q When it comes to providing a wide range of sport quads, Yamaha tops the list with its Raptor 125, 250, 350 and 700, along with the YFZ450. Beneath Honda’s 450R, it has a 250X, 300X and 400X. Suzuki offers its Z250 and Z400 in addition to the LT-R450. For Kawasaki, though, there’s a big gap between the basic low-budget Bayou 250 and the mighty KFX450.
There was a time, around five years ago, when Kawasaki offered its Mojave 250, Lakota 300 and a green version of the Z400. When those models were dropped from the lineup, it caused ATV buyers to go elsewhere if they didn’t yet have the skill or funds to handle a 450. Kawasaki needs a sport quad to fill that void, and fortunately they have one in the works.
Pictured here is the more high-zoot version of two KFX250 prototypes that exist within Kawasaki’s secret engineering vault. The other version was designed to sell for a lower price, and uses a steel frame and less-sophisticated suspension. It would compare to Yamaha’s Raptor 250, but with a more high-tech, liquid-cooled, four-valve motor.
Each one of the Japanese big four has a 250 dirt bike version of its 450 motocrossers. The engines are just as sophisticated, only smaller. The four-valve heads allow more fuel and air to enter and exit in a hurry. The double-overhead cams push the valves open directly, eliminating the extra inertia of rocker arms. This allows the motor to rev higher and more quickly. When looking at a dyno chart, if a motor makes 10 hp at 3000 rpm, it’ll usually make 20 hp at 6000 rpm. Design it to rev to 12,000 rpm, and it should make 40 hp. That’s the advantage of these new 250 engines. They actually are capable of revving to 12,000 rpm and higher.
The main drawback to these new high-revving 250 engines is that they cost almost as much to manufacture as a 450. If you increase the number of units produced, though, the cost per unit comes down. This is where Kawasaki may have an advantage over its competition. A similar motor that comes in the KX250F MX bike is also used in two of its street-legal dual-sport bikes. Increasing the production run to include this engine in an ATV, too, would bring the manufacturing costs down even lower.
When the Kawasaki KFX250 reaches the showroom, will it feature a trick aluminum frame like the KFX450, or will it have a more budget-minded steel frame like the Raptor 250? That is the main question that even Kawasaki’s top brass haven’t decided on yet. Right now, it’s basically a wait-and-see game of what the economy is going to do.
Kawasaki’s engineering team has done their job, though. Several years ago, they were given the assignment to design a 250 performance quad that would blow the socks off anything else. They eagerly went to work designing a strong and lightweight aluminum frame to house the hottest 250 engine from the dirt bike division. The latest piggyback reservoir shocks and multi-piston brake calipers were included in the package as well. Their final prototype looked very similar to what you see here. The team lined up with pride next to their best KFX250 as they presented it to Kawasaki’s marketing staff. They received high praise and pats on the back for a job well down. However, the engineering team was then told to park their prized machine over in the corner until a decision was made to actually produce it.
WHEN WILL IT GET HERE?
Every ATV manufacturer could use a performance 250 in its lineup. Some more so than others, though. Kawasaki is the one who needs another sport quad the most. Therefore, the Dirt Wheels crew predicts that the KFX250 will be the first performance 250 to show up in our annual buyer’s guide issue. Will that be in 2012? Perhaps, and there’s even a strong possibility that Kawasaki will bump it up to a 300. That could be a logical marketing tactic to help justify a higher price tag over Yamaha’s Raptor 250. We’ll keep you posted on any further news as the Dirt Wheels crew keeps snooping around with our spy cameras and secret decoder rings. q