2008 Kawasaki Teryx 750 4×4 First Ride 0

It’s a mild, moonless February evening. I’m miles from anywhere in the star filled expanse otherwise known as Glamis-Southern California’s sandy remnants of an ancient sea. The bright 40-watt halogen headlamps cut through the pitch black night, but do nothing to illuminate the dark, bottomless drop-off directly in front of me. I can’t see where I’m going and under normal circumstances I would be wary of treading any farther. However, I’ve spent all sunny afternoon on the newest entry into the burgeoning Recreational Utility Vehicle (RUV) market and have yet to run into an obstacle that I couldn’t surmount. So I mash the gas pedal. ‘Here we go,’ I say to myself right before my stomach drops and I’m pitched forward, blasting down a wall of sand.

So just what is a RUV? It’s the latest rage in the recreational powersport industry. A basic Cliff Notes-worthy definition would be if a contemporary 4-stroke utility ATV and purpose built 4×4 off-road truck got boozed up during Karaoke night at the local dive bar, with the end result being a two-seater, half-scale trophy truck.

The concept, however, is nothing new, as desert rats and garage mechanics have been making their own freakish creations out of golf-carts for as long as they’ve been around. Even so, the market evolved into what it is today when Yamaha officially minted the niche with their Rhino in 2003.

Since, Rhinos have become the de facto standard – as any desert enthusiast will surely confirm as there are literally hundreds littered across Glamis’ sandy expanse on any major winter weekend. Eager to take a slice out of the RUV pie, Kawasaki has released an all-new player in the side-by-side game – the 2008 Teryx 750 4×4.

Our two-part ride began at Ocotillo Wells OHV Park, near Brawley, California. Ocotillo is known for its diverse terrain – everything from sand washes, hills, steep climbs (as well as descents) and wide-open stretches of rocky, treeless expanse. As soon as the sun dipped below the horizon, we packed up and headed for the dunes of Glamis for part two of our ride where we learned just how good the Teryx is in the sand – and how much fun it is to play with at night.

Climbing into the Teryx is easy, as its uncluttered floorboard and intuitively placed grab handles make sliding into the seat quite simple. There’s plenty of space between the driver and the compact, padded steering wheel with all of the various controls well placed within the drivers reach. Leg and head room are spacious, even for my six-foot frame and the integrated foot guards in the metal floor help keep the users’ bottom half inside the vehicle at all times. A retractable three-point seat belt ensures both driver and passenger remain secure within the confines of the sporty bucket seats, which are also removable, if the need arises. We really liked the seats as they provided a reasonable amount of cushion without any uncomfortable pressure points, even after spending all-day strapped in and hanging on for dear life. On the other hand, the car-like safety belt system doesn’t feel like it keeps the passengers as secure when mobbing through g-outs and landing bigger jumps as we’d prefer. If you plan on using your Teryx in a more aggressive manner, a secure five-point harness would be a worthwhile upgrade. As it is, we survived unscathed but the set-up could be better.

Instrumentation is limited to just a parking brake, 4WD, and high-coolant temperature indicator lights, as well as a digital engine hour meter. Headlights are controlled via a three-way (off, low, high beam) twist-style knob to the left of the steering wheel. There’s also a 12-volt accessory power outlet and a nice size glove box capable of keeping a few personal items secure and out of the way.

Starting the engine is as simple as turning the dash-board mounted key, which can be done while in any gear, so long as the brake is applied. Temperatures throughout our ride never dipped below the 60s, so the use of the choke was never required. (Yep, this thing is carbureted, more on that later…) Release of the foot-operated parking brake, slide the shifter into ‘H’ and you’re ready to go.

