— Putting a top ranch hand to the test —
When Kawasaki unleashed the Mule Pro-FXT, the ad campaign invited the UTV enthusiast to “transform your life.” The television ad showed the FXT ripping through deep woods toting grinning occupants. Unlike the Mule Pro-FXR tested in March 2018, the FX Transformer quickly converts from a single-seat with a three-person capacity and 1000-pound-capacity large bed to a two-seat, six-person mover. It’s designed to work hard and play hard, and even make work seem like play. We got a chance to put the fun part to the test at Moab’s Rally on the Rocks (ROTR), guided by Kent the Moab Cowboy (www.moabcowboy.com,  220-0746).
WHAT’S NEW FOR 2018?
Mule Pro-FXTs get a new 30-gallon underseat, covered storage bin and a new glove box lid that’s easier to open. There is also a new access cover for the oil filter under the rear bench. Pro-FXT Mules are available in five versions—non-EPS; EPS with tilt steering wheel; camo and Limited Editions with quad LED headlights and two-tone 12-spoke wheels; and Ranch Edition with LE features, plus a 3000-pound Warn winch with remote control, Titanium Metallic paint and matching two-tone seats and badges.
HOW DOES COST COMPARE?
The Mule Pro-FXT starts at $13,099; EPS models are $14,899; the Realtree Xtra Camo FXT and LEs are $16,199; and the Ranch Edition is $16,999. Can-Am’s Commander Max 1000 DPS is $16,599 and the XT is $19,099, while the Defender Max HD10 DPS is $19,099–$19,199. The Defender Max HD10 Lone Star Edition is $19,499. The Defender Max HD8 starts at $12,399, and DPS models are $14,699–$15,499. Polaris’ Ranger XP 1000 Crew EPS is $16,999, and the Ranger XP 900 Crew EPS is $15,499. Honda’s Pioneer 1000-5 starts at $16,699, the Deluxe is $17,699 and the LTD is $21,899, while the Pioneer 700-4 starts at $12,299. Textron’s Stampede 900 4 is $15,199, and the 4X is $15,999.
HOW FAST IS THE INLINE TRIPLE?
Not as fast or as quick as the Teryx or T-4. Pro-series Mules sport a 812cc inline triple that’s tuned for quiet smoothness more than brute acceleration. The 12-valve, dual-cam triple produces 48.0 pound-feet of torque at 3500 rpm and tows up to a ton, and it’s geared lower than the Teryx. It takes a while to bump the rev limiter at 47 mph in high range, and low is good for 26 mph.
WHAT ABOUT THE DELIVERY?
It’s as smooth as the low-vibration engine. The CVT is tuned for smooth engagement and instills confidence in rough-going. The CVT has a centrifugal clutch for constant belt tension and long belt life, and the EBS is awesome for steep hills and slick-rock ledges. Sometimes it worked so well we had to apply a little trailing throttle to reduce braking effect. The dash has separate 2WD/4WD and diff-lock toggles, which instantly engage commands via servos. It’s a climber that never needed full throttle to top steep slick-rock sections.
HOW DOES THE PRO-FXT HANDLE?
Slowly but surely. The FXT has 12.6 inches more wheelbase than the Pro-FXR, and it’s 194.1 pounds heavier. It turns well on the trail and has great EPS-assist mapping, but don’t expect big drifts. It doesn’t want to slide at all, which is great for predictability in slick conditions. It’s pretty agile on the trail and instills confidence.
WHAT ABOUT THE SUSPENSION?
It actually has more travel than the Teryx but not the Teryx’s Fox Podium piggyback shocks. Independent dual–arm suspension and preload-adjustable shocks deliver 8.7 inches of plush travel, and the lack of torsion bars lets each corner articulate for Moab’s slick rocks. It even has a plush ride over sand wheel-hop chop, but big sand whoops overpower the HPG shocks.
WHAT ABOUT ROCKS AND MUD?
The Pro-FXT isn’t fazed by either. We tackled Fins ’n’ Things, and the FXT proved to be a highly capable rock limousine. The Moab Cowboy uses both the Pro-FXT and FXR on his Moab UTV tours, and the FXT is stone stock, except for a 2-inch lift for added ground clearance. The durable CVT and diff-lock make it a sure-footed rocker. Full fenders, a hard roof and half doors keep mud splashes out for the cabin, and deep channels in the roof direct run-off forward and back. Torque tames mud, but deep ruts also call for a lift kit.
HOW STRONG ARE THE BRAKES?
They’re strong for slow-speed crawling and trails. Pro Mules have four-wheel hydraulic brakes with a fifth parking brake on the rear transfer case. Front calipers are dual-piston, while rears are single-piston. They’re backed by great four-wheel EBS, and the brake pedal has a height adjuster. The parking-brake lever is on the dash in front of the driver, and it has ignition cut-out if the driver forgets to release it.
WHAT ABOUT CREATURE COMFORTS?
The Ranch Edition is a stretch limo. The over-molded steering wheel with tilt is very comfortable and assist is excellent. The bench seats are surprisingly comfortable, and the doors have a smooth inner liner. Hand-holds are old school, with cage mounts for the two front passengers. The FXT is super quiet, which is great for hunters and tour guides, and vibration is also low for added comfort. There are only two cup holders in the dash, though.
WHAT IS OUR FINAL ANSWER?
We see why “Cowboy Kent” added the Pro-FXT (and FXR) to his UTV-tour Teryxs. The FXT is a sure-footed explorer and pack mule that holds all the camping equipment one would need. It has a super-smooth engine, handling and personality, and the quiet exhaust and intake promote conversations in the cab. All controls are light-feeling and effective, making the Pro-FXT an off-road limo and excellent rock crawler and trail tamer.
2018 KAWASAKI MULE PRO-FXT 4X4 RANCH EDITION
Engine type Liquid/oil-cooled, 12-valve, DOHC, 4-stroke
Bore x stroke 72mm x 66.5mm (x3)
Compression ratio 9.5:1
Lubrication system Semi-dry sump
Induction 34mm Mikuni EFI
Starting/back-up Electric /none
Idle adjustment N/A
Access Remove access cover and 4 airbox clips
Transmission Dual-range CVT w/ rev. & EBS
Reverse procedure Move gearshift to “R”
Drive system 2WD/4WD w/ diff-lock
Final drive Shaft
Fuel capacity 7.9 gal.
Overall length/width/height 135.6”/64”/79.5”
Ground clearance 10.4”
Claimed curb weight 1,962.5 lb.
Bed capacity 1000 (600 CA) lb.
Towing capacity 2000 lb.
Frame Square-tube steel
Front Dual A-arms w/ prel-, comp.-adj. piggyback
Rear Dual A-arms w/ prel-, comp-adj. piggyback
Front Twin-piston hydraulic discs/left pedal
Rear Hydraulic discs/left pedal
Parking Dash-mounted locking lever
Front 26x9R12 Duro Frontier
Rear 26x9R12 Duro Frontier
Front Two halogen, two LED headlights
Rear Dual 21W/5W brake/taillights
Instrumentation Multi-function digital meter
Colors Super Black; EPS, Timberline Green,
Vibrant Blue; LEs, Super Black, Firecracker Red,
Realtree Xtra; Ranch Metallic Ti
Minimum recommended operator age 16
Suggested retail price $13,099; EPS, $14,899,
Camo/LE, $16,199; RE, $16,999
Contact Kawasaki Motor Corp., (800) 661-RIDE