ASK THE MXPERTS: WHO IS THE KING OF THE HORSEPOWER WARS? DID I BUY AT DOG?

MXPERTSKINGOFHORSEPOWERThe 2012 KX450s were considered to have the most awesome powerbands on the planet. This is not necessarily true of the 2013-2018 models.

Dear MXA,
I have always heard that the Kawasaki KX450F has the best overall powerband in the 450 class, which is one of the reasons that I bought a used 2016 KX450F. But, I have not been happy with its power output. And while it is faster than my 2011 Honda CRF450, that isn’t saying much. Did I buy a dog, or was I sold a bill of goods on how great the KX450F powerband is?

Neither. The Kawasaki KX450F was considered to be the best all-around 450cc powerband on the planet, but that was before the 2016 model. The really strong KX450F was introduced in 2012. It had an intake cam with more lift than the 2011 engine, which was no dog itself. When consumers complained that the 2012 engine was too abrupt, Kawasaki took out the high-lift cam and returned to the milder 2011 cam for 2013. Kawasaki maintained the status quo until the 2016 model, which got a totally new engine, including new castings, offset cylinder (8.5mm), new crankshaft balancer, reshaped piston crown, straighter intake port shape, intake cam timing advance of 2 degrees, a quieter muffler and revised mapping.

However, while the 2016 engine did produced more horsepower than the previous KX450F engines, there were sections of the 2016 KX450F powerband where it gave up 1 to 2 horsepower to the 2012 engine. Remember, however, that many 2012 KX450F riders felt that the 2012 KX450F was too powerful off the bottom. It wasn’t the easiest powerband to meter out in small doses. The 2018 KX450F (and the 2017) engines are not appreciably more powerful on total horsepower than previous KX450Fs, but they have usable low-to-mid power that can make it easier to ride.

Sadly, your Kawasaki information base was dated. It has been a couple years since the KX450F was the king of the horsepower wars. Over the past few years, the Yamaha, KTM, Honda and Husqvarna have eclipsed it by 2 to 3 horsepower. That doesn’t mean that your 2016 KX450F engine is slow. It isn’t. It also doesn’t mean that it is blazing fast. It isn’t. What it has in spades is a usable low-to-mid powerband that can be made to work without being white-knuckle fast.

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