Now in its 17th year, readers may count on American Hunter’s Golden Bullseye Awards to denote excellence. Indeed, these days many companies knowingly strive to hit the mark—to produce innovative products that catch our attention. After all, any product worthy of our gold standard must meet or exceed American Hunter’s expectations of innovation—and they absolutely must provide hunters with value for their money.
2019 Vehicle of the Year: Yamaha Kodiak 450
In an ATV market that touts ever-larger side-by-side vehicles capable of hauling four humans and untold pounds of gear and game, many hunters still choose to use a four-wheeler. A four-wheeler is, after all, cheaper than a SxS. It is also easier to maneuver in tight spots, rides in a pickup bed and sits nicely in the back of a garage. Yamaha considered all this when it designed the 2019 Kodiak 450.
To create the unit, the company started with its Grizzly 450 then increased the track front and rear by several inches. “The wider track allows for wider a-arms and increased suspension travel,” wrote AH contributor Lazelle Jones (“Hardware,” October 2018), “a design feature that improves low-speed rider comfort, and improves performance at mid-range and higher speeds, and enhances capability to navigate obstacles that may be encountered.”
Its fuel-injected, water-cooled, single-cylinder 421cc engine features a two-valve cylinder head and overhead cam to produce good low- to mid-range torque, accessed by squeezing a new, user-friendly thumb throttle. Its Ultramatic continuously variable transmission now incorporates heavier weights that allow the engine to operate efficiently at lower speed. Located in the primary clutch, they begin to roll out sooner than lighter weights, which helps the engine find the sweet spot on the power curve when running at low rev. The Ultramatic’s main selling point, though, is its one-way sprag clutch that delivers engine braking during descents. Throw in On-Command 4WD and electric power steering (on select models), and you’ve got the makings of one incredibly capable off-road machine.
Editor's Note: Winning products must be tested by the editors, meet or exceed expectations on innovation, and provide hunters and shooters with value for their money. NRA Publications presented the annual Golden Bullseye Awards at an invitation-only breakfast during the 2019 NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits in Indianapolis, Ind., Apr. 25-28.