Machinery Chatter

Mules with a Kick

Dan Miller
By  Dan Miller , Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
The Pro FX can carry up to 1,000 pounds of cargo with a cargo bed is 20% larger than any previous Mule and holds a full-sized wooden pallet with the tailgate closed. (Photo courtesy Kawasaki Motors)

Kawasaki Motors Corp., USA has rolled out a couple of new variants of its Mule Pro FXT, a six-passenger vehicle introduced just one year ago.

The Mule Pro FX is a single-row-seat model -- still a full-size side-by-side, but with a large, diamond-plate steel cargo box. The box has space enough for a 48x40-inch wooden pallet and then some, and room for three passengers.

Kawasaki also is building for 2016 a Mule Pro FXT Ranch Edition. Painted in a metallic titanium color, it includes two-tone seat covers with embossed Ranch Edition logos. "It's for the guy who wants bling." Kawasaki's words, not mine.

The Ranch Edition features Kawasaki's Trans Cab seating configuration, an innovation introduced with the 2015 Pro-FXT. Trans Cab gives the Pro-FXT room for six passengers, or with a quick conversion, a seating option for three passengers, but with a larger cargo box. In the six-passenger configuration the cargo box measures 54 inches wide and 22 inches front-to-back. As a three-passenger vehicle, the cargo box is 54 inches wide and 43 inches front-to-back. The boxes are 11 inches deep.

The seating and cargo box conversion requires about 1 minute of effort. It is a novel feature that gives the driver an ability to adapt this one vehicle to varying work situations.

Both Mule Pro models for 2016 are powered by digitally fuel injected, 812cc three-cylinder Chery engines, built by the powertrain division of Chery Automobile Co., a Chinese manufacturer. It is not the first Chery unit mounted in a U.S.-market, side-by-side. A version of this engine powers John Deere's Gator 825i.

The power plant gives full-size Mules a top speed of 45 mph. Compare that to the smaller Mule 610, which has a top speed of 25 mph. Kawasaki says its research shows that while the vast majority of farm and ranch work is performed at speeds of less than 15 mph, higher speeds are beneficial for moving around large agricultural operations. It is a speed threshold that also nudges the Mule Pros a bit into the less work, more fun, recreational side of the side-by-side market. But Kawasaki still focuses on the Mule's more utilitarian design in describing its work, rather than recreational qualities.

Of note, Kawasaki will mount an optional 993cc, three-cycle diesel engine into its full-size Mules by the end of this year. It is being done, the Lincoln, Nebraska, manufacturer says, to give purchasers a fuel option commonly found on farming and ranching operations. The Mule's gas tank holds 7.9 gallons of fuel.

Both the Pro-FX and Ranch Edition can carry up to 1,000 pounds of cargo. The Pro-FX cargo bed is 20% larger than any previous Mule (54x53x11 inches) and holds a full-sized wooden pallet with the tailgate closed. The bed is raised with a gas-assist feature. An optional cargo bed extender gives the bed 8 inches more of storage space. The FX and Ranch Edition also tow up to 2,000 pounds by way of a 2-inch receiver.

These are features that put Kawasaki's Mules into the same cargo and towing class as the Polaris Ranger 900 and Deere's Gator XUV 825i. It also represents a nice bump up in cargo capacity over Kawasaki's own Mule 4010 (800 pounds of cargo) and the Mule 610 (399 pounds of cargo).

The Pro FX and Ranch Edition offer comfortable off-road rides. The vehicles boast a wide, 64-inch stance that absorbs the side-to-side rocking typical of rides over unimproved gravel roads and dirt trails. Its front and rear independent suspension has 8.7 inches of travel (the left rear has 8.5 inches of travel). Power steering is an optional feature with the Pro-FX ($1,000) and is standard on the Ranch Edition. The Mule has 10.2 inches of ground clearance.

The Mule Pro FX and Ranch Edition offer ample room in the cab. Simple, solid automotive-style doors open down to the floor level. The shifter (high, low and reverse) and parking brake are mounted into the dash. This arrangement gives the driver and two passengers obstruction-free access to the front of the cab. As in Pro-FXT models, the second-row seat in the Ranch Edition is raised slightly higher than the front row. The arrangement gives rear-seat passengers a theater-style view of the trail in front of them.

Here are other features of note:

• The Ranch Edition includes a 4,000-pound Warn winch that can be operated from the cab or remotely by a wired actuator. The Ranch Edition also includes a standard composite sun top and aluminum wheels.

• The Ranch Edition includes high intensity LED headlights, paired with a set of halogen lights. The LEDs are standard on the PRO-FX, limited edition and camo models, as well. Pairing LEDs with halogen lights gives these MULEs both a wide-angle spread of light (halogen) and a long-range, more focused source of lighting (LED).

• The cab includes a digital instrument package, angled slightly toward the driver. The instrument panel displays operational data with larger-than-normal numerals and letters. It's a good idea, given that the average operator of the Mule is in his mid-50s and probably sports less than 20-20 vision. The dash includes two, 12-volt outlets, a toggle switch for two-wheel and four-wheel drive, another, lighted switch for four-wheel locked differential and toggles for the halogen and LED lights (high, low and off settings). All of these controls are within easy reach for the driver. The parking brake also is well placed to the left of the steering wheel.

• A tilt steering wheel is paired with the electric power steering option. It has 40 degrees of adjustment.

• The Ranch Edition comes with an integrated fuse box. It allows for the operation of up to six Kawasaki accessories from the cab of the vehicle.

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price: $11,999 (PRO-FX); $12,999 (PRO-FX with electric power steering-EPS); $14,199 (PRO-FX, Limited Edition and PRO-FX w/ Realtree Xtra Green Camo); $16,899 (Ranch Edition).

(CZ)

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