Given that the 2017 Husqvarna FC450 shares almost all of its major compo- nents with the 2017 KTM 450SXF, you might assume that it would tie for first place with its orange brother. After all, it has the same brakes, handling, electric starter, diaphragm clutch, airbox, hubs, air forks and light weight.
Those are good reasons to choose the Husqvarna FC450 and KTM 450SXF as the
co-winners, but KTM doesn’t want that to happen. We aren’t conspiracy theorists,
but there is something fishy in Denmark—by which we mean Mattighofen.
For some reason Husqvarna’s engineers have refused to fix the two major complaints that American Husqvarna owners have against the FC450. First, the plastic
airbox doesn’t breathe. It didn’t breathe last year and it didn’t breathe the year
before. If we were betting men, we would place a fiver that it won’t breathe in
2018, either. Why not? Because if it did let some air into the airbox, it is a sure
thing that the Husqvarna engine would run as well as the KTM engine. Second,
the Husqvarna FC450 comes with the old, restrictive, ice-cream-cone mufflers that
KTM discarded in 2013. They weren’t good enough for KTM in 2014, but suddenly
they are okay for Husqvarna in 2017? Apart from the choked-down airbox and
choked-up muffler, the 2017 Husqvarna is the 2017 KTM 450SXF. The Husky is still
fast and quick, but with a drill and an aftermarket muffler it could be faster and
quicker. These two questionable choices cost the FC450 1.0 to 1.25 horsepower at
5000, 6000, 7000, 8000, 9000, 10,000 and 11,000 rpm. It’s one thing to give up one
horsepower at peak, but a completely different thing to give up one horsepower
at every step on the curve from bottom to top. Also, the airbox and muffler added
2 pounds to the bike, making it the second-lightest bike in this shootout.
HOW DOES THE FC450 RATE IN THE MAJOR CATEGORIES?
Power output: Very good. Because of the corporate decision to detune the
FC450 Husky, it has a lap-time engine, not a sprint engine. Test riders could push
the FC450 without fear of being bucked off by a sudden burp of testosterone from
the powerplant. This style of power had pluses and minuses. The powerband
was long, broad and pulled forever, but without the quick rev and lively throttle
response of its KTM sibling. In the end, many MXA test riders thought that the
two political decisions made the Husky easier to ride. And, just to be perfectly
clear, they can run just like the KTM 450SXF with proper application of a drill bit
and new muffler.
Suspension: Excellent. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the 2017 WP AER air
forks are titanically better than the 2016 4CS forks. The trick to getting the most
from your AER air forks is to find the proper air pressure for your weight, speed
and track. For the average Husqvarna buyer, the best pressures will be found
between 140 psi and 145 psi. We’ve always liked the rear shock, but could never
get full potential out of it because of WP’s overly stiff spring rates, and the fact
that by the time the 4CS forks got through butchering a bump the rear shock didn’t
stand a chance. Now, with great forks and the proper 45 N/m spring rates, the
Husky suspension is excellent
Handling: Excellent. The KTM 450SXF and Husky FC450 are dream machines.
They have a do-it-all chassis. They are stable at speed, ultra-sharp at turn-in and
don’t need fancy body English or first-year Pro antics to get them through the
switchbacks. Many MXA test riders think that the Husqvarna chassis is more for-
giving because of the flex in the three-piece plastic airbox, which absorbs energy
in the rough and over big jumps.
Brakes: Excellent. KTM and Husqvarna have the brakes that everybody
wants—but appear to be a couple years away from getting close to. The Brembos
are one-finger powerful.
Clutch: Excellent. How often do you have to replace clutch plates on your rusty
but trusty scoot? A Husqvarna diaphragm clutch will last three times longer.
Weight: Very, very good. At 224 pounds, the Husqvarna weighs 2 pounds more
than the KTM 450SXF. The source of the added pounds is the three-piece plastic
airbox, ice-cream-cone perf core and heavier GFK brake rotors. It should be noted
that 224 pounds is still 7 pounds less than the lightest Japanese 450.
Horsepower: Very, very good. The 2017 Husqvarna FC450 makes 57. 14 horsepower at peak‚ which is 0.78 horses less than the class-leading KTM 450SXF and
0.35 horses less than the 2017 Honda CRF450. Don’t sniff at that number, because
the Husky makes more power than the YZ450F, KX450F and RM-Z450 (and a lot
more power than the 2017 CRF450 from 6000 rpm to 9500 rpm).
2017 HUSQVARNA FC450 CONCLUSION
The KTM 450SXF and the Husqvarna FC450 are twins. They are the lightest,
most powerful, best-stopping, easiest-starting, best-suspended, most flawless han-
dling bikes ever sold. These twins are mirror images of each other. That said, as
glad as we are that Husqvarna tried to carve out a niche of their own with their
molded airbox and quiet muffler, we didn’t like the side effects of these changes.
Thus, we rate the Husky second and the KTM first.