Mash the accelerator pedal and the Teryx lunges forward courtesy of the first-in-class 90-degree, 749cc V-Twin engine borrowed from Kawi’s Brute Force utility ATV. The 8-valve SOHC mill has been specifically retuned for a wider spread of that stump yanking, wheel spinning torque. On flat ground, under wide-open throttle, the 48 mph top speed (governor limited) can be achieved quickly. At speed, the exhaust note exiting out of the spark arrestor-equipped stainless steel exhaust is throaty and never became annoying. Throttle response is smooth and accurate which makes modulating the throttle in a power slide ridiculously easy-even for someone who doesn’t have a wealth of driving experience. The Power-zapping sand dunes didn’t seem to hinder the Teryx much at all (with tires properly aired down). The liquid-cooled engine still had plenty of grunt to lug us (including our camera gear and spare wheels/tires) around and was plenty capable of getting back in motion after parking on steep sandy inclines. Making sure that the engine is properly cooled is a compact, forward-mounted radiator which also features a thermostat controlled fan that’s tucked up neatly out of harm’s way.

Fueling the engine is a pair of Keihin CVKR-34 downdraft carburetors. Yes, Team Green engineers decided that it would be best to use a proven set of gas-air blenders on this year’s model. But don’t fret techies… EFI is in the works. However, if you are the kind of owner who enjoys working on their own toys; carburetors might be a boon, especially if you plan on undertaking some engine modifications. The easy-to-access airbox employs a re-useable oval-foam air filter mounted up high where it belongs.

The Teryx puts its claimed 44.2 horsepower and 40.8 lb-ft of torque to its large 26-inch specially designed Maxxis tires via a continuously variable belt-drive transmission (CVT). The transmission is controlled by a hand-operated shift lever mounted on the center console. The driver can choose from two forward gears (high/low range), neutral and reverse by sliding the lever fore or aft. High gear is the preferred drive mode under most circumstances, while Low range can be used for slow speed situations when maximum torque is required, like aggressive or technical hill climbs, etc… The best thing about the CVT transmission it delivers instantaneous acceleration. There are no momentary acceleration pauses like you’d expect while changing gears in a car or truck. In drive mode it’s completely smooth as if it were one constant, never-ending gear. However, at a stop the driver does hear a rather unnerving audible clunk when changing gears. Despite the weird noises, the easy-to-use transmission never gave us any problems.

In 2WD the rear wheels are locked together and turn in-sync just like many ATVs. On most terrain, the Teryx’s fat tires hook up just fine. However, for the occasion when traction is marginal, a conveniently positioned dash-mounted 2WD/4WD toggle switch is at the drivers finger tip. The switch can be pushed on the fly, but will only engage/disengage below 16 mph. Engagement was always smooth, but we found that sometimes the gas pedal needs to be tapped a few times before the gears mesh and engage.

When the trail gets really gnarly, the Teryx employ’s a Variable Front Differential Control which allows the front wheels to be incrementally locked together via a separate spring-loaded lever. When locked in the maximum position, the Teryx delivers true 100-percent, rock-crawling 4WD. However, when fully engaged, steering does become heavy and the vehicle has a greater propensity to understeer. In practice, we found it best to use it only when navigating steep slow-speed inclines with the wheels almost completely straight.

Stability or a lack there of has plagued the RUV industry since its inception and Kawasaki engineers worked hard to ensure the Teryx is a safe, stable vehicle. To accomplish this, engineers designed the machine’s wheelbase at 76-inches and overall width at 58.7-inches. This gives the Teryx to a long, wide footprint out on the trail, yet it can still fit in the bed of a full-size pickup truck. In an effort to increase the Teryx’s overall balance, Kawasaki engineers strategically mounted the engine in the middle of the chassis-between the driver and passenger seats. This helps keep the chassis balanced front-to-rear and also helps keep the machines 1276 pounds (claimed dry weight) centered. In the case where physics get the upper hand, the tubular steel frame incorporates a roll-bar which meets SAE standards for driver and passenger roll-over protection.

