2023 KAWASAKI TERYX KRX 4 1000 eS SPECIAL EDITION
Taking on Big Bear in the Lap of Luxury
Looking back over the last 50 years, we really have become spoiled by the off-road vehicles we have today. In the early 1970s, our dirt bikes packed a whopping three to four inches of suspension travel, and if you escaped a Southern Utah rock climb in a stock Jeep CJ with minimal bruising, consider yourself lucky! But it was all great fun just the same.
Fast forward to today’s side-by-sides, and you can see just how far the off-road lifestyle has changed with features like comfortable seats for the entire family, long travel independent and tunable suspension, and interior luxuries you’d find on high-end sports cars. The major side-by-side manufacturers continue to try one-upping each other with high output audio systems, electronic suspension setups, and plenty of bolt-on bling; Competition is a wonderful thing!
For this ride, we’d be traveling from California’s lower Lucerne Valley, up the mountain toward Big Bear. The trail ahead would start out dusty, with plenty of elevation changes, sand washes, and mild rocky climbs. On top, the dust would give way to damp sand and snow. Fortunately for us, we’d be completing this ride in one of the most spacious and highly accessorized side-by-sides on the market today – the Kawasaki Teryx KRX 4 1000 eS Special Edition. As they say in the Midwest, we were loaded for bear.
SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
Upgrading from the Teryx KRX 4 1000 eS to the special edition model will run you an additional $1,500, but the package you get is a true bargain. To start with, the Hifonics AM/FM/Bluetooth 600-watt 5-channel audio system is the real deal. The sound quality is clear, even at speed. The entire system is waterproof, and includes a high-contrast LED display, 6.5-inch coaxial speakers in all doors and a 12-inch subwoofer behind the seats. Take it from this author, who’s spent more than his fair share of time stage front at Van Halen shows – half volume is plenty! Sound quality remains excellent, even at top speed with the wind howling through the cab.
You get a sport roof, which you’re going to want anyway whether riding in snow, rain or bright sunshine; The standard eS model doesn’t include a roof at all. But if you want to go topless, the roof is easily removed without the need for tools. The sport roof is also designed to accept up to six optional rear mounted LED dome lights, which our test model was equipped with.
A WARN VRX 45 Power Winch is also part of the package, and a great tool to have as the KRX is one of our favorite rock crawling rigs. The steel cable winch can handle up to 4,500 pounds and includes an illuminated switch on the dash with corded remote.
Finally, Metallic Flat Raw Graystone paint and special edition graphics complete the package with color-matched shock springs, A-arms and aluminum wheels.
THE DRIVELINE PERFORMER
With almost 77 pound-feet of torque, the KRX makes its power in the more usable low and mid ranges. It’s a fierce performer on the rocks and muddy inclines, but if your top side-by-side requirements include being first to the top of Glamis’ Competition Hill, the KRX won’t be your first choice. However, for the trail ahead of us on this day, we found the KRX well beyond capable.
The KRX mill packs a full 999 cubic centimeters between two parallel-twin cylinders. It’s not overly loud but still retains a meaty growl. The KRX includes two power modes, which can be toggled between – on the fly – with a center mounted dash switch. In Full Power mode, stab the gas and the tires dig in. Or you can ease on the throttle in Low Power mode, resulting in gentle precision at 80 percent power with milder throttle response. While we never needed it on this novice level trail ride, Low Power mode has a magical aspect to it that bears mentioning – it allows the KRX to climb ridiculous angles. We’ve tested it on the rocks of Moab in Southern Utah, and on the slick mountains of Tennessee’s Windrock Park, in 4WD and with differential lock engaged, and it defies our doubtful predictions every time. It’s evident that Kawasaki designed this side-by-side to excel in more technical terrain.
The CVT belt drive on the KRX is massive and has a very reliable record when it comes to belt longevity. If you’ve avoided CVT transmissions in the past because you detest CVT belt changes and maintenance, we suggest you give the KRX a second look. Shifting between forward and reverse gears out on the trail is always smooth without that annoying notchy feel.
TALL AND HANDSOME
While some side-by-side manufacturers skimp on tire quality to cut costs, Kawasaki goes big (literally) by making 31-inch Maxxis Carnivores standard equipment with a healthy 8-ply puncture resistant rating. Mounted on 15-inch wheels, the tires can be run at lower psi if desired to soften the blows. It’s a quality that we could feel when hammering through embedded boulders protruding out of the center of the trail. Averaging 14 inches in ground clearance, hanging up on rocks and peaks on the trail was never an issue. The slope of the front hood also gives the driver a good view of obstacles just ahead of the front tires.
The front double wishbone control arms and rear 4-link trailing-arm are designed to track straight, and we never noticed the KRX wandering side to side at speed. Up front, 18.6 inches of wheel travel conquered everything in our path, while 21.1 inches at the rear wheels keeps the ride plush and exciting for front and rear passengers.
One feature we did get to test extensively is Kawasaki’s Electronic Control Suspension (KECS), utilizing Fox Live Valve technology. The system’s computers make split second adjustments based on vehicle speed, gear selection, throttle position, steering angle and the terrain surface conditions, always adjusting to what lies ahead. But it’s not all up to the machine. The driver can select between three different suspension performance levels – soft, normal and firm. We were able to switch between suspension settings on the fly with a dial on the center of the dashboard.
The changes between each level are very evident over varying terrain. Soft Mode is designed for speeds under 20 mph, ideal for rock crawling and scouting wild game. Normal Mode is best for normal trail riding and navigating forest roads, and Firm Mode is perfect for dune riding, powering through deep whoop-de-doos, jumping and pretty much anything at speeds over 45 mph.
