THE NEW KAWASAKI RIDGE – WHAT IS IT?

Rumors have circulated that this is the new Kawasaki Ridge, but we believe this is an original concept drawing for the KRX 1000, which is due for a power upgrade.

Other media have suggested that the new UTV that Kawasaki has been teasing us with is a 300-plus horsepower competitor to the Can-Am Maverick R and Polaris RZR Pro R. We’ve now seen seven teaser videos, but ever since the first, the possibility of this being a sport machine never crossed our minds; No way this is a sport machine! We’re sure Team Green is up to something on the sport side-by-side front. Rumors abound about a super-charged KRX 1000, but the Ridge isn’t that.

In this first teaser, dropped weeks ago, we see the hood, which looks modern and sporty. We also caught the reflection off of the windshield and spotted windshield wipers. Our first impression was that the Ridge is competition for the new Polaris Xpedition, released earlier this year as an overlanding-style recreation vehicle for back-country camping and extended adventures. We’re still determining if it will catch on since overlanding vehicles are typically legal for on-road use. As conservative as Kawasaki and the rest of the Japanese power sports manufacturers tend to be, it puzzled us that they would react this early without first seeing how successful the Xpedition is with consumers.

Teaser number two threw everyone for a loop as the Ridge engine is a four-cylinder, as we can see four spark plug wires and sealed caps across the top. We saw many speculating it’s a RZR Pro R competitor, which also has a four-cylinder with 1,997cc displacement. Most assume Kawasaki will also double up on engine size. However, we highly doubt that Kawasaki will drift beyond the 999cc displacement standard. The engine appears to be an inline-4, which suggests that the goal was abundant torque.

A four-cylinder engine doesn’t necessarily mean bigger displacement. The NINJA ZXTM-10R seen here has an inline 4-cylinder with 998cc displacement, and Kawasaki makes other inline 4-cylinders that are even smaller.

Kawasaki makes plenty of 4-cylinder motorcycle engines with displacement below 999cc. The NINJA ZXTM-10R seen here has an inline 4-cylinder with 998cc displacement.

The windshield and wipers are confirmed, and the placement in a storm setting, along with the sound, suggests a fully enclosed cab is an option. It appears it will appeal to hunters, ranchers, farmers, and anyone who works outdoors, rain or shine.

In teaser video four, we see a flat-bottom steering wheel designed with an optimal gripping surface and what appears to be a premium stitch and sewn seat, similar to the ones in Kawasaki’s Mule Limited Edition Ranch models. But we need to find out if it’s a bench seat or individual bucket seats.

Teaser video five begins with a glance at the front shocks, which don’t appear to be of the sport variety. A shot of the rear shock would have been more telling for features like electronic valving and self-leveling capability. Tire choice shows aggressive meats for recreation and utility with plenty of sidewall bite and protection, and they’re mounted on premium aluminum wheels. The video transitions under the vehicle, where we spot a WARN Winch hook strap, utility-grade A-arm front suspension, front drive axles, and a lot of ground clearance. We’re guessing at least 15 inches between the floor and the skid plate compared to the tires from this angle.

Video number six – The Inline-4 engine is confirmed. We’re doubling down on our claims that hard-working engine torque was a priority for the Ridge. We also get to hear the engine running for the first time. It sounds strong, smooth, and is fairly quiet.

In this final teaser, we see that the Ridge is available with a fully enclosed cab, power windows, and air-conditioning/heat.

At this point, we will set aside our prediction of the Ridge being an overlanding competitor to the Polaris Xpedition, but that doesn’t mean the Ridge isn’t well suited for days of exploration and camping.

We think Kawasaki has its bullseye set on another Polaris model, the Ranger XD 1500. For some time now, Kawasaki has called its utility-focused Mule UTV the “bread and butter” of the Kawasaki product lineup, including motorcycles. Team Green sells a ton of Mules, which is why the Mule is available in so many different styles and configurations that began with heavy-duty utility and evolved to include recreational trail capability. This year, Kawasaki released the 2024 Kawasaki Mule Pro 1000 Series. You can read our review with this link. These are tough utility-focused UTVs built for heavy jobs with Kawasaki’s new 70-horse parallel twin cylinder. It comes in several trim levels, but none that include a standard enclosed cab or HVAC system. The Kawasaki Mule Pro 1000 can handle up to 999 pounds of cargo/material in its dump box and will tow up to 2,000 pounds.

Not wanting to be outdone on the extreme duty utility front, we believe Kawasaki is looking to one-up the all-new Polaris Ranger XD 1500 with the release of the Kawasaki Ridge.

Soon after, Polaris announced the all-new Ranger XD (Extreme Duty) 1500 with its 1,498cc triple-cylinder engine putting out 110 horsepower. The Ranger XD sports 15 inches of ground clearance, can handle 1,500 pounds in its dumping box, and will tow an astounding 3,500 pounds. It’s also available in the NorthStar Edition Ultimate with a fully enclosed cab, power windows, HVAC, and other features similar to those released in the Kawasaki teaser videos. Considering how much Kawasaki values its flagship Mule and how many ranchers, farmers, and contractors have counted on it for years, Team Green isn’t content being one-upped by Polaris.

We believe the new Ridge is Kawasaki’s answer to the Ranger XD 1500, and we’re confident it will impress. Right or wrong, we’ll be streaming the unveiling live on January 23, 2024.

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