Side-by-sides provide some of the most off-road fun a person can have, and anytime there’s fun to be had, it’s best shared with friends and family. The problem with traditional UTVs is that there’s only room for one passenger. The four-seat option is a growing trend and Kawasaki is the latest to join in with the 2012 Teryx4. The four-person recreational utility vehicle (RUV) uses proven technology from the two-seater with additional cab space that will be useful for hunters and recreating families.
Kawasaki decided it was time to bring Teryx fun to the whole family. The 2012 Teryx4 has best-in-class accommodations that had our test riders loving it during an introduction in Tennessee.
Before launching into the four-seat market, Kawasaki dug into consumers’ psyche to find out what’s important to potential buyers. At the top of the list is the ability to purchase a factory produced four-seater. There are plenty of aftermarket options for converting two-seat UTVs, but safety concerns and the loss of storage space are part of the reason why users want a properly designed vehicle for multiple passengers. Kawasaki became the first Japanese manufacturer to produce a quad-cab targeted at recreation, delivering three versions of the Teryx4 in 2012. The base model ($13,399) has black doors and no electronic power steering. A mid-level EPS model ($14,399) adds upgraded suspension, two-tone seats, matching colors for doors and body panels, A-pillar covers and over fenders. Kawasaki also builds a luxury model for buyers looking for top-end components. The Teryx4 LE ($15,199) comes in special colors with the same benefits of the EPS models as well as a plastic roof and cast aluminum wheels.
At the heart of the Teryx4 is Kawi’s 749cc V-Twin. The single overhead cam engine is similar to the beast that powers the standard Teryx and Brute Force 750 ATV, but has a host of refinements to suit the needs of a four-seater. It uses an electric start system to churn over dual pistons inside 85 x 66mm bore and stroke cylinders with a 9.3:1 compression ratio. The oversquare, 90-degree V-Twin cranks out gobs of usable torque and Kawasaki claims the proven engine has 15% more top-end power thanks to new equal-length exhaust headers and redesigned camshafts. Tuned dual 36mm throttle bodies with new 12-hole injectors provide the fueling. Engine internals are slightly massaged as well with changes to the piston pins, connecting rods, shift drum and crankshaft journal bearings. We didn’t have a chance to drive it back-to-back with a two-seater, but the Teryx4 does feel like it has slightly more pep. It’s rated to tow 1300 pounds from its standard two-inch hitch receiver.
The engine breathes through a larger cartridge-style air filter with an intake chamber that is nearly three times as large as the two-seat Teryx (T2). Also, the intake has been repositioned from the console between the driver and passenger to underneath the front hood. The radiator is larger than the T2 with a bigger fan to push hot air. In addition, an extra fan has been installed on the underside of the chassis to help blow cool air across the mid-mounted engine itself. The secondary fan kicks on whenever the radiator fan is activated. There’s a blower warning light on the dash but we never saw it light up, nor heard the radiator fan kick on during an entire day of driving. Obviously the oversized radiator does a good job.
The Teryx4 is driven by a CVT transmission High and Low range with Reverse, but Kawasaki has upgraded it for the larger vehicle. The new system utilizes a centrifugal clutch located between the CVT drive pulley and the crankshaft. Having a wet-bath clutch allows for the Kevlar-impregnated CVT belt to remain under constant tension which reduces wear and tear. This helps minimize the jerky engagement at low speeds known as belt shock or belt lash. Because the belt is constantly being squeezed without any freewheeling of the pulleys, it provides a connected feel for the driver. Final drive to the wheel is via shaft.
Engine braking helps control the Teryx4 on deceleration. The new RUV benefits during aggressive riding from a stiff chassis, 62-inch tire width and rear torsion bar.
The T4 also uses an engine braking feature to help control the vehicle during deceleration. We found that the engine braking works amazingly well in Low range. With only the driver, the Teryx4 crawled down one of the steepest hills in Brimstone Recreation Area in 4WD at 1-3 miles per hour. Adding passenger and cargo weight increases gravity’s pull, but the braking force is a nice feature to help slow things down. However, the engine braking is much less effective in High range. Technicians could stand to dial it up since most riding is done in High range. The transmission cannot be shifted between High and Low while in motion, but the shift procedure is much improved over the T2. Kawi’s four-seater gets a cable-actuated shift mechanism rather than a linkage, and the result is easier shifting at the hand lever which will continue its smooth operation as it’s less affected by dirt and mud over time.
