UTV TEST: 2021 KAWASAKI TERYX KRX 1000 ES

A superb trail machine gets smarter and better By the staff of Dirt Wheels

This is where things get amazing in the Kawasaki Teryx KRX 1000 eS—rough, rutted with buried boulders and too steep to walk up. Comfortable for the KRX eS.

Kawasaki’s Teryx KRX 1000 lineup is a genuine home run in the sport UTV space. The addition of the new Teryx KRX 1000 eS and its computer-controlled Fox Live Valve suspension won’t hurt Kawasaki’s batting average. The entire package is great with fine handling, superior interior room, all-day comfort and brilliant suspension. Working with Fox to fit Live Valve 2.5-inch shocks on the KRX and controlling them with Bosch electronics truly elevates suspension that was already great.

When compared to 1000cc-class, normally aspirated machines, the KRX 1000, including the eS, performs fine, but it doesn’t have outright throw-you-back-in-the-seat boost. Owners and potential buyers accept the Teryx KRX the way that it is. We understand completely. Even when we are jumping from powerful turbo UTVs, we still enjoy every moment we spend in a KRX.

The Teryx KRX 1000 was aimed at the traditional Teryx trail-oriented customer, but one ready for a new level of capability over a vastly wider range of terrain challenges. Every KRX 1000 model can do anything a Teryx 800 can do except negotiate width-restricted trails that won’t accept the 68-inch track width. But, it laughs off fast rough and whoops that would be anything but funny pushing the limits of a narrow, short-travel machine. Having the smart, constantly adjusting Fox Live Valve shocks and the dash-switch-selected suspension modes only expands the KRX’s abilities.

For soft sand trails like this, the KRX’s wheelbase, track width and 31-inch Maxxis tires are your friends. It gets around easily.

HARD TARGET

The Kawasaki Teryx KRX 1000 eS’ most impressive feature is Kawasaki Electronic Control Suspension (KECS). In addition to the electronic suspension, the Teryx KRX 1000 eS features a 7-inch high-grade TFT color display screen for instrumentation, KQR (Kawasaki Quick Release) sport roof, front bumper, and model-specific color and graphics.

Our experience with computer-controlled Fox Live Valve shocks have been consistently positive. These suspension systems are amazingly convenient. Fox Live Valve shocks provide comfort and control for a range of terrain impossible to replicate with a single shock setting. Kawasaki’s computerized KECS “smart” suspension system is equal to the best for real world driving.

Kawasaki’s KECS pairs high-performance Fox 2.5 Live Valve Internal Bypass shocks with a Bosch Electronic Control System. KECS includes Kawasaki’s first use of a six-axis IMU on a UTV. A single dashboard switch selects from three suspension modes: Soft, Normal and Firm. Mode changes can be made on-the-fly to suit different terrain and speeds. Each setting has a base damping level. According to the dash screen, 2 for Soft, 5 for Normal and 8 for Firm. The system can boost those settings to handle conditions. Even the Firm setting has room for the system to add damping force.

Loose rock routes like this designated trail can abuse the folks in the cab of some machines, but the eS soft setting provides excellent comfort. Engine braking is great for these descents as well.

HOW IT WORKS

The KECS system takes input from the IMU, the engine ECU and a steering-angle sensor. The Semi-Active Damping Control ECU then adjusts to the ground surface in real time to provide the ideal damping. KECS takes into account factors such as speed, driver input, vehicle axis and terrain.

We found that the soft setting felt loose and lacked control at a brisk trail pace on undulating terrain, but it provided superior ride comfort and excellent traction in slow, rocky and technical trail driving. Normal mode is used for the widest range of conditions, and we’d say the feeling is quite similar to a standard KRX model with manual-adjusting Fox shocks.

