By Jeff Hemmel
Kawasaki put to rest months of speculation at its September national dealer meeting by doing exactly what many expected – retaking the horsepower crown in the PWC market.
But while the 260 hp Ultra 260X certainly grabbed the spotlight at one end of the spectrum, the company also unveiled a bare-bones, entry-level model as well, showing its intent to compete for both the high-performance enthusiast as well as the enthusiastic newcomer.
Claim The Throne
Easily the most anticipated question of the morning for PWC dealers was what Kawasaki had up its sleeve for the Ultra 250X, the one-time performance king, but a boat that has found itself amongst stiff competition as of late. The answer wasn’t anything radically new — the boat that was unveiled is a little different from what Ultra dealers, and PWC enthusiasts, know well. The name, however, Ultra 260X, says a lot about what has happened inside. No longer content to finish in second place to the Sea-Doo 255 machines in the horsepower wars, Kawasaki has tinkered with a winning formula to pull an additional 10 horses from the boat’s 1,498cc, supercharged with intercooler engine. That includes increasing the compression ratio from 7.8:1 to 8.4:1, along with the addition of new pistons (cast with revised crowns), aggressive high-lift cams and revised ECU ignition timing. A new impeller, with slightly less twist to its three individual blades, also promises to deliver more linear thrust, and increase that thrust by 61 pounds over the 250.
As to continued consumer reports of gas in the crankcase oil, Kawasaki has yet to acknowledge the problem, but steps appear to have been taken to address it. As already mentioned, new pistons have been introduced on the 260. The company also has re-engineered the piston ring placement, which many speculate was to provide a better seal. Other improvements? The hull has been strengthened around the bow area, a move to increase rigidity but one that has the slight downside of adding weight to the Ultra’s already infamous bulk. Colors include red, and two black variations, one with silver and blue, the other lime green. Suggested retail price is set at $11,999.
Kawasaki also introduced an LX version of the 260, highlighted by a tiered, contoured two-piece touring-style seat that has long been missing from the company’s offerings.
“It’s for the buyer who wants the best of everything,” said JET SKI Product Manager Croft Long. “They want the best performance they can get, and they want the most comfortable, most luxurious ride they can get.” The MSRP for the Ultra 260LX is set at $12,299.
Improved Entry-Level Offering
Tweaks on another existing boat, the STX-15F, indicate a desire to further enhance the entry-level offerings, as well as produce a boat Kawasaki hopes will make inroads into the rental market. The $7,899 STX is essentially the 15F without reverse, a boarding ladder and mirrors. The paint scheme is more basic, but full instrumentation is maintained. Predicted Long: “This is going to be a great hit for us at that new low price point.” It also gives Kawasaki the most powerful entry-level boat on the market.
That leaves a $500 gap between the new base model and the existing STX-15F, which now retails for $8,399. It also gives Kawasaki a pair of models at the entry level to compete with both Sea-Doo and Yamaha.
All of which leaves the 160 hp Ultra LX as the new middle child in the line. Kawasaki is looking to further entrench the boat as a versatile touring machine, and to that end the cushy, tiered touring seat is standard issue. Seat material also has changed for ’09, with the somewhat slippery, vinyl-like feel of past years giving way to a far more grippy material that should be seen throughout the line. MSRP for the Ultra LX is $10,099.
Of course, the 800 SX-R standup ($6,699) remains. “We’ve had a lot of sales success with this product,” said Long. “It’s our reputation, it’s what we’re all about.” Long revealed that Kawasaki currently has about 57 percent of the stand-up market.