The Green Machine has arrived! The long awaited sports model entry from Japanese powersports juggernaut Kawasaki is finally here. Kawasaki loyalist rejoice! You can finally upgrade your Teryx and come have fun with the rest of us! I was invited out their launch event in beautiful Palm Springs, CA to be one of the first people to drive these new machines. The beginning of the first day started with a walk around of the KRX 1000 and a presentation on the machines technology and capabilities. Right away I noticed a lot of attention to detail. Kawasaki had really paid attention not only to what was working and failing with other models, but they added their own twist to a few features as well.
Here were the things I noticed right away
- Integrated spare tire mounting: You can lay a 31” inch tire flat in the back bed of the KRX 1000 and strap it down. Why manufacturers pretend we don’t need a spare tire is beyond me. If you drive hard and drive remote you get flats.
- Roomy interior: I am a big guy, so one of the things I can’t stand about most UTV’s is they seem to be made for small people. The KRX 1000 had the roomiest interior of any UTV I have been in. Viking approved!
- Cup Holders and storage: The KRX 1000 has 5 cup holders and plenty of storage even space behind the seats. Glamis is smiling!
- Open Wheel Wells: Lots of people are going to add wheels and tires. So Kawasaki anticipated this and made high open wheel wells. You might get a bit more dirt sprayed on you from the front tires but if you don’t like dirt go buy a jet ski.
- Accessory Ready: Lots of room in the dash for accessories and the doors have designated spots for speakers. This would be the perfect car for mudding, you can accessorize the hell out of it. Navigation, radio, stereo are no brainers.
- Beefed up Build: Everything from the cage to the radius rods is beefed up and triangulated, similar to how we build race cars in off-road. For most users the stock cage and suspension will be plenty strong.
- 31 inch tires stock: Kawsaki actually put tires and wheels you don’t have to change immediately. Putting 28 inch tires on a sport UTV is like putting ballerina slippers on a MMA fighter! Stop doing it!
- Integrated air intake system: Both the air intake for the engine and clutch are neatly designed into the sides of the rear of the bed with clean pre-filters.
- Integrated CVT sensor: Not sure why this hasn’t been a part of every UTV that runs a belt from the beginning? The sensor monitors belt temp and warns you when belt is heating up to avoid blowing belts.
After the walkaround we were given a brief presentation on the KRX 1000’s technical features and capabilities. Again, one of the advantages of coming late to the party with a sport UTV is that you can watch all the other manufacturers R&D the UTV platform and you can see what works and fails. Kawasaki was definitely paying attention. One of the few features I was sceptical of was the “Crawl” mode for rock climbing. I am the type of driver who wants control. I have always wanted a way to shut off all the electronic assist B.S. and be in control of my vehicle. After the presentation they loaded all the guests on a bus and drove about 20 minutes outside of Palm Springs to a custom track Kawasaki had built to showcase the vehicle. After a quick safety briefing we hopped into the units and started off on a ride led by a Kawasaki tech who narrated via radio the vehicle modes and features.
Right away the width and length of the vehicle was noticeable. It felt planted and stable like a race car. The acceleration had a lag to it likely by design so tires don’t spin, it almost felt like a launch control. For a naturally aspirated car the acceleration curve felt normal. Honestly I am so jaded with high horsepower cars I had to adjust and stop rolling on the acceleration and just stab the gas. The handling of the car felt great. At first when you get into the KRX 1000 there’s so much room in the interior the car feels wide, but once you get used to it, it felt normal. I had a passenger, one of the guys from Kawasaki which really gave me a sense of how well the vehicle performs with the weight of two people. One thing people always underestimate with UTV’s is the performance difference when you have drastic weight swings. Especially in four seaters when you add two large men to the back adding 400 additional pounds of weight. You are literally adding ¼ of the vehicles total weight to the back seat and expecting it to perform the same. Driving the KRX 1000 with a passenger felt great. Again plenty of room. We weren’t bumping elbows like you do in many other models. The steering was a bit slow causing me to do a lot of steering in the tighter corners, I would add a quickener but it is probably not necessary unless you are going to go out and drive this vehicle hard. I love being proved wrong. It’s always enlightening. I am a control freak when it comes to vehicles. I want to have control of my vehicle at all times and understand the dynamics of what the vehicle is doing. I have ridden with many of the top off-road racers in the world, but one experience with rally champion David Higgins reshaped how I think about vehicle dynamics. I got out of the car and asked the multi-time champion and teacher of Ken Block, “How did you do that?” he kindly broke down what the four-wheel drive vehicle was doing in each corner and why he could throw the car so deep into the corners to achieve maximum speed without fear of crashing into trees. It was mind blowing to say the least. Now when I climb into a vehicle I want to find that edge of failure. In the earlier presentation Kawasaki had highlighted the “Crawl” mode, so at our first rock crawl section we tried it. Shift to low like many other UTV’s but then we clicked the drive knob over from 4 wheel mode to front diff lock, and hit the engine mode switch to low cutting power from the engine nearly 50%. I was sceptical, but to my surprise it made the crawl up the steep rocky incline a piece of cake, especially because I didn’t have to worry about throttle control, I just put the pedal to the floor and focused on my line picking my way through the rocks. It made the climb smooth and easy. Looking forward to taking this machine on some more challenging climbs. The other thing I noticed was no burning belt smell. Even in low range most of the other UTV’s get some sort of belt burn. You have to manage bother your throttle and your belt. The KRX 1000 didn’t seem to have that issue. After a few guided laps they let us loose on our own and we got to push it. The course was pretty tight, soft, and technical. The few areas that we did get to open it up I topped out at 68mph. Horsepower was really the only glaringly obvious flaw to this vehicle platform and I know an aftermarket turbo kit from K&T performance is already in the works, but again this is plenty of power for the average user. My advice would be to go test drive one of these units and see for yourself.
Overall I was really impressed by the Kawasaki KRX 1000. It’s a great complete package and for the asking price of about 20k I think it’s a good value. The platform is well built and will likely outlast other similar models in terms of longevity, an area that users are just now beginning to experience. I spend thousands of miles in these vehicles all over the world and I can’t wait to spend more time in the Kawasaki KRX 1000 testing the platforms limits. Look for a full shakedown on the KRX 1000 coming soon.