Published on July 29th, 2022 | by Joe
2022 Yamaha YFZ450R Test Review
Most of us on staff have been riding ATVs since the 1980s and 90s. For us, the sport ATV segment still offers the most fun and thrills you can have off-road. What makes these machines far and above our favorites is their blend of fun, reliability and affordability. No caged vehicle can provide the feeling of fun, exhilaration and accomplishment as conquering the track, trail, or steep dune on a sport ATV. Riding well is about having skill, not simply outspending the guy next to you in the pits. The reliability of lightweight sport ATVs lets you ride harder, drift longer, and soar farther with less breakage and maintenance than any other type of ATV or SXS.
Reminiscint of the legendary Banshee during the 1990s, Yamaha is once again the only manufacturer offering a race focused, high-performance sport ATV, the YFZ450R. They’re also the only manufacturer offering sport ATVs for nearly every member of the family. There’s the YFZ50 and Raptor 90 for young up and comers. For riders age 16 and up, the big-bore Raptor 700R is the ultimate combination of speed, capability and comfort. Finally, there’s the multi-time and current Professional Grand National motocross and cross-country championship winning YFZ450R, the only nearly race ready production sport ATV available on the market today.
Released as a 2009 model and updated several times since, the YFZ450R is similar to the United States YF22 Raptor air superiority fighter. It represents the latest and greatest in performance and technology with much of its R&D dating back to a previous generation of pilots. Although this makes it no less exhilarating for the next generation who step aboard as it’s still the best thing going on the track or in the sky.
Yamaha recently asked if we’d be interested in a fresh test of the 2022 YFZ450R and Raptor 700R riding in beautiful Winchester Bay in the Oregon Dunes. We saw this as a great chance to introduce the next generation of up and coming sport ATV enthusiasts to the fastest ATV you can buy for the track of trail. For test riding duties we thought there’d be no better test rider than Pete Hager, a pretty skilled recreational rider and ATV/moto blogger already responsible for introducing a number of new riders to the fun and comradery of sport ATVing. If you can’t get your fill of sport ATV content like us, Pete’s channel is definitely worth checking out! Pete will also be our guest test rider for our upcoming 2022 Yamaha Raptor 700R Test, subscribe so you don’t miss it.
The YFZ450R’s most significant round of updates came in 2014. Our test video is worth watching if you want to be brought up to sped on most of the YFZ450R’s mechanical updates through the years. Since its launch in 2009, we’ve done several tests riding the YFZ everywhere from the track to the trail to the dunes. We’ve built a budget racer, that’s racked up over a half-million views demonstrating how affordably you can get started racing on a new YFZ450R. If you’re not sure whether the YFZ450R or Raptor 700R is the right ATV for you, with over 2 ½ million views, our Raptor 700R vs YFZ450R shootout has helped quite a few Yamaha sport ATV owners sort out which Yamaha sport quad will best serve their riding needs. Look for links to all of our Yamaha YFZ450R content below. From here out, we’re staying focused on what the YFZ450R is and how it performs.
The YFZ450R is powered by a 449cc, liquid-cooled, four-stroke engine with a large-bore and short-stroke of 95.0mm x 63.4mm. An 11.8:1 compression ratio is pretty high while still allowing for the use of premium pump gas. Its DOHC head uses five-valves, (three intake and two exhaust), with light-weight titanium valves to reduce reciprocating mass for faster revving. The engine’s pretty high-tech by modern ATV standards but is behind the times compared to the technology currently utilized in Yamaha’s YZ450 dirt bikes. Electric start brings the engine to life. It fires right up and warms up quickly. A Yamaha Fuel Injection system delivers air and fuel via a 42mm throttle body.
Yamaha developed the YFZ450R’s gnarly five-speed manual transmission to withstand the stress of high-horsepower modifications. 2014 saw a switch to Yamaha’s assist and slipper clutch, designed to help reduce engine braking over square edged braking bumps. With the clutch change, the number of rivets holding the primary gear on the back of the clutch basket were reduced. Because of this, racers highly recommend switching to a 2013 or older clutch assembly to prevent possible failure and expensive repairs.
The unique assist and slipper clutch uses a ramped design and three-spring setup. The ramped design increases clutch plate pressure under acceleration while allowing the clutch to disengage and slip a bit during compression braking. The said benefits are slightly better suspension performance in braking bumps and lighter clutch pull.
Compared to some of the other the other 450 models that have since become instinct, low-end power is respectable, without quite as much of a jiggery nervous feeling at low RPMs. Low-end Hesitation, or Yamabog as it has been referred to on the internet is over-exaggerated a bit.
Throughout the test, Pete only noticed the YFZR’s engine hesitate once or twice when snapping the throttle hard off idle, with crisp consistent throttle response throughout the rest of the RPM range. Proper tuning is key once you start add mods to the engine with plenty of pro titles proving its potential.
Things really come to life in the upper half of the midrange and on through its respectable, yet corked up top-end power. Power comes on smoothly, but when you grab a handful of gas from the midrange on, the YFZs engine as very responsive. It builds RPMs quickly and revs with authority.
The YFZ rips out of corners up steep hills even in the deep sand. In factory form there’s enough power and drivability on tap to clear some impressive size leaps out on the motocross track but getting maximum performance and fun out of the YFZ450R’s engine takes a rider with some experience. In ti’s quiet but restricted stock form, it delivers high-revving power and thrills but in a slightly toned down manner that makes the engine a little easier to deal with for a rider still getting used to a 450.
