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Engine: 1,498cc, Four-cylinder
Fuel Capacity: 20.6 gal.
Stowage Capacity: 60 gal.
Seating Capacity: 3
Kawasaki’s 310hp Ultra models are some of the biggest, baddest personal watercraft on the market, with hulls that are capable of taking on the biggest waters riders dare to tread. Not everyone, however, wants — or needs — their immense horsepower. Enter the one Ultra model often lost in the shuffle, the 2021 Kawasaki Ultra LX. It offers all the key ingredients that make the Ultra platform so appealing, but leaves off the admittedly fuel-thirsty, supercharged engine.
The result? A craft that offers a stable, comfortable presence for long-distance touring riders, family buyers and watersports aficionados…and is a match for virtually any water conditions riders throw its way.
The appeal of the lowest-powered Ultra starts with the same feature that’s so appealing on the highest horsepower model — the hull. Featuring a deep-V that busts through chop and tracks exceptionally well in rough, even offshore conditions, the Ultra is a confidence-inspiring ride and one of the best candidates to turn to when conditions are less than ideal. It feels even bigger than its dimensions would suggest in those big conditions, and I’ve rarely if ever had any combination of wakes, waves or current knock me from my intended path when at the controls.
That’s not to say the 2021 Kawasaki Ultra LX is only a big-water boat. Lean into a flat-water turn and the Ultra responds with agile reflexes, feeling much smaller than that substantial girth would imply. Yes, the electronic trim found on its higher-powered siblings would be a nice addition in flat water, but it’s left out at this price point. And to be honest, trim doesn’t feel as vital on a craft with this top speed. More on that shortly.
Above, the top deck works hand in hand with the hull below. Riders perch relatively high atop a comfortable, bolstered saddle, with a pronounced backrest for the driver and a tiered profile that lets each passenger sit a little higher than the one in front for a more comfortable ride (and view of the water rather than the back of the forward rider’s head or lifejacket). Insider cheat for those who want to haul full gas atop ocean conditions but take a little stress off the legs? That extra-large, primary bolster is supportive, but yet still soft enough that you can squat down atop it. The handlebar also features five possible positions, further enabling the driver to tune in an angle that best matches their physical size and riding style. A large, clear display keeps track of vital information in clear view of the driver. Much of the boat’s massive 60 gallons of storage capacity is found just forward in the bow tub; a glovebox also resides in easy reach just forward of the saddle.
Missing? Cruise control and no-wake mode are most obvious. Given the craft’s partial touring focus, both would be beneficial but are sacrificed for the price point. The 2021 Kawasaki Ultra LX, like all Jet Ski models, also relies on mechanical reverse. It’s more than capable, but given both Sea-Doo and Yamaha’s adoption of electronic reverse and the braking/deceleration capabilities that goes along with them, it remains a more old-school solution. The LX retains Kawasaki’s magnetic key theft prevention system, however, and a secondary key can activate a governed speed mode. Riders also get a nice, spring-loaded boarding step to ease back aboard should you fall off or elect to stop and take a swim.
Now back to that power difference. Without a supercharger Kawasaki’s long-running 1,498cc four-stroke, rated at about 160hp, peaks about 10 mph shy of its flagship brethren but that absence makes arguably a far more sensible alternative for those that like to cruise without so much concern about how much fuel they’ll use before the next gas stop. Losing the supercharger and intercooler also brings the 2021 Kawasaki Ultra LX in for thousands below those 310hp siblings, with an MSRP of $11,399. The LX also boasts the same large Ultra fuel tank, with nearly 21 gallons of capacity.
If you don’t care about tearing across the water at interstate highway speeds, that should prove more than enough to keep you satisfied. True, top speed drops closer to 55 mph but a decent amount of low-end power remains, making the LX a more than capable performer for towing duties, whether tube, skier or board rider. In fact, the lack of a supercharged engine’s “touchiness” makes the Ultra the better boat in this regard, as the throttle responds more smoothly to subtle changes in speed.
In terms of competitors, Kawasaki’s own STX 160 now delivers a portion of it. For $11,899, the Kawasaki STX 160LX admittedly offers a smaller platform and less storage but the same engine and the trendy perk of a Bluetooth audio system.
As to competition from outside the family, Sea-Doo’s GTI SE 170 ($11,499) doesn’t share the brand’s flagship GTX hull and deck, but is a competent performer in a variety of water conditions. The SE 170 also offers electronic trim, large swim platform with mounts for a variety of accessories like coolers, fuel caddies and storage bags, and the option of Bluetooth audio. Likewise, Yamaha reserves the FX hull/deck combo for their flagship series, but the VX Cruiser ($11,149) introduces a new-for-’21 design, color LCD display, a handy mount system for items like GPS or action cam, and the option for a neatly integrated Bluetooth audio package. Both also have the aforementioned electronic reverse/deceleration systems.
That may leave the big hull and deck design the 2021 Kawasaki Ultra LX’s primary selling point…but for big-water touring riders, that may be more than enough.
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