Review: 2014 Kawasaki Teryx4 LE

Jun. 04, 2014 By Josh Burns, Photos by Art Eugenio/GETSOMEphoto.com and Kawasaki
We put the updated 2014 Teryx4 through it paces in Southern California's Johnson Valley.

Its amazing when you consider the leaps and bounds that modern side-by-sides have made in the last decade or so. Originally born as a utility vehicle, or UTV, some side-by-sides still offer some level of utility but have many have evolved into performance-minded machines. They have surpassed ATVs in overall sales (and arguably, popularity), and theyve become one of the most desired off-road vehicles because they are readily equipped to tackle serious off-road terrain right out of the box.

One aspect to the increase in side-by-side popularity has to do with the fact that it can accommodate more than one person, whereas most ATVs, and obviously dirt bikes, wont accommodate two riders (though there are a few exceptions). Side-by-sides changed that notion that not everyone had to have their own vehicle to have a good time, and the advent of four-person side-by-sides only further push this point.

The 2014 Teryx4 is available in two new colors: Lime Green (shown) and Burnt Orange.

When we sat behind the wheel of Kawasakis updated 2014 Teryx4, we expected the four-person side-by-side to be fun to drive but slightly tame. A four-person side-by-side cant be sporty and playful, can it?  The answer was a resounding yes, and we spent a number of days driving the Teryx4 in the Southern California desert to make sure we had a good feel for the vehicle.

For 2014, Kawasaki made some notable changes to the Teryx4. Off the top, the previous 749cc motor powering the vehicle was updated in 2014 to 783cc, increasing its horsepower output by 8 percent and its torque by 10 percent. The ways in which Kawasaki accomplished this increase include a new piston design and an bump in compression ratio from 9.3:1 to 10.7:1. Kawasaki also redesigned the intake snorkel on the airbox to increase more airflow to the motor. The cam profiles were also tweaked to help improve power to the rear wheels of the Teryx4. Kawasaki says is also made adjustments to the CVT clutch to improve the feel for drivers as well as improve braking.

Fox Podium shocks with a piggyback reservoir help provide improved off-road performance on the 2014 Teryx4.

Other major changes found on the 2014 Teryx4 include new Fox Podium shocks that are equipped on all four corners of the side-by-side. Although suspension travel does not change from years past at 8.0 inches in the front and 8.3 inches in the rear, the piggyback Fox shocks are designed to improve the ride quality in rough terrain, while its increased oil capacity helps to prevent shock fade when tackling the serious rough stuff at speed. The new Fox Podium shocks also feature adjustable preload and 24-way compression damping via a compressor clicker found on the reservoir.

New bucket seats are featured in the new Teryx4, and new stadium-style seating in the rear gives backseat passengers a better view (which is not a license to be more of a backseat driver!).

Aside from the fact that the Teryx4 will be offered in new colors Lime green and Burnt Orange for 2014, Kawasaki also worked to help drivers see the terrain better at night or in low-light conditions via new LED headlamps that are designed to improve visibility while using less power. The cab also includes new three-tone high-backed bucket seats for added comfort.

New LED headlights provide improved visibility for nighttime or low-light riding.

Returning to the 2014 Teryx4 is a double-X frame chassis that features boxed sections with cross members designed to provide added stiffness and strength. The electronically powered steering (EPS) system reduces the amount of steering effort needed from the driver, which Kawasaki says is beneficial most in low-speed maneuvering (note: Kawi got rid of the non-EPS vehicle for 14). The Teryx4 also features selectable 2WD or 4WD, with the option of selecting the 4WD differential lock for the front for added traction.

The Teryx4 may be designed for play, but it still can work with a 1,300-pound tow rating and a 249-pound cargo capacity in the bed.

Although its designed more for play and less for work, the Teryx4 still provides an 18 x 48-inch cargo bed that features a 250-pound capacity and standard cargo hooks. The Teryx4 also features a 7.9-gallon fuel tank for long-range travel, and Kawasaki says that in spite of its wide track and 26-inch Maxxis tires, the Teryx4 is still compact enough to fit in most full-size pickup trucks.

Even with three or four full-sized adults, the Teryx4 is still impressive in terms of power and turning prowess.

Getting Dirty
We spent a good amount of time in the dirt with the new Teryx4, pounding it through the desert terrain of Johnson Valley in Southern California. The area, which is home to the popular King of the Hammers race, offers up a wide variety of terrain that includes everything from rocky slopes to sandy washes, and pretty much everything in between.

