This Mule has some bite
The Kawasaki brand has long proved its integrity and reliability that loyal customers are looking for. The products from this manufacturer seemingly always improve their intended market and the engineers come up with fresh ideas to keep the good times rolling on. At a reclaimed coal mining property turned ride destination in Knott County, Ky., we had a chance to test out the newest Mule in Kawasaki’s corral – the Mule 610 4×4 XC.
This new Mule has changed from a Plain Jane to a sporty worker that is ready for playtime when the bills are paid. While not a racehorse, the 610 XC has a very adventurous look and feel that allows the rider to experience a fun day’s work.
As the name suggests, this Mule is a beefed up version of the 610 4×4. While the names are almost identical, the changes to the visual appeal of the new XC model are very evident. The Super Black paint and sporty 12-inch wheels wrapped in Maxxis 26 inch tires make this ride a classy steed
Improved ergonomics start to become a reality as soon as we stepped into the cab. The seating is bench style with a new material that is just a bit more weather resistant and pliable to the riders seat. From the seat we found the steering wheel to also be a bit racier and rumor has it this steering wheel was inspired by the one found on the Kawasaki Teryx – possibly even pulled right off the beast and fitted to the Mule 610 4×4 XC. Attached to the sporty wheel is a rack and pinion style turning system and this makes the steering effort lighter.
A look at the dash reveals many controls that help the rider become more and more in control of the environment, starting with a gear selector that ranges from forward to reverse with hi and lo range. The easy engagement of 2WD to 4WD is handled right next to the gear selector and with the electronic start switch in arms reach getting going is easy and convenient. You can pop the front cargo hood from the drivers seat to get to the over 12-gallon sealed storage compartment. Differential gear selection is made via a large handle on the left of the steering wheel and the choke pull along with the light switch can be found here as well.
From here we started to look around to the powerplant and with the reliable 401cc engine still unchanged there wasn’t a great deal to see. The carbureted engine has an overhead cam design that is fan cooled and with the cab frame air intake style the beast breathes in cool cleaner air. Overheating is a concern, but with Kawasaki’s built in oil temp warning lamp and crankcase sensory everything seems to be under control. You can start the Mule in neutral, but just stepping on the brake will allow this hauler to get up and go if you leave it in forward or reverse settings. The 401cc thumper needs just a bit of choke to fire up but it does so very easily. Engine vibration is countered by balancing weights in the engine to keep the vibrations low.
The transmission in the Mule 610 4×4 XC is a traditional CVT or constant velocity fully automatic transmission. A few changes are worth nothing on the belt driven gearbox. Thanks to the larger tires, the previous model’s gearing is a bit dated so Kawasaki’s engineers revamped the gear ratio to accommodate the 26-inch Maxxis Big Horn treads. Kawasaki even installed an ATV style dual cog belt for long wear and superior grip. Sealing up the CVT was the icing on the cake, as this will keep water and mud or other trail debris from entering the drive center of the Mule. Finally, the transmission has a dual mode lockable differential that allows the rider to lock all four wheels together and pull through the roughest terrain with ease.
Suspension on the new Mule has also changed but just a little. Kawasaki calls the new front suspension “long travel.” With 3.1 inches of travel, it doesn’t exactly scream “long travel,” but it does offer more cushion than the previous model and allows the front end to be a bit more rider friendly. MacPherson strut takes care of the bumps in the road and trail. In the rear the Mule has what Kawasaki calls a Unit swing axle (swing arm) and shocks with 3.1 inches of overall travel. Both of these suspension designs are engineered to provide a smoother ride and better terrain ability. This also allows the rider to carry loads without sacrificing ride quality.
With the new Maxxis Big Horn 2.0 tires there are a couple of changes that just get thrown in with these. The width of the machine grows 1.3 inches and the larger tires also help the Mule to get up off the ground more, resulting in an addition of 1.5 inches of ground clearance. Kawasaki designers even had to adjust the front end wheel wells to accommodate the tires by stretching the front end over an inch.
Having ridden the 2010 Kawasaki Mule 610 4×4 XC in some very rough and mountainous terrain, several key items come to mind when considering this article. The first point that sticks out is that this machine fits into a pick-up truck bed with ease! That’s not to say the truck can handle the weight of the unit nor could a standard set of UTV Ramps as the beast weighs in at over 1,000 pounds. This is if the unit has no other items coming with it in the bed of that truck. It is good to know that we could haul it but we’re not sure how a smaller pickup would feel after the ride.
As for ergonomics, seating was very comfortable and with controls close and visible we knew where everything was immediately. Keeping in mind the primary purpose of the Mule we had to reign ourselves in when the speedometer crawled up to the height of 25 mph and topped out. This machine is built to work and with a lower top speed it probably makes life safer on the farm.
We could really point the Mule 610 XC in any direction and even though it wouldn’t get there in a hurry it was proven time and time again that it would go wherever we pointed the front wheels. The brutal low range locked in full differential lock made this sporty little ride into a bulldozer. The lower center of gravity helped keep the machine planted and with the added ground clearance we could cross obstacles with relative ease.
This Mule loves to play and to test the new sealed CVT we dropped off into a nasty mud pit along the trail. The Mule never questioned our decision and just kept plowing forward.
Overall this machine is built to work and look good doing it. The features are endless and with options like an enclosed cab, cab heaters, fixed windshield, bed covers and more it is evident that Kawasaki is working on giving the working class time and equipment to let the Good Times roll on and on!
|2010 Kawasaki Mule 610 4×4 XC Specs|
|Engine Type:||Four-stroke, fan-cooled single, OHV|
|Bore x Stroke:||82 x 76mm|
|Fuel System:||Carburated – Nikki 6C1026|
|Ignition:||Magneto and transistor|
|Final Drive:||Shaft-driven selectable four-wheel drive, dual-mode rear differential|
|Transmission:||Continuously variable transmission with high and low range, plus reverse|
|Front Suspension / Wheel Travel:||MacPherson strut / 3.1 in.|
|Rear Suspension / Wheel Travel:||Unit swing axle, adjustable shocks / 3.1 in.|
|Brakes:||Four-wheel hydraulic drums, triple sealed|
|Front Tires:||AT26 x 9R -12 Maxxis tubeless|
|Rear Tires:||AT26 x 9R -12 Maxxis tubeless|
|Curb Weight:||1,050 lbs|
|Length / Width / Height:||108.5 in/ 52.0 in/ 73.8 in|
|Fuel Capacity:||4.1 gal|
|Bed Box Dimension/Capacity:||41.1 in x 35.4 in / 400 lbs|
|Hitch Towing Rating:||1,100 lbs|
|Ground Clearance:||8.1 in|
|Instrumentation:||Oil temperature meter, hour meter, 35w headlights, taillight and stoplight|
|Colors:||Adventure Blue with Super Black|