Press the push-button electric start of the '07 Yamaha YFZ450 SE (Special Edition), blip the throttle, and feel the high-revving, single-piston, four-stroke motor spring to life. It's music to our ears. Once on the pipe and into the revs, you experience an endless, linear throttle response. This is something Yamaha has developed and perfected with its motocross-dominating YZ dirt bikes. Throw it into a turn or hit a whoop section, and the ergonomics are fluid. A long, low, and narrow YZ-style seat enables optimal rider positioning in any riding situation. There is no tall gas tank to get hung up on - you can move around the cockpit unimpeded. It truly feels like riding its two-wheeled cousin, the YZ450F.
There are three models offered in the YFZ line: base, SE, and the Bill Balance model. The base-model YFZ450 is available in signature Yamaha Blue. The SE is offered in two colors: black with carbon flames and white with red carbon flames. The limited-edition Bill Balance model, built in honor of the six-time GNCC champion, comes in blue with red number plates on the front beak and rear fenders, a trick grab bar, and nerf bars.
We chose the SE, dressed in white with carbon flames. Beneath the flamed skin are adjustable front and rear piggyback shocks with high- and low- speed compression damping, as well as rebound damping and spring preload. It didn't take us long to dial in the handling to our body weight and riding style. In the dunes, the YFZ is at home with gobs of sand-churning power and the long-travel suspension to soak up the bumps. In the air, the YFZ has very predictable manners, resulting in confidence-inspiring acrobatics.
The YFZ is dubbed the lightest, most powerful ATV ever made, and we'd have to agree with that statement. There wasn't a single sand dune we couldn't tackle on our trip to the infamous Glamis sand dunes. No paddle tires needed here: Just air down the rear tires to a few pounds to gain more traction. The silky sweet motor and 350-pound dry body weight give the YFZ450 a class-winning power-to-weight ratio. The smooth-shifting, YZ-spec, ratchet-type five-speed manual and heavy-duty clutch make quick work of the serious horsepower that this quad puts out.
New features for the '07 YFZ SE model include ProTaper aluminum handlebars. The ProTapers are a must for any high-performance quad and really help reduce any steering vibration. There is also a new front-brake master cylinder/lever and a drilled rear brake disc which helps reduce unsprung weight. Last, but not least, is a new internal oil jet aimed at the piston bottom to cool things down.
A large-capacity, 2.6-gallon fuel tank gives the YFZ exceptional range in any kind of terrain. We didn't have to switch over to the reserve tank at all during our test, but it was nice to know it was there for back up. There is also a quiet, high-performance stainless steel exhaust header that is mated to an USFS-approved spark arrestor. The YFZ meets the State of California's strict green-sticker emission requirements, which enables you to ride throughout the year, without any restrictions. Yamaha clearly hit its target when it developed the new YFZ SE, as it appeals to the ATV enthusiast who appreciates a well-built, great-handling, durable machine. Get out and ride!