Legs to match its heart By the staff of Dirt Wheels
Kawasaki has had a long and successful run with the Teryx4. It looks much as it did when it was introduced in 2012, but has had continuous updates—some quite far-reaching—since then. Kawasaki’s new Teryx4 S LE is considered all but a separate model. In a nutshell, it is a Teryx4 with a wider stance, more travel, larger front shocks and a slightly longer wheelbase.
Yamaha was the first manufacturer to produce a UTV that was aimed at work and play, but Kawasaki had the worker bee Mule UTV long before the Rhino. Once Yamaha proved the “sport” UTV a significant sales success, Kawasaki was quick to join in with the 2008 Teryx 750. It was a twin, like the Polaris RZR, that was also new in 2008, but was still carbureted. Kawasaki’s flurry of nearly continuous updates showed full commitment to the new sport utility UTV concept.
Some of those updates included fuel injection in 2009. Most important, in 2012, Kawasaki was the first to introduce a four-seat UTV with a footprint barely larger than a two-seat version. For years it remained the only example of a short-wheelbase four-seater, but Honda’s Pioneer and the Yamaha Max and RMAX have joined it. Not content with just adding seats when the Teryx4 was first released, Kawasaki found a way to get 15 percent more power from the 749cc V-twin, added 26-inch Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 tires, upped the suspension travel, and supported it all with an all-new, square-tube steel frame with a double-X design—two X-shaped cross members bridging from corner to corner like a body-on-frame truck or automobile.
Electronic power steering was also available for the first time on top Teryx models in 2012. Later year’s updates included more and better suspension, power steering for all Teryx models and even more power via a boost to 783cc. The larger engine changed the Teryx designation to “800.”
Four-seat machines are currently everywhere in nearly every brand lineup, and there are long-wheelbase, long-travel four-seaters, so the Teryx4 is considered sport recreation, the largest sales segment of the market. The Teryx4 has a wide range of trail capability, but it is best suited for tight trails. Even though it is improved in many ways, the Teryx4 S LE has the same capabilities.
Kawasaki’s Teryx4 has not changed much visually since 2012, and the Teryx4 S body and interior hasn’t changed either. It says a lot about the original styling that the machine looks so fresh and appealing after a decade. Like all Teryx models, the Teryx4 S LE is built “Kawasaki strong” in Nebraska and backed by a 36-month limited warranty.
For the Teryx4 S, new longer, high-clearance, steel A-arms can be found at all four corners paired with new Fox 2.0 LSC piggyback shocks that offer roughly 2 inches more suspension travel than the Teryx. The front travel was upped to 10.7 inches and the rear to 10 inches. The single-chamber gas-charged shocks feature piggyback reservoirs enabling the shocks to run cooler and provide more stable damping performance. The front suspension is complemented by an anti-roll bar.
Those travel numbers compare very favorably with the far newer Wolverine X4 850. The Teryx 4 S has nearly an inch more travel, the same width and tire size. Yamaha, however, packaged four seats in a 4-inch-shorter wheelbase. The Teryx4 S also is a great competitor for Honda as well. It has numbers better than the Pioneer 700-4 and even looks good compared to the Pioneer 1000-5.
The stance has been increased by approximately 4 inches in the front and 2.4 inches in the rear, bringing the overall width to over 62 inches. The new longer 88.2-inch wheelbase means ground disturbances have less of an effect on the cabin, increasing ride comfort and contributing to better handling.
The S LE model has a maximum 12.2 inches of ground clearance at max preload, plus high approach and departure angles (78 degrees in the front and 69 degrees in the rear) also reduce the possibility of catching the front bumper or scraping the rear.
Reliability on the Teryx4 is legendary, and that should carry over to the Teryx4 S. You get four-in-the-cab comfort with the same footprint as a two-seater, so the machine is nimble and easy to transport. The powerful 783cc V-twin engine is still more than capable. Yamaha with the Wolverine 850 and RMAX4 1000 and Kawasaki with the KRX 1000 have been making news combining a centrifugal clutch with a CVT, but the Teryx4 (and the Teryx4 S) has always employed that feature to save the belt and allow smooth takeoffs. For the Teryx4 and Teryx4 S, saving the belt is a great plan. Changing the belt on the trail requires time and removing interior panels to reach the belt case. We have never had belt problems on the trail.
EPS comes standard, as does a towing capacity of 1300 pounds—a work capability that the Teryx KRX cannot match but the Honda and Yamaha surpass. More travel and a wider stance were on our wish list for the Teryx4, and the Teryx4 S LE delivers.
Like the Teryx4, the Teryx4 S LE is powered by Kawasaki’s muscular V-twin engine. It breathes through dual 36mm Mikuni EFI throttle bodies. The torquey V-twin is responsive and capable on the trail. It uses its 47 pound-feet of torque to boost up the steepest climbs with little effort, yet the response is ultra-smooth and controllable for technical trails. Kawasaki has every Teryx, including the S, limited to 50 mph in high gear. Low gear is good for 30 mph. The Teryx4 S LE comes with 27-inch Bighorn 2.0 tires, and they only add to the performance with their light weight and aggressive traction.
SUSPENSION AND HANDLING
Unlike so many new sport four-seaters, some of which have enormous wheelbase numbers, Kawasaki kept the Teryx4 S LE on a compact footprint. Kawasaki has done a remarkable job packing four comfortable seats in while maintaining a useful cargo bed.
