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Kawasaki’s Ultra 310X SE barrels into 2016 riding high on the same features that made it stand out last year – handling, power, rider-friendly amenities, and a touch of extras to make it stand out from the crowd.
First Things First
Clearly the Ultra’s similarities are many, so let’s start with what makes the Jet Ski SE model different.
Coloration is most obvious. In a sea of Kawasaki’s familiar lime green, the SE is the lone model to go its own way, featuring an ebony hull and deck with orange – specifically a hot-rod inspired Candy Burnt Orange – on the hood, dash, and seat. The color is also carried as an accent in the rub rail inset encircling the craft.
The seat also reveals subtle differences. Most notably, it slims in the midsection to allow riders to grasp it more effectively with their thighs. Getting the legs in on the action enables a rider to use these stronger lower body muscles to hold on during tight, aggressive turns rather than struggle using the weaker upper body. The hourglass profile will also help shorter riders, as it won’t force the legs so uncomfortably wide. A comfortable bolster provides support for the butt and lower back, helping to lock the driver in place. A continual rise as you head aft positions each passenger slightly above the last for a more enjoyable ride. The seat’s lack of additional, pronounced bolsters is designed so that aggressive riders can more easily move their body around in the saddle.
Back To Business
Beyond the SE subtlety, however, it’s business as usual. That means the SE shares the same Ultra hull spread across the line. Its deep 22.5-degree deadrise makes it a standout in rough water, cleaving through waves and chop without hesitation or even once getting kicked off its course. En route it’s also exceptionally stable and predictable, making the Ultras a match for both those who demand exceptional offshore performance and those who just happen to have an ocean as their normal cruising grounds.
But though rough water will always be one of the Ultra’s greatest strengths, it’s no slouch once things calm down. In fact, the addition of electric trim has almost given the boat a welcome split personality. Barrel into a flat water turn, drop the bow, and the boat carves through with the precision and agility of a nimble two-seater. Raise the bow when you want to make that top speed run and the hull gets up and out of the water to take off. The trim switch is located on the left handle grip. One small drawback is that it doesn’t offer preset positions; you’ll have to take your eyes off the water ever so briefly to check the nozzle position.
The Ultra 310X SE’s other strong suit is power. The 1,498cc inline four-cylinder under the seat certainly delivers plenty of it. It comes on with the whirr of a passenger jet, gulping in excess cooled air through its Eaton Twin Vortices supercharger and sizable intercooler and putting the resulting power to the water through a 160mm jet pump. Squeeze the throttle and produce 201 pounds of torque; more than enough to challenge all comers in a friendly drag race as well as tow nearly any friend or relative on their choice of water toy. Acceleration is brutally strong. Top speed is limited to close to the 67 mph mark in ideal conditions.
The Bases Are Covered
As to extras, Kawasaki may not go to the lengths of its competitors, but what you get is both usable and important. Start with cruise control and no-wake mode, both of which can lock in a set speed and then hold it so that the driver doesn’t have to continually adjust the throttle. An eco-minded, fuel economy mode is also available to run most efficiently. All rely on electronic throttle to make the magic happen.
Reverse? It’s still the more basic, mechanical variant that PWC have used for years. Though Sea-Doo and Yamaha have jumped on the electronic reverse/braking bandwagon, Kawasaki for now continues to stick to the basics. Use the portside lever’s three positions to simulate forward, neutral and reverse. The ability eases operation around the dock, ramp, or crowded marina but it lacks the ease and additional control of its competitors.
Other features of note include five-position tilt steering, a full-featured information display, the brand’s now-familiar dual keys for preventing theft and activating a slower-speed mode, spring-loaded boarding step, and a generous 56-gallon storage capacity. Fuel is also generous at 20 gallons, although the supercharged engine is thirsty for it.
Certainly, its differences are subtle in many ways. Paint, at least technically, isn’t exactly a performance benefit. But a bold orange in a plethora of green certainly makes you feel fast, and is just what the doctor ordered for those who long to buck the status quo. A shapely saddle may not make the difference in a drag race, but it will enhance a rider’s abilities in the corners and enable them to push the limits more than they might elsewhere.
In short, the Ultra 310X SE offers a difference. The right buyer will recognize – and appreciate – it.
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