2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R review, test ride
19th Nov 2013 8:55 pm
We’ve just ridden Kawasaki’s flagship Ninja ZX-14R in India to learn what makes this sports-tourer the holy-grail for so many worldwide.
Kawasaki launched its Ninja ZX-14R at the Tokyo motor show in 2005, replacing the outgoing ZX-12R at the time. Ever since, the big Ninja has won many hearts, going on to become a hot favourite with biking enthusiasts the world over. The ZX-14R is a purpose-built machine, a sports-tourer that aims to give the rider a powerful sportsbike feel, without making much of a compromise on comfort, as is required for sustained long-distance riding. Apart from this, the ZX-14R has a fierce reputation, being ranked amongst the fastest production motorcycles on the planet, and having earned itself a number of accolades while tearing up the tarmac at drag strips.
The Ninja ZX-14R is a massive, macho looking motorcycle, its nose housing a set of aggressively styled twin headlights, placed on either side of a V-shaped ram-air duct. The big Ninja provides riders an analogue speedometer and tachometer, along with a digital display with odometer, twin trip meters, range, engine and outside temperature, plus more. You can also select your power mode and traction control level from here. There’s a bulbous 22 litre fuel tank that offers adequate inner thigh support. The ZX-14R comes with a single-piece, broad riding saddle that kept us comfortable even when riding the big bike long distances. The ZX-14R sports an exposed drive chain. Its tail comprises a V-shaped LED taillight and clear lens turn signal indicators.
At the heart of the big Ninja sits its four-stroke, 1441cc, liquid-cooled, in-line, four-cylinder engine, which relies on Kawasaki’s ram-air system for added power at high speeds. The ZX-14R generates a massive dose of 210bhp at 10,000rpm, with equally fearsome peak torque output, 16.57kgm at 7500rpm, driving its beefy rear wheel. The ZX-14R runs like a sedate, very normal street going motorcycle if you ride it with a light, sensible hand on the throttle. It’s smooth and vibe free, and feels deceptively docile for a bike that packs acceleration credentials to literally blow away most rival superbikes. The rider has the option of selecting a pair of power modes, namely Full and Low, which restricts power by upto 25 percent high in the rev band.
Kawasaki have also given the option of a 3-level traction control system, 1 and 2 doing a good job when riding in the dry, with wheelie control, while level 3 is best left for wet riding conditions. Although we didn’t have the opportunity to check how well the system works on a wet road, we experienced the big Ninja’s electronics stepping in to cut power even under light throttle input when cornering at low speeds in the dry, under 60kph, with the traction control set to level 3. 1 and 2 offer a more involving ride, the rider having to put in a lot more concentration to keep the big Ninja from laying down large darkies, which are easily achieved in second and third, leave aside first gear.
The fuel-injected engine is allied to a 6-speed gearbox which shifts smoothly, with good feel via its toe shift lever. Likewise, clutch feel is fine, with the slipper function working unobtrusively when coming down hard through the gearbox and using engine braking. As expected, the 14R offers manic performance, the Ninja seldom feeling anywhere close to its limits, even though it will have most riders pushing theirs, with blistering acceleration at any point in the powerband.
You don’t need to rev the 14R hard to come to terms with the business end of its powerband. There’s more than ample power available from low-down, just over idle in every gear, building with a massive surge, through its brutal mid-range all the way up to redline. Hook the gearbox into second with power mode set to Full, and open the gas from even as low as 30kph, shifting up the box quickly and before you know it, the big Kawasaki will have smashed past 200kph, blurring the scenery around you as it hurtles along at insane speeds. A top speed in the region of 300kph makes this a faster bike than most roads in India can handle.
The Ninja ZX-14R is held together by an alloy, monocoque frame as is now a long standing tradition for this Kawasaki flagship bike. It uses upside-down telescopic forks and a linked monoshock with strengthened alloy swingarm for rear suspension. The big Kawasaki leans its rider into the handlebars, but not quite as aggressively as its track focussed sibling, the ZX-10R, which makes this an easier bike to live with on Indian roads. The 14R is actually quite a comfortable motorcycle to pilot over long distances. The ZX-14R’s front (120/70) and rear (190/50) tyres offered good traction, as they strained through our test ride to keep up with the immense power the bike lays down through its rear wheel. The long wheelbase provided ample stability, whether riding at high speeds or negotiating corners confidently on the big Kawasaki. Don’t however expect sharp point and shoot handling from the 14R, which feels more a heavy, stable but neutral steering bike when leaned through corners. The ZX-14R comes equipped with twin 310mm petal discs upfront and a single 250mm unit at the rear, with ABS offered as standard in India.
The Ninja ZX-14R comes into India via the CBU import route. Kawasaki has priced this flagship motorcycle at Rs 16.9 lakh (ex-showroom, Pune) here and currently only sells through a single dealership, in Pune. More detailed ride report coming soon.