review99aby Neale Bayly

Back for 2007, Kawasaki has taken their big naked standard and gone through it with a fine-toothed comb to make it even better. First introduced in 2003, Kawasaki has revamped the styling, re-tuned the bike for better low and mid-range power, and upgraded the brakes. Despite these improvements, the price of their bargain-blaster is only $8,699. Kawasaki recently invited me out to California to put the new Z-1000 through its paces for MMM. A conflicting travel schedule meant I missed the chance to spend a day on public roads, but I was able to enjoy a short ride on the street in addition to burning a bunch of track miles.

Cresting the blind rise over turn two at Infineon Raceway with my knee skimming across the smooth tarmac, it’s time to gently feed in the throttle and set my sights on the next turn. Standing the bike up and tucking down, the tachometer pulls toward the red line with serious authority. Flicking a quick clutch-less up-shift right before redline, there’s just enough time to get back to redline before easing off for the roller coaster section. While not at any sort of race pace, we are devouring the warm California tarmac at a pretty decent clip. Scrubbing speed for the next turn, I am again impressed at how strong the new radial brakes are before tipping into the downhill turn. Earlier in the day, I had been rushing the new Z-1000 and quickly found some not-so-happy handling traits. The bike felt like it was carrying too much ride height in the rear, causing the front to “push” through the corners. I am unsure the new 190 series tire is the best decision. I backed off some, and worked on smoothness. This completely changed the nature of the experience and I came away from my test happy to report the new Z-1000 is everything the old bike was and more.

The ’07 models use the previous-generation inline four-cylinder power plant, re-tuned for improved low and mid-range response. The 953cc power plant pulls from right off idle, all the way to redline with no holes in the power curve; just strong, linear acceleration all the way through the range. Kawasaki won’t release horsepower figures for the Z, but claims a peak torque increase to 72.8 foot-pounds at 8,200 rpm. It feels like the bike lost a little peak horsepower to make this gain and this would explain big K’s reluctance to publish this figure. I am sure by the time you read this there will be dyno figures to support my theory. (Matt Olund, Sales Manager at Delano Sports Center, an authorized Kawasaki dealer, reports that the Z-1000 generates 123 bhp @ 10,000 rpm, measured at the crank. Ed.)

This enhancement of the low-end power has been achieved by a number of changes. Starting in the bottom-end of the engine, the crank webs have been enlarged by 7%, while up top, smaller intake and exhaust valves are used. To compliment these changes, the cam profiles have been revised and smaller-bore throttle bodies are used. Reduced from 38mm to 36mm, they are equipped with ultra-fine fuel injectors. The net result for the rider is superb response at all throttle openings and seamless transitions getting on or off the throttle. The bike’s fueling capabilities are as close to perfect as it gets and defied my attempts at finding something to complain about.

My biggest beef with some fuel-injection systems is their inability to hold a steady speed at lower engine speeds. If a system is going to misbehave, this is where it will appear. The Z passed this test with flying colors; rewarding you with instant acceleration anywhere, anytime. The new tuning work gets two thumbs up from this moto-scribe.

review99bFurther improvements are found in the transmission, which features lower gear ratios to harness the new low and mid-range torque. I can’t say I had any problem with the gear shifting on the previous model, but Kawasaki improved the shifting with a new revised shift drum and a ball-bearing shift lever. Zipping up or down the box with close to zero effort and no missed shifts all day, the gearbox gets a ten on my scorecard.

An exhaust valve in the right-side muffler further enhances mid-range breathing. Changed from a 4-into-2-into-4 system on last year’s model, the new exhaust is now a 4-into-2-into-2, with each muffler styled to look as if they are two separate pipes. Harking back to Kawasaki’s original KZ-900 Superbike, I personally like the style and its unique appearance. The bike looks like nothing else on two wheels. In addition, the entire exhaust is lighter this year, which helps the handling when swinging back and forth through the tight twisties.

Back to the brakes: I did have a brief thought that the sport bike-sourced, radial caliper stoppers could be overkill on a more street-oriented machine. But, with plenty of adjustment options available from the six-position adjustable front lever, it is possible to dial in some travel before the pistons bite. Adding a little spring adjustment to the front fork would have eliminated a little of the abruptness I first experienced using the anchors in anger. But, like the handing, smoothness and a progressive right hand proved to be the key. Using twin 300mm wave-style rotors up front, two four-piston calipers are responsible for the impressive stopping behavior. In the rear, a single 250 mm wave rotor gets a single-piston caliper and is a worthy addition to the mega braking set up available up front.

Front fork is a beefy sport bike-style, inverted 41mm set up and features 4.7 inches of travel. It is adjustable for spring pre-load as well as having a step-less rebound adjuster for a higher level of sophistication. As tested, it was a tad soft for the track, but after putting some miles on around the circuit, it was perfect for the less-than-smooth road conditions I experienced during my short ride. Tucked away under the rider’s tail, the rear shock is gas charged, is adjustable for spring pre-load, and features step-less rebound adjustment. For the manic track pace it was set too soft, but for speeds better emulating swift road riding, I found it to be very compliant; a superb ride.

While on the subject of ride quality, the Z’s handlebars have been revised some this year to place them closer to the rider. The pegs are still on the sporty side, putting your legs in a sport bike bend. With the narrow, firm seat, this combination was comfortable, although with no long distance test possible, I can’t comment how this arrangement would feel after a day in the saddle. On thing I can say is, don’t expect any wind protection from the small front fairing. This exists purely for cosmetic purposes, and performs its duty well, suitably complimenting the bike’s new sharper looks.review99c

Seat height is 32.3 inches, and the narrow seat made it easy for me to plant both feet at rest. I am just under six foot; so shorter riders may be a tad more challenged during parking lot maneuvers. Fuel capacity is a claimed 4.9 gallons and should give close to 200 miles on a tank without too much drama. Something that struck me as strange was that the bike is only being delivered in the color shown here, Metallic Diablo Black. I wonder why there are no color choices this year. Despite this limitation, it is a striking color scheme, and the bike definitely scores top marks for appearance from my card.

Suggested retail price is $8,649, and the bike is covered by the normal 12-month Kawasaki warranty. In pure dollars and sense, this is a fantastic deal. A bike that is capable of doing a little of everything, from track day blasting to the daily commute with soft luggage in place. Stylish, fast and an absolute hoot to ride, the Kawasaki Z-1000 represents great value and is a standout performer in the naked standard class. Starting with the H-1 and H-2 2-stroke triples, and continuing with the Ninja family, the mighty Z-1 continues Kawasaki’s long history of setting the bar for high-performance. The Z-1000 is another knockout performer from “Team Green”, Kawasaki.

Selected Competition APRILIA Tuono; BMW K1200-R; BUELL Lightning XB12S; Ducati Monster S4-R; HONDA 919; MOTO GUZZI Breva 1200 Sport; SUZUKI B-King; TRIUMPH Speed Triple; YAMAHA FZ-1

M.M.M.

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