Tested: The 2016 Kawasaki Mule Pro FX

The Mule was the first modern UTV, or side-by-side. Known as the “workhorse” of the UTV world, there are Mules performing tasks all over the world, and with good reason.

by Derrek Sigler


With power to spare, stand-out cargo capacity and respected pedigree, this Mule was made for hunting. 

Kawasaki’s Mule brand has been around a while. While technically not the first UTV (John Deere’s Gator holds that distinction) the Mule was the first modern UTV, or side-by-side. Known as the “workhorse” of the UTV world, there are Mules performing tasks all over the world, and with good reason. They are capable and extremely dependable. In fact, Kawasaki has one of the very first Mules still at work at its factory in Lincoln, Nebraska. That machine has logged over one-million hours of operating time and it’s still going strong. An original Mule helping to build new Mules—very cool.

The Mule’s downfall has always been off-road capability. Don’t get me wrong; they can be used in off-road situations, but there were always machines that did the job better. Kawasaki addressed that with the Mule Pro FXT last year, a beast of a machine with six-passenger capacity, towing, cargo, engine, and suspension enough to get the job done. But what if you wanted something a little different? Enter the Mule Pro FX. The FX is the same basic Mule as the Pro FXT, without the addition of the second row of seating. But it’s more than just a sized-down FXT. This new machine is much more.

The engine of the Pro FX is the same 812cc three-cylinder, automotive-style power plant of the FXT, with some year-over-year refinements. This is a good thing. The engine pumps out plenty of horsepower (although Kawasaki is pretty tight-lipped with a number); there’s plenty on tap for just about any job you can come up with. The engine has a throaty rumble, but is still very quiet compared to other machines. Getting the power to the ground is Kawasaki’s CVT transmission. Each manufacturer has its own version of a CVT (belt-driven automatic transmission). With some, you can noticeably feel the engine take the tension up in the belt, and there is a delay when you engage the engine. In other words, there’s a lag when you give it gas. The Mule’s engine and transmission don’t do that. You give it gas—it goes. But there is noticeably little wheel spin. You hook up and go.

kawasaki-mule-600-1The Kawasaki Mule Pro FX is available in Realtree Xtra Green camo, and in a Hunter’s Package that includes many popular accessories.

Along with the impressive engine, comes engine braking. For an outdoors person, engine braking is a very important feature. It is basically where the torque of the engine slows the wheel speed down when descending a hill. On machines where it’s done right, you can travel down a fairly steep hill, and never have to “hammer” the brakes. It is a really nice control feature. Imagine trying to haul your deer camp supplies back into the deepest parts of the forest. You’re going to want all the control you can get. A machine with good engine braking will help. The Mule Pro FX has outstanding engine braking, even under load. And with a machine that has this much cargo capacity, that says a lot.

Oh, you want to know about the cargo capacity?  How would you feel about a cargo bed that is over 54 inches long and over 53 inches wide? Would the fact that it has a 1,000-pound capacity make it just that much better? And would you appreciate the gas-assisted dump? You can even get hydraulic dump assist too, if you like. In a word, the massive cargo bed of the Mule Pro FX is awesome. You can haul all of your hunting/camping gear and still have room to pack out your game. And then there are the smart details. The sides of the box have rails for tying things down. Also, there are numerous slots built into the sides for dividers, and the flow of the box is metal for durability.

In a word, the massive cargo bed of the Mule Pro FX is awesome. You can haul all of your hunting/camping gear and still have room to pack out your game.

The Mule Pro FX has 8.7 inches of wheel travel in the suspension. And we found the shocks work very well to give you a soft, cushiony ride. At slower speeds, the ride is excellent. If you’re trying to “hot-rod” it over rough terrain, the ride is too soft, and you can get thrown around some. But seriously, if you’re into riding too fast over rough terrain, you’re going to want to look at a different style of UTV. The Mule is more for those who are into the job—not the ride to the job.

Other interesting tidbits include the 2-inch receiver hitch that lets the Mule tow a full 2,000 pounds. The receiver is kind of a gripe for me about Kawasaki. They always seem to position the hitch pin hole a little too far back for some hitches. Also, I’ve had to run an extension bar to use my GroundHawg Maxx plow. Not a big deal, but if I had to complain about something …

kawasaki-mule-600-3Handling characteristics of the Mule are very good considering that it isn’t a small machine. Steering is predictable, and the suspension soaks up rough-trail abuse.

On another positive note, the lighting system on the LE and camo models is awesome. You get standard halogen headlights, plus a set of LEDs, both with high/low beams. There’s a host of accessories too, including a Hunter’s package that adds a lot of neat stuff. And, one other big thing: the Kawasaki Strong three-year warranty. It always says a lot to me when a manufacturer puts a decent warranty on their product. I’ve toured the plant in Lincoln, NE, where Kawasaki builds the Mule as well as its other ATVs and UTVs. When this company says “Kawasaki Strong,” you’d better believe it means it.

So is the Mule Pro FX the ultimate hunting machine? With a massive cargo bed and capacity, a smooth ride that inspires confidence in the driver, coupled with the brand’s legendary reliability, it might just be. Whether you’re looking for a machine to work around the ranch, or haul all your gear as well as work on food plots or other habitat projects, you should definitely look into owning the newest Mule.



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