2009 Suzuki QuadRacer LT-R450 First Ride 0
Faster, lighter and easier-to-ride; these are some of the attributes we’ve come to expect from ATV manufacturers each new year. And just like we count on getting a little more grey hair on our head, we can also count on Suzuki to keep delivering a more refined QuadRacer R450.
But things weren’t always this way. Flashback a few years and you might remember that the current level of “race-ready“ convenience didn’t even exist. Then, successfully navigating the moto track required a thick wad of cash for a new machine, followed up by another stack of bills for hop-up components such as wider A-arms, axle, and sturdier shocks. Only then would you be able to run around at the racetrack without worrying about hurting yourself.
All of this changed when Suzuki released its QuadRacer as an all-new model in 2006. With the introduction, a new category of sport ATVs were born. Last year, engineers injected the LT-R with a host of changes that are aimed at getting you around the track faster and more comfortably than ever.
During our First Ride last year we acknowledged the improvements and were especially impressed with its upgraded powertrain and friendly, ultra-stable chassis. With the latest rendition, performance has been enhanced further. The changes aren’t drastic, but enable a more comfortable ride.
A new aluminum subframe replaces the steel piece and brings the machine’s weight down to 414 pounds ready-to-ride. Grips swiped off of an RM-Z450 motocross bike provide more comfort for your hands. In the tire department, new Dunlop KT382 rubber with a revised tread pattern grace the 10-inch front aluminum wheels, while out back the same Dunlop KT388s are used. Lastly, engineers added an additional clutch spring that’s said to enhance clutch durability. To find out how these improvements work we put in some hard laps under hard-pack conditions at Glen Helen Raceway.
“The front tires seemed to work really well,” says our tester and man behind the camera lens, Adam Campbell. “On the other hand the rear tires don’t have a lot of side grip. They seem to work a little bit better in the softer stuff. But on hard-pack terrain like here at Glen Helen they feel like they want to skate around on you a bit. But other than the front tires I didn’t really notice that Suzuki even changed anything.”
Okay, so besides the front tire swap, our tester couldn’t notice a difference from the ’08 machine. But that’s okay because after navigating Glen Helen’s freeway-wide, banked corners and almost vertical climbs, our man Campbell couldn’t stop talking about the Suzuki’s powerful yet friendly engine manners.
Between those magnesium covers, a forged aluminum piston slides inside the aluminum electroplated cylinder, gobbling up 450cc of displacement. Lightweight titanium valves controlled by dual overhead camshafts allow the
engine to rev out high yet spool up quickly. Electronic fuel-injection with a 42mm throttle body and multi-hole injector ensures a smooth, steady stream of power when your thumb demands it. A five-speed transmission and cable-actuated clutch allow you to manipulate power production.
“What I really like about the LT-R is that I can jump on it, go fast, and feel comfortable right away,” Campbell says. “The engine has a real mellow power curve. It’s still quick but it just doesn’t have a hit like other quads – the power is really linear and it won’t rip your arms out.”
The Suzuki’s clutch and transmission also impressed our tester: “The transmission is really tight. You can change gears under power without the clutch – it’s got a great gearbox. I also like the way you can adjust the clutch. It’s a big barrel adjuster next to the lever and it’s simple to play with.”
The QuadRacer’s chassis is comprised of a sturdy steel frame and swingarm designed to carry the machine’s mass low and centered. Up front, independent double-wishbone suspension give the R450 a wide 49-inch stance. Wheelbase comes in at 50.6-inches.
“It steers really neutrally,” says Campbell when asked about its handling. “It goes where you want it to go. Honestly, it never does anything (bad)… nothing comes up and surprises you. You always know where you’re at and what it’s going to do. It doesn’t push in the turns. It just tracks, plain and simple.”
A pair of remote reservoir-equipped Kayaba shocks featuring 40mm pistons and 4-way adjustability (preload, high/low-speed compression and rebound damping) absorb the rough stuff. Similar spec Kayaba shocks are used out back, however, they utilize larger 50mm diameter pistons. All three shocks benefit from a slick Kashima coating for reduced stiction and improved response.
“Initially it felt a little harsh,” Campbell explains. “We backed out the compression by two turns up front and one-half turn on the rears and it made a big difference. The adjusters are really sensitive though. Just a little turn makes a big difference.”
As for stopping, a pair of 160mm brake rotors pinched by twin-piston calipers is used up front while a solo 190mm rotor and caliper keep the rear wheels in check. Rubber brake lines complete the setup.
“The brakes feel spongy. Steel braided lines would probably help out a lot. But as it sits they just felt a little soft,” comments Campbell.
Despite our test riders six-foot vertical stature, he was surprised by the LT-R’s thoughtful ergonomic design. All of the controls are well within reach and there is plenty of room to maneuver one’s body in the corners. The seat itself has a fair amount of padding and the gripper material makes it that much easier to cling to while flying through the air.
“Ergos are great, everything is where it needs to be and it feels really natural when you’re riding,” notes Campbell. “The only complaint I have is the stock steel bars. I mean everything else on the machine is of real high quality so I’m not sure why they skimp on the handlebars.”
So is Suzuki’s R450 truly race-ready? It’s close. By removing one bolt you can pull out the front headlight and slide in a number-plate-shod nosepiece. Throw on some nerf bars, wire up a kill-switch, and you’re ready to line up at the gate. It’s that simple.
After an afternoon pounding laps, they’re really isn’t that much bad to say about this year’s R450. Although the changes they made for 2009 aren’t groundbreaking, it’s reassuring to see that Suzuki’s continuing to put in work. Now it’s your turn.