2003 Kawasaki Prairie 360 Update


Aug. 01, 2002 By Pattie Waters
Let me save you reading 600 words to find out what we think – GREAT RIDE. For those of you that need more, here’s the low down:

We took the 2003 Prairie 360 out for an up-close "get to know you" session in Mesa National Forest in Colorado. (Yes, in the middle of their worst wild fire emergency in history. Luckily we seemed to be in one of the few areas that remained unaffected by fire and trail closures.) For six days, we averaged about 30 miles per day, over every terrain imaginable, including dust, mud and rocks. We tried it on steep ascents and descents, long cruises on winding gravel roads, deep rutted meadows, rocky crawls over dry streambeds, and deep-water crossings. Without exception, the Prairie was a capable, reliable machine. It responded to the daily climb from camp at 6,000 feet elevation to summits of more than 9,500 feet. The highly-modified 2WD sport models riding with us suffered power loss even at camp, and their plugs were so fouled by the end of the week, one wouldn’t even start. The Prairie never sputtered, with no re-jetting.

Front brakes - dual hydraulic discs; Rear brakes - sealed, oil-bathed, multi-disc. Feel free to get them wet!
Transmission - Automatic Power-Drive System (KAPS) with KEBC™ (Kawasaki Engine Brake Control) and high/low range, plus reverse

Loaded down with three peoples’ gear each day, the factory racks proved more than ample. With precious cargo of chairs, fishing equipment, rain gear and lunch, it was easy to find a balanced, secure place for everything.

The Prairie was a step-down in size (both physical frame and engine cc) from the utility quad we had just finished a long-term test on, so we expected a significant difference – there were many differences, but we were pleasantly surprised. The 362cc engine was a perfect match for the frame of the well-balanced Prairie. (Factory specs and details) Utility applications don’t generally call for quick starts and rapid acceleration (generally the opposite is preferred in work applications!), but the Prairie got up and moved out just fine – in fact, it proved quicker accelerating and held faster at top speed than the altitude-challenged 400cc sport quads.

Rack capacity front - 88 pounds; Rack capacity rear - 154 pounds. Load her up!
Fuel capacity - 3.5 gallons. Take it all the way to the end of the trail!

We rode probably half of each day in 2WD, and enjoyed the "sport" response and handling. When it was time to slow down and dig in, we relied on our favorite feature – the push-button, on the fly 4WD. Very easy to operate, even with a gloved thumb, it clearly indicates your current operating mode. If you find yourself losing traction on a hill climb, there is no need to lose momentum by stopping completely – you are able to engage the 4WD with a push of a large yellow toggle at your right thumb. Get one wheel in the air, and it is just as easy to lock in the front differential with a pull of a yellow lever at your right index finger. Both are placed well – we never found an instance where we hit either accidentally, or had to look down for them when we did need them. They are perfectly engineered in our opinion. Several other manufactures using push-button 4WD have missed the mark in button placement or design – we think Kawasaki got it just right.

Rear swingarm with single shock, with pre-load adjustment.
Travel - 6.7 inches front, 7.0 inches rear

A common handling complaint we’ve had with other 2WD/4WD utility models, is the steering in 4WD, or lack thereof. It’s often the case that when you engage 4WD, you struggle with a significant loss of steering, as it may then "push" through the corners. That was negligible on the Prairie 360, and again, a welcome surprise. We were able to maneuver through tight sections including steep uphills and downhills, without giving up the traction of 4WD. This makes a ride not only more enjoyable, it makes it safer.

Rear tires - AT25 x 10-12 tubeless
Front tires - AT25 x 8-12 tubeless

About the only thing we didn’t unanimously rave about was the gas tank. Whether it is that the tank is slightly wider, or that the seat is too narrow, where the two come together is awkward. I found myself sitting well back on the seat to give my knees a break, but that wasn’t practical often because it meant both arms had to be fully extended and my weight far back on the seat. This may be a personal preference or body-size issue, because other test-riders in our group did not note this as a concern.

Ground clearance - 7.6 inches
Electric start with recoil backup

Overall, we’d give the Kawasaki Prairie 360 high marks. It’s not a big lumbering workhorse, and we’re certain it will prove a solid choice for a variety of applications, entry level to advanced - besides, it provides one heck of a fun ride.

MSRP $5,499

Contact Information

Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A.
PO Box 25252
Santa Ana, CA 92799-5252
Phone: 1-949-460-5688

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