In many ways, the Teryx4 is an ideal vehicle for such a wide-ranging desert playground. Significantly lighter than a Jeep or truck but just as capable in many ways, the Teryx4 took us up steep, sandy slopes with plenty of ease. It confidently powered through whooped-out trails with no signs of bottoming out or losing its straight-line tracking. What may be most impressive is how spritely it handles for a four-person side-by-side even with a full load of passengers.

The updated motor provides plenty of pep for steep sandy hill climbs, and the instant acceleration of the vehicle on open lakebeds make it no slouch in friendly drag races. Its been some time since we have been on the previous incarnation of the Teryx so its hard to say how big the improvements are on the updated motor, but everyone in our group noted their appreciation of the low-end torque and acceleration of the Teryx during our trip.

Overall we were impressed with the Teryx4's layout and interior, though we would like different placement of the front seat passenger hand hold on the door-side and a better latch for the glove box.

The new Fox shocks make the Teryx4 competent in the long, windy whooped roads that run all through Johnson Valley. The remote-reservoir Fox shocks make a huge difference in terms reducing shock fade in these instances. Although the shocks can be fine tuned for different terrain, we left the stock settings for our trip and were very pleased with their performance. Maybe with even more time on the machine wed tinker with the suspension, but the stock setting handled everything we threw at it just fine. And in spite of the additional two seats on the Teryx4 it has a nearly identical wheelbase to its two-seated brethren the Teryx (85.7 on the Teryx4 vs. 85.8 on the Teryx), which might help explains its great handling and turning ability. The Teryx4 is sport-minded overall, and we didnt notice a major sacrifice in playfulness of the larger vehicle compared to conventional two-seat models.

The layout of the Teryx4s interior is comfortable and functional, and its definitely something that could comfortably accommodate the family or a group full-sized adults. The front seats are adjustable to three positions (each spaced out in 1-inch increments), which is nice if you have drivers of varying height hopping behind the wheel throughout the day. We comfortably fit four adults in the machine, and even with roughly 750 pounds of rider weight, the Teryx4 still was fun to drive. The stadium-style rear seats also provide passengers with a better view of the action ahead.

Handholds are found throughout the cabin for all passengers, and while we appreciate the front-seat passenger handle next to the center console, wed prefer to also have something to hold onto on the door side as well the high-mounted handhold on the roll bar was not to our liking. While its a minor gripe, we would also prefer there was a knob or something that secured the glove box door in place, as opposed to just slamming it shut and not always being clear if it closed properly.

The Teryx4 offers enough ground clearance to tackle moderate rock obstacles.

While the low-end torque of the updated Teryx4 motor received high marks in our book, as did the suspension, we were not impressed with the brakes, which we felt didnt provide the stopping power we would expect from a sport-minded machine. Yet overall, we came away impressed with all that the Teryx4 has to offer. Its a great machine that can serve as an adventure vehicle for the family or a group of friends. With a base MSRP of $16,999, the 2014 Teryx4 LE is not what wed consider a bargain; yet its performance and overall capability make it a worthy consideration for the off-road enthusiast looking for a vehicle that can do a little bit of everything. Besides, with room for four, fitting a large group in one vehicle on the trail is priceless for some.

Key Stats - 2014 Kawasaki Teryx4 LE
Engine: Liquid-cooled, 90-degree, four-stroke V-twin
Displacement: 783cc
Bore & Stroke: 85 x 69mm
Compression: 10.7:1
Fuel System: DFI with two 36mm Mikuni throttle bodies
Transmission: Belt-driven CVT
Front Suspension: Dual A-arm w/Fox Podium piggyback reservoir coilover shocks with adjustable spring preload and 24-way compression, 8.0 inches of travel
Rear Suspension: IRS w/Fox Podium piggyback reservoir coilover shocks with adjustable spring preload and 24-way compression, 8.3 inches of travel
Tires: Maxxis 26x9-12 (front), 26x11-12 (rear)
Overall Length: 124.8 in.
Overall Width: 61.1 in.
Overall Height: 79.4 in.
Wheelbase: 85.7 in.
Ground Clearance: 11.1 in.
Cargo Bed Capacity: 249 lbs.
Towing Capacity: 1,300 lbs.
Curb Weight: 1580.3 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 7.9 gal.
Base MSRP: $16,999
Warranty: Kawasaki Strong 3-year Limited Warranty

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