The YFZ450R puts out around 39 rear wheel horsepower in stock trim with an additional 5-6 horsepower easily within reach with a fuel tuner and good aftermarket exhaust like HMF’s Competition or Performance Series. We’ve paired a full system up with HMF’s Fuel Optimizer with impressive results in low-end torque, throttle response and increased horsepower across the RPM Range. HMF also has a growing number of hard parts including bumpers, grab bars, light block-offs and netted heel guards with massive foot pegs. Visit HMF’s website for their full list of YFZ450R accessories
Chassis and Suspension
A unique hybrid aluminum and steel frame uses cast-aluminum throughout, attached to steel lower frame rails providing added durability while allowing the engine to be mounted lower in the chassis. Additional weight savings comes come from aluminum upper A-Arms, and a light, yet strong, cast-aluminum swingarm. A removable aluminum subframe eases maintanance,
The KYB shocks are perhaps the best to ever adorn a mass-produced ATV. The massive shocks feature preload, high and low-speed compression, and rebound damping adjustment. They are the only production ATV shocks on the market featuring Kashima coating, reducing friction and component wear. Suspension travel is ample for recreational riding and most levels of racing with 9.8” front and 11.0” out back.
21×7-10 front and 20×10-9 rear Maxxis tires developed for the YFZR are mounted on lightweight aluminum wheels. The YFZ450R is low and wide measuring in at a track friendly width of 48.8”that works well on most modern off-road trails. Its wheelbase is 50.0” with a low seat height of 31.9”. Built to withstand abuse, the YFZR is a bit heavier than some of its 450cc predecessors at 405 pounds, although the weight is well disguised thanks to the machine’s low center of gravity.
The YFZ450R’ suspension can handle pretty much whatever you throw at it in stock form. With its out of the box suspension settings, 180 pound Pete Hager found the suspension to work better the harder he pushed the machine. Keep the RPMs high and the YFZR skims over the tops of whoops with ease. The race inspired suspension leaves plenty of bottoming resistance in reserve for big jump landings, G-outs beneficial for those unexpected big hits out on the trail.
Stock shock settings are on the stiff side for small bumps especially at a slightly more casual trail riding pace. Fortunately, the shocks offer a wide range of adjustment and can be softened up quite a bit if desired.
Race tuned suspension, a low center of gravity, track or modern trail worthy width and long wheelbase make the YFZ450R feel planted in corners and in the rough stuff at high speed. You can push your limits on the YFZ and rarely does it ever feel like it wants to two-wheel. Even then, the YFZ is slow to high side offering plenty of warning and is typically willing to settle down with a little added throttle and body English.
Steering accuracy is good and relatively light although the front end’s caster slightly increases as the suspension goes through the stroke creating some very minor pushback through the handlebars. It’s aaaa most notable in mid corner bumps becoming most apparent after you soften up the suspension or ride a YFZ450R with a set of aftermarket upper A-Arm like the ones offered by Teixeira Tech that make the caster more consistent throughout the suspension stroke. Subscribe for a test of Teixeira Tech’s adjustable upper A-Arms for the YFZ450R coming soon.
Hydraulic disc brakes with dual piston calipers are found at both ends. A wave-style rear rotor is used for improved cooling. Braking power and feel is superb. The YFZ stops fast with light pressure needed front or rear. Its action is progressive, easy to modulate, and power is abundant. We charged our track’s downhills with confidence knowing we had the stopping power necessary to make turns at the bottom. No matter where you ride, you can’t ask for much better brakes.
The YFZ450R’s lower seat and handlebar height put you in the attack position while the cockpit offers plenty of room to move around. The seat is flat and firm enough, allowing for easy movement while providing decent comfort for a machine focused on racing. Massive 2.6”wide footpegs offer race ready comfort, traction, and stability. Four position adjustable handlebar clamps allow you to move the bars forward or rearward. There’s also an adjustable reach front brake lever, all helping you dial in the cockpit for maximum comfort and control.
Fit and Finish
Fit, finish, and quality of construction are superb as always with Yamaha , and the machine is littered with features to ease maintenance for competitors. Grease fittings allow for easy lubrication of the chassis’s moving parts. Quick release fasteners allow for the removal and reinstallation of the bodywork in minutes. Tool-less removal of the air filter allows for quick servicing; however, we would like the addition of a flange where the filter meets up against the side of the airbox, allowing for the use of a clamp-on style filter for added security, even if it means we have to use a flat head screwdriver to remove the filter. Yamaha offers an accessory billet flange and clamp filter setup in their GYTR catalog. We would also like to see Yamaha use the same flat finish, textured plastic they use on the side panels on the bottom of the lower rear fenders to reduce the appearance of scratches from boot wear.
One number one gripe with the machine is its clutch basket.
The YFZ450R is a race ATV, all-be-it a corked up race ATV. It’s suitable for racing or trail riding, although like most other 450s no longer with us, both you and the YFZR will be happier if you have the skill set and desire to open the machine up a bit and let it rip.
As OEM offerings go, the YFZ450R is solely responsible for keeping sport ATV racing alive. Fortunately compared to the other 450s no longer around, the Yamaha YFZ450R is arguably the best there was and we proved that in our 2010 450 Motocross Shootout. With that in mind, if we’re only fortunate enough to have one high performance ATV on the market in 2022, we’re glad it’s the Yamaha YFZ450R.