Kawasaki Unveils More Powerful, More Feature-Rich Ultras

While rumors of the brand's departure from the market were indeed off the mark, so too were the hints of something radically new for 2014. Instead, Kawasaki chose to once again build on its proven strengths, bringing back both the existing STX-15F and Ultra LX, and tweaking the rest of the Ultra line both in terms of horsepower and amenities.

Kawasaki chief marketing and sales officer Richard Beattie wasted no time in making the company’s intentions clear during the brand’s recent San Diego dealer meeting. “Ignore the rumors,” he said. “Kawasaki is committed to PWC.”

While rumors of the brand’s departure from the market were indeed off the mark, so too were the hints of something radically new for 2014. Instead, Kawasaki chose to once again build on its proven strengths, bringing back both the existing STX-15F and Ultra LX, and tweaking the rest of the Ultra line both in terms of horsepower and amenities.

Away from a product focus, the brand also offered hope to dealers saddled with existing inventory, unveiling off-season stocking and interest support programs.

As to the aforementioned new models, all will feature a refreshed version of Kawasaki’s 1,498cc supercharged engine. Given that Kawasaki already laid claim to the highest horsepower offering in the PWC market (and would likely keep that distinction, barring any last-minute surprise challenge from Sea-Doo), one journalist on hand joked that the brand’s minimal 300-to-310 horsepower increase is almost like “spiking the football.” That increase, however, was likely not so much a goal as it was the result of numerous tweaks to the Ultra engine, most of which was done in an effort to produce a more durable and reliable product. A vague explanation is that efforts were made to reduce friction. Specific improvements include a reshaping of the plastic intake manifold to a slimmer and longer profile in order to increase low-to-midrange power, a higher volume fuel pump to both increase power and increase fuel efficiency, and revisions to the fuel-economy mode that are said to significantly increase the engine’s range for long-distance touring.

As to changes that should enhance reliability, most notable is a new, cast piston design featuring a V-shaped groove on the second ring for more consistent oil retention at high loads. An additional oil jet has also been added per piston to increase piston cooling. To prevent oil from accumulating on one side of the pan during tight turns or abrupt acceleration, Kawasaki has added additional baffles in the oil pan. The crankcase itself also features larger return holes to allow for easier oil return to the pan. Remaining changes include thicker water jackets for better cooling, a check valve in the cooling system to prevent overcooling and a knock sensor to suppress abnormal combustion that triggers a warning on the instrument panel.

Four variations of the Ultra feature the new engine. The Ultra 310X receives a new impeller, improved instrumentation, upgraded mirrors and redesigned aft handrail. The Ultra 310 SE gets edgier graphics, along with a new, narrower seat — which won’t push riders’ thighs as wide in the mid-section — and redesigned, pistol-style grips. The Ultra 310R received race-inspired treatment with a slimmer and more aggressive seat, a motocross-style, electro-plated stainless steel handlebar with crossbar pad, and handlebar mounts that make up to 12 different height-and-reach combinations possible. Then there’s the newly envisioned Ultra 310 LX. In a rather surprising move for the company, the craft actually features an onboard audio system, with speakers mounted below the mirrors and a controller built into the handlebar pad. Mounted into the glove box are accommodations for an iPhone or iPad in a waterproof pouch; a similar waterproof option is offered for a USB memory stick. The LX also gets what Kawasaki is calling a “heat-resistant” seat cover. The craft’s price raised a few eyebrows, particularly in light of Beattie’s statements that Kawasaki would no longer be a “discounted” brand. At $17,999, it holds the distinction of being the highest-priced PWC currently on the market.


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