Machinery Chatter

A New (Sporty) MULE

Dan Miller
By  Dan Miller , Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
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The author goes flat out to test the new PRO MULE-FXR's handling in rough terrain. (Photo courtesy of Douglas Henry/Kawasaki)

Kawasaki Motors Corporation has added the MULE PRO-FXR to its MULE series of side-by-sides for 2018.

The three-seater is the sportiest model of Kawasaki's PRO MULES. The MULE has been produced in various versions and designs for 30 years. MULE, by the way, is an acronym that harkens back to days when marketing theory might have been more straightforward. MULE stands for Multi Use Light Equipment.

The MULE PRO-FXR has a belt driven, continuously variable transmission, four-wheel drive and differential lock. Kawasaki doesn't really like to talk about speed, but allows that this MULE will touch 45 miles per hour when pushed.

The most obvious difference between the FXR and Kawasaki's other PRO FX models is its sleek, modern profile.

Kawasaki says it was going for a truck-like appearance, but it's better than that. A highly styled, rounded front end, with a multi-leveled, painted hood, black bumper, and small diameter headlights distinguishes the MULE from the manufacturers other, more work-oriented, models. The FXR includes as standard a back bumper and a hard sun top.

This MULE is 64 inches wide, measured to the outside edges of its 27-inch Duro Power Grip II tires. That width and the aggressive tread of its tires give the machine a coiled, ground-hugging appearance. Along with 10.8 inches of ground clearance -- the most in the PRO line -- and 8.7 inches of suspension travel, that helps smooth the ride.

The headlights are pretty cool, by the way. A set of auxiliary LED headlights complement two outside-mounted halogen lights. Both high beam/low beam light sets are controlled independently by dashboard-mounted toggle switches. LED lights are available as an upgrade to the halogen lights. An LED light bar that sits down into the contours of the sunroof also is available as an option.

Kawasaki is marketing the FXR as vehicle built for recreation and at $14,999 -- with power steering and an 812 cc engine -- is pricing it as such. The more work-oriented MULE PRO FX, by comparison, sells for $13,099 with power steering. The high-end PRO FXT Ranch Edition, with the novel trans seating option for three or six passengers, goes for $16,999.

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The FXR does not give up the work functions of the PRO line. This machine still carries 1,000 pounds of cargo in its bed and can tow 2,000 pounds with a 2-inch hitch. This machine has good range with a 7.9-gallon fuel tank.

The MULE FXR boasts a very tight turning radius of 14 feet. Compare that to the MULE PRO FXT Ranch Edition. Its turning radius is 16 feet.

The MULE FXR does give up some size compared to other side-by-sides in the series. The PRO FX side-by-side, for example, is 133 inches long, while the FXR 121.5 inches long is 12 inches shorter. That steel cargo box is 16 inches shorter in length (37.6 inches) than the PRO FX box (54 inches long). Kawasaki believes the customer who will buy this machine is looking for something a bit more compact for off-road handling and use.

The PRO FXR still has room on its newly contoured seat for the three-across rides for which the PRO series is known.

Some other features worth mentioning:

-- The cushioned steering wheel has a 40-degree range of adjustment.

-- The parking brake is located up and to the left of the steering wheel on the dash -- a convenient place for it.

-- Integrated, full-size doors open wide for easy entrance and exit.

-- A high output, 75 amp max alternator runs lights, two charging outlets and multiple accessories such as extra lights and radio/sound system.

Three accessories worth the price:

-- Outside mirrors (starting at $59.95) and a rearview mirror ($59.95). I spent all day on a recent test ride looking into a rear view mirror that wasn't there.

-- Flip-up polycarbonate windshield. Three-position windshield (closed, vented position, fully open) offers protection from weather and debris, but allows airflow. Price: $799.95. For cabin comfort, this is a minimum add.

-- Brush guards ($399.95), headlight guards ($139.95) and tail light guards ($49.95) add protection for vital components and a bit of swag on the trail.

And, one for fun:

-- KQR Cargo Box ($84.95). It's 14 x 14 x 17 inches of storage connected to Kawasaki's bed rail. Kawasaki says you can put tools into it. Ok, that's what they say. But my toolbox is not insulated.

Dan Miller can be reached at dan.miller@dtn.com

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