2012 Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra 300LX Review

Touring-friendly comfort in an aggressive, powerful machine

Kawasaki’s powerful Ultra 300 isn’t just a throttle junkie’s dream. In its LX guise, it’s also a comfortable, versatile — if still powerful — touring machine. Key in this regard are additional standards, like a stepped, bolstered seat. It’s comfy and soft, but offers the back support that will be welcome on long rides. Two-tone coloring highlights these bolsters, and a rich hull paint scheme completes the upscale look. Another touring nod is a clever nook in the handlebar pad that can be fitted with a mount to hold a handheld GPS, keeping your position up close and handy on that next adventure.

Below these additions, however, this is still the Ultra 300. That means the next adventure can go by at a leisurely pace…or streak past at the blink of an eye.

Plenty o’ Power

2012 Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra 300 LX Handlebar GPSKawasaki smartly designed the handlebar pad to accommodate a handheld GPS.

Manufacturers have gotten out of the horsepower numbers game, but that 300 in the title isn’t for nothing. Kawasaki’s 1,498cc engine boasts both a supercharger and intercooler, as well as the fine-tuning to produce a legitimate 300 horsepower. The company changed that supercharger last year to an Eaton Twin Vortices design. The benefit? It’s counter-rotating lobes produce power in a steadier, more even flow, rather than the waves of old. Torque is increased by 25 pounds, thrust by 250 pounds, and boost pressure is up an additional 6 psi. Tweaks to the hull layup have strengthened key areas, but trimmed overall weight. The combination means the Ultra 300 now enjoys an even better power-to-weight ratio than its predecessor.

Top speed can vary depending on the conditions, load, and skill of the driver, but suffice it to say the Ultra will hit 65 mph with little trouble, possibly more under the right conditions. Acceleration is strong and powerful out of the hole, launching this 1,000-pound boat off the line or hauling your kids or friends up and out of the water when skiing or boarding.

2012 Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra 300 LX Instrument Panel

It’s arguably the boat’s handling, however, that is its most noteworthy improvement. Credit the long-awaited arrival of electric trim, which allows you to plant the bow down for cornering and raise it for top speed, and a shortened steering nozzle that tightens up that steering response. Enhanced by a larger pump nozzle and top-loading scoop grate, these features gives the Ultra a tight, aggressive, hard-cornering style it was formerly missing, especially on flat water. I confidently took the craft into bouy turns, and couldn’t help but smile at the aggressive hookup that has replaced the somewhat sweeping turning style of old. Yet, the boat hasn’t lost its rough-water prowess. It remains one of the absolute best machines in offshore conditions, skipping across the waves like a powerful tank, and displaying a level of stability that inspires absolute confidence in the driver.

Big Comfy Couch

2012 Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra 300 LX SeatA bolstered seat adds to rider comfort.

Cruisers, however, better deliver that power comfortably. The LX features electronic throttle, which has finally given Kawi the ease of cruise control. A single button locks in your current speed; up/down buttons adjust it in small increments throughout nearly the entire powerband. Once set, just squeeze the throttle fully and eliminate pressure on your throttle finger. A separate “no-wake” button locks in the speed at about 5 mph, and requires no pressure on the throttle. Kawi also offers an ECO mode that reduces fuel consumption by about 15%, but unlike many other models, manages to maintain much of the craft’s sporty performance in the process.

Other additions also made their debut last year, and continue to be appreciated. The information display is much improved. It’s easier to navigate, but the biggest improvement is a set of nice big buttons to control the functions. Previously, tiny buttons made it hard to manipulate with a gloved hand. The reverse lever has also been fine tuned. It sports an improved throw that makes it easier to shift the nozzle through its forward and reverse positions. Five-position tilt steering tailors the feel to differing size riders, but also accommodates those who prefer to stand up in rougher conditions.

2012 Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra 300 LX Reverse LeverThe forward/reverse lever has been fine tuned to make it easier to shift the nozzle.

Faults? One that I’ve heard continually mentioned is the amount of power that can be delivered when the craft’s off-throttle steering is activated. Turn the bars hard and release the throttle and the craft begins its avoidance turn with a little more gusto than many riders anticipate. That’s fine for its intended purpose, but can surprise when triggered accidentally. Once the driver is aware of it, however, it shouldn’t be a concern.

That powerful engine also has a tradeoff in that it can be hungry for fuel. The good news is that the Ultra features an especially large fuel tank at 20-plus gallons. Storage is also massive, with 56 gallons swallowing up almost everything you might be inclined to take along for the ride.

Bottom line? At heart, this remains an Ultra 300. It’s powerful, enjoys new handling improvements, and is a beast in rough water. That may make it too much of a touring machine for some…but the perfect flagship tourer for others.

2012 Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra 300LX Action

Not to mention a touring machine the performance junkie will be thrilled with when there’s no destination on the horizon.

2012 Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra 300LX Specs
Length 132.7 inches
Beam 47.0 inches
Curb Weight 1,019 lbs
Engine Four-cylinder DOHC EFI; Supercharged/Intercooled
Displacement 1,498 cc
Bore and Stroke 83mm x 69.2mm
Compression Ratio 8.4:1
Rated Horsepower 300
Fuel Capacity 20.6 gal.
Combined Stowage Capacity 56 gal.
Colors Metallic Stardust White
Price $15,199

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