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Kawasaki’s Ultra lineup is filled with variations of one ground-breaking craft – the Ultra 310X. Sure, you can find any number of offshoots, from that stereo-equipped model to the one with the aftermarket-like handlebars, but at their core they all share the hull, horsepower, and handling of the true OG.
Want the thrills, but don’t care to pay for the frills? This may just be the boat for you.
Meet The Beast
For all its attributes, almost any discussion of the Ultra 310X will ultimately come down to what those compelling triple digits in the name represent – horsepower. At 310 ponies, the Ultra’s 1,498cc engine tops the charts when it comes to flagship PWC. Yamaha may actually offer far more displacement (1,812cc), Sea-Doo may claim similar numbers (300hp), but Kawasaki still boasts the biggest horsepower numbers in the game. This gutsy 1.5-liter uses an Eaton Twin Vortices supercharger and intercooler combo to produce an impressive 16.8 psi of boost. That power is put to the water via a large 160mm jet pump, resulting in an impressive 1,890 pounds of thrust.
You can definitely feel it. Hold the throttle wide open and you’ll typically eclipse the 65 mph mark with ease, powering up to 67 mph before the electronic limiter kicks in. Many times I’ve gone beyond. The power comes on hard, with a satisfying whirr and a yank of the arms that leaves little question as to the engine’s intent. This craft in the same stock trim has proven itself on the race course time and time again. Yes, as we’ve noted before that power comes at the expense of fuel. The Ultra engine is one of the thirstiest of the bigs, but again, the buyer at this level is likely more concerned about miles-per-hour rather than gallons-per-hour.
COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2016 Sea-Doo RXT-X 300
What truly allows the engine to deliver that potential, however, is the renowned Ultra hull. A veteran of many an offshore race, the Ultra years ago set the bar in rough water. Its deep 22.5-degree deadrise cleaves through the waves with full-speed-ahead precision, never wavering from its course or causing the pilot anxious moments in the saddle. That same racer-like precision will also benefit the occasional less-experienced rider as well, as the platform is exceptionally stable. This is a big boat, and feels it on the water…most of the time.
Calm things down and this same Ultra 310X can feel surprisingly small in calm conditions. The addition of electric trim and a shorter steering nozzle several years back really brought out this aspect of the boat’s personality. Those two features complement the boat’s natural inside lean to make it a serious buoy carver with lightning-quick reflexes.
True to form, Kawasaki packages this combo of power and handling in a quality, no-nonsense package.
COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2016 Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra 310X SE
The masculine lines are attractive in a brute force kind of way, with no real added frills or form-over-function styling cues. The comfortable, supportive saddle is on the wider side yet purposely foregoes any real bolsters, shaping or distinct levels to allow the driver to shift their weight and position. The adjustable steering column features five positions to allow drivers of differing heights to dial things in. Footwells offer exceptional Hydro-Turf traction, and a spring-loaded step is ready to assist in climbing back aboard from deep water.
Electronic throttle control offers a smoothness to the power input, and makes possible both cruise control and a no-wake mode. Use the former not only for touring, but also when pulling the occasional skier or wakeboarder as it maintains speed far better than a human finger on the throttle.
COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2016 Yamaha FX SVHO
While there’s something to be said about doing the basics well and not getting caught up in bells and whistles, the 310X does fall noticeably short in terms of reverse. In an era when its competitors offer truly useful reverse and braking systems, Kawasaki remains tethered to its old-school mechanical lever and bucket. It gets the job done, certainly, but can’t compare to those systems’ delicate control in tight confines.
In terms of its more practical features, the Ultra offers cavernous bow storage (total storage lists at 56 gallons) and a generous 20-gallon fuel tank. Theft prevention is accomplished via a magnetic key, a second of which can activate a speed-governed mode. Kawasaki also offers a fuel-saving ECO throttle setting which is notable thanks to the fact that it still allows the engine to produce far more power than the competition. In short, it saves fuel but also the boat’s sporty personality.
Beyond the Numbers
Kawasaki may win this battle on horsepower, but not on the rest of the spec sheet. Competitors simply offer more features, plain and simple. Take a ride on the Ultra 310X, however, and you’ll realize that stats don’t always tell the whole story. The Ultra’s story is written on the race course, in the open ocean, and blasting through a full-throttle corner.
It’s here where the craft excels – and it’s here where it will find the customers who appreciate it for the original it is.
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