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When Kawasaki introduced a built-in sound system on the Ultra 310LX last year, there were more than a few who chuckled at the idea. Built-in music seemed a gimmick, something that wouldn’t work or worse, something few buyers would want.
As it turned out, Kawasaki’s “Jetsounds” actually worked pretty darn well and won over more than a few of its initial critics. It even spawned some competition — Yamaha is offering a sound system for 2015 as well.
But there’s a lot more to the Ultra 310LX than just tunes. And those are the features that will be music to most enthusiast’s ears.
Still Bad To The Bone
The core of the Ultra 310LX remains the rough-water-proven Ultra platform. Its deep 22.5-degree deadrise has made a name for itself in offshore racing, but the hull will be equally appreciated by the average performance enthusiast. It powers through and across the tops of waves holding a predictable line, delivering a confident, comfortable ride to the pilot above. Virtually nothing knocks this boat off course, making it an excellent contender for those who live in coastal areas or routinely ride on bigger bodies of water.
Rough water, however, isn’t the Ultra’s lone playground. Thanks to electric trim, riders can drop the bow heading into a smooth-water corner, and find the boat snaps off a crisp turn that rivals a smaller boat. The hull rewards an aggressive, lean-in turning style with racecourse-style manners, turning a glassy stretch of water into a performance junkie’s playground.
Yes, the engine has something to do with the fun factor. Tweaked last year with a variety of upgrades to be even more durable, the end result was yet another 10 horses, padding this powerful four-stroke’s reputation the most powerful production mill on the market. The pump was similarly tweaked to handle the power, as was the impeller. Add in the boost delivered by an Eaton Twin Vortices supercharger and intercooler, and the end result is a brutal low-end punch, followed by a crisp, snappy midrange and requisite 67mph top speed. The Ultra even sounds powerful, with a satisfying vroom accompanying the first blip of throttle.
As a flagship luxury touring model, the 310LX doesn’t forget to offer the features consumers have come to expect from the genre. The big two center around the craft’s use of electronic throttle. Both cruise control and no-wake mode use the boat’s computer brain to enhance a rider’s control, cruise control locking in a rider’s preferred speed and then allowing him or her to simply squeeze the throttle fully and lessen hand fatigue. It works well for long-distance cruising, but also towing various watersports as the electronic control maintains a far steadier speed than a human hand. No-wake requires no throttle input at all, but will instead keep the boat moving forward at about 5 mph, handy for those extended slow-speed zones. Like its competitors, Kawasaki also offers an ECO mode to plot best fuel savings.
Theft prevention is accomplished via a plug-in key, located in the glove box. A secondary key can govern speed further for beginners.
Beyond these extras, riders get a bolstered, tiered touring saddle, with plenty of support for long rides and enough passenger elevation for a decent view forward. The LX even features a unique, heat-resistant vinyl that won’t get as hot on a summer day. Other longtime Ultra features include impressive 56 and 20-gallon storage and fuel capacities.
A pop-out on the handlebar pad also remains ready for a handheld GPS.
So Now, About Those Tunes…
So now back to Jetsounds. Buyers will note the system is nicely integrated into the Ultra overall. Dual 60-watt speakers are molded into the console below the mirrors, with the 40-watt amp hiding below the handlebar pad and the head control unit within arm’s reach above. Virtually any audio player can be plugged in via the 3.5mm stereo pin jack (players or phones are kept dry in a waterproof dry bag). USB memory sticks are also accommodated, and housed within a waterproof aluminum cylinder. Either tucks out of the way in the glovebox.
On the water, music can be heard clearly at all but the highest speeds. Pounding waves don’t seem to be a problem, and the components seem well guarded from water. Responsible riders also shouldn’t be distracted by the music. Mainstream boaters have been enjoying it for years.
Jam On It
Yes, the Ultra 310LX is expensive, a heady $17,999. And yes, I continue to note that the Ultra’s off-throttle steering can produce a surging that feels a little too powerful when you’re not looking for it to kick in. Be cautious coming up on riders stopped in the water.
But those two hurdles don’t overshadow the fact that the Ultra 310LX remains one of the most powerful, beastly personal watercraft on the market. The LX just makes sure you’re jamming … in more ways than one.
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