Affordable Sport 4x4 with high-end features
For more than a year we’ve been riding a Kymco Maxxer 375 and using it as a learning machine for several riders. When Kymco announced that it was introducing a new Maxxer with a more powerful, fuel-injected engine we were eager to test it out and see how it compared.
While it hasn’t been abused, our Maxxer 375 hasn’t always been treated gently. For the 375’s hard work, it’s been repaid with a diet of sometimes-stale pump gas, a few oil changes, and a good air filter cleaning every couple rides. Since receiving it, we are happy to report no mechanical failures, with the exception of a broken tie rod end after hitting an unexpectedly nasty ditch. The Maxxer 375 has proven itself to be a tough, reliable Sport 4×4.
As for the newest Maxxer, Kymco kept the same chassis and installed a water cooled, 443cc, four-valve, single overhead cam, four-stroke engine – creating the 2012 Kymco Maxxer 450i 4×4. Power output on the 450 is a claimed 33hp, seven more ponies than what’s found on the Maxxer 375.
Electric start brings the new engine to life. Its fuel injection system runs clean and crisp when warmed up, but we managed to flood our engine on a couple of occasions, after starting it repeatedly when cold. We pulled the plug, dried it off, let the cylinder air out, reinstalled the plug and we were good to go. We now make sure we warm it up thoroughly the first time we start it and have yet to flood it again.
Power output on the fuel injected 450 is notably stronger than what we felt on the 375. We drag raced both machines repeatedly with 190 and 240 pound test riders. The 450 was faster out of the hole and its performance advantage grows the higher you get in the RPMs.
Power delivery on the 450 is very smooth, making it as easy to ride as the 375 in tight situations. Around the time the 375’s acceleration starts tapering off, the 450 has a small surge in its powerband, making faster trails more fun with the 450.
The 450’s CVT transmission features High, Low, Neutral and Reverse selected by a gated shifter. The transmission engages low in the RPMs. Combined with the engine’s good low-end torque, you won’t need low range unless you’re towing something heavy. Overall, the CVT’s settings were quite good. Our only complaint with the tranny is that Kymco still places the CVT’s vent hose under the seat, making it susceptible to water crossings where the water’s depth nears the bottom of the seat. Excessive splashing in deep puddles can also result in a wet, slipping drive belt.
Selectable two- and four-wheel drive is accessed by a button on the right handlebar. The magic button is a great asset on sometimes dry, sometimes mucked up trails, allowing you to switch between two and four wheel drive on the fly. We found the limited slip on the Maxxer 450’s front end seems to slip less then the differential on the 375. This increases traction in challenging conditions, but makes steering slightly stiffer in four-wheel drive.
Mated to the Maxxer’s steel frame are dual A-arms up front with lower A-arms and large diameter single upper control arms out back. The shocks feature preload adjustment and control seven inches of suspension travel at all four corners.
Suspension action on the Maxxer is decent, absorbing bumps of various sizes. Our testers feel the front shocks have too much rebound damping and overall action could be more fluid for better small bump absorption.
In challenging conditions, the Maxxer’s stability helps keep you out of trouble. A rear sway bar combines with the Maxxer’s 43.4-inch width and 47.9-inch wheelbase, providing a very surefooted handling machine. On steep climbs, descents and side hills the Maxxer feels predictable. During aggressive cornering the Maxxer almost feels like it has a solid rear axle, exhibiting virtually no rear-end body roll, though we did notice a hint of front-end push on aggressive cornering. Steering effort and bump feedback were especially noticeable in rough conditions. Installing steering stabilizer would help quell the bump feedback.
Dual hydraulic disc brakes up front and a single hydraulic disc brake in the rear slow the Maxxer predictably. The front brakes are controlled by a single right side handlebar-mounted lever. The rear brake is activated with a left side handlebar-mounted lever or a foot pedal on the right side. Overall the hand levers offered good feel, though the rear brake pedal is too high to use without lifting your foot off the peg. Combine the strong brakes with the effective engine braking system and the Maxxer’s speed is easily regulated.
Ergonomics on the Maxxer are well suited to riders of all sizes. Small adults won’t feel overwhelmed and larger riders aren’t cramped while hanging off for corners. Raised metal footpegs and plastic floorboards provide sure footing and aid in control in rough terrain, allowing your feet to pivot forward or rearward. The seat is wide and plush, working well for casual or aggressive riding. The engine’s midsection is a little wide and the bolts in the right side of the engine protrude a bit. We would switch to Allen-head bolts to smooth things out.
Kymco equipped the Maxxer with a number of high-end features, including a digital instrument display, sharp looking 12-inch cast aluminum wheels, and sporty 23-inch Maxxis tires. The rims look hot but are a bit heavy, while the lower profile Maxxis tires promote stability and work well in varying conditions. Kymco also outfitted the Maxxer 450i with high-quality plastic, available in red, black and white.
While the Sport 4×4 doesn’t feature cargo racks as standard equipment, it does come equipped with a full-size two-inch hitch receiver rated to tow 985 pounds.
When blazing tails, we appreciated the Maxxer’s large aluminum front bumper. The undercarriage of the machine is covered by plastic skid plates. Our test unit’s front skid plate was damaged when we received our unit. The ATV had been used at Kymco’s magazine intro ride earlier this year. We’re not sure what happened to it, but our 375 held up to several hundred log crossings with little more then some scrapes and scratches.
At $6,599 the Maxxer lacks the appeal of being the least expensive machine in the class, but it makes up for it by offering the most features for the money. Yamaha’s Grizzly 450 costs a couple hundred dollars less, but it lacks fuel injection, IRS, and the Maxxer’s flashy wheels. While it could use a few additional refinements, the Maxxer 450 takes a significant step forward in performance compared to the Maxxer 375. After a few months, we found it to have the same rock-solid construction Kymco’s have proven to have in the past. For a fun trail machine you don’t have to treat with kid gloves, we would suggest looking into the 2012 Kymco Maxxer 450i 4×4.