Awesomely capable UTV with room for three
Kawasaki introduced the Mule Pro-FXT last year and it’s been a big success. So big, in fact, that a new single-row Mule Pro-FX has been added to the Mule family, in addition to diesel versions of both models.
Born in 1988 the Multi Use Light Equipment machine, now known as Mule, was just a sketch on a napkin affectionately penned at the time as “The Pony Truck.” This once standard size utility tool has now grown into one of the most versatile machine lines in the segment of hard working vehicles. After getting some seat time in the new Mule Pro-FX, it looks like a great addition to the family. Beyond being a capable work machine, the Pro-FX is adept at casual trail riding and family adventure.
The dual overhead cam 812cc powerplant is geared for towing while pumping out 48 lb-ft of torque to the wheels. This electronic fuel injected, liquid cooled engine breathes through its 34mm throttle body to bring the inline 812cc three-cylinder to life at any altitude or weather condition. It was our experience with the Mule Pro-FX that it not only felt lighter but also a little more powerful, possibly due to the overall lighter chassis weight. Compared to the Pro-FXT, the Mule Pro-FX is approximately 134 lbs lighter while still maintaining the potential to haul 1,000 lbs in the bed and 2,000 via the receiver hitch in the rear.
The CVT belt-driven transmission transfers the power to the rear wheels and has natural hold back, which will assist on inclines as a type of engine braking. The dual mode rear differential allows the driver to have both rear wheels pulling when the path gets sloppy yet still allows a more delicate trip across sensitive terrain to prevent damage to the ground beneath the 26-inch tires.
Moving this kind of weight is impressive, but Kawasaki understands that you must also be able to control and stop at the same time so the 212mm dual disc and dual piston calipers take care of the front of the machine. Out back you will find dual single piston calipers on the same 212mm discs. Our experience was in an unloaded machine and no tow weight, but the brakes functioned really well. It will be interesting to see just how well these brakes work when we have the bed or receiver hitch loaded.
The interior of the new Mule Pro-FX EPS is very similar to the six-passenger version in the Pro-FXT minus the second row of seats. With a long bench-style seat and similar backrest, occupants can easily enter and exit from either side of the machine. Holding onto the steering wheel was made both comfortable and accommodating with the availability of 40 degrees of tilt steering on our power steering equipped model. We were unsure why tilt steering was not available for non-EPS models, but perhaps it is related to an upgrade or optional add-on version of the Mule Pro-FX.
The tough, simple and strong mantra also plays out on the dash of this new rig. The parking brake lever is located well within reach just to the left of the steering wheel, while the gear selector resides on the right. The digital dash is also very familiar and seemed to have transcended through several models of Kawasaki machines. The very informative dash lets you know if you are in 2WD or 4WD as well as how much fuel is in your 7.9-gallon fuel tank. It also reads speed and has trip meters among other cool features. The floor in the cab of Mule Pro-FX is spacious and tiled for extra grip if the trail or job site gets muddy. The wide perforated brake pedal also gives you grip in the wet or nasty conditions.
Storage for a working vehicle can be critical, so Kawasaki outfitted the Mule Pro-FX with large dash and under-seat storage. The steel beds headache rack is also transferred to the Mule Pro-FX to keep those big loads of gear or cargo from getting into the cab.
When the Mule Pro-FX EPS was able to stretch its legs just a bit, the 10.4 inches of ground clearance gave us plenty of room to dodge the rocks or roots along the more treacherous areas of the trail. Electronic Power Steering made directing the new Mule right where we needed it to be easy. I can only imagine that a full day of work without power steering would be full of regrets.
One feature that is worth a mention is ease of maintenance. If you are a ranch owner, rural farmer or a mechanically sound consumer, you will appreciate the roomy engine bay or access to the electronics should something need attention. Full fender wells also keep mud and debris from piling into tight places and taking up residence on your machine.
It is no secret that we were impressed with the remodel of the Mule and the release of the Mule Pro-FX is just another step in the right direction for Kawasaki. The fact that there is a three-year Warranty another positive to consider.
Kawasaki will also be releasing diesel models this December with the Mule Pro-DX and Mule Pro-DXT designations. This should excite those who use primarily diesel-fueled equipment.
Pricing: 2016 Kawasaki Mule Pro-FX: $11,999 2016 Kawasaki Mule Pro-FX EPS: $12,999 2016 Kawasaki Mule Pro-FX EPS Camo: $14,199 2016 Kawasaki Mule Pro-FX EPS LE: $14,199