2017 Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra LX Review

A tamer, more fuel efficient Ultra

Choosing between Kawasaki’s Ultra models can be tricky, especially given that the majority of them sport only subtle differences. Other than the flagship model’s trick sound system, seats, handlebars and graphics are the primary reasons to buy one over another. The Ultra LX, however, stands apart. It doesn’t get caught up in the speed and power of the 310hp models, but foregoes the supercharger and intercooler to offer a tamer, less expensive to operate 160hp model.

In the process it makes a strong argument for the family man’s Ultra, or an excellent, long distance or rough-water touring machine.

Sensible Power

Fast Facts

Engine: Four-cylinder 1,498cc

Fuel Capacity: 20.6 gal.

Stowage Capacity: 60 gal.

Seating Capacity: 3

MSRP: $11,199

Kawasaki’s 1,498cc four-stroke may be the same base engine shared by all Ultra models, but without the high-performance tuning, supercharger and intercooler, it’s a different beast than the extremely potent variation that produces near double the horsepower. That’s not such a bad thing. Without the additional power a consumer can buy an Ultra for as little as $11,199. And without the additional power that same consumer’s gas bill will be far less, as the engine doesn’t have near the appetite for fuel.

Top speed is more than 10mph slower, coming in closer to 55 mph. But this big displacement mill (“there’s no replacement for displacement”) keeps a fair share of low-end grunt. I noted a solid, strong pull off the bottom when pinning the throttle, more than enough to easily make the LX double as a worthy tow vehicle for all watersports. Without the supercharger that power delivery is also more predictable, with less of a sudden surge that can cause fits when towing.

2017 Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra LX Towing

That same smooth, fuel-efficient power delivery makes the Ultra LX stand out as the ideal Kawasaki craft for long-distance touring. With the Ultra’s deep-V hull and excellent tracking, riders will feel confident in the tough conditions that cause some craft to head for the shore. Calm or smooth, driver and passenger will appreciate a comfortable, generously bolstered seat, with a designated nook for each passenger and a tiered profile to give each in line a better view. Want to get aggressive and cut loose occasionally? This is the same Ultra platform that reveals surprising finesse for its size. The hull rewards a subtle inside lean with confident cornering ability, holding its line with no surprises. True, it lacks the electronic trim found on its siblings, but given the slower top speed, I don’t think it’s a glaring omission.

2017 Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra LX Speed

Practical Standards

Much of the Ultra’s existing standards list also fits well into the touring mold. In terms of capacities, it’s supersized, with 60 gallons of total storage space and close to 21 gallons of fuel capacity. That’s space for lots of gear, and lots of time between gas stops. A five-position handlebar also dials things in for ultimate comfort, as well as pivots up and out of the way for a more natural position when standing in the rough stuff.

2017 Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra LX Storage

As to what you may miss, like all Jet Skis the LX only features mechanical reverse. It’s functional for sure, but given the added control of Sea-Doo’s iBR or Yamaha’s RiDE systems, it feels like taking a step back in terms of evolution. The LX also doesn’t feature cruise control or no-wake mode. You do get Kawasaki’s magnetic key system, with a separate key that limits top speed, collision-avoidance assistance from Kawasaki Smart Steering, a spring-loaded boarding step, great instrumentation, and rearview mirrors. You also get blue. In a sea of Kawasaki green, the Ultra LX stands out for ’17 in Ebony and Valiant Blue, an attractive combo.

Nice Package

2017 Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra LX Seat

Ultras may be known as high-performance monsters, but much of the craft’s success is due to the excellent hull, and that pays dividends for more than just the high-performance enthusiast. By offering excellent handling in any water condition you throw its way, the capacities to take you far and bring the necessities along for the ride, and the ability to tow or cut loose when desired, the Ultra LX proves a quite well-rounded package.

Even if the rest of the line hogs the spotlight…