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Kawasaki knows it has a good thing with the current Ultra design. The hull is a beast, up for the task of handling the toughest waters, yet still able to turn and burn its way around buoy courses, real or imagined. The deck above likewise excels. Its design positions both driver and passenger in comfort, and is capable of hauling an abundance of gear. It’s a great combination for the flagship 300 LX…but if you’re willing to sacrifice a little of that awesome speed, also a promising platform for the more recreationally minded Ultra LX.
Can Less Be More?
What differentiates the Ultra LX from its 300 hp siblings is the engine, or more specifically, a few items left off the ultimate parts list – namely the supercharger and intercooler. Without them, speed is certainly compromised, but cost shrinks, both on the showroom floor and, later, at the gas pump. Even without the supercharger/intercooler bump, what remains is a powerful engine, a 1,498cc mill based on the ZX-14 sport bike. It produces a respectable 160 horsepower, while churning out nearly 1,000 pounds of thrust via the craft’s 155mm jet pump. That gives the craft all the pulling power necessary to pull skiers and wakeboarders, while still delivering a satisfying ride when racing your buddies across the water. No, you won’t tear across the water at 65 mph (I recorded 53.7 mph during my testing), but top speed is not the goal. Instead, Kawi has designed a craft with a focus on family fun and touring.
That first goal is accomplished through versatility. As previously mentioned, the LX can handle a lot of different riding conditions. Straight-line stability is top notch, enhanced by a grooved ride plate and integrated sponsons, which also aid in cornering. A deep 22.5-degree deadrise cleaves through wakes, rather than cause the hull to bounce across them, and is able to maintain its course without surprises.
The Ultra LX features a bolstered touring seat that provides good back support.
That latter goal is reflected in not a single grandiose feature, but instead several decidedly practical ones. The first is the craft’s plush touring seat. It’s bolstered to provide back support, essential on longer rides, and divided into tiers, positioning riders in back higher than the driver so as not to simply stare at the back of a life jacket. The Ultra’s trademark storage and fuel capacities (60 and 20.6 gallons respectively) also tie in well with touring, with space for more gear than average and the fuel to get you in between even far-flung gas stops. Five-position tilt steering further improves rider comfort, tailoring the craft to different-size drivers, or pivoting upward to facilitate standing when absorbing waves in rough water.
Other nice touches include an easy-to-see LCD display, and a portside-mount reverse lever. The latter position allows a driver to use reverse and throttle simultaneously, which eases docking or maneuvering in tight quarters. Molded-in splash deflectors keep spray to a minimum. A spring-loaded boarding ladder eases getting back aboard the craft should you take a planned, or unplanned, swim.
The Sweet Spot
Kawasaki likes to say that the Ultra LX has found that sweet spot between performance and efficiency. We agree. The craft maintains all the same advantages and strengths of the premier 300 hp flagships, but by foregoing the supercharger and intercooler, lowers the price of entry for a large range of enthusiasts who likely won’t miss those 65 mph speeds. At the same time, it lowers the cost of use throughout the craft’s lifespan.
For the right consumer, that’s a win-win.
Related Reading2011 Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra LX Reviewhttp://www.personalwatercraft.com/manufacturers/kawasaki/2011-kawasaki-ultra-lx-review-1044.html2013 Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra 300X Reviewhttp://www.personalwatercraft.com/manufacturers/kawasaki/2013-kawasaki-jet-ski-ultra-300x-review-1164.html2013 Kawasaki Jet Ski STX-15F Reviewhttp://www.personalwatercraft.com/manufacturers/kawasaki/2013-kawasaki-jet-ski-stx15f-review-1157.html
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