2016 Kawasaki Mule Pro-FX EPS First Drive

Aug. 10, 2015 By By Rick Sosebee, Photos Courtesy of Kawasaki
The new Kawasaki Mule Pro-FX is built on the same chassis as the Mule Pro FXT.

If itís work that you dream of when looking for a machine to add to the tool shed, Kawasaki has many vehicles to choose from. For the 2016 model year you will find not only updated versions of the very popular Mule Pro-FXT, but now Kawasaki has pulled the rear seats for a dedicated full-size bed that will haul up to 1000 pounds for its Pro-FX EPS.

For our first look at the Mule Pro-FX we were cruising into wine country around Paso Robles, California, to get a taste of the latest in Kawasaki development. The new Kawasaki Mule Pro-FX is built on the same chassis as the Mule Pro FXT and also carries the same triple-cylinder engine. The dual overhead cam, 812cc powerplant is geared for towing, featuring 48 lb.-ft. of torque to the wheels. The triple features electronic fuel injection and breathes through its 34mm throttle body. The Mule Pro-FX not only felt lighter but also a little more powerful, which we think is likely due to the lighter chassis weight, as it is approximately 134 pounds lighter while still featuring a 1000 pounds payload in the bed and pull up to 2000 pounds via the receiver hitch.

The Kawasaki Mule Pro-FX features a 1000-pound payload and a 2,000-pound tow capactiy.

The belt-driven CVT transmission transfers the power to the rear wheels and has natural hold back, which will assist on inclines as a type of engine braking. The dual mode rear differential allows the driver to have both rear wheels pulling when the path gets sloppy yet still allows a more delicate trip across sensitive terrain to prevent damage to the ground beneath the 26-inch tires.

Moving this kind of weight is impressive, but Kawasaki understands that you must also be able to control and stop at the same time so the 212mm dual disc and dual piston calipers take care of the front of the machine. Out back you will find dual single piston calipers on the same 212mm discs. During our test ride we felt when the machine was not loaded the brakes functioned really well, but it will be interesting to see just how well these brakes work with the bed full or while towing a load.

The interior of the new Mule Pro-FX EPS is very similar to the six-passenger version in the Pro-FXT minus the second row of seats. With its bench-style seat occupants can easily enter and exit from either side of the machine. Holding onto the steering wheel during operation was comfortable and accommodating thanks to the 40-degree adjustability of the tilt steering on the power-steering-equipped model. We were unsure why tilt steering was not available for non-EPS models, but perhaps it is related to an upgrade or optional add-on version of the Mule Pro-FX.

We were able to test drive the new Kawasaki Mule in the wine country of Central California in Paso Robles.

The tough, simple and strong mantra of the new Mule also plays out on the dash. The parking brake lever is located well within reach just to the left of the steering wheel, while the gear selector resides just to the right of the wheel. The digital dash is also very familiar looking and seems to have transcended through several models of Kawasaki machines. The very informative dash lets you know if you are in 2WD or 4WD as well as how much fuel is left in your 7.9-gallon fuel tank. It also provides vehicle speed and features trip meters, among other cool features. The floor in the cab of MULE PRO-FX is spacious and tiled for extra grip if the trail or job site gets muddy. The wide, perforated brake pedal also provides grip in wet or nasty conditions.

Storage for a working vehicle can be critical, so the Kawasaki Mule Pro-FX has large, in-dash storage and under-seat storage for stashing gear. The steel bedís also features a rack to separate the bed from the cabin to make sure big loads of gear or cargo donít get into the cab.

The new Mule is comfortable and easy to operate, but we wish the power delivery was a little more linear.

During our testing in the California Central Coast wine country town of Paso Robles, we were able to gather our first impression of the new Mule Pro-FX on the type of ranch roads and farmland where a workhorse UTV is right at home. It is of our humble opinion that the Kawasaki Mule fit in very well in this landscape, offering a comfortable ride and showing its chops as a natural worker. If we had a wish list for improvement on this machine it might include more bolstering on the seating to make you feel more planted on off-camber terrain, as well as a little snappier throttle response. The power delivery is very linear as well as effective, yet it seems to have reached its peak by half to three-quarter throttle, as there is very little reaction when pressed further.

One great feature worth a mention is the vehicleís ease of maintenance. If you are a ranch owner, a rural farmer or a mechanically sound consumer you will appreciate the roomy engine bay and access to the electronics, should something need maintenance or attention. Full fender wells also keep mud and debris from piling into tight places and taking up residence on your machine.  

The Mule Pro-FX EPS was able to stretch its legs just a bit, and the 10.4 inches of ground clearance gave us plenty of room to dodge rocks or roots along more treacherous areas of trail. The Electronic Power Steering (EPS) made it easy to direct the new Mule right where we needed it, and we can only imagine that a full day of work without power steering would be full of regrets. The fact that there is a three-year warranty backing this machine is also another item to consider. Kawasaki will also be releasing diesel models this December with the Mule Pro-DX and Mule Pro-DXT designations. We can only imagine how awesome those Mules will be when hitched to a plow!

Pricing for the new 2016 Mule Pro-FX starts at $11,999 for the base model, while the EPS model will feature an MSRP of $12,999. The EPS Camo model will be offered at $14,199, and the EPS LE model will have a price of $14,199.

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