New Model Test – Modern Mule

New Model Test – Modern Mule

2015.kawasaki.mule-pro-fxt.green.right.riding.on-trail.jpgThis is not your father’s Mule.  Forget all you know about the strictly utilitarian vehicle that found its way to every parks department, campus, and major work site in the country.  The previous Mule has about as much in common with the all-new Kawasaki Pro FXT Mule as the long eared version does with the Kentucky Derby winner.  Consider the new PRO FXT Mule the King of all Mules.   

Government Mule

After saving the town, no self-respecting cowboy ever rode off into the horizon on a mule.  That role was assigned to a fleet footed, noble horse with a name like Traveler or Trigger.  Instead, mules were relegated to the dreary duty of constant heavy work and abuse.  After all, they didn’t get the saying “beat like a government mule” from thin air.  The good thing about the mule was, it could take the long hours of work, day in and day out, with little care and it would be ready to go the next morning.  Kawasaki rightly thought those to be desirable traits and when they introduced their four wheeled work horse in 1988, they branded it as the Mule.  They were definitely onto something big!

What started out as a sketch on a napkin has turned into an entire industry and today the market for Side x Sides continues to evolve. What remains the same is every day, there is hard work to be done on thousands of job sites across the country and the loyal, dependable, if not flashy Kawasaki Mule is ready to go to work.  With the introduction of the MULE PRO FXT though, the “flash” part just got a lot brighter!2015.kawasaki.mule-pro-fxt.green.rear-right.loading.logs.jpg

A New Pro 

Kawasaki didn’t take away any of the Mules’ working capabilities with the introduction of the all-new Mule Pro FXT; instead they’ve all been given a major upgrade.  It’s really something to get excited about!  The first thing anyone will notice about the new Mule is the styling.  

Kawasaki wanted the styling to convey that the new Mule Pro FXT is tough, rugged, reliable and strong.  It also had to be functional and the bodywork designed, not only to look good, but to perform without getting in the way.  We like the half doors that keep the riders protected and fully inside the vehicle but they also latch securely and open fully for complete, easy access. 

Transform the Workplace

This mule has an incredibly cool trick!  The large cargo bed in the rear can quickly be transformed into an extra row of seats, making it capable of hauling a full crew of six.  When configured for six passengers there is still a good sized cargo box in the back, and it is super easy to make the transition.  It requires no additional tools and we did it by ourselves in less than a minute!  It’s a very cool, clever feature that speaks volumes about how Kawasaki made the Pro FXT: very user friendly!2015.kawasaki.mule-pro-fxt.close-up.cabin.jpg

The front cab area is also extremely user friendly with excellent placement of all controls and a very nice, easy to read, centered digital display that tells you everything you need to know about the machine.  There is plenty of storage space both in and under the dash, and large cavernous areas under the seat. Thankfully, maintenance tasks were also considered in the design and easy access panels can quickly be removed without tools for routine maintenance tasks.  All of the Mules bodywork is tough, pliable, scratch resistant, and will hold up well to years of hard labor.  So will the chassis.

Mule Chassis & Suspension

Kawasaki has always put an excellent chassis under their machines. After seeing the chassis for the new Mule Pro FXT being buil,t we are convinced it’s much tougher than the one under our truck. Main chassis members are steel tubes with plenty of cross bracing for support and hauling heavy loads.  Every bracket and tube is fully welded, mostly by robots but also by very skilled workers in the Lincoln, Nebraska plant where it is made.  When each chassis is competed it gets a chemical bath to remove any oils or contaminants, and then a powder coat finish for corrosion protection.     2015.kawasaki.mule-pro-fxt.close-up.dump-box.jpg

Suspension on the Pro FXT mule is a major departure from previous Mules.  This mule has the legs for long weekends on the trail, with 8.7 inches of travel from the independent front and rear suspension.  Ground clearance is also excellent, and to bring heavy loads to a quick stop 4-wheel disc brakes are used as well.  It’s also nimble.  Kawasaki was very careful to make sure the Pro FXT would not be easily stopped on the job site or the trail; they designed the chassis with a high break over angle to reduce the chance of high centering, but they also gave it an incredibly tight turning radius.  With a turning radius of only 16ft, it is by far the tightest turning machine in its class, even capable of doing a figure 8 pattern inside some other machines best circle. 

Engine

A mule must have plenty of power and the Pro FXT Mule comes with an engine unlike any other Kawasaki has used.  The engine is a liquid cooled, 812cc three cylinder with Fuel Injection and it is located mostly under the rear cargo bed, making the ride in the front much quieter.  Peak horsepower is not given, but it does crank out 48 ft. lbs. of torque for towing the 2,000lb it is rated for along with the 1,000lbs already in the cargo bed (in three passenger configuration)  It’s ready to move a mountain of gear, bales, or bricks!  It’s also ready to provide plenty of power in another way.  Kawasaki gave the Pro FXT Mule a 75 amp generator that cranks out over 60 amps at 2,000 rpms which should power your winch, accessory lights, and just about anything else you can plug into its four 12V outlets.