On most current systems employed by other brands, and especially on early ones, the Firm setting is all but useless for normal driving. We use it only for giant whoops or to control ground clearance while rock crawling. On the Kawasaki, Firm is best for higher speeds, but it is perfectly useful. Even relatively smooth terrain with rutted turns and abrupt rises and drops benefited from the Firm setting. There was almost no body lean in turns, and control was much improved at a brisk pace. Oddly, even hitting rocks at the higher pace was not harsh. Kawasaki has always aimed this model at serious trails, and these suspension settings are likewise trail appropriate.

On some brands, Fox Live Valve-equipped models are vastly more comfortable than those without. Stepping back to a lower spec can be disappointing. Comparing the eS to our Trail Edition showed that the KECS is a decided advantage in control and comfort, but both machines ride and handle fine. We were able to switch between cars easily, and whether the pace was quick or slow and choppy, we were happy in either one. Give us a choice, though, and the eS was always preferred.

KECS damping is speed sensitive (normal for any modern shock) and position sensitive. At the top of the shock travel, fluid can bypass the damping piston, freeing up the suspension for comfort. When compressed, the shock gradually closes off the bypass circuits, and fluid is forced through the piston’s compression valves, developing the firm damping required to resist bottoming. During shock extension, fluid is forced to move through the piston’s rebound valves, again developing firmness to prevent harsh top-out.

Don’t ask how we know, but it is possible to dent the bottom of the bumper. The undercarriage has nice protection. Our machine had a matching rear bumper, but that was added.

LIVING BETTER BY COMPUTER

Fox’s Live Valve technology complements the inherent performance and comfort achieved by the Internal Bypass design, using a semi-active valve to instantly adapt to any terrain by adjusting compression damping in real time to maximize comfort, handling and minimize bottoming out. Damping character is set according to the suspension mode selected.

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER

A sizable all-digital instrumentation screen positioned above the steering column offers at-a-glance information to the driver. The display features white backlighting and has three brightness levels. When linked to a smartphone via Bluetooth, call and message notifications are displayed on the LCD screen, and the time of day is automatically adjusted. Additionally, the display allows the driver to monitor suspension and vehicle information while supporting accessory audio and vehicle-mounted cameras.

The multi-function display has all the information you could want, but our favorite and the most useful is the CVT temperature gauge. It warns the driver of conditions that shorten CVT belt life. We were impressed with how cool the CVT stayed during summer driving climbing steep, rocky sections. Sustained wide-open throttle running in 100 degrees saw the CVT temp climb quickly, but letting off just a little quickly cooled things off. We don’t know how we have done without it.

This high-altitude demo track near Flagstaff, Arizona, let us flick the car around some. It requires turning the steering wheel a little farther than some sport UTVs, but it wasn’t a bother.

THE COST OF TECH

All of this suspension and computer tech incorporated into the Teryx KRX 1000 eS only amplifies the good features of the machine. Suggested retail for the eS is $24,399. A base KRX is $20,399, but the Trail Edition we used as a performance yardstick is $22,999.

We tested a standard eS, as well as one outfitted with rear LED lights, front and rear cameras, a rear bumper to match the front, and a matching spare tire and beadlock wheel. The KRX bed area is cleverly shaped to perfectly contain a spare wheel and 31-inch tire. Simply lay the spare in the bed and use a Y-strap to fasten it in place using the top bar of the bumper. It’s slick and secure, and the rear vision is unobstructed.

For much of our testing we had our 2021 Kawasaki Teryx KRX 1000 Trail Edition for back-to-back performance comparisons. Both have four-link rear suspension with arched trailing arms and double A-arms in front. Travel is 18.6 inches in front and 21.1 inches in the rear. The Live Valve shocks on the eS have no manual damping adjustment, but do have spring preload and a stainless steel sleeve to prevent the springs from wearing the shock bodies. Both ends have sway bars as well.

