ATV First Look: 2014 Kawasaki Teryx4 LE

Only two years after its introduction, Kawasaki has made major updates to an already impressively performing machine with the launch of the 2014 Teryx4 LE. I got to test the new model in Utah's Fishlake National Forest on the Paiute Trail, one of hardest, rockiest and most unforgiving trails in the country. The ride covered 152 miles in just two days with elevation changes ranging from 4,000 feet to just under 11,000.

What's New
The updates to the model include an increase in horsepower -- from 749cc in the 2012 model to 783cc -- and torque with dramatic fuel-economy improvements. The classic Kawasaki V-twin also received a revised piston crown, raising compression from 9.3:1 to 10.7:1. Mass has been added to the crank and the flywheel. A new cam and a retuned exhaust help the refined transmission ratios deliver a 7-plus percent increase in power with a 10 percent increase in torque.

The suspension has been completely retuned with custom Fox Podium shocks. Kawasaki and the Fox Corporation invested more than 1,000 hours in suspension tuning and testing to achieve the performance and balance of this machine. It shows.

The result is a nearly flawless, intensely sporty side-by-side that performs and will comfortably hold four large passengers without shoulder rub. The vehicle easily reaches its top speed of 50 mph and the Teryx4 LE smoothly floats over some of the most dangerous terrain at some of the highest speeds I have ever driven. It begs to be driven hard, with steering so responsive I found myself rarely gripping the steering wheel tight. Instead, my hands smoothly moved around, effortlessly making instant changes with literally no feedback during the 150-mile trek.

Fuel Economy
It may not be a big deal for some, but for those who haul gear to cabins and ride in the wilderness, the increase in fuel economy is staggering and very welcome. Kawasaki doesn't release mpg numbers, however, I can tell you the 7.9-gallon tank was less than half empty after 79 miles of driving.

By my calculations, it delivered over 22 mpg while driving aggressively at high altitude, giving the vehicle about a 179-mile range. While driving on a hunting lease or slower trails, mileage should be significantly higher.

Handling and Capacity
The massively tuned ride and snug turning radius allows for driving in tight, tree lined, rocky terrain that other machines I've used just couldn't handle. The vented disc brakes have steel hoses and I could not get them to fade.

The back bed will carry 250 pounds with enough space to haul a deer back to camp. However, it wouldn't be a big deal to remove the back seats, which opens a huge cargo area. The Teryx4 is built in Nebraska, with more than 95 percent of the unit's parts made in the U.S. and Japan, and less than 5 percent from China.

Takeaway
In all, I was impressed with the original 2012 release of the Teryx4 and amazed with the updates and hard working refinements of the new 2014. One notable change: the company dropped the less expensive model without power steering. In my test in 2012, I didn't recommend the unit because the non-power steering model was just too much work on tight trails.

The only negative about this machine is it's still loud. Although it runs at fewer decibels than the 2012 model, with the mid-frame placement of the drivetrain, I would use earplugs.

Again, faster, better, and more comfortable is something we all expect in this price range, which will push your off-road vehicle budget at more than $16,000 big ones. Yes, you can buy a used Jeep for the same price. But you won't be able to run on 60-inch wide National Forest trails, and you'll get to your destination far slower than you would in the Teryx4 LE. MSRP: Camo $16,299; LE $16,999