FIRST RIDE: 2020 KAWASAKI TERYX KRX 1000

It looks like a winner By the staff of Dirt Wheels

Kawasaki has a rich tradition of building ultra-high-performance motorcycles. Conversely, despite the longest UTV history of any Japanese manufacturer, Kawasaki has not been on the cutting edge of UTV performance. Sure, the original Teryx was a genuine sporting unit when it was first introduced, but as the years passed, it slipped farther below the performance pinnacle. Now there is the 2020 Kawasaki Teryx KRX 1000—a true, modern performance UTV. It checks all the important boxes—high-performance, 999cc, parallel-twin, 68-inch track width; a robust frame and suspension arms; and ample suspension travel.

HOW IT WAS BUILT

Kawasaki started with an all-new chassis. The frame tubes have thicker walls at high stress points like engine mounts and suspension mounts. It has a relatively long 98.8-inch wheelbase. That is 13 inches longer than the Teryx 800, but a few inches shorter than a Can-Am X3. All four wheels extend past the body to allow 90-degree approach and departure angles. The cage is a stressed member that contributes to the rigidity of the chassis.

Kawasaki didn’t attempt to reinvent UTV suspension. It has a four-link rear suspension with arched trailing arms and double A-arms in front. They are good for 18.6 inches of front travel and 21.1 inches of rear travel. Fox Podium LSC shocks have spring preload and 24-position compression-damping adjustability. The shock bodies have a stainless steel sleeve to prevent the springs from wearing on them. Both ends have sway bars as well.

The Teryx KRX 1000 transmission has amazingly effective engine braking. We didn’t have to touch the brake pedal on this technical descent.

MOTORVATION

Kawasaki’s Teryx 800 has a stellar reputation for reliability. We’ve talked with tour companies with Teryx 800s approaching 20,000 miles that still run very well. Even though the Teryx KRX has a larger and more powerful engine, Kawasaki is determined to make it as tough and reliable as its smaller sibling. Before our driving session, Kawasaki had all the drivetrain parts on display, and they look robust. The top-end parts are the latest high-performance four-stroke technology similar to a Kawasaki KX450F motocrosser. It is fed by two 50mm throttle bodies.

For the rest of the drivetrain, Kawasaki has a large and heavy-duty CVT that works in conjunction with a centrifugal clutch. The sheaves never open up and just allow the belt to slip freely. The sides of the CVT belt are always engaged, so there is none of the heat that occurs when using the CVT to slip the belt to get going. Instead, the centrifugal clutch allows smooth take-off. The clutch’s inner hub has six shoes faced with friction material. The shoes move outward with rpm and engage the clutch drum. The engine’s power is delivered to the transmission. It has internal gears that provide forward high, forward low, neutral and reverse. Those gears and the gear case look plenty beefy. There is no park in the transmission. Kawasaki feels it is safer and better for transmission life to use a handbrake. The system worked perfectly.

We like this interior. The seats are comfortable and supportive. Note that the doors are finished inside, and there are five cup holders.

LIVING ROOM

You will immediately see that Kawasaki invested a lot of energy refining the KRX interior. The most obvious evidence are the doors that have finished inner sides with built-in arm rests. They are comfortable where they contact your body. Convenient inside and outside handles open the doors easily, and they close with a pleasant, automotive clunk. The doors are tall, and even drivers over 6 feet tall feel safely contained. We know better than to rest an arm atop the door, but even tall people would find that difficult due to the height and shape of the door top. Both the driver and the passenger seats have 6 inches of fore and aft adjustability, and the car is roomy for drivers over 6 feet tall. The seats are firm but comfortable, and more upright than a Can-Am, so more like a Polaris or Honda Talon. For a two-seat machine, it is generously equipped with five cup holders.

This digital display is very handy and easy to read. Note that there is a CVT temp bar gauge under the tach and gear indicator. Nice touch.

To enter the KRX you must pass by a side-protection bar like a Yamaha YXZ, though it isn’t as prominent as the Yamaha, and it is easy to enter and exit. There is a large dash display with all the information we have come to expect, but with the addition of a welcome CVT temp bar graph. Kawasaki claims that they never broke a single belt during testing! Our test was in extremely hot conditions with a lot of full throttle running mixed with slow crawling. We never saw even one bar on the temp scale!

