If you were to put together a grid showing all 800cc side-by-sides with seating for four, that grid would be pretty small.
Our grid shows the Polaris RZR 4 800 and Kawasaki Teryx4. Those are two great vehicles, comparably priced (T4 $15,799 vs. RZR 4 8 $15,999) and each with its own strengths.
However, with the changes Kawasaki has made to the Teryx4 for 2014, the line separating the two vehicles is very thin. In fact, we think the T4 holds the edge in some areas, most notably in rider and passenger comfort.
We argued when we wrote about the first T4 back in the spring of 2012 that Kawasaki, in order to get off-road consumers to look the Teryx4’s way, would have to do things to set it apart. Kawasaki is obviously working hard to continue to make this happen.
It’s not one thing that really stands out about the T4—it’s a combination of things that really make this a solid, fun side-by-side. That combo includes a spunky powerplant, excellent electronic power steering (EPS), a very decent ride, great suspension (with its four Fox Podium shocks), roomy interior and lighter chassis, plus a truckload of smaller refinements and returning features that make the T4 a side-by-side to be reckoned with.
Paiute Perfect Test For T4
Choosing the Paiute Trail in central Utah to show off the capabilities of the Teryx4 was a smart move on Kawi’s part. Not only is the Teryx4 ideal for the variety of trails and conditions found on the Paiute Trail, but that trail system accentuated all the best features of this four-seater.
What do we mean when we say “accentuated all the best features?” As one Kawasaki official pointed out during the technical presentation before our two-day ride on the Paiute Trail, “We’re not going after the guy who wants to go 90 mph over the whoops or in the sand.” Point well made. The T4 is not a hard core desert thrasher, nor would you probably want to use it to meander around on the farm.
The T4 is a full-blooded off-road vehicle designed for play and trail riding—with three of your family and/or friends. And it fills that role very well.
Although the vehicle is in its third model year, we consider the 2014 Teryx4 a “second generation” vehicle. First introduced for model year 2012, the T4 basically got a little makeover
(read: new coloration) for 2013. Then for 2014, Kawi cranked things up with a larger engine (34 additional ccs) and better ride, thanks to high performance Fox shocks. Just those two things alone are enough to make this a very competitive vehicle in the four-seat 800cc segment.
So what about that 34 additional ccs? Those help account for an 8 percent increase in horsepower and 10 percent bump in torque compared to the 2013 engine. While those are something to crow about, Kawi is just as pumped about the 20 percent increase in fuel economy/mpg, which obviously increases the range of the T4.
Changes to the engine to get those numbers include a revised crown that raises the compression ratio from 9.3:1 to 10.7:1. Kawasaki engineers also increased the crank mass to enhance idle stability and revised the cam profiles for better combustion efficiency. Also, a larger 35mm diameter (compared to the previous 31.88mm) exhaust collector is tuned to optimize the power delivery of the engine.
So how do all those changes translate to power on the trail? Very impressively. We like the smooth power delivery of the engine and especially like how it responds when you press the throttle. There is little to no hesitation at all. We readily admit that when riding at elevation—we were above 11,000 feet at the highest points on the trail—the engine wasn’t exactly “snappy.” But then, no engine would be at that elevation, especially when you keep in mind that you lose about 3 percent horsepower every 1,000 feet you gain. That’s what elevation will do to horsepower. Drop off the mountain though, and the T4 has plenty of power for the conditions and terrain we were riding in. Kawasaki still uses a V-twin design for this liquid-cooled four-stroke with its four valves per cylinder and 783cc displacement. That’s a touch more than the 760cc RZR 4 800.
The front and rear suspension now with Fox Podium Shocks on all four corners is a nice improvement for the T4. With adjustable compression damping and spring preload for varied riding conditions, these piggyback shocks are a step up from the Showa shocks and then Kayabas on the previous T4s. There’s a bit more travel on the front (8.0 vs. 2013’s 7.8 inches), while the rear travel stays the same at 8.3 inches.
The suspension performed well and there were stretches of different trails where the front and rear suspensions had to work (including an impressive whoop section) over rocks and ruts and a few downed trees so we did get a good feel for what the vehicle can handle. When the trail got rougher, a few clicks on the shocks and all was well. In all, the Fox Podiums offer 24-way compression damping.
Purpose-Built For T4
In explaining the move to the Fox Podium Shocks, Kawasaki suspension engineer Brian Butler said, “We didn’t think it was bad what we had but we wanted to focus on the ride and improve the ride of the vehicle while still keeping the sporty feel. We worked with Fox directly to design a shock specifically for this vehicle.”
Let’s talk wheelbase a little. When the T4 was first introduced a couple of years ago, it had an 86.1-inch wheel base, which stayed the same for model year 2013. In 2014, the wheelbase was shortened to 85.7 inches— that compared to the RZR 4 800’s 107.4-inch wheelbase.
When first reporting on the 2012 T4, we wrote, “Some riders like a longer wheelbase for that feeling of added stability, a larger footprint if you will. Kawasaki is sticking with its claim that a shorter wheelbase gives its vehicle a shorter turning radius.”
The T4 does have a nice, tight turning radius and is agile and very responsive on tight trails (thanks, in part, to EPS), which was proven over and over on the Paiute Trail.
We can’t say enough good about Kawi’s EPS, which is standard now on all T4 models. There were some tight turns on the Paiute where the power steering was handy but it was over the rocks and through the ruts where it took out any “jarring” and reinforced the value of EPS.
We couldn’t write about the T4 without talking about the roomy cockpit. From its high-back bucket seats, both front and rear, to its “stadium” seating for the rear passengers (the seats are a little higher and off-set from the front seats), to the adjustable driver’s seat to standard doors (as opposed to nets), the T4 has one of the best cockpit setups in the industry. You do have to remove the driver’s seat and have a few hand tools to adjust the seat, but it is adjustable, and that’s a bonus. We adjusted ours by moving it back and once we did that we were very comfortable in the driver’s seat and had plenty of room to move around.
Other changes to the T4 for 2014 include new highintensity LED headlights, refinements to the transmission ratios for an improved feel and better engine braking and strong thermoplastic olefin bodywork. The T4 (Sunrise Yellow) has an MSRP of $15,799 while the Camo version is $16,299 and the LE (Candy Lime Green or Candy Burnt Orange) is $16,999. One “feature” that tends to get overlooked is Kawasaki Strong 3-year limited warranty, available for all T4s.