Handling and machine stability are one of the strongest aspects of the Teryx. Steering is precise and very neutral feeling. In 2WD there isn’t a hint of understeer, which makes it possible for the driver to spin up the rear wheels and ‘steer with the rear’ quite effectively. Even while turning sharply at speed, the Teryx’s four-wheels remained close to the ground and although it is possible to roll it, it’s going to require a bit of driver negligence.

Complimenting the superb handling is proper, first-rate suspension that simply gets the job done. Up front, an independent, double-wishbone setup is linked to a set of long travel A-arms, dampened via preload-adjustable, gas-charged Kayaba coil-over shocks. Front wheel travel comes in at 7.5 inches.

Similar to that of the front, an independent, double-wishbone setup handles rear suspension duties and is dampened via gas-charged Kayaba coil-over shocks which also feature remote reservoirs with 7.2 inches of travel. The IRS also incorporates a torsion bar which helps to eliminate body roll. Ground clearance is a lofty 11.2 inches, which allows the Teryx to comfortably sail over large trail hazards. And in case ground clearance isn’t quite enough, the Teryx employs steel skid plates underneath its vital components that help protect the drivetrain from the affects of your ensuing mayhem.

Suspension action is responsive and delivers a plush ride. In fact, it never felt overwhelmed unless you hit a serious g-out or came-up a little short on a jump. Even though we got the suspension to bottom, it had good resistance and dreaded bump steer was minimal. When maneuvering through whoops sections as long as the driver stayed on the throttle, the Teryx tracked straight without any side-to-side swapping. Otherwise it devoured all of the types of terrain we threw at it during the course of our rides: steep inclines, declines, jumps, g-out’s – if you can find it, most probably the Teryx can handle it.

Dual front 200mm disc brakes with two-piston 27mm calipers supplement the engines’ electronic engine braking system and are neatly recessed inside the steel wheels, sheltering them from debris and other trail hazards. Out back, the Teryx utilizes Kawasaki’s sealed, hydraulic, multi-disc rear brake system, which was designed to work in the harshest of conditions. The brakes on the Teryx are fantastic with plenty of power and feel available at the foot pedal.

There’s no doubt the Teryx is a sporty machine, but when the time comes to put in some real ‘work’, the Teryx doesn’t let you down. Behind the seats a large tie-hook equipped bed can accommodate some of the machine’s 500-pound load carrying capacity. Towing can be accomplished via the 2-inch receiver hitch and the Teryx has a 1300-pound towing capacity. A 7.9-gallon fuel tank is positioned underneath the passenger seat and feeds the engine through a reliable fuel pump powered by the vacuum produced by the running engine. The fuel tank is filled via a spin-on style fuel cap. However, there is no fuel indicator or low fuel light.

Externally, the Teryx sports Thermoplastic Olefin bodywork that Kawasaki claims is more scratch resistant than polyethylene plastic (used some other RUVs). Overall fit and finish was great and we never heard any weird squeaks or encountered any loose or rattling parts by the end of our test.

So there you have it, a half-scale trophy truck in a RUV disguise. The Teryx’s got the power, handling, suspension and even the drivetrain to take you miles away from anywhere. But the thing we found ourselves most impressed with was just how easy it is to drive. After spending two days in the driver seat we couldn’t find one obstacle we couldn’t find our way over. And throughout our excursion the Teryx delivered a comfortable ride that didn’t wear us out.

The Teryx 750 comes in three variations: the standard, LE and NRA models. The standard we tested has an MSRP of $9699 and comes in three colors: Sunbeam Red, Woodsman Green, and REALTREE Hardwoods Green HD. The LE edition comes in the same colors but adds a digital instrumentation package, hard top, half-windshield, dual retractable cup holders, and gas-assisted tilting cargo bed at a price of $10,599. The NRA edition has all of the LE’s features plus dual gun scabbards and comes with REALTREE Hardwoods Green HD painted bodywork, bumper, wheels and dashboard at an MSRP of $11,349.

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