TEST: KAWASAKI MULE PRO-FXR

— Kawasaki’s Pro-series Mules are serious work machines, but their power, suspension and refinement make them such a pleasure to drive, chores seem like less of a chore. The new Mule Pro-FXR is the sportiest Pro-series Mule yet, so we got one for a full test to see what it can do.

The Mule Pro-FXR’s smooth, powerful engine and comfortable ride let you explore rugged terrain in luxury and haul a lot of cargo anywhere you need to go.

WHAT MAKES THE PRO-FXR THE SPORTIEST PRO-SERIES MULE?

It’s the shortest, lightest and most aggressively styled model in the series. Compared to the similarly equipped three-seat Pro-FX EPS LE, the Pro-FXR is 12.6 inches shorter; 64 pounds lighter; and it’s powered by the same smooth, quiet, powerful, three-cylinder, 812cc, double-overhead-cam 12-valve engine.

IS IT STILL A SERIOUS WORK MACHINE?

Yes. The bed is shorter than on other three-seat Pro-series Mules—37.6 x 53.3 x 11.0 inches compared to 54.1 x 53.3 x 11.0 inches—but like other Pro-series Mules, the Mule Pro-FXR’s bed can carry 1000 pounds and the machine can tow a ton.

The 812cc, double-overhead-cam, 12-valve triple is powerful, and it’s also one of the smoothest UTV engines.

HOW DOES COST COMPARE?

At $14,999, the Mule Pro-FXR and the Mule Pro-FX Ranch Edition are the most expensive three-seat Pro-series Mules. Prices for Mule Pro-FX three-seat models start at $12,099. Mule Pro-FXTs have seating for three to six and start at $13,099 and range to $16,999 for the Mule Pro-FXT Ranch Edition. Honda’s Pioneer 700 starts at $10,599 and goes to $12,099 for the Pioneer 700 Deluxe. Can-Am’s Defender XT HD8 is $15,699. The Polaris Ranger XP 900 EPS is $13,999.

WHAT KIND OF TRANSMISSION DOES IT HAVE?

A fully automatic, belt-type, dual-range continuously variable transmission (CVT) with engine braking. Fully automatic CVTs are the most common type of UTV transmission, but few include engine braking. It slows the vehicle in off-throttle situations, and it acts on all four wheels in 4WD. The Mule Pro-FXR’s range selector is very positive and works easily.

The tilting bed has a steel floor, and it can carry 1000 pounds of cargo.

WHAT KIND OF 4WD SYSTEM DOES IT HAVE?

Selectable 2WD/4WD with a lockable rear differential. There’s no front differential-lock feature, but the rear differential unlocks to make tighter turns easier and to protect delicate turf.

HOW FAST IS IT?

It’s pretty quick for a machine with such impressive work credentials. The 812cc triple generates smooth, strong acceleration and a 45-mph top speed.

A service-access cover behind the right door lets you check the oil, air filter and battery without tilting the bed.

HOW IS THE POWER DELIVERY?

The Pro-FXR is tuned just like other Pro-series Mules—with healthy low-end and midrange power—though Can-Am’s Defender HD8 and the Polaris Ranger XP 900 have more muscle. The engine and clutching provide precise control, which comes in handy in difficult terrain and during chores like maneuvering a trailer. The engine’s turbine-like smoothness makes it feel like it’s not working hard even when it is.

HOW IS THE SUSPENSION?

The Pro-FXR has double-A-arm front and rear suspension with spring preload-adjustable shocks and 8.7 inches of travel. The ride is luxuriously plush, and the suspension handles big bumps and ruts well as long as you don’t rush through them. This is a sporty recreation utility machine, not a sport UTV.

The new Mule Pro-FXR isn’t just a Mule Pro-FX with sporty styling; it’s the shortest and lightest Pro-series Mule.

HOW DOES IT HANDLE?

