Baby of King Quad family still provides plenty of fun
Suzuki has completed the re-vamping of its sport-utility ATV lineup with the 2008 KingQuad 400.
The 400-class of sport-utes seems to have lost its marketing luster in comparison to other, higher-powered segments. It is undeniable that most OEM development dollars are being poured into bigger-bore and sportier ATVs and UTVs. In fact, Suzuki’s smallest KingQuad gets much of its design heritage from the Eiger – Suzuki’s elder 400cc sport-utility model. However, 400s are still very popular with consumers and this is an arena that Suzuki needs to stay competitive in.
Have they done it? Join me on a trip through the snow-covered forests of Northern Minnesota and see.
Nuts and Bolts
The facts indicate that Suzuki’s aim with the new 400 is:
- Leverage the marketing cachet of the resurgent KingQuad brand.
- Invest development dollars only where they really count.
- Keep the retail cost down.
The deliverables on these objectives are KingQuad 400s available in both a semi-automatic five speed (400FS) and a fully automatic transmission (400AS) version. Suzuki was kind enough to provide me with an AS model for testing.
A 376 cubic-centimeter air-cooled 4-stroke engine with a four-valve cylinder head puts the King in motion. A Keihin 32mm carburetor handles fuel and air delivery, while an oil cooler mounted high under the front body work helps keep the power plant cool. Push-button electric start gets the motor running, and a recoil starter is installed on the left side for when the battery is dead.
The K4 has the distinctive Suzuki-style headlights and grill on the front but no headlight on the handlebars like its big brothers have. Suzuki’s industrial design looks fresh and edgy to me, without being overdone.
The model I tested was decked out in Realtree Hardwoods HD camouflage, a slightly new twist on the Advantage Max-4 HD camo that coats other KingQuads made for hunters. The K4 has full underbody protection, but the engine oil drain plug is still easy to access. Disk brakes slow the front wheels down while drum brakes will put friction to the back wheels, each commanded with their own brake levers. (Trivia note: In Canada they pronounce these “lee-vers”, in the US “le-vers”. To each his own!)
Throwing A Leg Over
The first impression gained when sitting on the comfortable seat is surprise at the sight of a mechanical gauge. This type of gauge is a flash from the past, but not out of place on a price-point ATV as all quads in this class are. The rotary choke lever on the left handlebar needs to be turned downward to provide extra fuel for cold starting. Handlebar and seat height are fine for a man who is six feet tall.
On the right hand control there is a lever for four-wheel-drive, but there is no differential-locking lever like on all other KingQuads. In reality, a skilled rider can get through a swamp in most cases without a locker, so even having ‘three-plus’ wheel-drive on such an economical model is a plus.
Since temperatures at test time hovered around zero Fahrenheit, a full choke was needed to light off the ignition. The one-lunger growled to life with a sustained engine idle on my second attempt to start it. The engine runs very smoothly, as every Suzuki mill does.
Down The Glory Road
Once the cold-induced rheumatism was worked out of the drivetrain, the 400 began to show what it’s made of. The 400 will wheelie, but it does not beg the rider to do it. The power band is courageous and pulls well up to its top speed considering the displacement. The Eiger was a good performer for its class and the KingQuad 400 boasts every bit of the Eiger’s power.
All-around trail manners are very similar to the Eiger – reliable and predictable in all conditions. Front suspension performance is good. The steering feedback could use some improvement but is certainly manageable. The dual-shock rear suspension is a real advantage over a mono-shock rear. The claims about the improvement are not just marketing hype. Trail chatter needs to be over a foot high before an average IRS rear end would start to outclass it.
The K4 has good tires. The 25” Maxxis skins, frankly, have a more impressive tread than the meats on the bigger KingQuads. Cornering and handling are a tick less impressive than its next-biggest sibling, the 450 KingQuad. This is due both to a less-powerful motor and a less-refined chassis. The 450 is nearly unbeatable in its class, so this is no slam on the 400. Best in class for handling the K4 is not, but it is a solid performer.
Riding up hills, the 400 gets the job done – no more and no less. Rolling downhill is a pleasure as it is on all Suzuki KingQuads with the silky CVT system gripping the engine in a firm but smooth handshake and leaving only a moderate need for the rider to stab the disk brakes.
On straight runs with the throttle pin-high, the 400 surprises. The front end rises enough at WOT to start to trigger the adrenaline rush that ATV riders crave. Once the adrenaline and endorphins start to release, you forget about the engine displacement and just enjoy the ride. The K4 is not ‘scary’ fast, but it is plenty fast for having fun on and the throttle response does not disappoint. Suzuki has some talented people doing their clutching and engine designs.
The 400 can be jumped because the low-end torque is good and it can land without jarring the rider because the chassis is well-balanced and the shocks are sufficient, providing the kind of compression damping one would expect from an ATV that has Chinese brands nipping at its heels. Not much more than nipping, though.
Whipping an ATV around in the snow is a unique power trip that every quad pilot should have the chance to enjoy. There is no chance of turf damage because the snow pack provides a solid base for riding on, so aggressive cuts and turns can be done without penalty. If a rider is tossed off the quad, thick riding clothing and the white powder on the ground provide for a soft landing. Hand warmers and hand guards, ala snowmobiles, should be installed if a lot of winter riding is going to be done.
The 400 carves snow and trails well. With the four-wheel-drive engaged it provides predictable handling when rounding curves, yet it still has enough power to break loose the rear wheels for aggressive cuts and spin-outs. All in all, a capable ATV for people who do not want to ride the ragged edge every time they squeeze a throttle.
There are full-size steel-tube racks front and rear as a sport-utility model should have. The compact engine allows room for a storage compartment under the seat. This is fine for intermittent access, but if a rider wants storage that can be readily tapped, an aftermarket bag would be the ticket.
Suzuki laid out the wire harness for quick and easy winch installation and the layout overall is impressively clean – another welcome hallmark of the KingQuad family. There is also a ball-hitch mount on the back for pulling a trailer or other implements.
Suzuki carries forward a lot of tribal knowledge with its 2008 KingQuad 400s while updating the styling for the 21st Century. The new KingQuad 400 is available in green, red and the Realtree Hardwoods HD camouflage I tested.
Visit http://www.suzukicycles.com/ or a Suzuki dealer to learn more.
|Engine Type:||4-stroke, Air-cooled with SACS, OHC|
|Number of cylinders:||1|
|Bore:||82.0 mm (3.228 in)|
|Stroke:||71.2 mm (2.803 in)|
|Compression ratio:||9.0 : 1|
|Carburetor:||KEIHIN CVK32, single|
|Air cleaner:||Polyurethane foam element|
|Starter system:||Electric and recoil|
|Lubrication system:||Wet sump|
|Front suspension:||Independent, double wishbone, coil spring, oil damped|
|Rear suspension:||Swingarm type, coil spring, oil damped|
|Front wheel travel:||170 mm (6.7 in)|
|Rear wheel travel:||170 mm (6.7 in)|
|Front brake:||Disc brake, twin|
|Rear brake:||Drum brake|
|Front tire size:||AT25 × 8-12, tubeless|
|Rear tire size:||AT25 × 10-12, tubeless|
|Wheelbase:||1270 mm (50.0 in)|
|Ground clearance:||250mm (9.8 in)|
|Fuel tank, including reserve:||16.0 L (4.2/3.5 US/Imp gal)|
|KingQuad 400FS:||MSRP – $5249.00|
|KingQuad 400FS Camo:||MSRP – $5549.00|
|KingQuad 400AS:||MSRP – $5349.00|
|KingQuad 400AS Camo:||MSRP – $5649.00|