ATV Review: 2011 Honda 400X
Time Tested, Tried and True
By: Jason Giacchino
Honda’s 400X has a lineage that can be traced to the absolute earliest moments of ATVing. Standing on the shoulders of some of the most-successful sport ATVs of all time (the TRX250X & 300EX), Honda really shook things up in 1999 when they released the original 400EX to a very unsuspecting domestic market. With frame geometry inspired by Honda’s own legendary 250R two-stoke, the 400EX is considered one of the cornerstones of the Japanese OEMs collective decision to return to producing stock performance ATVs.
The 2011 Honda 400X is essentially that same machine introduced twelve years ago with a few swaps and upgrades integrated along its lifespan. The most notable of these includes a redesign of the plastic/ headlight configuration to more closely mimic the appearance of its higher performance brother, the TRX450R.
Under the Hood
In this era of ever-advancing ATV engine configuration, the 400X is a reminder of a simpler time for better or worse. The X rocks an air-cooled single overhead cam, four valve single (actual displacement of 397cc). Fuel delivery is of the Keihin carburetor persuasion (38mm) and starting is push-button electric.
Transferring the power to the rear wheels is full manual five-speed transmission (with reverse) and live most sport ATVs, the 400X is chain driven.
Suspension duties come in the form of dual A-arms up front coupled to oil damped shocks (preload adjustable) offering 8.2 inches of travel and a swingarm/ single shock in the rear boasting compression, rebound, and preload adjustability as well as gas charging/ piggyback reservoir (9.1” of travel).
Start Me Up
Now granted, winter time in Buffalo NY is rarely prime opportunity to witness the finest characteristics of any internal combustion engine’s starting capabilities but being no stranger to the 400EX engine, we can attest that the Honda 400 mill does demand a little bit of fussing with to light up (especially if it’s left sitting for over a week).
The choke is carb mounted which adds a bit of drama to the process (particularly if you’re already wearing your riding gloves). However with a little full choke, followed by some gradual stepping down, the machine idle smoothly but you may wish to have some jumper cables handy if you’re battery’s weak from the get-go.
Once warmed up and settled into its rhythm, the 400X produces a steady, mellow exhaust note with just a hint of bark with a blip of the throttle.
The clutch is virtually bulletproof and we appreciate the fact that reverse can be accessed in any gear.
On the Trails
Honda markets the 400X as a sporty trail quad and that’s precisely where it excels. The ergonomics are spacious and comfortable and the chassis lends itself to being flicked around in tight conditions. Cornering is light and snappy, with just enough steering input present at the bars to allow the rear end of the machine to perform the lion’s share of the rotation.
The air-cooled engine doesn’t produce the arm-stretching torque of a modern 450 (or for that matter, the snap of the more technically advanced Suzuki LTZ-400), but it does move out with plenty enough juice to be a riot on the trails. The power spread is such where there is ample low-end roll-on output that builds in steady cadence right on up to redline. There are no unexpected surges or hits along the way (which is good for traversing fairly technical terrain). Rather, speed on the 400X just seems to build along the way to top gear. Our testers reported that this was an ATV that never feels like it’s going particularly fast or out of control yet by the time you reach the upper echelons of the higher gears, you’re moving at quite a nice clip.
High-speed stability is quite impressive as well, with much of the same charm found while tooling around at idle present. Directional changes at speed aren’t much of an issue with a little body English thanks to a nice low center of gravity and suspension that offers some lean-in. Fortunately strong, consistent braking gets the 400X slowed in quite a hurry should you find yourself pushing the envelope of the chassis’ limitations.
As far as terrain that the 400X lives to devour, we took it on wide-open fire roads, sandy double track and some high banked sweeping hard-pack courses and came away quite enamored with the X’s performance on each.
The Not so Good
While this machine was an absolute treat on the trails, it came up a bit short for track use or overly technical conditions. The sad news, as far as would-be racers are concerned, is that there is just enough performance potential in stock trim to suggest greatness. It certainly corners well enough and the light front-end makes skimming whoops a breeze. The trouble comes once jump landings and square-edge hits enter the equation. Sadly it doesn’t take much to disrupt the front end of the ATV thanks in no small part to the antiquated front shocks.
Put simply, the combination of soft factory settings and a lack of adjustment options result in being able to find the limitations of the stockers and quick! For trail/ fire road usage, they are adequate but the extremes of track use make for some ugly bottoming situations.
The shock, however, is quite a different story. There is nearly limitless potential in the rear suspension design thanks to the full adjustability of the more technically advanced absorber. We were able to dial in enough compression (and fine tune the rebound) to accommodate even the roughest tracks. If racing is even the most remote of possibilities for a potential buyer, plan on setting aside enough in your budget for aftermarket front shocks (or at the very least, a complete reworking of the stockers).
Odds and Ends
Like all Hondas, the 400X boasts fantastic fit and finish with quality components and metallurgy to be found throughout. The clutch is strong and reliable, as are the brakes, starter and so on. Couple this to the fact that the engine is not only reliable as a bucket of nails but has also been around long enough to where tuners can extract every ounce of hop-up potential (plus there’s a very strong aftermarket) and you end up with some really attractive fringe benefits.
We absolutely love the new seat to tank transition (it’s razor thin and allows the rider to grip the tank with his knees for additional control) and there’s no denying the sharpness of the new two-tone plastic design (particularly on our red and black motif).
The machine is truly only a pair of front shocks away from treading on the turf currently dominated by the Suzuki Z400 while distancing itself from Yamaha’s Raptor 350 (formerly Warrior).
There is certainly truth to the phrase, “change is good” but at the same time Honda realizes that, especially in these tough economic times, no sense fixing that which isn’t broken.
The 2011 Honda 400X is a viable ATV option for riders of most skill levels who seek high performance without the penalty of high maintenance usually associated with going fast.
Engine Type Single-Cylinder
Engine Stroke 4-Stroke
Valve Configuration SOHC
Displacement (cc/ci) 397 / 24.2
Fuel Intake: Carburetor
Transmission Type Manual
Number Of Forward Speeds 5
Primary Drive (Rear Wheel) Chain
Wheels & Tires:
Front Tire (Full Spec) 22 X 7-10
Rear Tire (Full Spec) 20 X 10-9
Front Brake Type Dual Hydraulic Disc
Rear Brake Type Disc
Wheelbase (in/mm) 47.9 / 1216.7
Fuel Capacity (gal/l) 2.6 / 9.8
Seat Height (in/mm) 32.9 / 835.7
Halogen Headlight (s) Standard
Are you happy that Honda has maintained the basics of the 400X or are you looking for a more dramatic change? Discuss it in our forums!