Drivers have access to 2WD or 4WD drive settings which are engaged with a dash-mounted switch. The front differential lock is controlled via electronic switch also rather than the ratcheting hand lever still employed by the T2. Engagement for all three settings can be done on the fly and the transition is seamless. Even with the front diff lock engaged, the Teryx4 is still easier to steer than the standard Teryx because of the power steering. The EPS and LE models use speed-sensitive electronic power steering manufactured by Showa to make input at the steering wheel lighter and reduce negative feedback. A torque sensor dictates more steering assist at low speeds and then backs it down as speeds increase to help keep the wheel from getting too nervous. The molded plastic steering wheel can be easily manipulated by one hand which makes getting around slowly much more enjoyable. At high speeds the EPS is still a bit too sensitive, particularly in 2WD. We found ourselves switching into 4WD just because it makes the high-speed steering less busy and offers increased control, not because we actually need more traction from the front wheels. Similar to the engine braking, Kawi could fine tune the speed sensitivity.
Stretching the Teryx to accommodate an extra pair of passengers wasn’t as simple as cutting and re-welding the large-diameter, thin-walled tubular steel frame. The Teryx4 gets an all-new Double-X chassis which uses X-bracing to bridge the boxed sections on each side and support the engine located mid-chassis. This reinforcement stiffens the chassis for less flex and greater durability.
The Teryx4 is very nimble and thin on the trail. Hunters will love navigating to their favorite locations without overhanging bodywork to worry about.
The cage passes standards for a roll-over protective structure (ROPS) and is fabricated from high-tensile steel tubing. The ROPS is actually a higher-spec steel than the main chassis. Kawasaki made great efforts to use the metal tubing as the exterior points. Bodywork, doors and fenders are all tucked inside of the frame to protect them and give the driver a clean profile to squeeze between tight spots without overhanging plastic pieces. Our ride through Brimstone was a perfect example of how this plays into the Teryx4’s benefit. Any bulbous fender flares would have been left on the trail. This does have a slight tradeoff in mud and water protection.
There are plenty of unique things about the Teryx4, but in our opinion the chassis is what gives it the most distinct character as a four-seater. First off, it is very stiff. There’s almost no flexing on stair-stepped terrain and it holds itself upright during hard cornering. The lack of body roll is partly a product of the Kayaba suspension and rear torsion bar. It also has to do with where the wheels are placed, and this is the most defining attribute. The wheelbase on the T4 is 86.1 inches with an overall tire width of 62 inches. For comparison, the T2 wheelbase is 76 inches and the Polaris RZR 4 is 103 inches. As a result, the Teryx4 handling is much closer to its two-seat sibling than the competition – it’s extremely nimble. Kawi claims a 16.7-foot turning radius and we can verify that it changes direction quickly and sharply. On what is basically single-track for UTVs, we only had to perform three-point turns twice all day. The RZR 4 would have been in and out of Reverse constantly, so it’s definitely a better setup for woods riding.
Approach and departure angles (top) and the help keep the Kawasaki from getting stuck. Frame rails (bottom) are higher than the belly pan which maximizes clearance between the front and rear wheels.
The T4 boasts 10.8-inches of ground clearance. With only 10 extra inches between the front and rear wheel compared to the Teryx and a break-over angle of 17-degrees (angle between center of wheelbase to the bottom of each tire) getting high-centered is much less of a concern. We dragged the bottom skidplate on a few deep ruts and water bars, but were never even close to getting slowed down, much less completely stuck. Heading downhill into a ravine, crossing a log or crawling over technical rock gardens, the Teryx4 uses claimed 79-degree approach and 65-degree departure angles to keep the wheels in contact rather than bumpers or body panels. We never rubbed anything but rubber and the Kawasaki uses 26-inch Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 treads which are excellent tires – some of our favorites.
Suspension on a four-seater has even more of a challenge than a traditional SxS due to wider-ranging weights. Alone the Teryx4 weighs a claimed 1624 pounds with a full 7.9 gallons of fuel. Start piling in four grown adults and a weekend’s worth of camping gear (250-pound bed capacity), and the Kayaba shocks have quite the task. All of the models use piggyback rear shocks that are preload, compression and rebound adjustable which provide 8.3 inches of wheel travel. EPS and LE models use fully adjustable piggyback shocks up front, but the non-EPS model uses non-piggyback front shocks. The lower-spec models offer the same wheel travel but are only preload adjustable. We spent our time driving the EPS and LE models and the suspension works very well. The only time we could detect any shock fade was actually with only one person in the vehicle. The uneven weight distribution taxed the driver-side shocks and we could feel them soften up a bit, but overall the performance is very solid. Tight trails kept our speeds relatively low, especially through the rough sections, and we didn’t have to make suspension changes despite switching between every possible combination of rider arrangements. The ride is fairly stiff but we were happy to find that the rear end resists springing up. Rebound control is very satisfactory and this helps keep cargo in the bed from flying around and, more importantly, provides a very stable ride for rear passengers.
