2012 Kawasaki Teryx4 750 4×4 EPS LE Comparison

JC Hilderbrand | April 19, 2012

As the new kid in town, the Teryx4 has been getting a lot of hype this year, and rightfully so. There are plenty of things about the new Kawasaki four-seater that add flavor to the sport side-by-side market. The T4 looks rugged and burly in a very military-esque way. The roll cage and bodywork are taller, wider and boxier than the RZR. It gives a more utilitarian feel, but Kawasaki offers the Mule lineup for work applications – the Teryx4 is definitely built to have a good time.

The V-Twin and its centrifugal clutch/CVT combination makes for a punchy delivery that engages smoothly.

V-Twin power defines the Teryx family and the 749cc mill used in the T4 has been adapted slightly from its two-seater cousin. The 90-degree V has 15% more top-end power as a result of equal-length exhaust headers (a necessary design that came with added seating) and tweaked camshafts. Both machines use fuel injection and run without fault. Some drivers preferred the sound of the V-Twin while others leaned toward the character of the Polaris’ Parallel Twin. Kawasaki’s exhaust note is very acceptable and the intake has been repositioned so it no longer howls inside the front cab.

Power is comparable between the two machines, but Kawasaki delivers it quicker on the bottom end with its centrifugal clutch. This wet-clutch system is between the engine crankshaft and the CVT drive pulley. The Teryx4 is able to keep constant tension on the CVT belt and the centrifugal clutch handles the slipping and variable engagement. From a driving standpoint it feels like the wheels are connected more directly with the throttle – romp the pedal and the T4 leaps forward without hesitation.

“It gets with the program quick, right off the bottom and that makes a difference in sand, mud and rocks. Hands down the Teryx CVT setup is superior. It provides much more instantaneous throttle response and as a result makes the Teryx feel quicker…not faster, but definitely quicker.”

The Teryx4 is happy to work in technical, high-load riding all day.

Having the centrifugal clutch allows the T4 to creep along in slow or high-load situations without jerking. This comes in handy everywhere from extreme rock crawling to simply loading on the trailer. Not only is it a benefit in every driving situation, but belt wear is drastically reduced. Hauling four people is much harder on the CVT so this is one of the best thing Kawasaki cold have done when adapting its Teryx platform. Not only does it make for easier maintenance, but also less risk of getting stranded. We don’t leave home in the RZR without a spare belt and tools. So far we haven’t developed that fear/need with the Kawasaki.

The Teryx uses a unique Double-X steel chassis that not only supports the vehicle, but also protects it. Kawasaki designed the T4 so that the metal bars of the frame and ROPS cage are the outermost points of the body. This keeps the doors, bed, foot wells and front end from suffering damage from hard objects. They can still get scratched by debris, but plastic isn’t going to get torn off. Even though it doesn’t have fender flares, the Teryx4 has slightly better splash protection than the RZR 4. Doors and the LE package roof do a good job of keeping riders clean. Why would we talk about the doors before detailing suspension components? Because it’s hard to convey just how much they bring to the riding experience

“Being able to open a door and step right in the Teryx4 was pretty sweet in comparison to climbing over the nets and frame of the RZR,” Irons notes.

The doors are just the beginning of Kawasaki’s excellent cabin. Wide, cushy seats greet passengers in front and rear. Front buckets are three-position adjustable, but the seats are not fully removable like the RZR’s, only the bases come out for cleaning. The seats are much higher than the Polaris also, which affects the center of gravity and handling. It also provides better vision for everyone. A wide grab bar extends across the back seats and the front passenger gets a handhold on the cage upright and one on the center console. Hanging on is easy in the back (a good thing considering the suspension) but the front is a bit awkward.

(Top) The Teryx4 (and its passengers) are willing to leave the
high-speed whoops to the RZR 4 (above)

Up front on the frame is a dual A-arm design that is similar to the Polaris but much more compact and beefy. It has a removable front sway bar as well as a fixed one in the rear that help keep the relatively top-heavy T4 square on its feet. Even with the added stability, driving the Teryx4 requires more careful navigation. It’s a decent slider in the sand and on gravel, but rough terrain is where the chassis dimensions require smart driving.

“Since the Teryx is taller and has a shorter wheelbase it feels tippier than the RZR,” says Ken. “It handles fine in the sand, but it has considerably more body roll which gave me heart palpitations a few times.”

