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While other manufacturers seemingly offer an endless array of craft, Kawasaki’s aim has become laser sharp of late. And that focus is on the Ultra platform, perhaps best exemplified by the brand’s premier model, the Ultra 300X. A beast of a machine boasting the industry’s largest horsepower designation and designed to handle nearly any water condition thrown its way, the 300X is perhaps Kawasaki’s best, most thrilling, most capable watercraft to date.
Obviously, horsepower has been much of the craft’s reason for success. The Ultra uses a 1,498cc Kawasaki four-stroke engine, stoked with both a supercharger and intercooler to boost its power potential to the max. That supercharger design was switched in 2011 to a design that promised a more consistent flow of air throughout the powerband, The switch paid dividends in the stats department; torque, max thrust, and boost pressure are all improved. But it also paid off where it counts. Combined with a shaving of nearly 45 pounds in the craft’s hull, acceleration is exhilarating. Top speed, in good water conditions and with a light load, tops out at the 67 mph mark.
As previously mentioned, the Ultra’s hull, a deep-V design, can make the best of that power in even the toughest conditions. Few craft are this predictable, stable, and confidence-inspiring. A top-loading scoop grate effectively loads the upper reaches of the craft’s large 160mm pump for better acceleration off the waves, and blasts of blinding water to the face are kept to a minimum thanks to spray-reducing chines.
The craft’s big-water reputation is well deserved. It’s the craft’s newfound smooth-water ability, however, that is underrated. For 2011, Kawasaki wisely elected to add electric trim to the Ultra mix, and the ability to plant that bow lower in the water revealed an impressive smooth-water handling ability. Rather than sweep its way through a corner, the 300X now bites aggressively into the turns with quickened manners resulting from a shorter steering nozzle. It makes the boat more versatile…and a lot more fun.
Beyond the Basics
Power and rough-water ability have always been the driving force behind the 300X. Trim now gives that boat a similar thrill in calm conditions. But don’t think Kawasaki has forgotten the features and amenities that typify high-end craft. Though more limited than some flagship models, the 300X does now include the features buyers have come to expect from premier craft. Electronic throttle smoothes power delivery, but also enables features like cruise control and no-wake mode, great for those extended trips, long no-wake zones, or keeping a steady speed when towing skiers, tubers, or wakeboarders. An ECO mode can govern the speed to provide the most fuel-efficient ride. It can reduce fuel consumption by as much as 15%, but perhaps most impressive, it doesn’t dull the craft but instead allows the Ultra to retain much of its snappy response.
Other amenities include an informative dash display, with larger buttons that are easy to manipulate with a gloved finger, a slimmed seat that is more comfortable, and five-position tilt steering that accommodates not only differing size riders, but also makes it more comfortable to ride standing, often the preferred method offshore as it allows riders to absorb the bumps with their legs. A magnetic key system is used to secure the craft; a secondary key can be used to limit the craft’s power. Kawasaki’s fuel and storage capacities also far outpace the industry standard, with over 20 gallons of fuel capacity and 60 gallons of storage.
Obviously, no craft is perfect. Like all potent, supercharged engines, this one will use plenty of fuel at high speed. That’s a given in this category, and one that buyers likely expect. Kawasaki’s off-throttle steering response, designed to avoid collisions by slightly increasing thrust when throttle is released in conjunction with a sharp turn of the handlebars, also comes on a little strong. That’s good for avoiding collisions, but can surprise when you’re not prepared for it. Get accustomed to it before coming up quick on friends or docks.
True, Kawasaki has pretty much put all its eggs into the Ultra basket. But it’s a platform worthy of the attention, and one that’s certain to appeal to performance-driven enthusiasts, especially should they favor offshore conditions or larger bodies of water.
From power to handling to an ability to run in virtually any water condition, it’s a potent triple threat.
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