A DIFFERENT AGE
It might seem like 1999 was a different age in the ATV world, but was it
really? When the first Honda
TRX400X (then the EX) arrived, the
great grassy plains of America were
populated by Yamaha Banshees,
Warriors and Blasters. That was as
good as it got for sport quads of the
day, leaving an obvious opening for
a good-handling ATV with decent
power and a reasonable price. Fast-forward 14 years. The ATV world is
now saturated with 60-horsepower
Raptor 700s, 450cc racing machines
and money-is-no-object custom
quads. That leaves an opening for a
good-handling ATV with decent
power and a reasonable price all
over again. And, the 400X is still here
to fill it.
For those of you who are embarrassed to ask about the background
of the Honda 400X, we’ll forgive you.
It’s ancient history to a teenager who
was 2 years old in 1999. The Consent
Decree of 1988 was an agreement
between the federal government and
the ATV industry that restricted and
regulated the quad business. It
caused most ATV makers to lose
interest in high-performance sport
quads. But even though no new sport
quads were manufactured for 10
years, development and technology
continued to progress. So when
Honda decided to re-enter the sport
world with a four-wheeler, it made a
huge jump in sophistication. The
400EX had 10 years of advancement
in geometry and suspension. The
four-stroke motor, too, was a big step
forward for the recreational quad
rider, mostly because of electric start.
After that, we all know what fol-
lowed. The 450s arrived and quickly
eclipsed the performance of the
Honda 400. Now, many of them are
gone simply because they priced
themselves out of the market. The
400X crocodile remains, selling for
$6399, which is about $1500 less than
most of the 450s that remain. It has
several advantages beyond price too.
• No coolant. The Honda is air-cooled, and that’s one less fluid to
carry in the spare-parts box.
• Easy maintenance. The four-valve motor has rocker arms, and the
valves can be adjusted in minutes.
• Carburetor induction. Electronic
fuel injection adds weight and complexity, but doesn’t really offer a payoff in performance.
• Universal parts coverage. The
400X uses essentially the same motor
as the Honda XR400R motorcycle. If
your dealer doesn’t stock parts, he’s
• Trail width. At 45. 5 inches across,
the X is narrower than any other 450
The Honda 400 motor actually dates
back to 1996 when it was created for a
motorcycle. Electric start was added,
and reverse came a few years later.
Honda also beefed up the drivetrain
for the additional loads generated by
two big rear wheels. In the motorcycle
configuration, the oil for the dry-sump
motor was carried in the frame, but
Honda engineered a separate oil tank
for the ATV. That, alone, helps keep the
engine cooler, but Honda went to the
extra lengths to add an oil cooler too.
If you’re looking for something flashy
in the Honda 400’s chassis description,
you’ll look for a long time. By today’s
standards, it’s very conventional. The
front suspension has double A-arms
with shocks that have five preload set-
tings and provide 8. 2 inches of wheel
travel. The rear shock is slightly more
sophisticated, with an aluminum body,
a piggyback reservoir, and full preload
and damping adjustability. It’s con-
To keep up with the competition, Honda added a reverse gear to the 397cc, air-
cooled engine. It has four valves and a single overhead cam. It’s simple to work on.
Any aftermarket muffler will wake up the power nicely.
The 400X is fairly light and very agile. Without any competition
around on a trail ride, it’s hard to find any flaws in the machine.
A fully adjustable rear shock mounted on a cast-aluminum
swingarm provides 9.1 inches of travel under the rider’s seat.