Two other controls are somewhat unique for a sport machine: differential lock for the front and a low-power switch. We were happy for diff-lock, but who wants less power? It turned out that we do. Who would have thought? Shortly into the loop there was a climb up boulders followed by a descent through a longer boulder section. On the first lap we stayed with normal power, but the car bounced and hopped as we struggled with smooth throttle inputs. Later in the loop we climbed a super-steep boulder hill, and it was suggested that we select low range, diff-lock and low power. The hill was so steep, we thought for sure that we’d want full power, but throttle control was greatly increased, and there was ample power for the steep climb. The several boulder climbs were followed by steep boulder descents. We tried using the brakes, but soon found that allowing the engine braking to do the job was smoother and better controlled.

The cylinder head has all of the features of a modern high-performance four-stroke. The ports are so smooth, they look like they are modified.

QUICK DRIVE

We’ve been anxiously waiting our turn behind the wheel of the Teryx KRX 1000. Kawasaki produced a remarkable desert test course for our drive. Thankfully, it wasn’t a fluffy, kiddy track, but one with fast, smooth sections where we almost found the governed top speed of 68 mph (indicated). A variety of stunning steep and rocky climbs and descents were added to the real terrain. There were a number of tight, twisty areas, and some were in canyons that forced the KRX into narrow confines.

As you can see, there isn’t much that will punish the undercarriage with a skid plate like this one. There is plenty of clearance, though.

RUNNING TIME

We got several hours in the KRX 1000, though most of that time was in quick spurts of speed between bottlenecks where cars were bunched up for the extreme technical sections. The suspension definitely works well. The ride is smooth, with little of the terrain making it inside the cab to punish the passengers. It handled whoops and sudden drops well. The same with the engineered boulder sections.

Kawasaki went big on the CVT. It is heavy duty, and it works very well on the trail.

Visibility out of the car on drops is a little tough with the high doors but not bad. Even with hours in the car in the heat, it remained comfortable. Our ride experience was trail-oriented, and for trail driving and exploring, the Kawasaki will be amazing, and we look forward for the chance to have less formulated driving experiences.

This centrifugal clutch works very well in conjunction with the CVT. It is claimed to make life easier for the CVT belt.

The turns on our course were tight and were soon deeply rutted, so it was difficult to accurately rate the turning. It doesn’t feel like you just flick it into a turn like a Can-Am X3 or a Yamaha YXZ, but it feels plenty nimble. The steering box does require more revolutions to turn than some machines.

The rear suspension works well. The brakes are designed to engage the fronts a bit before the rears kick in. The CVT case is easy to remove.

Engine performance felt good, though rating it will take comparing it to other normally aspirated machines. As we perused the KRX, we were continually impressed with the size and strength of every part we saw. This is a robust machine. That shows in the claimed curb weight of just under 1,900 pounds. A Polaris XP 1000 is under 1,450, and the Honda Talon is around 1,500 pounds. We have confidence that this will be a solid and reliable machine, and we can’t wait to get one of our own for further testing. We are scheduled for further, more extensive testing, so stay tuned.

Kawasaki built a machine with an ultra-comfortable cab. The steering takes some turns for tight turns, but the KRX handles well.

KAWASAKI TERYX KRX 1000

Engine 999cc 4-valve, 4-stroke twin

Bore x stroke 95mm x 75.1mm

Fuel system DFI with two 50mm ETV throttle bodies

Fuel capacity 10.6 gal.

Starting system Electric

Final drive Shaft

Suspension/wheel travel:

Front Double wishbone w/ Fox 2.5 Podium LSC shocks with adjustable preload and 24-way compression damping/18.6 in.

Rear 4-link trailing-arm, Fox 2.5 Podium LSC shocks with adjustable preload and 24-way compression damping/21.1”

Tires:

 Front 31×10 –15 Maxxis Carnivore

 Rear 31×10 –15 Maxxis Carnivore

Brakes:

Front Dual hydraulic disc w/2-piston calipers

Rear Hydraulic disc w/ 1-piston calipers

Length/width/height 130.4”/68.1”/75.0”

Wheelbase 98.8”.

Ground clearance 14.4”

Cargo capacity 351 lb.

Towing capacity N/A 

Curb weight 1896.3 lb. (1898.5 lb. California)

Color Lime Green/Metallic Onyx Black, Metallic Moondust White/Metallic Onyx Black

MSRP $20,499

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