2015 Kawasaki Mule Pro-FXT Test Hot
Kawasaki has been busy…very busy. A mere year after it released a completely new Teryx and Teryx4, Kawasaki takes the cover off a brand new version of none other than its UTV flagship, the Kawasaki Mule, with the introduction of the Mule Pro-FXT. Completely redesigned, the Mule Pro-FXT is not only built to be a workaholic, but also quite the “playaholic” to boot. I just returned from the unveiling of this new Mule with the pomp and circumstance deserved by the industry’s first UTV, which was introduced back in 1988. The original concept of the Mule UTV was jotted on the proverbial napkin, literally. Since its releases as a work vehicle, other manufacturers have jumped into a market that Kawasaki pioneered with many work-type vehicles, but Kawasaki is clearly determined to lead the pack of work-focused UTVs with this latest iteration of the Mule. After spending just a little time behind the wheel of the patriarch of the Mule family, the Mule Pro-FXT is not only a significant step forward for the Mule lineup, but I can’t help but feel it is something special. This new Mule Pro-FXT flagship a true “worker”, but is also one of the only work UTVs that actually is truly trail capable. Kawasaki has a firm grip on the fact that Mule and other UTV owners use their machines for more than just work, and with that understanding has been determined to make the new Mule capable of taking adventure seekers, hunters, and explorers to that remote campsite, blind, or trail without breaking a sweat.
Great Looking & Fantastic Finish
The Mule Pro-FXT is the best looking Mule both inside and out of any Mule to date. The way an ATV or UTV is styled helps define who it is and what it does. A simple glance at the Mule Pro-FXT captures what it is about the way looking at a boxer captures the fact you will get your butt kicked. Kawasaki did an excellent job with the styling of the new Mule making it look like it is there to work hard and it is a tough machine. Just look at it! The grill along with the rest of the styling of the Mule Pro-FXT is big, bold, and burly, which works out well since it is all of those things. Looking into the interior in many ways is like looking into the interior of an automobile with all the controls having a level of “finish” which screams quality. The dashboard does’t feel cheap and unfinished but the complete opposite. Every switch, lever, inlet, cup holder, and readout has the feel of being meticulously put into place with great purpose. There is simply no mistaking the level of planning that has gone into making this the best Mule yet.
Keeping With Its Heritage
The Mule has been a mainstay on job sites, ranches, and farms for decades, so when the time came to start from scratch in designing the next version of this vehicle, it was imperative to stay true to its roots that have made the Mule so successful. The trick of course was to keep the Mule more capable than ever for its work duties, improve upon its creature comforts, and ask it to be a capable trail machine. That is a tall ask for any UTV, and surprisingly, Kawasaki has checked all those boxes in the new Mule Pro-FXT. This is even more important since the segment the Mule falls into is more competitive than ever.
In order to boast about it being more capable than ever, it must have the numbers to back up the claim. Here is the good news: it does. The Mule Pro-FXT can haul up to 1000 lbs. in its large cargo bed, can tow up to 2000 lbs., can carry up to six people, and can convert from carrying 3 to 6 passengers in under a minute using only one person. The Mule Pro-FXT delivers in the work department, and is built for that purpose. Looking “underneath the hood” of this machine leaves no doubt it is heavy duty, and since many owners expect ten to twenty years of service out of their Mules, it has to be heavy duty. From the ladder-type frame to the beefy rear a-arms and axles, this Mule is built to last. Even the bottom of the cargo bed is metal rather than composite for added strength. After talking to many Kawasaki customers, the engineers made sure to make every component of the Mule Pro-FXT Kawasaki Strong, and they back that mantra with an industry-leading 3 year warranty. No other manufacturer even comes close in the warranty department.
A Ride To Look Forward To
Looking at the Mule Pro-FXT makes me want to build a remote cabin in Alaska that lies on a trail full of rocks and mud that must be conquered in order to get there. Climbing aboard the Mule Pro-FXT, throwing it in high, and stomping the gas, let me know I can build the remote cabin in Alaska that lies on a rough and mud-filled trail. My first impression once behind the wheel was the ride is nothing like the Mules of the past as the ride is very good. When I think Mule, I think solid rear axle and lumbering over rocks, jarring every muscle that exists in your body. Well this is NOTHING like that. The suspension is fully independent on all four corners with 8.7 inches of travel, and this makes the ride nothing like Mules of old. Not only did the suspension shine crawling over rough trails during the drive, but, in the open stretches when hitting bumps at higher speeds, the Mule Pro-FXT soaked that up like it as if it were nothing. The ride was simply fantastic, and a giant leap forward for a UTV with primarily a work pedigree. Whether on the job site or campsite the ride is something to look forward to.
