UTV TEST: 2017 KAWASAKI TERYX LE
— A nice ride with great features:
By the staff of Dirt Wheels —
The Kawasaki Teryx has been around for a while, but it remains a workhorse, an able hunting or camping companion or just plain fun on the trail. The Teryx is durable, long-lasting, and the LE model has the beautiful fit and finish of a modern automobile. Storage is ample and the cockpit is comfortable. The Kawasaki Teryx hasn’t gone through any major upgrades from 2016 to 2017, but it doesn’t really need big changes to serve its purpose or to be a well-made recreational UTV.
PLENTY OF POWER
Kawasaki chose a 783cc, liquid-cooled, four-stroke V-twin that is electronically fuel injected through two 36mm Mikuni throttle bodies to power the Teryx. This V-twin was a real powerhouse when it was introduced, and it remains a serious performer in this displacement category. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is mated to the engine. The capable 4×4 system has three settings: two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive and four-wheel drive with a front-lockable differential. For steep descents, the Kawasaki does have an effective engine braking system.
There is a selector switch on the dash to change modes with an indicator on the digital display. We like the fact that the Teryx employs a convenient gated gear shifter with high, low, neutral and reverse to choose from. There is no park mode in the transmission, but there is a parking brake lever that you should always utilize when parking the UTV.
If you plan to employ the Teryx for hard work, you picked one of the best reasons to own this machine. It can tow up to 1300 pounds thanks to a built-in rear 2-inch receiver. The cargo bed can hold up to 600 pounds, and the bed tilts as a dump feature. The tailgate is easy to open, but with two latches, it also shuts securely. The machine can support a maximum load of 1,109 pounds. Another plus is a generous 7.9-gallon fuel tank, and thanks to the Kawasaki’s smaller displacement, it is easy on gas consumption.
Abundant comfort greets you when you open the doors and sit down in the machine. The seats are soft and plush. They don’t grasp you like a sport machine’s seats will, but the Teryx is built for work and play, and getting in and out quickly and easily is as important as comfort. The steering wheel is designed with a rubber over-molding so it is comfortable in your hands, and it provides good grip when wet or dirty. Your passengers will appreciate the confidence-inspiring hand holds on the passenger side for safety and comfort. The controls are all easy to reach and operate.
There is a glovebox designed into the dash of the Kawasaki, but that isn’t the impressive part of the machine’s storage capacity. Behind the seats are two very large cargo bins that are watertight. There is a tray in between the cargo boxes that can hold a small cooler. The design team behind the Teryx had workers in mind when they designed the cockpit of this machine. Even the roll cage is ISO 3471 compliant.
THE SUSPENSION & STEERING
Kawasaki designed their Teryx LE with a humble suspension system. On one hand the suspension includes coil-over reservoir Fox Podium shocks that are spring preload and compression adjustable. On the other hand, the front of the Teryx uses a dual-A-arm design to provide 8.0 inches of wheel travel, while the independent rear-suspension dual A-arms let the wheels have 8.3 inches of travel. The suspension numbers obviously aren’t up to par with pure sport machines, but that simply isn’t what this UTV is designed for. If you ride in tight or wooded terrain, you won’t need more than what the Teryx offers.
The steering on the machine is smooth and easy to operate thanks to an electronic power steering system. You don’t feel too much feedback through the wheel, and the turning radius of the Teryx is an impressive 16.7 feet. We have driven the Teryx on West Virginia’s Hatfield-McCoy woods trail system. The steep mountains have some pretty sharp corners that stymie longer machines, but we rarely had to make a two- or three-point turn in the Kawasaki.
Kawasaki mounts Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 tires on the Teryx LE’s 14-inch cast-aluminum wheels. The Bighorn 2.0 is an impressive tire that is light yet durable. The light weight is a primary reason that most UTVs come stock with them. The tread has a good clean-out design so they don’t pack up with mud easily. The tire handles most types of terrain and are even a favorite of woods racers. The six-ply tires are a good choice for the Teryx. The Limited Edition model of the 2017 Teryx uses 27-inch tires while the base model has 26-inch-tall Bighorns on it.
RIDE IT OUT
The Kawasaki Teryx has very nimble handling. It turns well and can make sharp corners easily. The machine has a 60-inch width at the wheels, so it is generally stable in most conditions, but it can feel tippy if you try to take corners too fast. The suspension deals well with fire roads. It soaks up chop and smaller rocks with ease. That 11.2 inches of ground clearance helps keep the Kawasaki’s undercarriage from hanging up on rocky and rutted terrain. You won’t be able to hit big jumps or skip the tops of whoop sections, but you can drive over roots, ruts and trail debris smoothly with the help of the Fox Podium shocks that have 24-way compression adjusters. We would enjoy seeing Kawasaki adding another 2 inches of suspension travel to keep up with the Honda Pioneer 1000, and the addition of 200cc-larger displacement would be nice as well.
V-twins generally have good torque down low, and the Kawasaki fits that mold. The low-rpm torque helps it crawl through rocks with the help of the front-locking differential. It climbs hills well thanks to the performance and potent 4×4 system. Descending is also pretty easy with the help of an engine braking system and dual hydraulic disc brakes up front with twin-piston calipers and a sealed multi-disc rear brake. The brake feel is smooth, but some of our test riders feel it could be a little bit stronger.
Once you are above that low-rpm torque range, the rest of the power curve is smooth, but the boost falls off at higher rpm. This isn’t much of an issue. The Teryx would out-drive its suspension if there was any more top-end power out of its potent V-twin engine.
The comfort of the cockpit is one of our favorite aspects of the Teryx, and we also like the cargo and towing capacity. When we aren’t driving the machine on trails, we use it for ranch work. It holds a lot of equipment. The bed tilts easily and the storage bins are easy to get to. We could fill one bin with all the trail tools we need, including a scissor jack and tool bag, and still have another empty cargo bin to fill.
We are a big fan of the diverse Kawasaki Teryx line. They offer a $14,299 Camo model, a $12,999 Base model and the LE model that starts at $14,999. All three machines have an impressive LED headlight system and a heavy-duty front bumper. The LE model comes with a choice of Candy Orange Matte Metallic or Candy Lime Green paint jobs, while the base model comes in Super Black and the Camo model has a Realtree Xtra Green Camo finish. Then you have the option of choosing a four-seat model in those color options as well. Go to www.kawasaki.com to check out their full lineup of UTVs and ATVs.
KAWASAKI TERYX LE
Engine Liquid-cooled, four-stroke, V-twin
Bore and stroke 85.0 x 69.0mm
Fuel system EFI, 36mm Mikuni throttle bodies
Fuel capacity 7.9 gal
Starting system Electric
Final drive Shaft
Front Double A-arm/ 8.0”
Rear Double A-arm/ 8.3”
Front Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 27×9-12
Rear Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 27×11-14
Front Dual hydraulic disc w/twin-piston calipers
Rear Sealed, oil bathed multi-disc
Ground clearance 11.2 in.
Curb weight 1,589 lb.
Colors Candy Matte Burnt Orange, Candy Lime Green