UTV SHOOTOUT: Kawasaki Mule PRO-FXT vs. Polaris Ranger XP 900

If you are in the market for a high-quality UTV that needs to be just as capable doing everyday chores as it is fun on the trail, there’s a lot to choose from. You probably want a dump bed rather than a small cargo rack, and you probably want a multi-passenger machine rather than a single-seater. In this class of sport utility machines, there are a lot of choices from companies like John Deere, Yamaha and Honda. But, two machines we have been even more impressed with since their release are the Kawasaki Mule PRO-FXT and the Polaris Ranger XP 900.

If you look at the Polaris Ranger line, just in the 900cc class, you have lots of vehicles to choose from. There is a two-seater, three-seater, and five- and six-seater. They all have a similar motor, suspension, creature comforts and accessories. Basically, the wheelbase is what separates them. Furthermore, Polaris has diesel models, as well as two-, four- and six-seat 570cc Rangers too.

Kawasaki, on the other hand, tried something different with the PRO-FXT. They wanted to create a single do-it all machine that could carry up to six passengers if needed or let it transform into a three-occupant machine with full dump-bed capabilities. If you look deeper into the Mule line, you will find other two- and four-seat models with two smaller engine sizes. For this comparison, we are taking a look at the Deluxe Edition two-seat Polaris Ranger XP 900 at $17,099 and the top-of-the-line Kawasaki Mule PRO-FXT at $15,599. The standard Mule is only $13,999. Both models are equipped with power steering. The Deluxe Ranger gets equipped with a cool dash-mounted GPS unit, instrument panel and all-in-one diagnostic center. It’s the best OEM GPS unit we have seen on any ATV that’s integrated into the machine’s electrical system.

POWER UP
For the new Kawasaki, they actually used an engine we have seen before in another brand machine. It’s a three-cylinder, DOHC, liquid-cooled four-stroke produced by Cherry Automotive. Yes, it’s a little car engine listed at 47 horsepower. John Deere also uses this mill to power their Gator 825i. We like the way it runs, and it sounds much better in the PRO-FXT.

Polaris gave this Ranger 900, the one with the “XP” moniker, the same ProStar powerplant that is found in the RZR lineup, producing 68 horsepower. The six-seaters and the nonXP-labeled 900s use a slightly different 60-horsepower, 900cc engine. Both are dual-cylinder, dual-overhead-cam, liquid-cooled four-strokes. For getting the chores done or even hitting the trails, both engines in this contest have plenty of power. Even weighed down, we never struggled to get across mud or up hills. Thankfully, both machines have transmissions with high- and low-range settings. We definitely needed to use low range a bit more in the Mule, but it powers up and powered through things like an ox.

For bragging rights, we tested the acceleration and top speed of both machines. The Ranger takes the top-speed honors by 15 mph with a 62-mph reading. The Mule is no slouch, either, but it is electronically governed at 47 mph. Getting up to speed is no contest, either. The Ranger smokes the Mule off the line and powers all the way to top speed. But, these are not race machines, and no matter how hard you punch the throttle on the Mule, it takes off nice and smooth. We are confident the six-seat Ranger wouldn’t be quite so dominate. In this test, the Ranger used up a little more gas than the Mule. Both have a 120-mile range, but the Mule does it using about 2 gallons less gas.

SUSPENSION ACTION
When comparing utility-type machines meant for work and casual trail exploring, we don’t put them through the same abuse we do a high-performance sport machine. What we do test is how comfortable they are in slightly choppy terrain, how well they do on smooth gravel roads and how they act loaded.

If you look at the numbers, this Ranger has slightly more wheel travel, with 10 inches front and back compared to 8.7 on the Kawasaki. The Ranger Crew (six-seater) 900 also has 10 inches of travel at both ends. Each machine uses dual A-arms at all four corners. Cam-type preload adjusters are found on all shocks.

