Versatile UTV can transforms to carry three or six passengers
Kawasaki recently invited us to its Lincoln, Neb. manufacturing facility to check out a new machine – one they wouldn’t tell us anything about until we arrived. We had our guesses as to what we might see, but a new Mule that transforms to hold three or six people was not among them. The new 2015 Kawasaki Mule PRO-FXT was a surprise – a pleasant one.
Landing in Lincoln on 332 acres back in April of 1974, Kawasaki began its mission to start producing motorcycles from this assembly plant. The facility has stretched out its footprint over the years and now more than 1,257 employees walk in and out of the doors every day. Making anything from Robots to railcars, the plant is widely used in many different production processes. The one process we had come to see though was the building of the next generation Mule for Kawasaki’s working line of Strong vehicles.
Kawasaki’s Mule PRO-FXT is definitely the bigger and tougher brother to the older Mule siblings. This Mule is powered by a fuel injected 812cc three-cylinder engine that is liquid cooled and geared for the hardest day’s work you have on the calendar. The coolest thing about the newest Mule is the very innovative three- to six-passenger cab design that quickly changes to fit your cargo or rider capacity.
Details on the new Mule PRO-FXT range from 46 ft pounds of torque for hard core pulling power to the incredible towing capability of up to 2,000 pounds. The steel bed in three-passenger mode will haul up to 1,000 pounds and still has a good amount of usable space when in six-passenger mode. Also, the integrated two-inch receiver hitch makes hooking to any ranch trailer a cinch. Kawasaki has made electronic power steering available as an option. In our humble opinion, this is a must have – especially when working the new employee to its max. Rider input determines steering assist and the same assist is regressive as the speeds pick up to give the driver a confidence-inspiring ride while maintaining control.
COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2010 Kawasaki Mule 4010 Trans4x4
The working rancher or farmer will appreciate the Mule’s sharp-looking appearance. This vehicle is built strong and the focus is on its ability to get the job done.
Shining the way down the fence line are halogen headlights. Additional twin LED auxiliary lights are available as part of the Limited Edition package. A quick note on auxiliary power would be the over 60 amps available at 2,000 rpm from the high output alternator, which can be used to power devices from the machine itself. Twin 12V accessory power outlets can be found in the cab of the standard models, while Limited Edition and Camo models get an additional pair of 12V outlets.
The cab of the new Mule seats three in the front on a soft, flat bench-style seat. Of course, three-point seatbelts are included for each rider – the three additional seating positions in the rear have these as well. Converting the bed to a six-passenger cruiser is simple and Kawasaki has dubbed the process its 1.1.1 system. The key to the equation is that it should take one person to make one trip around the machine in one minute to gain three more seats. Maybe it could have been 18.104.22.168? The sliding cargo guard slips along the bed easily and locks into place with the seats rising up and locking into position.
To help keep make it easy to move throughout the cab, the steering wheel tilts out of the way on a gas shock. Small items like a cup holder on the driver’s side and an accessory switch panel in the center of the dash topside are just some of the ways Kawasaki thought this ride through. Kawasaki also made the large gear selector very user friendly on the dash to the right of the steering wheel, while the large parking brake handle on the left gives the driver plenty of control during the ride. You’ll also be able to store all your essentials in the under-seat storage.
After a trip through the plant where the Mule and other machines are made, we were able to get a little time behind the wheel. Traveling off property, Kawasaki arranged for our ride to be at a private training facility just outside Lincoln.
COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2014 Honda Pioneer 700-4
Slipping into the cab of the 2015 Kawasaki Mule PRO-FXT LE, we took a deep breath and exhaled. The bench-style seat was comfortable and we had the big three-cylinder engine fired up with just a bump of the key. The first thing we noticed was how smooth the engine rolled out when pressing the throttle down. Engine noise in the cab is minimal and the 46 ft. lbs of torque reared up as we climbed the steep hills around the property. Electronic power steering is a great thing when it is done right and we sure love it on this machine. Cornering slowly through the tighter trails and over the rooted landscape proved simple with the help of EPS.
Kawasaki promised the turning radius of the new Mule would be a lot tighter and it was spot on as this Mule creeps its way through tight trails like nobody’s business. With 4WD engaged the big 812cc mill powers up steep off-camber sections and the machine feels super stable during the process due to the 8.7 inches of independent wheel travel both front and rear! Speed is not something that was really important in the development of the Mule, but getting up to 45 mph is nice in comparison to the older versions of Mule. The 26-inch tires rolling on six-spoke cast aluminum wheels gives the LE model plenty of traction and incredible looks, with performance to boot. Duro Frontier tires grabbed at the ground and moved the big Mule along.
COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2014 Kubota RTV X-Series
We had limited time in the 2015 Kawasaki Mule PRO-FXT, but the time we did have was extremely enjoyable. The fact that Kawasaki has moved to build a better working machine really excites us. When it comes to work-specific machines, the UTV industry has never been better.