Kawasaki has finally tipped its 2012 hand, unveiling a new, mid-level Ultra LX model at the company’s October dealer meeting. A more eco-friendly, tamer version of the Ultra 300 models that debuted earlier this year, the Ultra LX utilizes the 300’s same engine, but foregoes the supercharger/intercooler combo to deliver greater fuel efficiency and keep costs in check. It does, however, use the 300’s revamped hull. Featuring a deep 22.5º deadrise, it’s a standout in ocean conditions and has a racing pedigree to boot. Improvements for 2012 include beefing up key areas for even more stiffness and durability in those tough conditions, while managing to also trim excess weight. The 2012 version of the hull is over 40 pounds lighter than its predecessor. Poke around under the rideplate, and you’ll also find a steering nozzle that has been shortened by 20 mm. The result is a quicker response to input at the handlebars, and an overall sportier feel.
Kawasaki is dubbing the boat an “all-around, go-everywhere” cruiser. Its 160 hp, 1,494 cc engine is relatively strong, even without the forced-air induction, and with its 155 mm nozzle resulting in 1,000 pounds of thrust, more than capable of hauling up skiers, wakeboarders or the kids in the family tube. That same low-end grunt will also make it appeal to those wannabe performance enthusiasts, who may be willing to gladly forego the pricey supercharger but still want to feel a punch out of a turn. It’s a tried-and-true powerplant, now made even cleaner emissions-wise thanks to adjustments to the engine’s ECU. It’s also more durable, with reinforced crankcases, strengthened connecting rod bolts and a more durable main journal and big-end inserts.
The LX pedigree continues with features aimed at both the legitimate touring and luxury markets. The former will appreciate the boat’s head-to-head advantages over similar models. Stowage capacity, at 60 gallons, dwarfs many other models, meaning riders can take all the necessary gear along for the ride. A class-leading 20-gallon fuel capacity also means they’ll have the necessary gas to power long-distance adventures. Other touring-oriented standouts that will also appeal to the luxury crowd include a tiered, bolstered saddle that offers good lower-back support for extended cruising. I’ve always appreciated Kawasaki’s soft bolsters; should a rider’s crew not fit perfectly into the allotted space, they’re gentle enough to be compressed below. Five-position tilt steering also allows the driver to fine-tune position, as well as pivot up into a more comfortable position for those who occasionally like to stand while riding.
Other improvements for 2012? They include a redesigned, pistol-grip reverse lever. Kawasaki has changed up the throw of the lever, resulting in a lighter, less clunky feel when moving the reverse bucket in and out of position. An easier-to-read LCD display also makes its debut for 2012, as does a speed sensor that promises to be far more accurate. The release lever on the forward storage hatch has also been modified for ease of use.
Still the same are familiar Ultra LX traits like splash-deflecting hull ridges, an off-throttle steering solution that increases thrust at the pump when it detects a hard turn of the bars in conjunction with the release of the throttle, and a speed-governing system that can be utilized when turning the craft over to those just learning.
Despite the obvious improvements, retail price for the Ultra LX increases only a fraction, up $100 for 2012 to $10,999.
Jeff Hemmel has been covering the personal watercraft industry for over 20 years and is a member of the International Jet Sports Boating Association Hall of Fame. His work appears in numerous titles, including Boating Magazine, Boats.com and PersonalWatercraft.com.