By Charles Plueddeman
Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra 260X PWC Review
Powerful new model brings bragging rights back to Kawasaki.
I’m guessing that Kawasaki was a little chafed last year when BRP rated its new Sea-Doo RXT-X and RXP-X models at 255 horsepower — five horsepower more than the class-leading Kawasaki Ultra 250X — and then probably used a loophole in the rules (see my September column here) to get there, while Kawasaki was playing it straight. Apparently a quick tune-up was all it took for Kawasaki to re-claim the bragging rights for 2009. As its name implies, the Jet Ski Ultra 260X is rated at 260 horsepower. So take that, BRP.
So how’d they do it? New pistons raise the compression ratio from 7.8:1 to 8.4:1. Both the intake and exhaust camshafts are revised to produce more lift. And the ignition timing is reprogrammed to take full advantage of the previous changes. And you get about 10 more horsepower. To better translate that power to performance, Kawasaki says the impeller was also redesigned. Diameter remains 155mm, but the blades have less “twist,” which is supposed to improve acceleration. And finally, the hull was stiffened with additional glass fabric added to the lamination schedule in the bow.
According to Kawasaki, better acceleration was the performance goal, since Kawasaki is already at the 65-mph speed limit suggested by Big Brother Coast Guard (I clocked the Ultra 250X at 66.4 mph with a full tank of fuel last year). I timed that same boat at zero-to-30 mph in 1.99 seconds. Kawasaki is not predicting any acceleration times for the new boat, and frankly there are so many variables involved in that sort of testing, how could they?
There’s no indication Kawasaki made any effort to trim the prodigious weight of the Ultra. But it has muddied that spec by switching from “dry weight” to “curb weight.” Honda has been listing curb weight for all of its products for more than a year, and it’s a better real-world spec. Curb weight by definition is the weight of the vehicle ready-to-ride, with a battery, oil, and a full tank of fuel. Most consumers assumed that dry weight did not include fuel, but some motorcycle manufacturers have gone so far as to drain the oil out of fork legs to minimize dry weight. Kawasaki lists the curb weight of the Ultra 260X at 1062.8 pounds. Dry weight last year was 904 pounds, or 86 pounds more than the Sea-Doo RXT-X. For comparison, the new Honda F15-X has a curb weight of 955 pounds. Of course, a generous 20.6 gallon fuel tank — the largest in the class —adds to the curb weight of the Ultra.
In all other regards, the Ultra 260X is the same boat that was the Ultra 250X last year. I have not had a chance to drive the new boat, as Kawasaki did not organize a media launch for its Jet Ski product this year, but I expect its personality to be unchanged: a great ride in the chop, outstanding tracking in all water conditions, competitive speed and acceleration, and reluctant to change directions. And now, maybe a little bit quicker. The price is up by $300, to $11,999. Chose from Lime Green or Galaxy Silver over black.
Take a Seat
A new touring seat and a sophisticated paint job differentiate the new Jet Ski Ultra 260LX from the Ultra 260X. That saddle has deep bolsters for the driver and a passenger, which Kawasaki says are designed to provide back support for long rides and added cushion in rougher conditions. The subdued Metallic Phantom Silver over Jet White finish give this model a more “grown up” look than you find on sport-oriented models. The 260LX otherwise matches the 260X feature-for-feature, except for price, which is $12,299. Both new models should begin arriving at Kawasaki dealers later this month.
- Charles Plueddeman is Boats.com's outboard, trailer, and PWC expert. He is a former editor at Boating Magazine and contributor to many national publications since 1986.