Workhorse UTV also suitable for fun with 2018 upgrades
Atop one of the highest peaks on the sprawling 82,000-acre original Hearst Ranch, the Pacific Ocean provides a supreme backdrop for a rest stop. Cows, which provide about 90 percent of the beef sold by Whole Foods Market stores across the U.S., dot the landscape. Zebras, once part of William Randolph Hearst’s private zoo, stroll along other parts of the 128-square-mile swath of unblemished property in San Simeon, California.
It’s so pristine, in fact, that when the Hearst Ranch general manager Ben Higgins opened up the property to host the 2018 Kawasaki MULE PRO-FXR side-by-side press launch, it was the first time since George Hearst purchased the land in 1865 that a corporate event of any kind had ever been held there. It didn’t hurt the cause that Higgins has scooted around the property on what appeared to be an original MULE, and he’s an ADV riding enthusiast. So yes, a once-in-a-lifetime experience is a fair assessment.
With 15 miles of coastland and sitting at about 3,600 feet elevation, the property employs a half-dozen full-time cowboys. In addition to supplying the aforementioned beef, conservation is another product. The property always has been and always will be a working cattle ranch, despite overtures of turning it into a Pebble Beach-like resort. It’s also a renewable energy resource, home to a 3,000-acre solar farm.
Higgins, who in 2006 was appointed by President George W. Bush as state director of the U.S. Department of Agricultural Rural Development, took us to a variety of peaks and valleys on the property, allowing the MULE PRO-FXR to showcase its increased recreational capabilities that makes for an enhanced experience, whether at work or play. Sturdy and steady on steep declines, it’s also capable as ever battling uphill obstacles. And at pausing for cattle crossing the trails.
Kevin Mann, 4-wheel product manager for Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A., had plenty to be excited about, with the MULE celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2017. The debut side-by-side vehicle certainly looks and feels different than it does today. The MULE PRO remains the brand’s flagship UTV, with the new FXR model an idea fit for the upscale customer who, while knowing the unit is a work machine, might use it more for fun and social reasons than for doing work.
Mann pointed out that the styling, comfort, capability, drivability and durability of the PRO-FXR will be selling points for dealership sales staff. Higgins offered that while in competitive product on the ranch, he wears earplugs. In the few weeks he had been using the new PRO-FXR, he didn’t need to because of the quiet ride.
Paul Golde, senior accessories coordinator, announced that 60 factory accessories are already available for the PRO-FXR, including four windshield options a soft cab enclosure, mirrors, horn kit, heater, 20-inch LED lightbar, cargo box, bed extender, a 72-inch plow and a hydraulic bed lift kit.
The MULE PRO-FXR simply stands out with its painted bodywork and contoured two-toned seats. The cast aluminum wheels are a nice touch, as is the rear bumper.
We found the 812cc three-cylinder engine to offer everything we needed while making our way to the vicinity of the Hearst Castle. But it was probably wise to soak in as much of the scenery as possible, as it’s not an everyday opportunity to ride such an exceptional machine on such historic grounds.