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Not that long ago, most people didn’t want to “hear” a personal watercraft. Noise was a touchy issue, and something that manufacturers spent a lot of research and development on reducing. The sounds of Kawasaki’s Ultra 310LX, however, are music to a lot of consumer’s ears.
That’s because they’re just that – music.
The Ultra 310LX stands alone in the PWC industry for one thing – it’s the only OEM craft to include a factory sound system. And while my first impression years back was that shoreline residents didn’t need another thing to complain about (and riders didn’t need another thing to distract them), I’ve (pardon the pun) changed my tune. The ability to hear music while riding really does kind of enhance the experience, yet the sound is never so loud beyond the immediate vicinity of your craft to annoy the neighbors.
And yes, boats have had stereos for years. If mainstream boaters can be responsible, so can PWC enthusiasts.
Kawasaki’s ASA-made system is nicely integrated into the Ultra 310 platform. The most obvious additions are two 60-watt speakers just forward of the saddle in the console below the mirrors and a head unit centered on the handlebar pad. The 40-watt amplifier is hidden out of sight below the handlebar pad. Music is input via either your phone or iPod-like music player or USB memory stick. Tuck your phone inside a waterproof bag in the glovebox. For the memory stick, Kawasaki fabricated a pretty trick-looking waterproof aluminum screw-top cylinder.
In use, music is clearly heard at all but the fastest speeds. It also seems pretty impervious to rough water, not skipping or dropping out. As you’re not wearing headphones, you also remain aware – and able to hear – your surroundings, meaning you won’t tune out while tuning in.
With a luxury feature like a sound system and LX in the name, you’d expect a few luxurious touches and, while Kawasaki is never one to go overboard, several features stand out.
Cruise amenities are one example. The saddle is comfortably bolstered, with tiers for each passenger to raise the level of their view and subtle support for the lower back. It’s also made of what Kawasaki dubs another industry first – a heat-resistant cover material. If you’ve ever jumped aboard a craft that’s been sitting in the sun for hours in the summer, you’ll understand the appeal. There’s also a nook for a handheld GPS integrated into the handlebar pad, increasing your long-distance readiness.
Also complementing cruising, as well as watersports towing, is cruise control. Set your speed on long runs to relieve the fatigue associated with squeezing the throttle, or dial in your skier or wakeboarder’s perfect ride. No-wake mode locks things in at slow speed for those extended no-wake zones, while ECO mode lets the craft’s ECU decide the most fuel-efficient throttle delivery.
Other features that serve cruising and everyday riding equally are the massive 56-gallon storage capacity, 20-gallon fuel tank, tilt steering, and magnetic theft-prevention key system with one key to produce normal power and a second to govern speeds when necessary.
And with this much horsepower on tap, governing speeds occasionally is something you might just decide to do. As the name makes clear, this is an Ultra 310; the highest-horsepower you’ll find in a production craft. It’s produced by Kawasaki’s 1,498cc four cylinder, enhanced by an Eaton Twin Vortices supercharger and generous intercooler to deliver nearly instant throttle response and smooth power delivery all the way to the craft’s top speed. Technically, that’s electronically limited to about 67 mph. It gets there fast, with an arm-stretching yank certain to please hardcore performance types.
The hull is as legendary as the engine. As ocean-ready as you’ll find in the PWC industry, it uses a 22.5-degree deadrise to slice through waves and track straight and true, no matter the conditions. The Ultras are a favorite in offshore races for obvious reasons. And yet the boat won’t disappoint in calm waters. Play with the electric trim to drop the bow in hard corners and then raise it once you hit the straightaway and you’ll find the craft rides like a much-smaller machine.
The price for all this music-to-many-enthusiast’s ears isn’t cheap. The Ultra 310LX comes it at just a dollar below the $18,000 mark, making it the most expensive personal watercraft currently on the market. And JetSounds is clearly the feature that adds to the bottom line. Numerous other Ultra 310 models are priced at under $16,000. But if you like to ride with your own personal soundtrack, now that music doesn’t simply have to be in your head…
…because it’s aimed right at your ears.
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