First Drive: 2016 Kawasaki Mule PRO-FX

Updated Aug 30, 2016

2016 Kawasaki PRO-FX; a new work UTV fit for three

(Photo by Kevin Wing Photography)(Photo by Kevin Wing Photography)

Sliding a pallet of sod into the bed of a side-by-side and shutting the tailgate isn’t something you’re going to do everyday.

In fact, until the 2016 Kawasaki Mule PRO-FX rolled out this week, no other utility ATV had a bed big enough to handle pallet-sized load with the gate raised.

Then there’s the new Mule’s 1/2-ton payload rating to go along with the bed space. You can carry quite a few heavy items with that capability, from a water tank or pavers to a welder, tools and generator.

Add in 1-ton of towing capacity and you have a 4×4 UTV that becomes a true work rig around jobsites.

That’s the Mule PRO-FX. It’s a machine that can handle tasks that require mobility and utility in terrain and conditions not suited to traditional four-wheel-drive pickups and SUVs.

Kawasaki’s PRO-series Mule is a “full-size” side-by-side known for its rugged build and warranty, the latter three years compared to competitors that offer 12 months or less.

The Mule PRO-FXT is also known for its Transformer-like seating arrangement that allows the double-bench-seat configuration to be switched up in less than a minute to have single-row, three-across seating while extending the bed by almost a foot.

But for many UTV users, passenger ferrying ability isn’t a priority. Carrying cargo is.

So Kawasaki has rolled out the PRO-FX on the same platform. The difference: a single bench seat and a tilt bed longer and wider than any other in the side-by-side UTV market. The 54”Lx53W” bed has built-in cargo tie-down rails and a diamond-plated floor.

PRO-FX bed can handle a pallet with ease – even with the tailgate closed.PRO-FX bed can handle a pallet with ease – even with the tailgate closed.

Power comes from the same 812cc three-cylinder gas engine and CVT transmission as used in the FXT, the suspension is still four-wheel independent with 10.4 inches of ground clearance with 8.7 inches of suspension travel.

I spent the better part of a day driving a electric-power-steering (EPS) Mule PRO-FX over some 40 miles of ranch and fire roads on the sprawling 14,000-acre Santa Margarita Ranch in Paso Robles, California.

The suspension, seating, adjustable tilt-steering wheel and power steering did their job well making the drive over varying road conditions non-taxing on mind and body.

The downside: Bench seat is flat and slippery, and it’s positioned uncomfortably high above the floor making it a stretch to reach the throttle for those under six-foot.

I’m also not a fan of the Mule’s CVT “engine braking,” which I found almost non-existent when heading down steeper grades. Fortunately the PRO-FX has big four-wheel-disc brakes to aid in slowing the Mule on such grades.

The 1,800-pound machine utilizes electronic-selectable four-wheel-drive, with high/low-range and selectable locking rear differential as standard features. I only used low-range during one steep, silty, rocky section. The Mule climbed it with ease, as would the four-legged animal for which it’s named.

Gas engine is same 812cc 3-cylinder as used in current Mule PRO series.Gas engine is same 812cc 3-cylinder as used in current Mule PRO series.

The EFI engine is strong with a wide, low-rpm torque curve that moves the heavy machine along easily up to its top speed of 45mph. (The diesel version will be available in spring of 2016.)

Kawasaki’s 2016 Mule PRO-FX is, by all counts, a work package that’s simple to operate and very efficient in how it goes about its business.

It’s not going to beat the driver up during a long day in the seat. And with all the accessories that are available, it can be tailored to meet a wide range of work needs be they at a construction site, in the field, or around more urban settings.

The base price starts at $11,999 and tops out at $14,199 for the high-end LE EPS and Como models. Mule PRO-FXs should be arriving at dealers very soon.

2016 Mule rear suspensionFour-wheel IFS and 8.5" of travel give the Mule a decent off-road ride and good handling. Ground clearance is 10.4 inches.

2016 Mule PRO-FX bedPRO-FX bed is big and ready to accept numerous accessories to fit a variety of needs/applications.

Kawasaki Mule SwitchesSwitches are in easy reach of the driver and make it easy to change driving modes on the fly.

Mule PRO-FX CamoMule PRO-FX's are available in Realtree camo pattern.

Kawasaki PRO-FX console IMG_2489webPRO-FX options include a bluetooth stereo radio system and center storage console that also makes a nice armrest.

15Mule FX action WING0940Long wheelbase, wide-track and a pliant suspension with power steering make the Mule FX one of the best riding UTVs on the market.