Known as the best race quad, the 250R (1986-1989) won races more than any quad of its time and
to this day it still wins races. But in the late 80's, quad companies were going through a hard time with lawsuits with
three-wheelers. Times became hard and all the companies pulled out of factory racing, including Honda in 1989, ending
production of the 250R, which was a mistake.
Throughout the 90's, the only sport quad Honda offered was the 250X, wich received a larger
bore making it a 300EX in 1993. The 90's saw the boom of utility and 4x4 ATVs. The best high performance quad
was the Banshee and that was it. The Bashee had been around since 1987 unchanged, so it was time for a new quad.
Then in the fall of 1998, Honda announced the release of the FourTrax TRX400EX. The motor
was the same to the one found in the XR400R dirt bike, except with some carb, cam and tranny changes. The transmission
was a five speed manual clutch transmision without reverse. The machine had a light dry weight of 375 pounds.
The 400EX was one of the best handeling chassis ever and featured ample suspension featuring
Showa shocks with 8.2 inches of travel with the front independent and 9.1 on the single shock, aluminum swingarm
for the rear. Final drive is a sealed o-ring chain. The 400EX came with D.I.D. rims and Otusu 22x7x10s on the
fronts and 20x10x9s for the rear. The only color option was red.
In that Fall of 1998, Dirt Wheels Magazine got their hands on a early-release 400EX and
entered it into the fameous Baja 1000. It was ridden by Dennis Cox and Denny Wolf. The #2A EX set a record for
a quad at 23 hours, 59 minutes and 33 seconds. That same time was tied with a Honda 450R in the 2003 Baja 1000.
After that, 400EXs were winning races throughout the country. It was the fastest and biggest
producion ever. Every year the 400EX recived graphic and seat apperance changes, but nothing else changed. On
it's third year of production, all Honda sport ATVs had a name change from Fourtrax to SportTrax along with the new color
Also in that same year, the EX lost its title as the fastest four-stroke due to the introduction
of the Yamaha Raptor. 400EXs still dominated many classes in races due to the 440cc limit and Raptors with transmissions
that were like time bombs. The EXs had the best reliability of any of its peers.
Then in the summer of 2002, the EX took a big hit when Suzuki released the LT-Z400 and the Kawaski
version, the KFX 400. The EX and Z400 were a lot alike, except in three areas: The Z was double overhead cam (EX
is SOHC), liquid cooled (EX is air-cooled with a dry sump system) and the Z also had a reverse gear. The Z was also
at the same price, $5,700.
Even Polaris joined the competition with their Predator 500. The once-king 400EX was left
in the dust. Then in 2003 Yamaha released the YFZ450, being a all-race-quad. To compete, Honda built the 450R,
making it the top quad of Honda's sport lineup. The EX recived a new title as a "trail quad" instead of it's old "competion
Then Honda released their 2005 lineup, everything was there except the 400EX. It was as
there would be no more 400's. The a few months later came a highly revised EX. There is now a 450R front end and
headlight assembly, finally a reverse gear, higher gear ratios and a name change, the TRX400EX SportTrax. The 2005 model
does have reverse which is great, but it lost it's look without the double "eye look" round head lights. With the new
gear ratios, it didn't change the 65 MPH top speed.
This just shows how times have changed, from a leader and a winner, to just a trail quad.
It had it's time, but now machines are faster and lighter, but the 400EX is still alive and kicking with some new changes.