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Engine: Four-cylinder 1,498cc
Fuel Capacity: 20.6 gallons
Storage Capacity: 60 gallons
Seating Capacity: 3
Most enthusiasts think of Kawasaki Ultras as high-end, high-horsepower battlewagons, capable of brutal top speeds and undeterred by deteriorating water conditions, whether those conditions occur inshore or off. Along with those strengths, however, are a few tradeoffs. That high horsepower means a decent amount of fuel gets burned…and the price of admission at the dealership tends to be rather high.
A midrange Ultra, however, does exist, a model that foregoes the supercharger and intercooler and excels at touring – the 2018 Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra LX.
Willing to sacrifice top speed, but still get all the positive characteristics the Ultra is known for? This just may be the version that fits the bill.
Kawasaki’s 1,498cc engine is found across all Ultra models, but only in the LX does it lack the supercharger and intercooler. As a result horsepower is lower (160hp compared to the supercharged models 310), but so too is the up-front cost. The Ultra LX runs just over $11,000. Along with that upfront cost savings is additional savings every time you need to fill the craft up as the gas pump. Superchargers are thirsty for fuel, but without them, fuel economy is noticeably better, stretching your gas budget further as well as increasing the craft’s range.
The horsepower drop is significant, but the target audience is significantly different as well. Top speed of the 2018 Kawasaki Ultra LX peaks at about 55 mph, not the heady 65-plus you’ll find on its supercharged brethren, but in reality more than enough for a midrange craft that will likely be run at lower cruising speeds for much of its lifespan. Thanks to the engine’s displacement, however, a fair portion of the engine’s low-end grunt remains. Punch the throttle and you’ll still feel a solid pull. The lack of a supercharger’s twitchy response also makes the craft better for skiing, wakeboarding and tubing, as it delivers a smoother ride that is less sensitive to the smallest changes in pressure on the throttle.
As to touring, expect significantly longer range out of a non-supercharged engine. The famed Ultra hull also comes into play for the long-distance crowd, as it handles rough conditions with absolute ease and delivers a soft, predictable ride. Yet, when a solo rider or trio wants to get aggressive, this is still the Ultra hull below, able to carve aggressively through the corners. Electric trim would be a nice addition, but is foregone in the 2018 Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra LX.
Like the hull, the Ultra deck remains the same across all models. On the LX, a bolstered, tiered saddle offers the support a driver needs along with the incline that positions each successive passenger a little higher for better visibility forward. Tilt steering pivots to any of five positions to accommodate differing size riders, as well as allow a rider to comfortably stand in poor conditions. Storage is massive, with 60 gallons of capacity found mostly in the bow tub, along with glovebox. Twenty-one gallons of fuel capacity promises enough range to plan that long-distance cruise.
Additional features include a spring-loaded boarding step, rearview mirrors, easy-to-see instrumentation, and Kawasaki’s magnetic key system to prevent theft. An additional, color-coded key will also govern the engine’s performance to save fuel or prove less intimidating for novice riders.
Kawasaki sticks with mechanical reverse on all its models, a choice that’s effective but is beginning to feel old-school when compared to the electronic reverse and brake/deceleration systems now being offered by the competition. Still, with a gentle hand on the controls, you can mimic neutral, making docking and tight-quarter maneuvering far less stressful.
Enjoy The Ride
Yes, you can tour on higher-horsepower Ultras. The feature sets are almost identical, but for true cruisers – or just those who want the Ultra ride without paying for the typical Ultra power – the 2018 Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra LX makes sense. It’s thousands less to purchase, far less expensive to fuel over time, and offers far better range between gas stops.
It’s not a lesser Ultra, but rather a more practical Ultra…that can still turn and burn when desired. Add the craft’s better towing performance and you’ve got a boat that deserves its spot in the Kawasaki lineup.
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