For a 62-inch-wide machine, the Kawasaki has a planted and solid feel in turns and on cambers that you would normally associate with a 64-inch machine. That front torsion bar controls body roll in turns. Kawasaki engineers have had a lot of time with the basic Teryx4 S platform. We expected more supple suspension action, but it actually feels a bit crisp on small rocks and chatter compared to the Teryx4, but the Teryx4 S suspension is tuned to handle bigger hits and bumps far better. By specifying piggyback-reservoir Fox shocks with adjustable preload and adjustable compression, Fox and Kawasaki have managed to build a 10-inch-travel car that works extremely well. Whooped-out trails must be rolled, but it performs well overall on normal trails. In slow-speed situations, the S LE does a great job soaking up terrain irregularities.
BRAKES AND CONTROLS
The Teryx4 S LE has twin-piston front hydraulic calipers, but the rear wheels are slowed by a single wet multi-disc brake in the rear transfer case. The braking feel is good and controlled, and easily powerful enough. Push the machine too hard and the brakes lose power until you let them cool off. If you are driving the machine under the limits of the suspension, you shouldn’t have a problem.
The rest of the controls are well-appointed. The steering wheel has a nice shape, size and feel. Naturally, it has a tilt feature. There is no park in the transmission, but it shifts easily and smoothly. A convenient hand brake holds the machine reliably and without much effort.
Kawasaki has comfortable and secure seats, and decent front legroom. Relatively small shoulder bolsters make it easy to get in and out of either the front or rear seats, though there is less legroom in the rear. Taller passengers knee the front seats.
All dash controls are handy. Kawasaki leaves room for accessory switches and a radio system. Opening and closing the doors is easy, and we never had to slam them shut. The doors are lower than newer designs in this class. Forward and side visibility is quite good. A suntop is standard. You share the cab with some mechanical music, and the Teryx4 engine cover transfers heat to the driver’s leg and front drink holders.
If you fill every seat, the small bed still holds 249 pounds of cargo. We carried a spare wheel in the bed secured to the ROPS rear cross brace with two ratchet straps. That worked well, held solid and was completely unobtrusive.
ON THE TRAIL
We spent time on forest trails near Morman Lake, Arizona. Most of the trails were forest routes groomed for street vehicles, and they didn’t challenge the Teryx4 S. Then we came across a trail restricted to 62 inches. No danger of wider machines getting on the trail. The builders didn’t clear trees or rocks any wider than that. We truly appreciated the Teryx4 S LE platform. It was plenty nimble. We expected to drag body panels but never did, though we grazed the upper cage and suntop edges on trees. We were happy that the Teryx4 CVT picks up smoothly and accelerates cleanly. It doesn’t lunge or jerk in a manner that would promote wheelspin. It also has an effective engine-braking system (EBS) that got a small workout. We never caught a whiff of hot CVT belt.
It isn’t as smooth as longer-travel machines, but is surprisingly capable. It was never a question whether the Teryx4 could go where any other machine in the group could go. After our trail experience and hearing of the extreme reliability of the Teryx line, we can understand why we see so many Teryx4s on the trail and even in sand dunes. A wider stance and more travel should continue that trend. The price difference between the Teryx4 and the Teryx4 S is negligible. For sure we would go with the S in the western U.S.
We spent a lot of time running in low range to add throttle control for more precise modulation rather than any true need for low range. In low-range 4WD, the Teryx4 climbs well, but if traction gets iffy, there is always differential lock that keeps the front wheels driving at all times no matter the conditions.
In a landscape where four-seat turbos have wheelbases up to 135 inches and over 20 inches of wheel travel, is there a place for the Teryx4 S LE? Sure. The Kawasaki is easy to buy and own. It comes with a three-year limited warranty, and there are three-year service plans and extended warranties as well. Our machine was easy to load on a small trailer, and it was an easy tow. It is agile and compact for tackling tight trails and going where four-seat Turbos can’t. The Teryx4 S has snappy but usable power, comfortable seats, adjustable shocks, storage and aftermarket support. It has the added stability from the new track width, and that all-desirable added suspension travel. Plus, after all these years, the Teryx4 looks great, and it shares that look with the Teryx4 S. This machine is ready for work or play, and we are more than ready to use it for either one.
KAWASAKI TERYX4 S LE
Engine 783cc 4-valve, 4-stroke V-twin Bore x stroke 85mm x 69mm
Fuel system DFI with two 36mm Mikuni throttle bodies
Fuel capacity 7.9 gallons
Starting system Electric
Final drive Selectable 2WD/4WD with locking front differential, shaft
Front Double wishbone, Fox 2.0 LSC piggyback shocks, fully adjustable preload, adjustable compression
Rear Double wishbone, Fox 2.0 LSC piggyback shocks, fully adjustable preload, adjustable compression
Front 27×9 –14 Maxxis Bighorn radial 2.0
Rear 27×11-14 Maxxis Bighorn radial 2.0
Front Dual hydraulic disc w/2-piston calipers
Rear Sealed, oil-bathed multi-plate brake
Ground clearance 12.2”
Cargo capacity 249 lb.
Towing capacity 1300 lb.
Curb weight 1638.0 lb.
Color Candy Persimmon Red/Super Black, Candy Lime Green/Super Black, Fragment Camo Gray
MSRP $17,799 to $17,999