UTV Review: 2015 Kawasaki Mule PRO-FXT

For the 2015 model year a totally redesigned Kawasaki Mule hits the ground running. With many new products coming to market it seems that the working class UTV is seeing the biggest changes. This new Kawasaki Mule PRO-FXT not only boasts incredible new looks and power but it can seat up to six people comfortably, converting in only a few minutes and a single trip around the machine.

For 2015 the Kawasaki Mule PRO-FXT gets the power it needs from a triple cylinder inline four-stroke engine. Using Kawasaki's digital fuel injection system the Mule not only starts instantly, but also promises to reduce fuel consumption and exhaust emissions. There is also a positive crank case ventilation system that sends any blow-by gasses to the intake tract to be burned inside the engine, which will reduce emissions even more. This fuel-injected, 812cc, triple cylinder engine that is liquid cooled and geared for labor produces 46 foot pounds of torque for incredible low gear pulling power. When hooked to the 2-inch receiver hitch the new Mule will tow up to 2,000 pounds around the ranch or on the jobsite. That has to be a record in itself. Kawasaki's steel cargo bed on the Mule in three-passenger configuration will also hold up to 1,000 pounds—like a boss.

Getting the power to the ground is facilitated by Kawasaki’s Automatic Power-Drive system. This CVT or belt drive system is geared for towing and heavier loads to insure reliable operation in any situation. When driving down steep grades the KAPS system is also incorporating engine braking to give the driver confidence and to help slow the big Mule during its decent. This transmission offers high, low and reverse gears combined with selectable four-wheel drive so the operator has many options for different terrain.

The list of options for the Mule PRO-FXT will include power steering as well. I personally feel power steering should be included from the factory on any machine capable of carrying more than three riders, especially when many consumers will be working this new Mule to its intended hauling capabilities. The EPS is a regressive style assist as it reduces the amount of help as the speed picks up.

Moving to the new Trans-cab of this Mule PRO-FXT you will find enough room for three-in-one configuration and in just under a minute or two you can have seating for six. The entire tough-as-nails steel bed becomes a transformer of sorts when the huge cargo guard simply slips rearward and exposes an additional rear bench seat and back rests. This stadium style seating elevates the rear passengers just a touch for an improved view of the trails ahead, and was surprisingly comfortable for taller riders like myself. There are also retractable three-point seat belts and handholds for those riding in the back for that extra level of safety. This system is truly unique and provides just a touch more of Kawasaki’s innovative side to the best mule yet. When in 6-passenger mode the bed size is obviously reduced, but the remaining bed space will carry up to 350 pounds of cargo.

For the driver, the controls are well within reach and easy to operate. A large manual parking brake is located on the left side of the steering wheel and gear selector is also dash-mounted on the right. One feature we noticed was the molded plastic gas pedal guard that keeps the middle passenger from accidentally pressing it. Just one more way Kawasaki has thought out the details on this machine. The 2WD/4WD selector switches are located on the dash with lighting controls, and an informative digital display lets you know all of the important information about the machine and how it is running.

If you really intend to work this Mule into the dark of night, halogen headlights illuminate the night on the base model Mule PRO-FXT. If a consumer buys into the LE model of the Mule they will notice additional twin LED lights as part of the package. There is even auxiliary power for this Mule in the way of 60 amps that is available at 2,000 rpm from Kawasaki’s high output alternator. This extra voltage can be used to power devices via two twelve-volt power outlets that can be found in the cab of the standard models. Mule PRO-FXT LE and Camo models will have an additional pair of 12-volt outlets.

After climbing into the cab of our 2015 Kawasaki Mule PRO-FXT LE it was time to study the new machine. The bench style seat was comfortable but could use a little more definition in the individual seating positions. When the triple cylinder, fuel-injected engine fired up we noticed how balanced the engine sounded as well as how seemingly quiet it was. When pressing the throttle down the power delivery was also very linear, yet seemed to be very restricted and a little too mild. The engine is pretty quiet to those in the cab and the 46 ft lbs of torque reared up as we climbed the steep hills at the ride site. Electronic power steering is a great thing when it is done right and it works well on this Mule. Slow cornering through tighter trails and up over rooted landscape proved to be simple with the help of EPS.

Our first ride in the Kawasaki Mule PRO-FXT was surprising and enjoyable. Kawasaki has really built a great working machine, and when the work is finished, it can offer hours of trail riding with the family.

Hits:
Great new look for Mule
Incredible towing and hauling capabilities
Trans-Cab 3 to 6 passenger conversion

Misses:
Seat cushion is flat and thin
Throttle response is sluggish

2015 Kawasaki Mule PRO-FXT
MSRP: $12,999
Engine: Four-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 3-cylinder
Displacement: 812cc
Bore x stroke: 72 x 66.5mm
Compression ratio: 9.5:1
Fuel injection: DFI® w/ 34mm throttle body
Ignition: Battery and coil
Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with high and low range, forward, neutral and reverse
Final drive: Shaft, selectable four-wheel drive with dual-mode rear differential
Steering: Rack-and-pinion
Turning radius: 16ft

Tires
Tires front: 26 x 9.0 R12
Tires rear: 26 x 11.0 R12
Front suspension / wheel travel: Double wishbone / 8.7"
Rear suspension / wheel travel: Double wishbone / 8.7" / 8.5" (R / L)

Brakes
Brakes front: Hydraulic dual 212mm discs with two-piston calipers
Brakes rear: Hydraulic dual 212mm discs with single-piston calipers, mechanical parking brake

Dimensions
Fuel capacity: 7.9 gallons
Curb weight: 1,854.4 lb
Overall length: 133.3"
Overall height: 77.6"
Overall width: 64.0"
Wheelbase: 92.3"
Ground clearance: 10.2"
Cargo bed dimensions (LxWxH): 42.7 x 53.7 x 11" (3-passenger mode); 22.0 x 53.7 x 11" (6-passenger mode)

Roll Over Protective Structure (ROPS): This structure meets ROPS requirements for wheeled tractors under SAE J1194, 7.1.1, 7.1.2, and 7.5 and meets the FMVSS 216 Roof Crush resistance requirement

Load Capacity
Vehicle load capacity: 1,649 lb
Cargo bed capacity: 350 lb (6-passenger mode) / 1,000 lb (3-passenger mode) (where state law permits). 600 lb maximum capacity for California models.
Towing capacity: 2,000 lb