2008 Kawasaki Off-Road First Look

September 22, 2006
JC Hilderbrand
JC Hilderbrand
Off-Road Editor|Articles|Articles RSS|Blog |Blog Posts |Blog RSS

Hilde is holding down the fort at MotoUSA's Southern Oregon HQ. With world-class dirt bike and ATV trails just minutes away, the hardest part is getting him to focus on the keyboard. Two wheels or four, it doesn't matter to our Off-Road Editor so long as it goes like hell in the dirt.

2008 450R
It’s finally here! Well, sort of. Kawasaki fans will have to wait until an early 2008 release to get ahold of the brand-new KLX450R. We’ve already started marking our calendar.

Only 50% of the Japanese manufacturers market and sell a 450cc 4-stroke enduro. Yamaha conquered the market after adapting the YZ450F into the WR model and Honda grabbed its piece of the pie with the CRF450X shortly after. KTM has been on the ball over there in Austria too, but if motocrossers thought they had to wait a long time for the manus to catch up just think about those poor off-road guys. They’ve been forced into modding their track machines for years now if they weren’t running Red, Blue or Orange machines. Suzuki riders are still paddle-less up that infamous creek, but Kawasaki riders finally have something to look forward to.

Kawi is shooting for an early 2008 release of its all-new KLX450R. I know it’s a long way off, but with the 2007 KX450F being released with the 5-speed tranny and all, Kawi knew its loyal off-roaders were already making big plans for aftermarket lights, softer fork springs, flywheel weights and oversized fuel tanks. Big Green just couldn’t wait to tell them all about this 2008 model.

A ton of stuff is the same as the motocross model. The motor, frame, suspension and brakes are all the same. The motor utilizes 30mm steel exhaust valves in place of the KX-F’s 31mm titanium units. To focus on low-end and midrange power, the flywheel has twice the mass to help prevent stalling and allow for the engine to be lugged through tight, slippery conditions. Electric starting will make firing the beast even easier but the foot lever is still attached for dead-battery mishaps.

That same battery powers a 35-watt headlight with plastic lens and an LED taillight. Also attached to the front of the bike is a digital computer that offers a speedometer, dual tripmeter, odometer and clock. Moving rearward from the Renthal handlebars, a wider seat with a full gripper cover will ease monkey-butt on those long rides. The 2.1-gallon fuel tank makes those longer rides possible compared to the 1.9-gallon cell on the MX version.

Standard enduro fare includes an 18-inch rear wheel and a quick, side-access airbox. Facing more rocks and logs than whoops and doubles, the KLX has an additional engine guard so that both sides and the underbelly are protected. When a rider does hit those obstacles, softer internal suspension settings will help soak up the abuse. The steering geometry is the same at 27.1 degrees of rake and 4.6 inches of trail.

The muffler is noticeably larger to help keep sound emissions at an eco-friendly level. Kawasaki claims the KLX is 22 pounds heavier than the KX-F which would put it at a dry weight of 242 lbs. Unfortunately, we aren’t sure how much this green beauty is going to cost for the time being. It seems logical that it would be in the neighborhood of the Honda and Yamaha which lands somewhere in the $7,200 range.


2008 KLR650
The 2006 KLR650 likely runs better than it looks. We sure hope it does, but the changes will make riders who spend most of their time on the pavement more appreciative.

It used to be that the KLR650 was a competitor against Honda’s big-bore XR650L with dual-sport capabilities that provided a do-all performance level. Things are changing with the green bike as the 2008 model gets a serious street makeover.

New suspension components offer less travel with the 41mm fork dropping from 9.1 inches to 7.9 and the rear is down to 7.3. The bike looks entirely different than the 2007 model which, in this case, turned out to be a bad thing. I have been so impressed with Kawasaki’s efforts in styling its off-road lineup over the past few years it’s hard to express. But, in my humble opinion, the 2008 KLR is putrid. The front end is encased in new fairing-style bodywork that turns this dirt bike into a bulbous street-touring machine.

Kawi didn’t offer a weight figure, but the bike certainly looks heavy. Claims from the manufacturer say the bike retains its dirt capabilities but with a larger luggage rack new bodywork and diminished suspension travel, I’ll have to see it to believe it. The bike does get a new 280mm wave rotor on front and a new rear brake caliper. The motor features revised intake porting which is supposed to boost low-rpm response.

KFX450 Quad

2008 KFX450
Now that is one bad-lookin’ mo-fo. Every recent entry by Kawasaki into the 4-stroke arenas has been a serious one. This bike looks to have some features that will make non-green owners awful jealous.

I know this isn’t a 4-wheeler magazine, but I was captivated by the photos for this new KX450F-based sport ATV. This is a great example of Kawasaki’s awesome eye for styling. The machine uses the same engine as the motocross bike, but instead of a carb it gets a 32-bit digital fuel injection system. The entire frame is aluminum.

Built to compete with the likes of Honda’s TRX450R, Suzuki’s QuadRacer LT-R450 and Yamaha’s YFZ450, the Kawi is the only machine to use an aluminum chassis and went one step further by adding a reverse gear to the 5-speed tranny. Four-wheeled freaks stay tuned. This could be a hot one.

What do you think about this ultra-early release? Click Here