MOTOR TIME

Kawasaki went all in to make the KRX 1000 engine tough and long-lasting. We have no doubt that it makes strong numbers on a dyno. Our test machine with a spare and rear bumper weighs in over 2000 pounds. That weight is the same as some high-performance turbo four-seat machines. Kawasaki also has a large and heavy-duty CVT that works in conjunction with a centrifugal clutch. The sides of the CVT belt are always engaged, so the centrifugal clutch allows smooth take-offs.

The centrifugal clutch provides very controllable low-rpm response and smooth engagement and takeoff. The engine’s power is delivered to a transmission with forward high, forward low, neutral and reverse gears. There is no park in the transmission. Kawasaki employs a handbrake, and we prefer that arrangement.

LIVING ROOM

Kawasaki paid attention to interior comfort, and it shows in the seat position and ample legroom. The tall doors have finished inner sides with built-in arm rests. Inside and outside handles open the doors easily. With the tall doors, even drivers over 6 feet tall feel safely contained. Both the driver and the passenger seats have 6 inches of fore and aft adjustability. The firm seats are comfortable and supportive. Even with the seats all the way back, there is room behind the seats for soft coolers, small tool bags or clothes in case the weather turns. It has five cup holders, but on our 100-degree day water bottles in the console cup holders got hot enough to make instant coffee. We could feel the heat of the console, but the cab wasn’t hot.

For tough trail situations the KRX is equipped with a locking front differential and a low-power switch. We soon grew to appreciate both on tough climbs. We typically employ low power in rough, low-traction conditions. On steep, rocky climbs the car never bounced and hopped on the low power setting. This was true of hills so steep we thought we needed all of the power.

DRIVE EVERYWHERE

Keep the KRX on trails whether smooth and relaxing or heart-stopping technical and it is impressive. Kawasaki has provided suspension that can easily handle the slow chop all the way to wide-open rough while providing a good comfort. Cabin occupants are all but isolated from trail abuse. Between the seats and the suspension, it does a great job with comfort. Whether you are on sand or dirt, the KRX responds best to smooth corner inputs, but on firm you can push it much harder with confidence. We rarely had the inside wheels get light, but we consciously aimed not to.

Kawasaki has the KRX limited to 67 mph as indicated (actually, 65 mph). Honestly, we didn’t feel handicapped by that number. It has all the power it needs to get to 65 mph and more, but the electronics don’t allow it to climb over that speed. The only other bother is the wildly pessimistic fuel gauge. When it showed almost empty, the 10.5-gallon tank accepted only 5.3 gallons! Reportedly, when the fuel warning light is flashing, you have 30-percent fuel left.

CONCLUSION

We spent a lot of time on desert trails and two-tracks, plenty of time on technical trails and, of course, in soft sand. In every case the KRX was fun, smooth, willing and capable. But, the KRX truly shines when the terrain is so radical that you wonder if it is a good idea to continue. Traction is so good that wheelspin is minimal. We can’t think on a sport UTV that is this gentle to the terrain. All that and it was absolutely comfortable and dead reliable. No hint of belt issues, and not a single mechanical hiccup. We checked tire pressure and the oil (a handy sight glass!) level and drove hard.

KAWASAKI TERYX KRX 1000 eS

Engine type 999cc 4-valve, 4-stroke twin

Bore x stroke 95mm x 75.1mm

Fuel system DFI with two 50mm throttle bodies

Fuel capacity 10.6 gal.

Starting system Electric

Final drive Shaft

Suspension/wheel travel:

Front Double wishbone w/ Fox 2.5 Podium Live Valve Internal Bypass shocks with piggyback reservoir, fully adjustable preload, and KECS controlled compression 

damping/18.6”

Rear 4-link trailing-arm, Fox 2.5 Podium Live Valve Internal Bypass shocks with piggyback reservoir, fully adjustable preload, and KECS controlled 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 132.1”/68.1”/77”

Wheelbase 98.8 in.

Ground clearance 14.4 in

Cargo capacity 351 lb.

Towing capacity N/A

Curb weight 1944.8 lb. (1947 lb. CA)

Color Metallic Onyx Black

MSRP $24,399

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