Kawasaki -- now with 50 years of manufacturing history in the U.S. -- has added a new MULE to its off-road line. Built to replace the venerable MULE 610 4x4, the 2017 MULE SX (the S for small, the X from strong) fits into the "value" end of the side-by-side market with a bit of rugged styling thrown in for extra measure.
During a test drive at Ancient Peaks Winery (cattle and wine grapes), outside Santa Margarita, California, the MULE SX performed well in a variety of terrains, including steep uphill climbs. For a side-by-side, this machine also has an especially tight turning radius of 10.8 feet. The compact MULE SX carries two people comfortably.
Three nice in-cab features are the four-point, adjustable steering wheel (29 degrees of tilt and the same wheel found in MULE Pro series) and an LCD, dash-mounted fuel gauge. Under the flip up seat, operators have easy access to the air box (housing an oiled filter) and oil reservoir.
The MULE SX is not a speedster (it is governed to a speed of 25 miles per hour), but it is not meant to be an off-road sprinter. The two- and four-seat MULE PROS are better adapted for that environment. But that's not to diminish the SX's off-road utility. The MULE SX develops good torque, 21.7 foot-pounds at 2400 rpms. It features a rear locked differential option for improved traction. The MULE's air intake snorkel is routed up through the center top tube of its roll over protection structure. The intake configuration delivers clean air in highly dusty and dirty environment to the continuously variable transmission and to the engine.
Kawasaki believes it has come up with a basic, but highly versatile vehicle platform that performs well in the off-road environment. But it can be customized, the company notes, to the needs of farmers and ranchers by way of 66 Kawasaki accessories and large numbers of aftermarket products. Kawasaki accessories include LED light packages, WARN winches, 2-inch hitch, a brush guard to go with the MULE's steel bumper, heater, Bluetooth stereo and speakers, cargo box-mounted storage and gun boot mounts (held in place by Kawasaki's KQR Bed rails) and several cabin enclosure packages.
The MULE SX weighs 967.6 pounds and, at 52.6 inches in total width, can be loaded into a full-size pickup. Depending on the exact configuration of the MULE and the pickup's tailgate, owners may even find they are even able to close the tailgate.
The MULE SX uses a 401cc, 4 stroke, single cylinder, air-cooled engine. The base model retails for $7,299 (two-wheel drive), and then up to $9,399 (four-wheel drive, four LED lights, and Super Black finish). A Realtree Xtra Green Camo version, with four-wheel drive and a pair of LED lights, can be had for $9,049. The MULE SX has a three-year warranty.
This MULE boasts an all-steel, tilting cargo bed measuring nearly three feet long, 41 inches wide and 9.6 inches deep. The bed is rated for 400 pounds of cargo. This MULE can tow up to 1,100 pounds with an optional 2-inch trailer hitch. The MULE SX has 6.1 inches of ground clearance and good.
The MULE FX includes a 12-volt outlet for cell phones and other accessories. Storage includes a large glove box and a highly useful 16-gallon storage space located just above and forward of the dash. It is deep and wide, and is placed for easy access from both inside and outside the vehicle. The MULE SX can be fitted with a windshield package and, in anticipation of that option, Kawasaki located this storage space so it would stay within the enclosed cab. A third storage space is available under the seat. It is sold as an option.
The MULE SX is sold in six model variations and in several packages, including a hard cab option with a plow, a camouflaged hunting package, recreational package and a more basic work and utility package. For more information on the MULE SX go to: www.kawasaki.com
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