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Engine: 1,498cc four-cylinder w/supercharger/intercooler
Fuel Capacity: 20.6 gallons
Storage Capacity: 56 gallons
Seating Capacity: 3
The 2021 Kawasaki Ultra 310R is by now quite familiar to performance enthusiasts. Much of the current iteration of the craft has been around for years now. That’s not to say change hasn’t happened. Numerous tweaks have been made in that time but most happened behind the scenes, not-so-obvious engine tweaks that nonetheless greatly improved the performance and reliability of an already impressive 1,498cc four-stroke. Add in a hull that has been a winner since day one, and you’ve gotten a well-proven beast of a ski that still competes with the best in its class.
Even if it is approaching elder statesman status.
A good portion of any Ultra’s success has long been a result of the craft’s hull design. It’s the epitome of a deep-V when it comes to personal watercraft, with a 22.5-degree deadrise that allows it to literally part the seas. The 2021 Kawasaki Ultra 310R is one of the most confident rides found for those who favor ocean conditions, holding a line in both chop and swell while keeping driver and passengers safe with its exceptional stability. At the same time, it’s also a hull that can hold its own in the calm. Despite its substantial girth, trim the nozzle down and rail into a sharp corner and the boat holds an impressively sharp line, sponsons digging in to help anchor the stern and potent engine allowing you to push the limits.
Turning to the deck, the ergonomics pair well with the hull’s agility. The saddle is slimmer than the average Ultra, inviting riders to grasp it with their thighs as well as use their legs to brace and handle much of the force that would test your upper-body strength. Feel the texture and you’ll also note that it’s “race” grippy, keeping a hard-charging pilot from sliding out of position. There’s only a single bolster of any significance, one which works with that grippy vinyl to lock the rider in place while offering welcome support and a snug feel. Nonetheless, that saddle is still wider than the competition. Shorter legs may feel pushed uncomfortably wide after extended seat time.
The R-model handlebars complete the race-inspired picture. Unlike the molded-cover enclosure found throughout the Ultra line, it’s aftermarket in style, with an exposed skeletal look, cast-aluminum neck and bare handlebar with motocross-style crossbar pad. It’s cool, but not just for show. The setup features less play than the typical stock Ultra setup. And though the angle is not adjustable on the fly like other Ultra models, it sports a surprising amount of adjustability for the driver seeking to find their ultimate position and then lock it in to stay. Height and mount positions offer 12 separate positions. Should you wish to add accessory clamps, you can add six more to that total. The end result is the type of precise, solid feel you’d expect from a race boat.
The other obvious portion of the 2021 Kawasaki Ultra 310R’s success can be found in that engine below the saddle, the aforementioned 1,498cc four-cylinder that has carried most of the Kawasaki load for years now.
With the addition of its Eaton twin-vortices supercharger and large intercooler, the 310R churns out a legitimate 310 horsepower. It also produces an impressive 1,890 pounds of thrust. Squeeze the throttle and the craft literally roars to life, rocketing out of the hole with a force that will test your arm strength…and a sound sure to bring a grin to your face. Keep on the throttle, toggle up the trim and you should peak at about 67 mph, the craft’s governed speed to keep the authorities happy. That deep-V hull may slightly affect top speed but as I’ve stated in previous reviews, I’ve seen considerably faster in the right conditions.
With such power and a curb weight of almost 1,050 pounds, the craft’s momentum can be daunting to the less-experienced rider. Release the throttle and it travels a solid distance before slowing to a stop. That’s one reason I’d like to see the addition of an electronic deceleration system like Sea-Doo’s iBR or Yamaha’s RiDE. For the moment Kawasaki continues to stick with a manual reverse system that realistically should not be used to mimic those system’s stopping power.
Though it works quite well at low speed around the dock, manual reverse is also not as convenient as iBR or RiDE, requiring drivers to remove one hand from the handlebar to manipulate the port-mounted lever.
Though the 2021 Kawasaki Ultra 310R is obviously slanted toward the performance crowd, it does have its practical features and comforts. Cruise control is one obvious nod to the recreational enthusiast. Find your favorite speed, lock it in via a handlebar-mounted button and lengthy no-wake zones or open-water cruises aren’t such a hassle. A no-wake mode is also welcome, as is an ECO setting, which matches the craft’s response and speed to the best fuel savings.
Capacities also remain a classic Ultra strength. Yes, you may need every bit of the 20.6-gallon fuel capacity if you’ve got a heavy hand on the throttle but at lower speeds that capacity expands the craft’s range. For a race-minded boat, the 2021 Kawasaki Ultra 310R is also extremely gear-friendly, offering 56 gallons of total storage between the large front bin, glovebox and under-seat nook. Kawasaki’s magnetic key theft-prevention device also makes the boat more touring friendly, enabling you to leave the craft at the beach or waterside eatery with less worry. A secondary key continues to govern speed for those times you turn the craft over to kids or friends who you don’t want to experience every bit of that 310hp potential.
As many performance buyers are well aware, the top of the heap in this category has become more crowded — and more competitive — nowadays. Both Sea-Doo’s RXT-X ($16,799) and Yamaha’s FX SVHO ($15,799) likewise feature a pretty impressive rough-water ride, agile handling, strong power delivery and saddles that snug the rider into position. The RXT-X can be lightened further by removing the aft portion of the saddle for the solo racer, or extras like a cooler or gas caddy can be added on for extended rides via the aft platform’s LinQ accessory system. The FX SVHO boasts the industry’s largest displacement engine, the best power and torque Yamaha has offered to date, a lightweight NanoXcel 2 hull, and a cool touchscreen display. Its forward multi-mount system also makes it easy to add wireless Bluetooth speakers, GoPro, or even GPS/fish finder.
You probably can’t line up one of each and drag race them to the horizon on the ultimate test ride…but we guarantee it would be a heck of a lot of fun if you could.
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