With its new Jet Ski Ultra 300X, Kawasaki will raise the PWC horsepower benchmark it set a few seasons ago. Set to replace the Ultra 260X when it arrives at dealers in the early spring, the Ultra 300X will offer riders the opportunity to pull the throttle on 300 supercharged, intercooled horsepower. That’s astonishing.
But there’s more to the Ultra 300X, which was unveiled to Kawasaki dealers today, than unprecedented power. The hull has been updated to improve handling and reduce boat weight, there’s a new pump to match the output of the engine, and a drive-by-wire throttle enables several new speed-control functions.
Kawasaki won’t have test units available in the United States until perhaps February, so this report will rely on info from the company. Let’s start with the engine, which is based on the same 1,498cc mill that’s powered the Ultra since that model arrived in 2007. The key change is a new Eaton TVS supercharger that’s compact, efficient and pumps out 17.0 psi of boost, 54 percent more pressure than was applied to the 260-hp, 260X engine, which used a standard, roots-type supercharger. Associated changes to the engine include new hardened valves, a stronger cam chain, revised exhaust camshaft tuning, and a new double-row oil cooler. The engine is mated to a new 160mm jet pump that replaces the previous 155mm pump and has a new vanes on the intake grate to feed it plenty of water. For the first time, this new Ultra model also features electric jet nozzle trim control.
The engine also has a new Electronic Throttle Valve (ETV) system that is activated by a cable from the handlebar throttle lever. Working with the engine control unit, ETV enables several speed control modes, including a one-button, 5-mph no-wake-zone mode; a standard cruise control mode that can be set to hold any speed; and a Smart Learning Operation (SLO) mode that reduces performance. There’s also a fuel economy assistance mode that coaches the Ultra rider with a light on the instrument display to cruise at a throttle setting that delivers best economy. The display itself is all-new and all-digital, with an LCD screen that incorporates a clock, water- and air-temperature gauges, and a trip-and hour-meter.
Kawasaki also made some changes to the Ultra hull shape and construction. This hull is a favorite of offshore endurance racers because it delivers a soft ride and tracks very well in all water conditions. But the Ultra has never been very agile, in part because of its hull shape and also because of its considerable mass. Kawasaki says the new hull is designed to lean into turns more than the previous Ultra bottom, but that the boat’s rough-water prowess has not been affected. The company also went through the hull and removed material where possible to save some weight. Specs indicate the Ultra 300X has a curb weight (including 20 gallons of fuel) of 1,041 pounds, so it’s about 22 pounds lighter than the Ultra 260X. I’ll wait for a test ride to decide if that makes a difference. Same for the updated ergonomics, which include a wider adjustable handlebar and a new seat shape.
So, what is the benefit of 40 more horsepower? Kawasaki says top speed is unchanged, at about 67 mph (in 2008 I tested the Ultra 260X on a very cool day and saw 67.8 in my GPS). The performance focus is now on acceleration, and Kawasaki told me the Ultra 300X has been tuned to deliver even stronger mid-range thrust than the 260X – hence the larger pump to push more water.
The Jet Ski Ultra 300X will have a MSRP of $14,499. There will also be an Ultra 300LX model, priced at $14,999, which comes with a contoured touring seat and an automotive-paint finish, and a new handlebar with a cutout in the center designed specifically to accommodate an owner-installed GPS unit.
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.