Initially introduced in June 2014, the completely redesigned Mule family has proved a reliable addition to the 3 to 6 passenger conversion models. Kawasaki recently released the three-person working class 2016 Mule Pro FX w/EPS for the farmer/ranch hand or backcountry hunter who needs a reliable machine in a somewhat smaller size.
Our turn to ride the newest member of the Kawasaki SXS family took place in Paso Robles, California. The terrain at the Santa Margarita Ranch wasn’t much of a challenge for the capable Mule Pro FX, but this region still delivered a clear message of just what the big Mule was designed for: hard work.
Just like the original Kawasaki Mule Pro FXT, the Mule Pro FX EPS has a powerful inline three-cylinder engine. This gas burner produces vast amounts of low-end to mid-range torque and is pleasantly responsive when more throttle is applied in that region. The 812cc fuel-injected engine is completely accessible to the mechanic who wants to work on his or her own machine. Simply checking the oil or even changing spark plugs is easily accomplished by lifting the cargo bed and getting to work. There is also an access panel on the right side to get to the air filter and battery. Kawasaki has already informed us that the Diesel engines will be fitted into the Mule as the Pro DX for the three-seat version and DXT 6-passenger models in December 2015. This is great news for riders who use primarily diesel.
The cargo capacity of the Mule Pro FX is 1000lbs in the steel bed and just like the 6-passenger version of this machine, the tow hitch will pull up to 2,000 lbs. In our eyes this is impressive amount of cargo and sheer weight to be hauling in a SXS. The steel bed not only looks tough, but Kawasaki claims a full-size pallet (40×48) will fit between the fenders. Another welcome feature is the multiple dividers built into the sides and forward sections of the bed. This is useful for keeping tools in place and for segmenting designated areas with boards for keeping any feed or seed buckets upright. The built-in headache rack on the front of the bed keeps the cargo in the bed when you need to stop quickly.
The cab of the Kawasaki Mule Pro FX is comfortable for long rides, and the slip-through design allowed us to get in or out on either side without hanging our feet on any intrusive flooring channels or consoles. The seat base and back support are flat and padded, which works well although a slightly bolstered seat to define and support each rider would be worth looking into.
Kawasaki has also included tilt steering on the Mule Pro FX so the adjustability from driver to driver is easily changed. Lighting comes in two forms on this new machine, including large 55 watt low-beam and 60 watt high-beam Halogen main lights, with a pair of smaller yet powerful LED combination auxiliary lights to make the trail a little brighter when the sun goes down. There’s also twin 12-volt power supply outlet in the cab that will deliver up to 10-amp or 120 watts each for any extra lighting or accessory that you may have.
Rough terrain doesn’t seem to phase the new Kawasaki Mule line and, with the steel tube chassis, it appears to be tough enough for many conditions. The engine noise in the cab is minimal, just like the larger Mule Pro FXT, and it’s really quiet inside with the cab system installed. The ability to carry a conversation or even sneak into your hunting spot when it comes to overall machine noise is important, and the Mule seems to have a handle on this.
The twenty-six inch DURO Frontier tires give this machine the ability to step over most obstacles in the trail and, with the 10.4 inches of ground clearance, we had no trouble negotiating rutted and washed out roadbeds in the higher elevations of the ranch. The front and rear suspensions travel at 8.7 inches. When speeding over unexpected roots or deep ruts, the chassis does well at absorbing the impacts. Getting this rig stopped is easy enough with the 212 mm hydraulic disc brakes.
Although we only spent one full day testing the Kawasaki Mule Pro FX EPS, that time behind the wheel allowed us to recognize how this rugged machine can be a useful tool for anyone. With a three-year limited warranty, Kawasaki stands behind your purchase in case anything goes wrong.
—Electronic Power Steering (as tested)
—Could use more bolstering in the seating
—Throttle input is slow to respond
2016 Kawasaki Mule Pro FX EPS CAMO **
**$14,199 Realtree Xtra (as tested)
Photos Courtesy of Kawasaki