The set up put Kawasaki's new diesel-powered Mule Pro in the loose dirt of a horse arena on Estancia Ranch, outside Boerne, Texas. Chained parallel to the rear of the Mule were two railroad ties, the two ties themselves separated by short lengths of chain.
The purpose, Kawasaki reps explained was to demonstration the low-torque power of the Mule Pro's 993cc, 3-cylinder, liquid cooled power plant by pulling the ties and the growing pile of dirt gathering up between them around the arena.
The demonstration began in two-wheel drive. With a slight push of the accelerator, the rear end of the Mule Pro began to sit down a bit. It moved forward just a bit. Then, we shifted it into four-wheel drive and gave it some fuel. Without hesitation, the Mule moved smoothly forward on the first of several easy trips around the arena.
Trips around that arena offered a good demonstration of the working power Kawasaki built into this brand new, Tier 4 compliant diesel engine. "We want to overcome the idea that a Mule, is a Mule, is a Mule," said a Kawasaki spokesperson. "The Pro-series [Mules] are a new generation of product."
The Mule Pro-DX and Pro-DXT (D is for diesel) are the companion vehicles to Kawasaki's gasoline-powered Mule Pro-FX and Pro-FXT series vehicles launched in 2014. All are assembled at Kawasaki's manufacturing plant in Lincoln, Nebr.
The Mule PRO DX machines are not built for speed, per se -- max speed is about 30 mph. Compare that to the PRO-FX machines, powered by an 812cc gasoline engine. They have a top speed of 45 mph. But that wasn't the engineering goal for the diesel Mule machine, nor was speed the top consideration among the customers looking at diesel machines, Kawasaki points out.
Work capability was key to Kawasaki and to its customers. It is a goal achieved.
The overall design and capacities of the FX and DX machines are largely the same (both carry up to 1,000 pounds in the steel bed and tow up to 2,000 pounds with a two-inch hitch). But the diesel engine delivers high torque at lower RPMs (a maximum 38 foot pounds of torque at 2400 RPMs from the diesel engine, 1100 RPMs lower than in the gas-powered version of the Mule PRO with 48 foot pounds of torque at 3500 RPMs). The diesel engine is only 35 pounds heavier than its gasoline-powered cousin.
The engine "reaches peak torque quicker ... and it holds it longer," a spokesperson said during a product briefing earlier this week. The machine, he said, is designed for heavy hauling and pulling. "We see the diesel fitting with the work [it was designed to do]. It's a more work-based machine," he said. "It will put in a full day's work, every day."
A diesel engine offers farmers and ranchers the benefit of using a fuel that also powers much, if not their entire, machinery line. Plus, this diesel engine is 10% to 20% more fuel efficient than the gas-powered Mule, giving it great range with its 7.9 gallons of on-board fuel.
Kawasaki's intention is not to substantially differentiate its Pro-series diesel and gas Mules by price, but by function. "The question is not how much it costs, but what you want to do with it," said one spokesperson.
For example there is no difference in the price for the gasoline- and diesel-powered limited edition machines (with seating for six). Both retail for $15,899. With power steering, the six-passenger, gas-powered Mule Pro sells for $14,599. The diesel version of the same vehicle is priced only $400 more.
Kawasaki's new Mules are full of space. At 64 inches wide, the vehicle offers three-across seating on a single bench seat (a pretty comfy seat, by the way) for three, full-sized men. The width of the Mule is also beneficial to the width of the cargo bed. At nearly 54 inches wide (11 inches tall and up to 43 inches long), the bed is big enough to hold a full-sized pallet.
Novel to these Mules (gas and diesel) is Kawasaki's Trans Cab System, an option represented in the "T" found in Kawasaki's naming configurations. The Trans Cab System converts these units from seating for three passengers on one bench seat, to seating for six passengers with two bench seats. The conversion is simple, involving one person and about one minute's worth of work. Best, the seating conversion is done without tools.
To accommodate the six-passenger configuration, the Mule does give up about half its cargo space and capacity (the bed holds 1,000 pounds in the 3-passenger configuration vs. 350 pounds in the six). But the seating options —the rear seat is set slightly higher than the front for an improved rear-seat view of the trail -- gives the owner two entirely different options for hauling people and cargo. The Trans Cab System packs good, highly usable value into the Mule for a $1,000 up-charge.
Here are other features of note found in the Mule Pro-DX and DXT models.
-- The electric power steering option is tuned for quick responsiveness. The effort needed to turn the wheel adjusts with the speed of the vehicle. For example, steering effort is greatly reduced at slow speeds.
-- The Trans Cab, limited edition Mule includes four power outlets, two in the front and two in the back.
-- The diesel Mule has 10 inches of ground clearance and 8.7 inches of travel in the shocks (the left rear has 8.5 inches of travel).
-- Operators have easy access to the battery, air filter, fuses and oil dipstick by removing a single, outside panel on the Mule.
-- The multi-function LCD display is angled toward the driver, giving him a better view of the information being presented.
For more information about the Mule Pro DX and DXT models and the 65 accessories available for them, go to: www.kawasaki.com. Click on "Side X Side."
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