THE 2024 KAWASAKI RIDGE: WORKHORSE OR TRAIL TAMER? FIRST RIDE REVIEW

THE 2024 KAWASAKI RIDGE: WORKHORSE OR TRAIL TAMER? FIRST RIDE REVIEW

The all-new Kawasaki Ridge UTV boasts innovative features, luxurious comfort, and ample power, making it a versatile option for both work and play.  But the burning question remains: how does it actually perform on the trails?  A little time in the desert, and on the muddy, mountain trails of Hatfield-McCoy would be the perfect place to find out!  Now that’s how you put it to the test!

2024 Kawasaki Ridge UTV on trails 2024 Kawasaki Ridge Garmin GPS system

POWER AND COMFORT COLLIDE:  THE 2024 KAWASAKI RIDGE CONQUERS TRAILS

The sandy gravel of the Arizona desert is wildly different terrain than the steep, rocky climbs of the Hatfield-McCoy system.  Thankfully, the RIDGE and RIDGE XR models are built to handle it all.  Days of snow and rain had turned the mountain trails waterlogged and slick, with heart-stopping drops always a misstep away.  Here, handling and control are paramount – this is NOT the place for handling problems.

We jumped into the golden Ridge Limited, its full HVAC system a welcome sight on a rainy day. Three spacious seats awaited, flanked by two digital displays – one above the steering wheel and a larger infotainment center boasting Garmin navigation in the dash center.  We would want this system on every RIDGE, and if it wasn’t standard in the package, it would be a worthy accessory!

2024 Ridge Garmin information system The 2024 Ridge HVAC controls

Wider doors and ample legroom made entry effortless, with the D-shaped steering wheel providing extra space.  Compared to sporty models meant strictly for high-speeds, seating position was more upright, though the adjustable driver’s seat offered comfort. The passenger seat folds up for cargo storage below, but it’s also perfect for your muddy hunting mutt.  One really simple yet surprisingly great feature is a roof-mounted handhold.  Passengers find it handy for both climbing in and grabbing onto during the ride.

Clicking the seatbelt and twisting the key brought the 1-liter engine to life with a quiet purr.  Vibration? Gone, thanks to rubber isolation mounts.  Noise was minimal too, with the exhaust cleverly routed towards the rear for better air intake, heat management, and quieter operation.  Kawasaki’s signature smooth shifting got us into high gear and, with a tap of the throttle, we were off.  We just weren’t exactly sure in which gear.

This 4-cylinder engine had a unique, sporty sound and loved to rev!  That takes a little getting used to.  Our first thought was that we had it in LOW gear, but glancing at the gear indicator icon in the digital display confirmed we were in HIGH.  Shifting feel is excellent, with positive engagement at the lever.  Acceleration was smooth yet powerful, and the clutch strong and responsive.  The 92hp engine delivered ample power, responding well to input.  At high RPMs, it even sounded like a race car!  We didn’t hit the claimed 75mph top speed, but the power was undeniable.

2024 Kawasaki Ridge UTV at Hatfield-McCoy 2024 Kawasaki Ridge LCD display and switches

The 2024 KAWASAKI RIDGE UTV traversed the challenging terrain of Hatfield-McCoy with the agility of a mountain deer, effortlessly navigating a landscape of rocks, ditches, logs, and tight turns.  It was very confidence inspiring and didn’t exhibit any quirky handling traits that would cause one’s relatives to worry.  The rain and mud made it perfect for testing the full cab, and it kept us dry and comfortable.  We also noted the bodywork repelled mud effectively, too.  Electronic Power Steering and supple suspension made tight turns and rut crossings a breeze, with no arm fatigue.  During our desert test a few weeks earlier we noticed some body roll due to the lack of sway bars, but the suspension stiffened at a certain point, preventing any tippy feelings.  On the trails of West Virginia, we never noticed a thing.  The RIDGE tackled both uphill climbs and treacherous descents with unwavering composure.  Its precise steering held the line confidently, while the grippy tires clawed for traction even on rain-slicked rocks.  The suspension soaked up bumps effortlessly, further enhancing control.  But the RIDGE’s true hero emerged on a steep, rutted descent: the engine braking.  It maintained remarkable control, even when climbing over loose rocks and deep rain ruts.  It was extremely confidence inspiring.  We do feel the bench seat could benefit from more thigh bolster for aggressive driving, but overall, the experience was excellent – a well-built, surprisingly luxurious machine that tackled everything we threw at it.

As much as we liked the standard RIDGE, we also got to try the 116hp RIDGE XR on the same trails.  The biggest difference is more horsepower, bigger tires, and bucket seats.

