2016 Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra LX Review

The Ultra for the less power-hungry crowd

There’s no denying the appeal of all-out speed. Power, however, costs, both on the showroom floor and at the gas pump later on. That’s why, for all its appeal, a good number of consumers would be wiser to actually consider a machine with less power.

In this regard, Kawasaki’s Ultra LX shines. It shares the same platform as the brand’s premier flagships, but opts for a slightly tamer, more fuel-efficient engine within.

Championship Pedigree

That shared platform is a winner. The Ultra hull is deep, with a pronounced V that cuts through the toughest conditions with total finesse. Offshore racers love it for the same reason that newcomers will sing its praises – it’s predictable, stable, inspires confidence, and almost never deviates from its line. If you’re heading out to sea, or ride anywhere where the conditions are frequently rough, it’s one of the best choices on the market.

2016 Kawasaki Ultra LX Right SideThe Ultra LX shares the same platform as its supercharged brothers, giving it excellent rough water capabilities.

That same platform, however, can still feel small and nimble in flat conditions. A grooved ride plate and aggressive sponsons keep the craft anchored through tight turns. Lean to the inside, stay on the throttle, and you’ll rocket in and out of corners with a smile. Yes, the LX misses the electronic trim of its pricier siblings. The ability to trim that nozzle down really brings out this craft’s inner slalom champion. But for the target audience, it’s likely not as important as performance junkies think.

COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2016 Yamaha VXR Review

Besides, this is a craft that – while still able to perform – focuses more on touring. It’s comfortable, with a bolstered saddle separated into three distinct tiers, positioning each rider in line a little higher than the last for both better comfort and an improved view forward. The driver gets a five-position handlebar, ready to lean back for leisurely cruising or tilt up to complement standing when the conditions are rough. And everybody aboard gets space for both their stuff and itinerary. The LX boasts an amazing 60 gallons of storage capacity, much of it included in the generous bow tub. A nearly 21-gallon gas tank also means those trips will last long into the sunset rather than be interrupted looking for a fuel dock.

CorneringA bolstered seat gives driver and passengers back support, which comes in handy for all-day touring.

Confident Tourer

Of course, what gives the Ultra LX such great cruising range isn’t just its fuel capacity, but its engine. Kawasaki’s familiar 160hp 1,498cc four-stroke, it foregoes the supercharger and intercooler here to keep its budget price tag. Leaving those two items off the list also does wonders for the engine’s fuel economy.

COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2015 Sea-Doo GTI Limited 155

Not always just interested in cost-effective cruising? Without those add-ons, the LX is still capable of a top speed approaching 55 mph. What I appreciate most, however, is that it maintains a strong low-end punch out of the hole. With that bottom-end grunt, and not the surging that can come with trying to control a supercharged engine’s throttle, the LX makes a great platform for wakeboarding, wakeskating, skiing, and tubing.

2016 Kawasaki Ultra LX Two-UpA bolstered seat gives driver and passengers back support, which comes in handy for all-day touring.

Amenities reflect the price, but don’t shortchange the consumer. The prerequisites – things like mechanical reverse, easy-to-read LCD information display and spring-loaded boarding step – are present and accounted for. Buyers also get Kawasaki’s magnetic key system, which is used to both prevent theft and activate a speed-governed mode that allows newer riders to become more comfortable with the craft’s handling and response before feeling its full potential. An additional nod to newcomers is Kawasaki Smart Steering. Less-experienced riders frequently release the throttle when presented with an obstacle, losing their steering control. KSS detects these behaviors and boosts thrust just enough to initiate the maneuver the driver is trying to execute at the handlebars.

Bottom Line

2016 Kawasaki Ultra LX Beauty

No, the Kawasaki Ultra LX probably won’t win many drag races. What it will do, however, is prove a versatile platform for the family as well as a great choice for long-distance exploring. And it will do all these things virtually everywhere, meaning you won’t be left on the dock watching other people have all the fun when conditions turn less than ideal.

After all, it’s still an Ultra.

2016 Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra LX Specs
Length 132.7 inches
Beam 47.0 inches
Curb Weight 932.7 lbs
Engine Four-stroke DOHC inline four-cylinder
Displacement 1,498 cc
Bore and Stroke 83mm x 69.2mm
Compression Ratio 10.6:1
Rated Horsepower 160
Fuel Capacity 20.6 gal.
Combined Stowage Capacity 60 gal.
Colors Ebony/Metallic Phantom Silver
Price $11,199