Ever since the steel framed YFZ450 was replaced by the purpose-built aluminum framed repli-racers YFZ450R and YFZ450X back in 2009, there has been a void in Yamaha
’s sport ATV lineup. While other OEMs have a sub-$7000 sport ATV
, Yamaha fans only had a pair of $8599 quads to choose from, so by bringing the original YFZ450 back into the mix Yamaha has acknowledged the need to get back in touch with the recreational riders with a high-performance sport quad aimed right at the common folk with a more affordable MSRP of $6799. This puts Yamaha right in the ballpark with the 400-class TRX400X ($6299) and QuadSport Z400 ($7099) where it has a 50cc larger YFZ engine to its advantage.
Those familiar with the original YFZ450 might recall its strong, 449cc liquid-cooled, DOHC, five-valve engine offers up some serious fun. Well it still does, and Yamaha has tuned a bit more performance out of the engine mill since then. We spent a day mobbing through our local Oregon Dunes National Recreational Area
at Winchester Bay, getting reacquainted with the steed and learning a few things about the region that we didn’t know before. Before we get into the dwindling dune access and the effort Yamaha has put into saving our riding areas, (read about that in the sidebar
) we’ll focus on the return of the 2012 Yamaha YFZ450.
Even though the steel frame and carbureted engine might not blow your skirt up, look at the specs and remember that just a couple years ago this was one of the most popular sport ATVs on the market. It had, and still has, a huge aftermarket following and you can see loads of them on the dunes, at the track and in the woods all across the nation. The engine has a ripping strong bottom end that is capable of climbing some of the steepest hills at the Oregon Dunes without the benefit of paddle tires. Internally, the camshaft profiles have been altered and cam and ignition timing as well in an effort to increase bottom and midrange power by a claimed 12% without sacrificing much on top. The YFZ will lift the front end in first and second with ease and accelerate with authority in the sand which means it will feel even more impressive in the dirt.
Engine: 449cc DOHC, 5-valve 4-Stroke
Bore x Stroke: 95.0mm x 63.4mm
Compression Ratio: 11.4:1
Fuel System: 43mm Mikuni BSR Carb
Drive: O-Ring Chain
Front Suspension: Non-adjustable, 9.1-in. travel
Rear Suspension: ShowaRear Shock, 10.6-in travel
Front Brakes: 127mm Discs
Rear Brake: 173mm Disc
Front Tires: AT21 x 7-10
Rear Tires: AT20 x 10R9
Length: 72.4 in.
Width: 46.1 in.
Wheelbase: 50.4 in.
Ground Clearance: 4.5 in.
Seat Height: 31.9 in.
Wet Weight (Claimed): 381 lb.
Fuel Capacity: 2.6 gal.
MSRP: $6,799 (Black/White)
The carburetion is quite good, too, even though we’d love to see fuel injection on this bike. Yamaha moved from a 39mm Keihin FCR to a 42mm Mikuni CV with Throttle Position Sensor (TPS) on the 2012 YFZ450. This helps ignition timing and subsequent power delivery to feel smooth and spot-on. The CV carb requires a lighter throttle pull which apparently was a gripe on the previous FCR unit. That makes a difference on the thumb after a long day of slinging sand. The 450’s throttle response is buttery smooth, never exhibiting a hiccup along the ride, which is refreshing considering that four-stroke fuel systems aren’t always this well sorted.
Chassis and suspension changes are geared at keeping the price comparable to the target machines in the 400 class. Gone are the adjustable piggy-back front shocks, replaced by KYB air-oil shocks sourced from the first generation Raptor 700 with valving tailored to the lighter, more aggressive nature of the YFZ450. Although they are non-adjustable, for recreational use we found the front end to be very good. The ride is smooth and comfortable, but still manages to perform when you’re bashing whoops or rough trails. You can max out the front end blitzing whoops hard, but that shouldn’t be too big of a knock on this budget bike. The rear shock is an adjustable Showa piggyback unit which gives the YFZ a very respectable component out back. Again, the YFZ handles great, if anything the engine can override the suspension but in general the two systems complement each another.
Overall the YFZ450 feels light and handles great on the many tight, technical worm trails found in Winchester Bay dunes. With a cast aluminum swingarm and subframe along with aluminum upper A-arms, the YFZ450 comes in at a claimed 380 pounds which isn’t too bad for a sport ATV. It features over nine inches of travel up front and 10.6 inches in the back. This ATV is well suited for play time on the dunes, there’s no doubt about that, plus with the long travel suspension and powerful engine, it will be equally at home on the trails and in the woods.
If you want to mod your quad, then the 2012 Yamaha YFZ450 is a great starting point with a load of aftermarket and GYTR accessories available right now.
Yamaha’s objective was to keep the price under $7000 so the YFZ gives up a few amenities to the competition. First of all, it is carbureted rather than fuel injected which saves some MSRP, but also requires more diligence from owners. The YFZ doesn’t have reverse. Since Yamaha is aiming it at the recreational rider and not the racer, the lack of reverse hurts the YFZ a bit. During our day at the dunes there were a half-dozen times I wished it had a reverse gear. Last but not least, are the non-adjustable front shocks. While many riders will not care and many never adjust their shocks even if they could, the fact is they are a lower-spec suspension. The simple lack of a feature could be a knock against them when a salesperson is trying to talk a buyer into going blue.
The 2012 Yamaha YFZ450 gives recreational ATV riders a less expensive option than the full-bore YFZ450R
race-replica or the other 450 class offerings from rival OEMs. At $6799 the 2012 YFZ450 is placed directly between the 400 class and top-shelf 450 class. It’s an option that Yamaha has determined through market analysis that the ATV community is looking for. The YFZ450 is fast, fun and practical in the grand scheme of things. Riders looking for a new 450 sport ATV have another option and we really dig it.