There’s a lot to be said about cruising aboard a PWC. Cool places to see, fun new waterways to explore. Kawasaki’s new Ultra 300LX does all that, and does it well. But then again, it also boasts 300 horsepower below the seat…for those times when you want to cruise less like your retired neighbor…and more like a rock star.
Yup, the Ultra 300LX is one powerful putt-putt. At its core is a new 300hp variant of Kawasaki’s 1498cc engine. Like the mill of old, this one gets a supercharger and intercooler, but Kawi has switched the supercharger design to an Eaton Twin Vortices model. The difference? The old supercharger produced its power in waves; the new design employs twin, counter-rotating lobes which deliver that power in a steadier, uninterrupted flow. Along with other tweaks, the result is nearly 25 more pounds of torque, about 250 more pounds of thrust, and a boost pressure increase to 17.3 psi from the previous 11. Factor in a corresponding weight loss from a retooled hull layup, and you’ve got some serious potential.
Throttle response is great, which is all that really matters. Punch the starboard-mount lever and the boat flies, en route to about 65 mph (more depending on conditions and load). While I wasn’t able to measure 0-30 mph acceleration, it’s similar-if-not-better than Ultras of old, and more than enough to test a buddy off the line or get that same friend up and out of the water in a deepwater ski start.
Additional tweaks maintain reliability. The intercooler has dedicated cooling lines to prevent any heat build-up, and a dedicated discharge improves flushing. The intake manifold has been redesigned and is now made from a lightweight nylon material. Additionally, O-rings replace gaskets and there are also new top-end and exhaust system components.
Bottom line: This is one cruiser that can haul butt on the water…and by all appearances, do it reliably to boot.
And with the addition of electronic throttle comes a PWC that cruises in better comfort than its predecessor. Kawasaki may have been late to the party for cruise control, but the LX now has it. One button locks in the speed, while up-down arrow keys adjust on the fly. The adjustment is throughout nearly the entire speed range, not just a set span. A No-Wake mode locks in a nice steady speed (approximately 5 mph) for those lengthy no-wake zones. I also liked the additional ECO mode. It reduces fuel consumption by about 15%, but unlike some models, doesn’t rob the boat’s sporty performance in the process.
A new info display is also easier to navigate, with big buttons replacing the former tiny ones, making it easy to manipulate underway. A new reverse lever also changes the lever’s throw, making it easier to move in and out of forward, neutral, and reverse positions. Wider bars were necessitated by the addition of cruise and no-wake controls, but give the driver more leverage over the craft.
Of course, being the LX “cruiser” model you can expect some touring-style add-ons. Obvious is the stepped, bolstered seat which provides the necessary back support on longer rides. The handlebar pad also offers a cutout for attaching handheld GPS models. Kawasaki’s normal 56-gallon storage capacity and 20.6-gallon fuel capacity also make for no-worries touring.
What we like most about the Ultra makeover, however, is the craft’s newfound personality in the handling department. It remains a steady, rough-water standout, able to handle the toughest ocean conditions with authority. As well, the addition of electric trim now allows the driver to trim the steering nozzle down for sharper cornering and trim it up for better top speed or to keep the bow higher (and the ride drier) in rough conditions. Add in a shorter steering nozzle to tighten up that steering response, a slightly larger nozzle to pump out more thrust, a larger pump diameter, and new top-loading scoop grate and impeller, and the end result is a boat that suddenly has a racer’s personality on flat water as well as an offshore champ’s personality in the ocean. That makes it a more versatile craft, as well as one that’s proportionately more fun.
Sure, no decent boat review is without faults. One of the Ultra’s most glaring is that, with all that power now on tap, the boat seems to surge forward when the off-throttle steering is activated by cutting the throttle and turning the bars hard over. It’s fine in true collision-avoidance situations, but ends up causing some nervous moments when you’re riding up upon a group of friends stopped in the water. Watch it, or you’ll cause some stress in your riding group. The price is also a consideration. More power and more features mean a substantial jump over the 260LX of old. The 300LX now retails for $14,999.
If you can afford it, however, the LX gives you a lot of boat for the money. It cruises comfortably, can cut loose and run with the race-types when you’re solo in the saddle, and now (finally) offers all those electronic throttle niceties that have been touted by the competition.
That’s a powerful mix.
|2011 Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra 300 LX Specs|
|Curb Weight||1,018.7 lbs|
|Engine||Four-cylinder DOHC EFI; Supercharged/Intercooled|
|Bore and Stroke||83mm x 69.2mm|
|Fuel Capacity||20.6 gal.|
|Combined Stowage Capacity||56 gal.|
|Colors||Metallic Titanium/Luminous Vintage Red|
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