Kawasaki Ridge Bucket Seats 2024 Kawasaki Ridge Rear SUspension

UNLEASHING THE BEAST:  BEHIND THE WHEEL OF THE RIDGE XR HVAC

The Ridge XR HVAC feels like a different breed compared to its 92hp siblings. Three key factors fuel this transformation:

  • Raw Power:  The 116hp engine pulsates with life, launching you forward with exhilarating gusto.  The difference between engines:  The 116hp engine gets an unrestricted air intake orifice, different ECU mapping, an uncorked exhaust outlet, and a revised clutch.
  • Grip and Go:  Ditching the bench for bucket seats, the XR prioritizes driver control. You’re firmly planted in the saddle, ready for tight turns and rough terrain.
  • Conquering Obstacles: Bigger tires and an extra inch of ground clearance empower the XR to chew through ruts and obstacles with ease.

We had a blast testing the limits of the XR in the desert.  Straight runs became exhilarating sprints, followed by hard braking and thrilling corner slides.  This machine truly adapts, transforming from a capable worker to a playful adventurer at the flick of a switch.  Ironically, while the RIDGE XR’s extra power might seem enticing, it offers limited benefits on tight, winding mountain trails.  Open spaces to reach high speeds are scarce, and the standard model’s engine effortlessly conquers any climb we threw at it.  The XR’s true edge lies in its larger tires and increased ground clearance, providing better handling over rough terrain.  As tempting as the XR’s power might be, on these trails, we found the standard bench seat and the standard model’s capabilities more than adequate.  Ultimately, both models are excellent, and you really can’t go wrong with either.

TRAIL NOTES:  WHAT WE DISCOVERED and COOL FEATURES

The 2024 Kawasaki Ridge UTV isn’t just another side-by-side.  It’s a blend of serious capability, style, and clever convenience features.  Here’s what we loved most from our test ride:

  • Built to Last:  Kawasaki’s legendary reliability shines through in the RIDGE in every area.  It’s solid and you can always count on it to get you home!
  • Garmin GPS:  This is one feature we want on any RIDGE model.  The Garmin GPS is a VERY handy tool with trail mapping, group ride capability, vehicle info, and even a gimble system so it knows vehicle pitch and roll angles.  LOVE IT!  It even comes with a dog tracking feature!
  • Bench Seats:  This is one of the very few models we prefer the bench seat over buckets.  The bench seats work very well for this type of machine, and we appreciate the ability to carry an extra passenger.
  • Three Power Modes:  Normal mode is excellent for most trails, while Sport mode unleashes the full beast, transforming the Ridge with excellent throttle response and acceleration.  Work mode, when needed, tames the power for controlled tasks.
  • Cool Touches:  The RIDGE logo on the window trim might be purely aesthetic, but it’s a cool nod to classic Jeep design, adding a touch of personality.  Similarly, the D-shaped steering wheel not only provides extra legroom but also exudes a sleek look.
  • Unique Engine Sound:  Forget your average UTV engine. The RIDGE’s 4-cylinder roars to life with a unique blend of turbo spooling, and, well, maybe the world’s most powerful leaf blower. Trust us, it’s awesome.
  • Lighted Switches & Dome Light:  No more fumbling in the dark!  Backlit switches and a dome light provide easy access to controls.
  • Finished Interiors:  Smooth, well-designed interior door panels eliminate uncomfortable sharp edges, improving overall comfort.  Dual Glove Boxes keep tools separate from valuables with two easily accessible compartments. Multiple USB ports ensure everyone stays charged up.
  • Durable Bodywork:  Despite Hatfield-McCoys punishing rocks and underbrush, the Kawasaki bodywork resisted scratches and cracks, while the integrated wheel well liners keep mud and debris at bay.
  • Windshield Wiper & Cleaner:  It might seem simple, but the power windshield wiper is a great feature.  It even comes with a handy squirt of cleaner by pushing the button, just like the one in your truck!

Kawasaki Ridge front shocks

RIDGE RIDE WRAPUP – A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN

Kawasaki’s RIDGE and RIDGE XR are champions of both brawn and comfort, delivering top-notch quality and user-friendly features wrapped in a tough exterior.  Dedication to thoughtful design shines through in every detail, offering a balance of comfort, convenience, and rugged durability.  Kawasaki’s relentless testing and refinement are reflected in the RIDGE, resulting in a side-by-side that’s built to endure and get you home, no matter the challenge.  We KNOW we can count on it.  Need a workhorse that doubles as a weekend warrior?  The 2024 KAWASAKI RIDGE UTV and RIDGE XR are built to impress in every way.

https://www.kawasaki.com/en-us

https://www.kawasaki.com/en-us/side-x-side/ridge/2-to-3-passenger/ridge

For full specs and more pics, check out: https://atvillustrated.com/content/all-new-2024-kawasaki-ridge-utv/

Kawasaki Ridge UTV on snow mountain trail

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