Mated to the engine is Kawasaki’s KAPS CVT transmission, which has been redesigned for hard, heavy work.  All you need to do is select either forward or reverse and the transmission will take care of everything else.  If the trail gets sticky or you need a little extra traction a button on the dash engages 4wd.  The CVT system also aids in engine braking, making slowing a heavy load or descents down steep hills easy.  Top speed is appx. 45 mph.     2015.kawasaki.mule-pro-fxt.close-up.engine.jpg

First Time on the Trail

We were genuinely excited to try the new Kawasaki Pro FXT mule.  It was a far different machine than any Mule before and it promised much better off-road capabilities. As it turned out, it was even better than we expected.

Climbing into the front seat it was very easy to become comfortable.  There was plenty of foot room down below and room for our knees between the dash and seat. We pulled the shoulder belt down and clicked it in place, then tilted the wheel to where it was comfortable and gave the key a twist. The new engine sprung to life instantly with a quiet purr at the rear. There was no noticeable vibration in the steering wheel, through our feet, or the seat.  Rubber isolation mounts on the engine help with that, and the dual wall muffler keeps things very quiet.  As with all Kawasaki’s we’ve tried, shifting is excellent and we clicked the transmission into high gear.  With a generous amount of foot on the throttle we were off.  It didn’t take us long to realize this mule is something special.  As we wound our way around a makeshift course, over trail obstacles, through ditches, and across open field there was no place the mule could not go.  We even took it around a motocross track!2015.kawasaki.mule-pro-fxt.green.front-right.riding.on-dirt-road.jpg

We like the stock Duro Frontier tires on the Pro FXT Mule.  They’re an excellent choice with plenty of open space between lugs for wet or sticky terrain, yet the lugs have a large flat surface on top for a smooth ride on hard surfaces.  We noticed no body roll from the tires as well.  As we wound between tight trees the Mule felt amazingly stable and actually nimble. We didn’t expect this for a hard-working utility vehicle. Kawasaki, in our opinion, has the industries best electronic power steering system on their ATV and Side by Sides and the steering on the Pro FXT Mule is excellent!  We wish the steering in our truck was this good.  It provides the perfect amount of feel and feedback to the driver without taking away feel for the terrain.  It also provides the perfect amount of assist to make steering easy. You could drive this machine all day with no arm pump.  And make no mistake, we could drive this machine all day. This is one hard-working, heavy-duty, utility based machine that you could take trail riding with no problem.  It wouldn’t hurt our feelings to trail ride this all weekend. It’s quiet, vibration free, there are no chassis or suspension bushing squeaks, and it’s comfortable. Best of all, when it is time to go back to work Monday it will be ready for a hard week ahead.  About our only change would be to the bench seat.  There is no texture or contoured areas in the existing seat which can make it a little slippery, especially in snow or rain.  Kawasaki could immediately improve this model by sculpting the seat for individual riders and by giving the seat cover a textured surface.2015.kawasaki.mule-pro-fxt.close-up.rear.jpg

Highlights of the 2015 Kawasaki Mule Pro-FXT 

  • Class-leading 48 ft-lb(2) of torque from new 812cc three-cylinder fuel injected engine
  • High output alternator
  • Independent front and rear suspension, disc brakes, CVT, Electric Power Steering
  • Short wheelbase, very tight turning radius
  • Rated to haul up to 1,000 lb. in rear steel cargo bed 
  • Can tow up to 2,000 lb. with 2” receiver hitch
  • Cab can be transformed from three to six-seat capacity quickly 
  • Great cab & driver area layout
  • ROPS-certified Roll Over Protective Structure and full doors
  • Several versions available
  • Many available accessories from Kawasaki 
  • Built in Lincoln, Nebraska
  • Kawasaki STRONG Three-Year Warranty

Mule on the March

Kawasaki has a unique knack for coming up with category defining vehicles and the Mule has certainly done that just as their Ninja street bike and Jet Ski watercraft have.  The new Mule Pro FXT gives Kawasaki a solid foothold in the heavy duty, hard working UTV segment.  It’s a strong reason for the legions of existing Mule owners that have neglected, abused, and mistreated their reliable machine to buy another mule.  To say we liked the new MULE Pro FXT and are impressed is an understatement.  Just like a good horse, or better yet a good mule, it won’t let you down!  Giddyup! 

MODEL Color MSRP
Mule PRO-FXT Super Black $ 12,999
Mule PRO-FXT EPS (Electronic Power Steering) Super Black $ 13,999

Timberline Green $ 13,999
Mule PRO-FXT EPS LE (Electronic Power Steering) Timberline Green $ 15,599

Dark Royal Red $ 15,599
Mule PRO-FXT EPS CAMO (Elec. Power Steering) Camo $ 15,599
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October 27, 2014

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