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By: Jason Giacchino
Email: offthepegs @ atvsource.com

May 2008 - Off The Pegs

250cc More Than Iím Used To

Honda 700XX

While I must confess that a majority of my attention is devoted to the potent and ever-growing 450cc class, big things are happening for sport riders just outside my narrow displacement confines. It turns out that for many years, ATV engines were considered younger siblings to their street bike counterparts but of late the walls have come tumbling down. Not only have typically motorcycle-exclusive technologies been trickling down into our world (fuel injection, ABS), but the gap between engine displacement has been narrowing as well. Whereas once 300cc represented the epitome of ATV engine size, today we venture into the realm of 1000cc v-twin mills. Just shy of that mark a quickly growing market segment exists that has already earned the attention of Yamaha and Kawasaki. 2008 marks the arrival of Honda to the class in the form of the new TRX700XX. Also, unlike the 450cc class, there isnít quite as much uniformity among the 700s thanks to a lack of homogenization that comes about with racing standards. Instead there are models ranging from typical motocross configurations (Yamaha Raptor) to sporty twin cylinder models (Kawasaki V-Force) and now an entry boasting fully independent rear suspension. The common theme among the 700s is fun, and we decided to take a look into what all of the excitementís about.

Our tale begins back in 2001 with the boys in blue-- back then the Yamaha Raptor wasnít quite 700cc and was labeled the 660R accordingly. The liquid cooled 659cc 4-stroke; SOHC, 5-valve mill powered the Raptor from 2001 to 2005. Yamaha redesigned the 660R Raptor in 2006 with what we now know as the Raptor 700 (which is actually 686cc).

Prior to the release of the Raptor there existed another heavy-hitter that although technically not a 700, certainly approached the upper reaches of the sport ATVís displacement limits at 650cc. Canadian manufacturer Bombardier, known more for their snowmobile entries than their ATV releases, dropped the now defunct DS 650 onto the market in 2000. With a liquid cooled 653cc Rotax mill under the proverbial hood, the DS was never short on usable torque despite a whopping 490-lb. dry weight.

Can-Am DS650X
Can-Am DS650X

Amidst the Raptor and DS650ís meteoric rise, Team Green had a 700 of their own to unleash back in 2004.  Unlike the Yamaha, Kawasakiís 700 would hit the scene with a SOHC, four-valve V-twin power plant coming in at 697cc. Like the Raptor and DS, the V Force offered liquid cooling and dual Keihin 32mm carbs to provide the fuel to the cylinders.

Honda, a company known for creating a model then sticking with it for as long as possible, hasnít ignored this emerging class, and this year marks the arrival of the 700XX. That lack of homogenization we talked about above really comes into play on the unique spec sheet of the 700XX.  With double wishbone Independent Rear Suspension (IRS), a centered drive chain, and a fuel-injected 686cc single cylinder, this quad is nothing if not unique.

Other features worth mentioning are electric start with 5-speed manual clutch transmission with reverse. While this configuration pretty closely mimics the typical race-ready ATV standards, this model is designed more for the rider looking for performance in the woods, on the trails, and out blasting dunes (hence the X designation rather than R).

Honda claims their four-valve four-stroke single will produce the highest peak output in its class. Equipped with a gear-driven counter balancer, it appears that Honda is focusing on smoothness as well as power output. However perhaps most interesting is the unique tranny that offers up an industry-first centered direct-line chain final drive that Honda claims was the optimum design for the new IRS suspension system.

What would any sport/performance ATV be without quality suspension? Honda realizes this as well and mated dual, single-rate spring (9.3 inches of travel) up front with piggyback steel upper and aluminum lower A-arms shocks in the rear (10.6 inches of travel). All told that 700XX offers 9.9 inches of ground clearance.

The suspension mounts to an all-steel chassis (in the age of aluminum) with a removable sub frame. Finally a few other highlights include 11-inch rear aluminum wheels, disc brakes, skid plate and A-arm guards, and an eccentric chain adjustment feature.

Whether or not Hondaís claims of class superiority are based on fact are yet to be determined out in the field, but like in the 450cc class, news of new ATV models being released is not only exciting but hints toward the trend of industry-wide growth. Iíve said it before, and Iíll say it again:  When it comes to purchasing a new quad, there is no such thing as too many solid choices!


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