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Kawasaki’s retooled Ultra 300X got a rather late introduction in 2011. Still, many would argue it was worth the wait. Always a big-water-friendly, powerful machine, the tweaked version of the Ultra added something new to the mix — a sporty, almost nimble feeling in calmer conditions. That same essential craft returns in 2012 guise ready to keep on rocking.
All About The Trim
The numbers are what catch attention on the showroom floor, but it’s the 300’s new ride I most appreciate. Rather than sweep its way through a corner in calmer waters, the Ultra now takes a nice bite, carving the type of aggressive turn you find on a smaller machine. A large part of the reason is the welcome addition of electric trim. Now, with up-down buttons mounted on the left handlegrip, the pilot can drop the nose as the craft enters into a turn and let the forward half of the hull do its job, gripping the water. The improved manners are complimented by a steering nozzle that has been shortened by 20 millimeters, resulting in a quicker response to input at the handlebars. Combined, the two improvements wake up a part of the Ultra long dormant, and really turn the craft into a potent threat in both calm and rough conditions.
Yes, that rough-water prowess remains. With the bow in its formerly higher state, the Ultra still delivers one of the absolute best rides in rough conditions, holding a predictable line and keeping passengers relatively dry in the process. Rough-water hookup has been improved by a redesigned top-loader scoop grate that better loads the upper reaches of the pump. Pump diameter has also been increased to a larger 160mm, while an impeller change puts more blade surface area to work and introduces a revised leading edge that Kawi says reduces cavitation. There has also been a slight decrease in outlet nozzle diameter.
The end result is a boat that is now a true threat in any water condition. And arguably, one that’s a lot more fun to ride.
Long Live The King
Of course, horsepower still plays a key role in the boat’s fun factor. The Ultra is simply a beast, boasting a legit 300 horsepower under the seat. The supercharger has been upgraded to a new Eaton Twin Vortices design featuring twin, four-lobe rotors that Kawasaki says produce a more consistent flow of air through the entire powerband. The result is smoother response and better performance. Stats are up across the board over the previous design, with more torque, max thrust, and boost pressure. Considering about 44 pounds have also been trimmed in the process, the result is one you can feel when you squeeze the throttle. Acceleration is crisp and powerful, jolting you to attention. Top speed is limited to 67 mph, which should be more than enough to keep most performance enthusiasts happy…not to mention keep the Coast Guard happy.
When Kawi introduced this model in 2011 the company noted the many improvements that have been made to reliably handle the power. The hull may have been lightened, but it’s thicker in key areas — namely the bow — to make the craft more right and handle stress. Internal mods include dedicated cooling lines to the intercooler, a dedicated intercooler discharge to improve flushing, and fogging port to alleviate maintenance concerns. A nylon intake manifold makes for easier maintenance, and its O-ring design eliminates gaskets. Upgrades have also been made to exhaust, top-end, crankshaft, and engine cases.
Kawasaki has always taken a more straightforward approach with its craft, but the Ultra displays some nice bells and whistles. Electronic throttle is probably the biggie, as it makes possible features the competition has now boasted for years — cruise control for long rides and a no-wake mode for those endless slow-speed zones. I like that Kawasaki’s cruise control can be adjusted up or down to nearly all speeds rather than a set zone. An ECO mode also reduces fuel consumption (reportedly as much as a 15% improvement) but keeps an aggressive power delivery rather than excessively tame the engine.
Other improvements may be more subtle, but welcome. They start with the overall design, which was tweaked in ’11 to be slightly more aggressive. The craft’s reverse lever has been redesigned for ease of use, wider handlebars provide more leverage, and the display now offers large mode buttons that you won’t be fumbling to activate like the tiny buttons of old. The seat has also been slimmed for comfort. Returning items include five-position tilt steering, Kawasaki’s trademark large storage and fuel capacities, and a dual key system that can be used for both security and to activate a reduced rpm mode.
Not to like? Judging by past tests, fuel consumption is still likely on the high end of the scale. After all, there is a price to pay for all that power. Kawasaki reassures that the supercharger is 28% more efficient than its predecessor, however, so maybe the hit is not as severe as one might think. A future fuel consumption test will give a definitive answer. I also continue to note the off-throttle steering response comes on rather heavily. That’s good in an accident-avoidance situation, but can take you by surprise at times during normal operation. Just be aware of it, and don’t come flying up on your buddies.
And yes, it’s expensive…just like every PWC flagship.
My lasting impression? The Ultra 300X is still one mean machine, a powerful brute of a watercraft that I’d confidently take into any riding area. But it’s now also displaying another side of its personality, a side that feels a lot like a nimble, agile racer that’s a lot of fun to carve on glass.
That’s a versatile combo.
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