We tried out all three modes in different situations. For this casual trail ride, the firm setting was rarely needed as the trail was more tight, twisty and dusty, keeping speeds below 50mph. We spent most of the day in Normal Mode, which has the widest range of usability. The shocks provided a soft buffer when the tires struck embedded boulders in the trail, and body roll is held to a minimum when taking corners at speed.
STRETCH YOUR LEGS
The KRX 4 is long and tall with plenty of spacious comfort for both front and rear seat passengers. The seats, with two-tone stitched covers, wrap comfortably around the hips, legs and shoulders. Leg room is excellent for all day excursions. In fact, we see this as the perfect vehicle for exploring large trail systems, such as Utah’s Paiute Trail, over multiple days. There’s plenty of cargo space in the sport bed, and more room can be found behind the rear seats to stow items like jackets, small duffels, and tool wraps.
The dash is laid out perfectly with all gauges and indicators in plain view. The large and colorful LED screens are easy to read, even when in motion and riding in sunny conditions. The controls are all within arm’s reach. Finding frequently used switches, like the electronic suspension control knob and engine power modes, is easily done while keeping your eyes on the trail.
Full doors do a fine job of keeping trail debris and water, kicked up by the front tires, out of the interior space. There’s also a glove box and other cubby space for personal items. Our only complaint about the interior is one that you’ll find on just about every other major brand’s side-by-sides – annoying door rattle. It’s not as bad as some, but it would seem to be an easy fix for any machine with a price tag well north of $20k. To date, the Yamaha RMAX is the only side-by-side we can think of with a solid and quiet door latching system.
GOING THE DISTANCE
While it’s not the fastest side-by-side on the market, the KRX 4 1000 eS Special Edition checks every other box when it comes to premium features. Whether your interests are trail riding, sand duning, rock crawling, mudding, or just seeking new places to explore, the KRX 4 1000 eS Special Edition does it all in exquisite comfort for four. And while the jump in cost to the Special Edition trim isn’t exactly chump change, especially in today’s inflated market, it’s still a great value for features that add muscular styling, exceptional sound, and go everywhere functionality. Owning one is a decision that we doubt you’ll ever regret.
2023 KAWASAKI TERYX KRX 4 1000 eS SPECIAL EDITION
Engine… 4-stroke, DOHC, 8-valve parallel-twin, liquid cooled
Bore x Stroke… 92.0 x 75.1 mm
Compression Ratio… 11.5:1
Maximum Torque… 76.7 lb-ft @ 7000 rpm
Fuel System… DFI with two 50mm throttle bodies
Ignition… TCBI with electronic advance
Starting System… Electric
Transmission… Automatic CVT with centrifugal clutch (H,L,N,R)
Final Drive… Selectable 2WD/4WD with locking front differential, shaft
Engine Braking… Yes
Front Suspension / Wheel Travel… Double wishbone, FOX 2.5 Podium Live Valve Internal Bypass shocks with piggyback reservoir, fully adjustable preload, and KECS controlled compression damping/18.6 in.
Rear Suspension / Wheel Travel… 4-link trailing-arm rear suspension, FOX 2.5 Podium Live Valve Internal Bypass shocks with piggyback reservoir, fully adjustable preload, and KECS controlled compression damping/21.1 in.
Front Tires… Maxxis Carnivore 31 x 10.00R15 8PR
Rear Tires… Maxxis Carnivore 31 x 10.00R15 8PR
Steering… Electric Power Steering (EPS) / rack-and-pinion
Front Brakes… Dual hydraulic discs with two-piston calipers
Rear Brakes… Dual hydraulic discs with single-piston calipers
Ground Clearance… 14.4 in (max), 13.6 in (std)
Fuel Capacity… 10.6 gal
Turning Radius… 23.3 ft
Cargo Bed Dimensions (LxWxH)… 14.6 x 33.1 x 9.1 in.
Cargo Bed Capacity… 351 lbs.
Load Capacity… 1001 lbs.
Seating Capacity… 4
Towing Capacity… N/A
Lighting (2) LED headlights, (2) LED taillights, LED stoplight
Frame Ladder type, tubular steel
Overall Length… 157.3 in
Overall Width… 68.1 in
Overall Height… 79.3 in
Curb Weight… 2207.2 lbs (2209.4 lbs CA)
Wheelbase… 125.8 in
Instruments… Multi-function digital meter with high-grade full-color TFT LCD screen that offers three selectable display modes (Digital, Analogue, Simple) and can auto adjust screen brightness to suit available light. Display functions include speedometer, tachometer, fuel gauge, gear indicator (L, H, N, R), driving mode (2WD/4WD/4WD+Diff Lock), power mode (Full/Low), suspension mode (Soft/Normal/Firm), clock, CVT temperature, digital tachometer, odometer, dual trip meters, total time, trip time, average speed, water temperature, battery voltage, Bluetooth indicator, telephone call indicator, main indicator, economical riding indicator, maintenance reminder, neutral indicator, reverse indicator, headlight high-beam indicator, battery warning lamp, EPS warning lamp, CVT belt warning lamp, seatbelt warning lamp, parking indicator lamp, oil warning lamp, water temperature warning lamp, engine check lamp.
Wheel Type… Alloy wheels
Color Choices… Metallic Flat Raw Graystone
Warranty… 6 months / Kawasaki Protection Plus (optional) 12, 24, or 36 months