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By: Jason Giacchino

2009 Suzuki LTZ400 Quadsport
The Z Gets its First Full Makeover

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LT-Z400

Now that you know what's different, perhaps we should take a moment to reflect upon what's the same. A big portion of the appeal and popularity of the LTZ400 was the simple fact that its powerband was such that it could do just about everything well. It made power pulses way down low and pulled steadily until the rider grew tired of straining his thumb and decided to up shift into the next gear. Missing was the brunt hit of the race 450s or the shoulder-yanking bottom-end torque of the LTR. As a result of this versatility, nearly as many LTZ400s found themselves tackling motocross and cross-country race courses as did those used in backwoods exploration. This year Suzuki removed a bit of the machine's jack-of-all-trades appeal in favor of a more purpose-built agenda. Racers are going to delight trail riders and recreational warriors may not be quite as thrilled.

The Ride

The 2009 Suzuki LTZ400 fired up with the slightest touch of the bar-mounted button as is becoming standard fair among fuel-injected ATVs of late. The exhaust note is slightly more baritone this time, however, sounding more like the rumble of a stock LTR450 than last year's Z. Clutch pull and shifting, as always with the Z, are spot-on and effortless and easing out the clutch provided us with a bit of a surprise. While the Z400 was never known for lacking low-end, the new version absolutely claws down low. It was often remarked that it felt like the new Z could tackle a hill by simply letting out the clutch (without touching the throttle). That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but every rider agreed that the low end felt exceptionally snappy and popping wheelies is even more effortless than before!

After being satisfied with burnouts and wheelies, we decided to find the throttle stop to ascertain the rest of the power spread. As we suspected, the new curve does manage to lessen the Z's old trait of linear pull anywhere in any gear. Instead the power curve comes on hard down low and right through the mid range (with a much more defined punch a la the R450) then tops out rather than continuing to pull and pull. In other words, to keep the new Z at optimal output, the rider has to be willing to shift a little more. We suspect this newfound reserve of low-end juice will go a long way with trail riders who enjoy slippery stones, rocks, and mud.

We mentioned the chassis had also benefited from some reworking, and it is in this regard that suddenly the trail rider may find himself getting the short end of the stick. Yes, the frame feels more rigid, the seat slightly stiffer, the stance a bit more aggressive (forward), and the suspension near unmovable. Riders who regularly campaign their Z400s were simply enamored with these changes, and we can certainly attest to the fact that they do make the LTZ more track-worthy out of the box. On the flip side, we took all of the compression out of the suspension and backed the preload off and still found the ride unforgiving and jarring for anyone under 185 pounds. We mentioned that Suzuki's LTR450 was the inspiration for the new Z400, and it is apparently so--right on down to the mistakes they made with the LTR's debut.

Not surprising, however, is that when a bone stock 2009 happened to find itself in a drag race with a bone stock 2008, the 08 ended up pulling ahead time and time again. While many of our colleagues were baffled by this phenomenon, we simply chalk it up to the spread of the power (not the final output numbers). After all, torque often comes at the expense of top-speed and the first generation Z400s were graced with much farther breadth in the gearing department. When it comes to sticking a line in a tacky corner or exploding out of a berm, the new Z takes the cake.

Conclusion

When compared to many of the glowing reviews of the new LTZ400 out there, ours may appear a bit harsh; but make no mistake, this is about as close to the definition of fun on four wheels as we've yet to encounter. The machine looks great, handles like a dream, is plenty quick, and reliable as a bucket of nails. In fact, we were reluctant to hand the key back to our local dealer once we burned through our fuel supply. Our major criticism with the new model is that the LTZ400 has given up some of its much praised user-friendliness and comfort for 2009 in favor of mimicking the LTR450. In truth, the gap separating these two models has been vastly narrowed to the point that some riders are questioning why bother to have both? They argue that if it is a more-track-friendly Suzuki you want, simply get the 450 and leave the 400 for the woods. To some extent we understand this criticism and counter by saying that because of its new abundance of usable low-end, the Z may actually be even better suited for woods-work than the old spread. The chassis is a bit rigid and the rider-stance a bit more uncomfortable compared to yesteryear but these are small prices to pay for the grin we found plastered on the face of each test rider as he handed over the key. With a suspension revalve (or a set of aftermarket shocks) the new Z400 could easily become one of the greatest trail machines of all time. In the meantime, those who do take their 400s to the track are going to have to do a lot less modifying to hang with the big boys.

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