trip through the abandoned sandstone mines, as being able to plug in an extra spotlight gave us a better view of the unique underground riding area.
Both models have digital instrument panels which display a speedometer, odometer, dual trip meters, clock, hour meter, fuel gauge and assorted warning lights including a 4WD indicator. The front and rear racks offer 88-lb and 176-lb capacities, respectively. The 650 straight-axle comes with different racks and we liked them better thanks to extra mounting points for tie-downs and bungees and vertical tubing at the front and rear which help secure loads. Beneath the four-bulb, 40-watt headlights is a steel bumper though the 750’s is covered with a plastic shell for additional styling. Out back is a standard trailer hitch bracket which can handle up to 1250 lbs. Our machines were equipped with front and rear rack luggage from Authentic Kawasaki Accessories. The bags were great for holding spare water bottles, rain gear and other equipment during our ride and were designed specifically for the Brute Force which means they fit securely and exactly.
A single day wasn’t enough to get our fill of the Brute Force 750i and 650 machines. There wasn’t any opportunity for us to put these big-boys to work and evaluate their capabilities in that regard, but they certainly proved that you can have a good time using them for recreation. Kawasaki claims that they are popular with the mud-bogging crowd, and we tend to believe it. Our tour guides and ride partners waited patiently while I went back and forth through the mud and water holes, over, and over, and over. Aside from the noisy CVT there was little to detract from the pure fun of riding a powerful and comfortable utility ATV.
A couple machines were tipped over due to rider error, not on our part, thankfully, but we were impressed to see how little damage the Brute Force suffered. Thermo-Plastic Olefin bodywork is tough, aluminum wheels and Dunlop tires strong and motor and transmission bulletproof. We ran across plenty of everyday riders on the trails of Mines and Meadows, almost all of who were riding utility vehicles. It was good to know that our stock Brute Force equipment was some of the biggest and baddest out there.
2009 Kawasaki Brute Force 750 4x4i Specs:
Engine: 749cc Liquid-cooled, 90-degree, 4-stroke V-Twin
Valve system: SOHC, 4 valves-per-cylinder
Bore x stroke: 85 x 66mm
Compression ratio: 8.8:1
Starting system: Electric
Fuel system: Digital Fuel Injection; (2) 36mm Mikuni throttle bodies
Ignition: TCBI with digital advance
Transmission: Continuously variable belt-drive transmission with high and low range, plus reverse, and Kawasaki Engine Brake Control
Final drive: Selectable 4WD with Variable Front Differential Control, shaft
Frame: Double-cradle, high-tensile tubular steel
Front suspension: Dual A-arm / 6.7 in. travel
Rear suspension: Fully Independent, dual A-arm / 7.9 in. travel
Front tires: AT25x8-12
Rear tires: AT25x10-12
Front brakes: Dual hydraulic 200mm discs with 2-piston calipers
Rear brake: Sealed, oil-bathed, multi-disc
Overall length: 86.4 in.
Overall width: 45.9 in.
Overall height: 48.5 in.
Wheelbase: 50.6 in.
Ground clearance: 9.7 in.
Seat height: 35.6 in.
Lighting: (4) 40W headlights, 5W taillight, 21W stoplight
Rack capacity F/R: 88/176 lbs.
Towing capacity: 1250 lbs.
Curb weight: 652.7 lbs. (claimed)
Fuel capacity: 5.0 gal.
Instruments: Speedometer, odometer, dual trip meters, clock, hour meter, fuel gauge, 2×4/4×4 indicator, neutral indicator, reverse indicator, low fuel warning light, low oil warning light
Color: REALTREE™ Hardwoods Green® HD
MSRP: 750i – $8199 ($8549 camo); 650i – $7399 ($7749); 650 – $6899 ($7249)
2009 Kawasaki Brute Force 650 4x4i Specs:
Engine: 633cc Liquid-cooled, 90-degree, 4-stroke V-twin
Valve System: SOHC, 4 valves-per-cylinder
Bore x stroke: 80.0 x 63.0mm
Compression ratio: 9.9:1
Carburetion: Keihin CVKR-34 x 2
Starting system: Electric with recoil back up
Transmission: KAPS, Dual Range with Reverse, 2WD/4WD, and Kawasaki Engine Brake Control
Final drive: 2×4 / 4×4 shaft
Frame: Double cradle, tubular steel
Front suspension / wheel travel: Dual A-Arms, two shocks with five-way preload adjustment / 6.7 in.
Rear suspension / wheel travel: Dual A-Arms, two shocks with five-way preload adjustment / 7.9 in.
Front tires: AT25 x 8-12
Rear tires: AT25 x 10-12
Front brakes: (2) Dual-piston disc
Rear brake: Sealed, oil-bathed, multi-disc
Overall length: 86.4 in.
Overall width: 46.3 in.
Wheelbase: 50.6 in.
Ground clearance: 9.7 in.
Seat height: 35.6 in.
Total rack capacity: 264 lbs.
Towing capacity: 1,250 lbs.
Curb weight: 654.9 lbs.
Fuel capacity: 5.4 gal.
Lighting: (2) 40W headlights, 5W taillight, 21W stoplight
Instruments: Digital speedometer, odometer, dual trip meters, clock, hour meter, fuel gauge, 2×4 / 4×4 indicator light, neutral indicator light, reverse indicator light, low fuel warning light, low oil warning light
Color choices: Woodsman Green, Sunbeam Red, Super Black and
Candy Thunder Blue