Suspension components are much lower-spec than the springs underneath the RZR 4, but do a good job in most situations. Kawasaki offers 7.8 inches of wheel travel up front and 8.3 inches in the rear. The LE model uses piggyback reservoir shocks that are fully adjustable for preload, compression and rebound. Kawasaki calls it “sport-focused suspension” that “offers an ideal compromise between sporty control and superb ride comfort.” We’d have to say that’s pretty darn accurate. Encountering surprise potholes, roots or rocks at a fast trail pace is no problem even when fully loaded. Hammering through sand whoops doesn’t factor into that equation.

“The Teryx4’s suspension in the whoops was brutal,” exclaims Harley. “It felt like trying to ride a buckin’ bronco.”

In all fairness, hauling butt down whoop roads isn’t exactly fun in the RZR 4 either. The Polaris can do it, but we avoid the whoop sections on both machines as much as possible because they’re jarring no matter what. Elsewhere in the sand the Kawasaki is much happier. The suspension is most at home in tighter, rutted, rocky terrain where 10.8 inches of ground clearance and the shorter wheelbase can showcase their benefits. The 89.1-inch span between front and rear wheels also has a downside in terms of stability. We had to second-guess, jockey and weasel our way into off-camber areas where the RZR mindlessly plows ahead.

This is exactly the type of situation where the Kawasaki hesitates and requires finesse while the RZR drops right in.

Kawasaki includes EPS on its Teryx4 (a non-equipped model is available) where speed and torque sensors are used to vary the amount of assist. More assistance is applied at lower speeds and it decreases as speeds go up. It’s incredibly efficient for technical riding and makes it very easy for the driver to control. We think it could be turned down a little for higher speeds as it sometimes creates an oversteer issue. The Teryx4 pushes its front end a bit in corners which is exacerbated in soft sand. This scenario is where we experienced the downfall most often. But, take it into a rock garden and suddenly the EPS is magic. It’s definitely worth having. We prefer driving the T4 in slower terrain so the power steering is a great fit for its use.

One of the reasons the Kawi is so good in rugged terrain is its selectable four-wheel drive. A simple switch on the dashboard jumps between 2WD/4WD. Drivers can also lock in the front differential for maximum dragging power and traction when towing or plowing through treacherous mud. The diff-lock is also operated by a switch on the dash – a design change from the variable hand-lever used on the two-seat Teryx.

Braking is similar between the units with our drivers divided on the subject. Both are equipped with binders capable of handling the machines with four riders aboard. Our longer-legged drivers found the T4’s pedals a little close for comfort. Also, Kawasaki could take note of the heel-cup utilized on the RZR. The driver’s feet bounce around the Teryx4 a lot in rough terrain, which leads to sloppy driving.

Everyone appreciated the extra protection afforded by the doors and the roof. Kawasaki’s interior is much better with plenty of room and an attention to detail.

Other things we like about the Kawi? It holds just a bit more fuel (7.9 vs. 7.25 gallons). All of the T4 models have a front bumper and the chassis is ready to accept a winch. The winch plate gets packed with mud and sand because it plows into the ground, so we’ll be testing to see if the winch suffers as a result. It also has a parking brake (hand operated!) which has room on the center console without the old diff-lock design. Both machines have small cargo beds; the Teryx4’s is narrower but has a flat bottom for easier packing. Accessing the front end is simple with a forward-tilting hood that makes getting to the radiator and air filter very easy. It’s also amazing during cleanup. A multi-function digital display offers much more information that the Polaris and the T4 has dual cup holders and an accessory power outlet both front and rear. The LE package brings two-tone seats, special color options, matching door panels, cast aluminum wheels, plastic roof, roll cage padding and the upgraded suspension.

“Hands down the comfort of the Teryx was a hit with our passengers,” Hutch says. “The back seats offer more leg room and protection with the doors. Even though the Teryx looks can feel like a work machine more than a sporty ride, it’s still very nice and tidy. Everything fits well, it’s blacked out in the version we have and it simply looks bad-ass.”

In terms of pure sporting performance, the Teryx4 can’t keep up with the RZR 4 despite its improved clutch. The RZR’s handling and suspension allow it to pull away once the going gets rough, however, the Teryx isn’t far behind. For normal sport riding the Teryx4 can hold its own. It’s better-rounded, plus Kawasaki has more emphasis on accommodating four people.


JC Hilderbrand

Off-Road Editor| Articles | Hilde is holding down the fort at MotoUSA’s Southern Oregon HQ. With world-class dirt bike and ATV trails just minutes away, the hardest part is getting him to focus on the keyboard. Two wheels or four, it doesn’t matter to our Off-Road Editor so long as it goes like hell in the dirt.

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