The Pro-FXR has easy, stable, predictable handling, though there’s more body roll during hard cornering than you’ll find on sport UTVs. In the interest of ride smoothness, there is no front or rear sway bar to limit body roll. The Pro-FXR has the same wide 64-inch stance as many sport models and power steering that lightens steering effort and damps the kicks bumps try to send through the steering.

HOW IS IT ON HILLS?

It’s as surefooted in steep terrain as a four-legged mule. The Pro-FXR has plenty of power that’s easy to control, so challenging, technical hills are no problem. The wide stance adds security off-camber climbs. The Kawasaki has both sides of tough hills covered; its engine braking and four-wheel disc brakes let you regulate downhill speed precisely.

Double-A-arm front suspension delivers 8.7 inches of travel. Steel front and rear bumpers are standard on the Pro-FXR.

HOW IS IT FOR WATER AND MUD?

Good, but not as unstoppable as some machines. The Mule Pro-FXR’s bodywork provides excellent splash protection, and the machine has 10.8 inches of ground clearance, the most of all the Pro-series Mules. In really ugly crossings, the lack of front differential lock and the air intake, which breathes from just below the cargo bed, won’t take you as far as machines with under-hood intakes and locking front differentials.

HOW ARE THE DETAILS?

Nicely done. The Kawasaki’s smooth engine and plush ride give it a refined, high-quality feel, and the doors are more convenient than nets. A service panel lets you get to the oil dipstick, air filter and battery without tilting the bed. You need to undo two latches to dump the bed and latch them to secure the bed, which is very safe and solid, but is more work than the simple release lever on some machines. LED and halogen headlights and heavy-duty steel front and rear bumpers are functional features that add style to the Pro-FXR.

The front and rear shocks are spring preload-adjustable. The rear differential can be locked for more traction or unlocked for tighter turns or to protect turf.

WHAT IS OUR FINAL ANSWER?

The Kawasaki Mule Pro-FXR isn’t as sporty as a Kawasaki Teryx, but it joins more sporty handling and styling with the Mule Pro-FXR’s impressive comfort and massive hauling and towing ability.

SPECS:

KAWASAKI MULE PRO-FXR

ENGINE/TRANSMISSION

Engine type Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 12-valve, 4-stroke,

inline 3-cylinder

Displacement 812cc

Bore x stroke 72mm x 66.5mm

Compression ratio 9.5:1

Lubrication system Wet sump

Fuel metering 34mm  Mikuni EFI

Starting/back-up Electric/none

Starting procedure In neutral or any gear with

brake engaged

Choke N/A

Air filter access Remove access cover and 4 clips

on airbox lid

Transmission Dual range fully automatic CVT

with reverse and EBS

Reverse procedure Move range selector to “R”

Drive system Selectable 2WD/4WD with lockable

rear diff

Final drives: f/r Shaft/shaft

DIMENSIONS/CAPACITIES/WEIGHTS

Fuel capacity 7.9 gal.

Wheelbase 79.7”

Overall length/width/height 121.5”/64”/77.2”

Ground clearance 10.8”

Dry weight 1,768.4 lb.

Hitch Yes

Towing limit 2000 lb.

Bed capacity 1000 lb.

ROLLING CHASSIS

Frame Steel tube

Suspension/wheel travel:

  Front Double A-arms w/ preload adjustable shocks/

8.7”

  Rear Double A-arms w/ preload adjustable

shocks/8.7”

Brakes:

  Front Hydraulic discs

  Rear Hydraulic disc

Parking brake Dash mounted hand lever

Tires:

  Front 27x9R12 Duro Radial

  Rear 27x9R12 Duro Radial

ELECTRICAL

DC outlet Waterproof automotive-style plug

Lighting

  Front Two 55/60W headlights

  Rear Dual tail/brake lights

DETAILS

Instruments Multi-function digital meter w/indicators

Colors Atomic Silver, Candy Persimmon Red

Suggested retail price $14,999

Contact Kawasaki, (800) 661-RIDE

Comments are closed.