Mules come in various shapes and sizes. There’s the animal variety, a trusty sure-footed animal on the farm with strong muscles and a body shaped like a horse. Then there’s the motorized version, a utilitarian UTV, very maneuverable, built with impressive payload capabilities by Kawasaki. Electric power steering isn’t available on the animal variety unfortunately, so we’ll go into more detail on Kawasaki’s latest Mule, the Pro-FXT with EPS (electronic power steering).
Unique to the Mule is a new Trans Cab, with comfortable seating for up to six people. Three people can still sit when the rear bench is folded forward to create an extended bed with a 1,000-pound payload. In Trans Cab mode, the bed fully extends 20 inches with no tools required. The transformation can be done by one person in less than a minute. Try this maneuver on the other kind of mule and you might just get kicked.
A powerful 812cc, three-cylinder, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected engine moves the Mule fully laden without a fuss. With a class leading 48 lb-ft of torque on tap, the Mule has enough low-end grunt to feel light on its feet for a UTV weighing nearly 1,900 pounds. The Mule has a 92.3-inch wheelbase and offers a tight 16-foot turning radius.
The continuously variable transmission (CVT) spreads the supplied grunt across the entire torque band, distributing smooth and predictable power delivery from tip-in to floorboard. There’s a slight lag at initial throttle tip-in due to the CVT engagement, but after that it’s full steam ahead. Even while ascending steep jeep trails in 4WD low range, the Mule effortlessly walked up the side of a washed-out trail section without a hint of tire slip.
On our stint behind the wheel over hill and dale on a private ranch in central California, we rarely had to engage the transmission into 4WD or click the axle locker button, except for nearly vertical climbs. Toggle switches make shifting from 2WD to 4WD effortless. We never bottomed out the Mule either, with its impressive 10.2 inches of ground clearance and 8.5 inches of wheel travel soaking up the bumps. Dual-piston front and single-piston rear hydraulic disc brakes bring this pony—er, Mule—to a stop in a safe and predictable manner.
Last but not least, the Mule has two convenient 12-volt outlets and a 75-amp alternator, offering up 120 watts of auxiliary power so that you can power all of your electronic accessories while working in the back forty. So, go out and load up five of your closest friends and a bed full of gear, and head for the hills in the 2015 Kawasaki Mule Pro-FXT. And please give your trusty mule Wilfred the day off!