Like the Mule’s engine, its shocks are super smooth. It floats over the bumps and tracks perfectly straight. When empty with only one or two people on board, we leave the preload at its softest settings. However, when we load it up, cranking the preload to full tight helps keep the handling great. Even on bumpy trails, the Mule does not find its limits as quickly as you would expect for a 1900-pound machine. For comparison, the Ranger six-seater weighs about 1600 pounds. Ground clearance was about equal between the two test machines out on the trail. This is one of the areas the Ranger is not noticeably better than the Mule.

Suspension action is good, but handling is not perfect for the speeds the motor can take. The steering is a bit sloppy and traction is not great. On the good side, the two-seat Ranger turns about 3 feet narrower than the longer Mule, but you have to do a lot more hand-over-hand driving in the Ranger. The steering just isn’t as precise as it is in the Mule.

COCKPIT
Another thing we didn’t like about this Ranger is, on several occasions, our driver would hit his elbows on the center console or on the driver’s-side door when turning. Furthermore, we didn’t like the way the doors opened. The latch was hard to squeeze and didn’t open unless you squeezed it just right. The doors on the Mule were very light and super easy to get in and out of.

What we did like about the Ranger’s cockpit is how many storage opportunities there were. Two under-seat tubs, along with a glove box, just added to the shin-high pocket under the dash and were great for carrying smaller items. Both machines claim a 1000-pound cargo limit in the bed, but you better keep that load very slow and in as straight of a line as possible, as turning is affected for the worse on both machines.

Kawasaki’s Trans feature that turns this machine from a three-seat single bench into a six-seater is pretty cool. For the most part, we left it as a three-seater and utilized the bigger bed, but when needed, the back seat was set into place in under a minute, doubling our human cargo capacity. Furthermore, it keeps the machine’s overall size down to 133 inches. The six-seat Crew-edition Ranger is 15 inches longer at 148 inches. The Yamaha Viking six-seater is even longer at 153 inches.

CONCLUSION
With such an extensive lineup, you can likely find a multi-passenger Polaris Ranger to fit your exact needs and price range. They all work great, and the XP 900 version does it very quickly. It may not be better than the Mule everywhere, but it’s really good in most places. The Kawasaki Mule PRO-FXT works almost perfectly 100 percent of the time. It’s not as fast as the Ranger, but when we look at machines like this, speed is not a priority, and only you know if it is for you. If it had the amount of extra underseat storage and the useful dash like the Ranger, we would call it perfect. So, at the end of the day, we still hold these two machines at the top of our multi-passenger work/play vehicle list.

SPECS
KAWASAKI POLARIS
MULE PRO-FXT RANGER XP 900
Engine type………………DOHC, 3-cylinder,…………. DOHC, 2-cylinder,
liquid-cooled, 4-stroke liquid-cooled, 4-stroke
Transmission…………….Fully automatic CVT……… Fully automatic CVT
Displacement……………812cc………………………………. 875cc
Fuel system……………….EFI………………………………….. EFI
Fuel capacity…………… 7.9 gal…………………………….. 10 gal
Starting…………………….. Electric…………………………… electric
Final drive…………………4 wheel shaft…………………. 4 wheel shaft
Length/width/height… 133.3”/64”/79.5”……………….. 116.5” or 148.5” (6-seat)/61”/76”
Wheelbase……………….. 92.3”……………………………….. 81”, 113”(6-seat)
Ground clearance……. 10.2”……………………………….. 12”
Suspension/wheel travel:
Front………………………..Dual A-arms w/ 8.7”………. Dual a-arms w/ 10”
Rear………………………..Dual A-arms w/ 8.7”………. Dual A-arms w/ 10”
Brakes:
Front………………………..Dual hydraulic discs……… Dual hydraulic discs
Rear………………………..Hydraulic disc……………….. Hydraulic disc
Tires:
Front………………………..26×9-12……………………………. 25×10-12
Rear………………………..26×11-12………………………….. 25×11-12
Claimed weight……….. 1898 lb. (wet),…………………. 1420 lb., 1571 lb. (6-seat) (dry)
Cargo capacity………… 300 lb. (6-seat),……………….. 1000 lb.
1000 lb. (3-seat)
Colors………………………..Green, red, black, …………. Red, green, silver, white,
camo camo
Price (as tested)…………$15,599……………………………. $17,099

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