Above: The 2018 Kawasaki Ultra 310R continues all but entirely unchanged with merely a change of hood and cowl color. Even a large portion of the graphics are carried over from last year.
Two weeks ago, we revealed some very strong arguments for what we expect to see coming from Sea-Doo for 2018. As the brand celebrates its golden anniversary, we predict some very radical changes coming to a large portion of the world’s highest-selling brand of personal watercraft. But what of the world’s lowest-selling brand, Kawasaki? So much of last year’s buzz encompassed the agonizingly slow reveal of the long-awaited SX-R 1500 JetSki, ushering in the return of the standup ski from Kawasaki.
Thus far, the new SX-R has proven a hit, filling both beaches and starting lines across the country and beyond. Nonetheless, the new JetSki has yet to revitalize the brand’s withered 4-percent domestic total market share. In fact, it is reported that Sea-Doo sells nearly three times more Spark units than all of Kawasaki’s lineup (and according to some sources, that estimate is low). Undaunted, Kawasaki is pushing forward with strengthening its grip on the standup market and aspires to reignite the sport of standup riding.
Top row: The longest carry-over of the brand’s lineup, the STX-15F remains wholly unchanged, making the craft a staggering 13 years old, since first receiving the 1.5-liter engine. Prior to the engine change, the STX hull predates that by another 3 years. The naturally-aspirated Ultra LX is given new stealth gray-and-orange livery. Bottom row: The standard 310X sports a brilliant blue hue while the top-of-the-line 310LX goes unchanged.
And while the SX-R continues to march on in this endeavor, the rest of the lineup, as these incredibly prematurely-leaked images reveal, remains all but completely the same for yet another year. In a Facebook post by 88 Motorsport Sweden last night, they write, “Kawasaki has released the 2018 models and there is nothing new coming from them. Same models than 2017 just different colors.” This, fatefully, is as we predicted in the story mentioned above, and also an indicator of Kawasaki’s total commitment to the SX-R over everything else.
During our exclusive test ride of the SX-R back in April, Kawasaki’s Off-Road & Watercraft Product Manager Dave Oventhal told The Watercraft Journal that Kawasaki was looking at developing it’s own braking system. “Trust me, we’re not ignoring them.” Oventhal admitted while discussing the industry impact of Sea-Doo’s iBR and Yamaha’s RiDE systems. As no such brake lever can be found in these images, we’re lead to believe that we are still at least another year away. And as a final observation, the absence of the Ultra 310X SE (Special Edition) and SX-R from the original post also denotes that the JetSkis have yet to reach European dealer floors, which may prove a source of frustration for some.