The Goods To Get You There & Back
Going on and on about the fact the Mule Pro-FXT is a legitimate trail machine is one thing, but lets go over the items which make that possible. The fully independent suspension with 8.7 inches of travel is a start, as that is enough travel to keep the wheels on the ground and the shocks soaking up the bumps on most trails. When the terrain gets a bit more challenging, there are a couple of buttons on the dash which make it better. The first is a switch to lock the rear diff to get both rear wheels turning equally. The next switch is the 4WD switch which gets all 4 wheels turning for ultimate traction, which is what is needed to get up and over the rocky hill in front of you. There are high approach and departure angles as well, to make sure you can get going up the hill in the first place, and there are the 10.2 inches of ground clearance (though it feels like more). With the certified ROPS roll cage, there is not only protection for drivers and occupants, but also the added rigidity to the frame for minimal flex over rough terrain. The brakes offer plenty of stopping power when the decline is “serious”, though the CVT transmission offers engine braking which works particularly well in L. The power steering on the Mule like the Teryx is perfect. It is variable based on speed, and it is dialed in perfectly whether sitting still or cruising along at 40, as it offers the perfect amount of assist. Combine all of these features and what you have is a trail-capable 6-person UTV/side-by-side to take you where you want to go.
Kawasaki has dropped into the Mule Pro-FXT a 3-cylinder 812cc fuel injected motor to not only move this Mule the direction the driver points it, but also move whatever is along for the ride or in tow. The engine boasts 48 lbs of torque to get things rolling, and also offers a higher top speed than previous Mules. The engine is not mounted in the middle of the vehicle any longer, but in the rear under the cargo bed, a place which offers easier maintenance. This mounting position also makes the cab quieter as you roll along. Pressing firmly on the gas peddle offers an instantaneous push forward, and pressing the gas pedal with “purpose” gets things going with “purpose”. The engine has no trouble being called on to haul whatever it is asked to haul with no complaints. This new generation of engine will no doubt become one people will love and depend on.
Comfort Is A Priority
Interior comfort is the area where the Mule-FXT takes a giant leap forward, and it is evident with a mere glance at the cab. Just looking at the doors and then easily opening them is a wonderful thing; and sliding into the cab and closing the doors is a wonderful thing. The lack of any side nets is a CRAZY GOOD thing. The floorboards are almost completely flat with no lip so entry and exit from the Mule as well as from the middle seating position is effortless. Though the seats are bench seats, they are surprisingly comfortable even over the rougher stuff. Oh and did I mention the stadium seating for a better view for the rear seat passengers? The legroom and room in general are substantial, so putting 6 passengers in the Mule for the day allows for a comfortable ride. The car-like thick steering wheel is fully adjustable to whatever position the driver desires, and all the controls are easily understood and functional from the transmission shifter to the rocker switches that control the rear diff lock, 4WD, and two sets of headlights (LE and Camo models). The simple multi-function digital instrument display (the same as in the Teryx) is easy to understand and keeps the driver “in-the-know” as to what is going on. There is storage galore from three pockets in the dash, to the glove box and available under-seat storage. The dashboard also has molded cup holders for your favorite drink. To top things off there are multiple DC outlets for all passengers available to make sure everything stays charged. Nothing is left to chance in the cab creature comforts department, with everything engineered for a particular purpose. When combining all of these things together it can be summarized by saying the interior experience is not only a comfortable one but also a welcome one.
Transformer & Standout Feature
Of course one of the standout and ingenious features of the Mule Pro-FXT is the refined ability for it to morph from a 3 person UTV with a massive 42 inch long tilting cargo bed to a 6 person one with a 22-inch long cargo bed. The transformation from one to the other can be done by a single person with one trip around the Mule in under a minute, a procedure which I witnessed first hand. In fact, once you get comfortable with the process, it will take 30 to 40 seconds to make the switch. Having this ability not only helps make the Mule Pro-FXT completely unique, but also a true multi-tasker with an overall length of a mere 133.3 inches and turning radius of 16 feet compared to other 6 person UTVs out there of an 18 foot turning radius and more. This setup allows the Mule Pro-FXT to offer the best of both worlds of carrying passengers and gear.
The Mule Pro-FXT Is A Home Run
After a mere couple of hours behind the wheel and several hours of learning all about the 2015 Mule Pro-FXT, I learned this is a revolutionary machine not only for Kawasaki but for the UTV industry in general. When I think of the work UTVs out there which are 6 person models (or 3 person for that matter), there is nothing else available with the same level of flexibility offered by this next-generation Kawasaki Mule Pro-FXT. Of course this new Mule will no doubt be adopted by Mule owners as the next generation workhorse, but it will also be accepted as a legitimate “go-anywhere” side-by-side. The engineering is impressive, with so many things taken into consideration when designing this Mule, and it shows in the finished product. The attention to detail in Kawasaki products is impressive. Kawasaki may not have as many models available as some of the manufacturers, but the ones they do have are purpose built and offer dependable quality. There is little doubt Kawasaki can put that same level of engineering into any product they decide to build, and something says Kawasaki will be bringing plenty more of those products to market in the future. If you are needing a UTV/side-by-side for your job site, farm, ranch, or an adventure vehicle with a pinch ante for work, then you should consider the Mule Pro-FXT. It is engineered and made in the U.S. in the Kawasaki plant in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Mule Pro-FXT is big, bold, trail capable, job capable,and comfortable, clearly living up to the mantra… Kawasaki Strong.