KAWASAKI MULE PRO-FXT RANCH EDITION

— 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, [435] 220-0746).

At more than a foot longer than the Pro-FXR, the Pro-FXT isn’t as agile in turns, but it’s much more agile than a Ranger Crew XP 900 and General 4, both of which have a 20-inch-longer wheelbase. Duro’s 26-inch Frontier radials supply turning and braking traction.

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.

Front travel is 8.7 inches with long A-arms and preload-adjustable shocks tuned for a plush ride. Four-wheel hydraulic brakes have dual-piston front calipers. EPS mapping and kickback control are excellent.

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.

A cover in front of the right-rear tire is removed to access the battery, fuses, air filter and the winch contactor (only on the Ranch Edition). Undo four clasps to access the pleated-paper air filter, and a new cover under the rear seat is removed to access the oil filter.

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.

Although the 812cc triple has a short stroke of 66.5mm, it’s tuned for torque and builds revs slowly. Instead of a locking front diff, the Pro-FXT has a dual-mode locking rear diff. It also has a 75-watt alternator and four-wheel EBS.

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.

The digital instrument panel is in the center of the dash and offset towards the driver, and the range selector and parking brake are on either side of the nice tilt steering wheel. The center cubbyhole accepts an accessory stereo, and there are four blanks for accessories.

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.

Kawasaki’s Mule Pro-FXT not only transforms from a three-person utility UTV with 1000-pound bed capacity to a six-person hauler and a 349-pound bed; it is a much more capable recreation UTV when the work is done. We took the Ranch Edition to Moab for some rock crawling and trail riding.

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.

The Ranch Edition Pro-FXT has Ti Metallic paint and matching two-tone seats with badges, plus a 3000-pound Warn winch. Camo, Limited Edition and Ranch Edition Mules get inner LED and halogen outer headlights with separate toggle controls.

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.

It only takes a couple of minutes to convert from two-seat to single-seat configuration, and the roof has a hinged rear section for dumping the bed in single-seat mode. There are slots in the plastic bed liner for adding organizing dividers.

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.

SPECS:

2018 KAWASAKI MULE PRO-FXT 4X4 RANCH EDITION

ENGINE/TRANSMISSION

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

inline triple

Displacement 812cc

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

Air filter:

  Type Foam

  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

DIMENSIONS/CAPACITIES/WEIGHTS

Fuel capacity 7.9 gal.

Wheelbase 92.3”

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.

ROLLING CHASSIS

Frame Square-tube steel

Suspension/wheel travel:

  Front Dual A-arms w/ prel-, comp.-adj. piggyback

shocks/8.7”

  Rear Dual A-arms w/ prel-, comp-adj. piggyback

shocks/8.7”

Brakes/actuation:

  Front Twin-piston hydraulic discs/left pedal

  Rear Hydraulic discs/left pedal

Parking Dash-mounted locking lever

Tires:

  Front 26x9R12 Duro Frontier

  Rear 26x9R12 Duro Frontier

DETAILS

Lighting:

  Front Two halogen, two LED headlights

  Rear Dual 21W/5W brake/taillights

Instrumentation Multi-function digital meter

plus indicators

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

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