Shocks are piggyback Kayabas front and rear. Dual hydraulic brakes are mounted up front with a sealed, multi-disc rear unit.
Braking is slightly vague feeling. We’re not sure if the new test vehicles had enough time to get the brakes fully bedded in, but our experience showed slightly less power and feel than we would like. Front binders are located inside the recesses of the 12-inch rims and consist of a 200mm hydraulic disc brake on each wheel with 27mm twin-piston calipers. Out back is a sealed, oil-bathed, multi-plate brake. We love the durability and low-maintenance of this brake design. Overall braking is easily sufficient for the Teryx4, even with a full load, despite lacking a potent feel. Combined with the available engine braking, there’s no issue slowing this RUV down.
Now it’s time for the cab. Driving the Teryx4 is a pleasure. Sliding into the cab is simple and we fall in love every time we use the doors. Nets use plastic buckles which are incredibly inconvenient. Kawi’s doors come standard and are Jeep-style, only better. They’re light, smooth-operating and secure and keep a rider’s body inside the vehicle and mud, water and debris outside. This feature surely cost Kawasaki more than basic webbed netting, but it’s bound to score major points with consumers – it did with us! Settling into the seats (black or two-toned) reveals a wide, cushy platform that supports the rider’s torso and bottom. Regardless of how hard we slammed into bumps and G-outs, we never felt frame rails or the seat base. As brand new units, the seats are already more comfortable than broken-in T2 buckets. Seat backs are fixed, but the bottoms easily pop out to reveal three-position adjustment (front seats only) in one-inch increments. Our 5’11” driver prefers the most rearward setting.
Front passengers enjoy a glove box along with two handholds. One is located on the right side of the ROPS and the other is on the center console with a comfortable rubber grip. On the dash is a multi-function digital display with speedometer, clock, dual trip meters, gear selector, diff-lock indicator, water temperature and fuel-injection warning lights, fuel gauge, hour meter, parking brake indicator, CVT belt warning, Neutral, Reverse, seatbelt and low oil pressure warning lights. There are also dual cup holders and a 12V DC socket front and rear.
Standard doors are one of our favorite features.
Slipping into the front or rear sections is no
problem for a full-size adult.
The most important feature for any four-seater is the ability to carry human cargo as comfortably and efficiently as possible. Our tester can slip into the rear seats as easily as the driver’s perch. The front seats do not interfere with the rear passengers’ knees and a full-length grab bar is within easy reach. Slightly raised stadium seating helps provide a better view from the rear. Our only complaint in the rear is that the floorboards have strange contours. There is no flat area for both feet to rest comfortably in a natural position.
To improve the cabin we’d like to see an adjustable steering wheel and better three-point seatbelts. Like the two-seater, the current belts allow just enough free-play to let the riders jostle hard against the restraint in aggressive back-and-forth pitching. The steering wheel is comfortably placed and a new hand-operated parking brake located on the center console eliminates the clumsy, annoying foot brake and makes more leg room. Fortunately, we only note small issues. Most important is that Kawasaki claims best-in-class shoulder, hip and leg room – and we believe it.
The self-adjusting fuel-injected engine starts flawlessly and rewards the driver with a healthy V-Twin thump. Dropping into gear is silky smooth by UTV standards and the throttle response is quick and seamless thanks to the new centrifugal clutch. Styling is rugged, almost military-esque, but refined at the same time. A beefy front bumper that is ready to accept a WARN winch give the front end a tough and protective appearance. Kawasaki’s forward-tilting hood makes maintenance and cleaning a much more tolerable chore. The bed is decent sized and flat-bottomed for easy loading. It also features tie-down attachments, but does not use a folding tailgate.
Overall the Teryx4 is a great side-by-side. Kawasaki already impressed us with the standard Teryx, but we actually prefer the ride quality of the Teryx4 all around. Unlike a RZR 4, which is completely different from a Polaris two-seater, the Teryx4 doesn’t give up much to its little brother. With such good handling it more than makes up for any weakness with added stability and comfort. Adding an improved user interface, beefier engine, EPS, quieter ride and the ability to carry two extra people easily makes this our favorite Kawasaki RUV. We plan on putting the Teryx4 up against our Polaris RZR 4 in the coming months to see how these two family rec vehicles stack up.