Kawasaki V-force review!
Kawasaki v-force review here at ATV101!
This is not mine, it is fully produced by off-road.com
By Dean Waters
W e recently got a chance to get up close and personal with the most powerful sport quad yet to be produced by an OEM manufacturer. To ride the new 2004 Kawasaki VForce we traveled to Union, South Carolina, home of the Big Buck GNCC race course. For testing Kawasaki brought out a complete stable of pre-production Blazing Orange and Team Green VForces for us to ride. Not only that, but we also got a chance to check out the new Team Green truck and trailer that will be traveling to all the GNCC ATV races and select WORCs and BITD races to support the amateur ATV racers. Factory ATV Race support? Finally.
There has been much talk in the industry about this new quad ever since Kawasaki announced it back in September . A sport quad with an automatic? And not just an automatic, but shaft drive? The message board immediately had posts from the die hards stating that a sport quad must have a transmission that you shift. Before we tell you how the VForce works check out the specs and how it compares to the competition:
How does it compare?
With a 697cc displacement, the new VForce outdoes the Yamaha Raptor and becomes the largest displacement sport quad in the industry, and the only V-twin powered four stroke. But along the lines of the largest it also comes in at 516 lbs dry weight and beats out the Bombardier DS650 by 46 lbs and the Yamaha Raptor by a whopping 118 lbs. In the length category it is again the largest, outsizing even the DS650 by 1 inch and the Raptor by 6 inches. The wheelbase dimensions are a little closer with the VForce coming in .8 inches longer than the DS650 and 1.8 inches longer than the Raptor. In overall width the VForce is slightly narrower than the DS650 (3.1 inches narrower) but it is wider than the Raptor by 3.8 inches. The seat height of the VForce comes in right about the same as the Yamaha Raptor and and the DS650. The overall dimensions combine to make the VForce a more stable platform than the Yamaha Raptor and yet maneuverable enough to be competitive in the woods, unlike the DS650.
Controls and seating
The seating position and ergonomics work very well and provide a very comfortable position. The left handlebar has the shift knob for drive - neutral - reverse, the start button, reverse override, choke, light switch, on-off switch, and rear brake lever with emergency brake. The right handlebar has your thumb throttle and front brakes. When using the slightly awkward shift knob you must remember to use your foot brake before shifting into reverse. The thumb throttle is pinned to the handlebar and not adjustable. We found the front brake lever to have a little longer reach than we would like, (maybe my hands are just too small?). This sometimes caused me to give it a little throttle when reaching forward for the front brake. The rear foot brake seemed positioned fine but I did find myself using the handlebar controlled rear brake more than the foot brake.
I love this engine. We liked it in the Prairie 650 and now even more in the VForce. The liquid cooled, 90-degree, four stroke, V-Twin has a single overhead cam and four valves per cylinder and uses a wet sump lubrication system. Combine that with the dual Kehihin downdraft carburetors and the VForce produces incredible torque and power with no vibration. The power delivery is smooth all the way through the powerband. When you stab the throttle on the VForce you better hold on because it takes off in a hurry. The only downfall is that I would not recommend a beginner rider on this machine without limiting the throttle. It is said to put out close to 50 HP in stock condition and you can feel every bit of it. Just think what it will do when you add a Pro Circuit dual exhaust? (Yes, it is already in the works and Kawasaki even put brackets on the left side of the frame for that second pipe.) Kawasaki tuned it so the VForce will outpace the Raptor by .2 seconds on 0-200 meter acceleration tests. We think the Vtwin has much more ready to be unleashed.
An automatic on a sport quad? YES. And it works awesome! Some people are going to disagree but I think most will change their opinion if they spend any time on the Kawasaki VForce. The Kawasaki Automatic Power Drive System (KAPS) uses a performance grade drive belt designed to handle the power of the big V-twin. Missing is the Kawasaki Engine Brake System that is found on the 4x4 Prairie 650. The drive clutch has also been tuned with new cam weights and a stationary sheave.
After 100 hrs of ride time the belt light on the dashboard will light as a recommendation that you check the belt. It is for information purposes only and does not disable the bike in anyway like the system on the Prairie. Gear selection is made via a forward-neutral-reverse grip type shifter on the handlebar. This transmission will enable many riders to go much faster than with a normal shift type transmission. You are always in the right gear. There is never a missed shift. Since you are always in the right gear the power is always at your fingertips. You can now concentrate on maneuvering and not worry about shifting up and down to ensure you are in the right gear. The only negatives we could find was that in certain steep downhill situations the transmission would move into freewheel mode when you were not expecting it. A slight amount of throttle would re-enable the transmission and control this. On a utility quad this would be a big problem but I believe most sport quad owners will not find this to be too big of an issue.
The VForce suspension is made up of dual a-arms in the front mounted on a unique chassis design with a single lower front frame tube. This design allowed the Kawasaki engineers to build a longer a-arm which enables more precise steering and a smother ride in rough terrain. The longer a-arm design enables a flat angle and a fair amount of down travel. Total travel in the front is 9.3 inches. The design also puts the pivot points closer to the pivot point of the tie rods and thus reduces bump steer as the suspension cycles. The motion rations and pivot points were optimized to give the front suspension increased camber gain as the suspension compresses. The longer a-arm design on the VForce also creates a broader ARC as the suspension cycles for less tire scrub.
In the rear a linkless aluminum swingarm is used with an upside down gas charged shock and dual rate springs. This configuration gives the VForce a respectable 7.9 inches of travel. The shock is compression adjustable.
We found that overall the suspension packaged worked well and handled jumps very nicely. The VForce seemed somewhat harsh in the small whoops but not unlike the ride provided by most OEM type shocks. Some aftermarket performance shocks should cure that in no time.
The front is equipped with dual disc brakes with two-piston calipers while the rear has Kawasaki's oil-bathed multi-disc rear braking system enclosed in the rear housing. This system should give you virtually maintenance free lifetime brakes in the rear and no loss of braking after water and mud crossings. We found the brakes to work good and we had no problems bringing the VForce to a quick stop.
Just a few years ago Kawasaki had very little to talk about in the ATV world, with an unimpressive lineup. Their success really began with the introduction of the Prairie 650, and we think they are going to take it to the next level with the VForce. We really like the overall package. The power is incredible. The ergonomics are right on. The suspension works well. The ITP tires hook up extraordinarily well. The machine is an absolute blast to wheelie. Can you tell that we like it? We do, but there are a few areas that may not make it the right performance quad for everyone. The VForce is definitely on the heavy side, though much of the time you don't notice because of the power that the 700cc V-Twin puts out. The Big Buck GNCC course was relatively smooth - we think the weight of the VForce may put it at a disadvantage on a very rough course or a whooped-out desert course. As for the sand dunes, we can't wait to throw on some paddles and blast around the dunes on a VForce.