There’s no doubting Kawasaki has thrown caution to the wind, switching to offensive mode while moving at lightning pace to attack the Indian market with all they’ve got. Realizing the importance of speed, the Japanese bike major has been on a launch spree all of last year, bringing us one new big bike after another, including their flagship ZX-14R; the fastest accelerating production motorcycle ever. Even that however didn’t convey just how seriously they are eyeing India, when compared with how urgently they have brought their cutting edge naked streetfighter, the latest version of the Z1000 here, weeks after the world first set eyes upon it last Nov at the EICMA show, Milan.
You could be forgiven for thinking the really distinctive looking Z1000 were well and truly alive and breathing, as it meanly glares out from the garage, a menacing looking predator with taut, muscular lines and an aerodynamic, edgy body. Macho, brutal and compact in the flesh, the Z1000 sports a couple of design cues that may remind Yamaha enthusiasts of the V-max. Its exceedingly low set, LED fired twin headlights are a highlight, making for amongst the very meanest snouts in the business, and also doing an effective job of turning night into day with a broad, bright throw of white light.
The Z1000 rider is greeted by a compact, informative, space-age digital instruments console, mounted on the motorcycle’s near flat, alloy handlebar. All the usual suspects are in place, with a tachometer, speedometer, trip counters and fuel-gauge in attendance. A neat touch is how the cascading bar rpm counter lights up, to easily allow riders to segregate higher revs, from closer to idle low engine speeds. You get a nice set of switches, reach adjustable front brake lever, supple, really comfy grips, and really top-drawer mirrors that work well on the go.
Then there’s a Kawasaki trademark, green strip that flows from the front, to neatly bisect the bikes mammoth tank, blending into the rider saddle, which is also smartly textured. Another exceptional design element can be seen in how the body coloured pillion seat blends in perfectly to resemble a tail-fairing. This is one motorcycle that isn’t ever going to call for an after-market ‘tail-tidy’ kit.
Overall quality and fit-finish are excellent, and the Z1000 comes with outstanding detailing. Look how neatly its belly pan blends into the bike. It’s also equipped with smart wheel border decals, and beautifully crafted, all stainless steel exhausts, a pair of which peer out purposefully from both sides of this butch new motorcycle. The future just rode in to greet Japanese naked bikes, Kawasaki style (use as blurb).
The Z1000 doesn’t just look good, but also packs a solid punch, its four-stroke, 1043cc, in-line and four-cylinder engine making serious enough power, 140bhp output at 10000rpm. There’s impressive torque as well, 11.3kgm output at 7300rpm, one thing on paper and quite another on the road where it’s nothing short of electrifying, from this naked superbike. Liquid-cooling is standard, as is refinement, in spades. You know this is the next generation of Japanese naked bike, from the moment you slip the bike effortlessly into first gear, and let out the clutch to experience the magic of its perfectly sorted fuel-injection system. Wait a minute, there’s one thing amiss, in Kawasaki failiong to provide the Z1000 a hydraulic assisted clutch, or reach adjustable lever, instead offering an overly heavy, cable operated system, a letdown that robs the Z1000 of riding pleasure. This apart, there’s little to flaw, the Z1000 enjoying an ‘equator’ wide, user-friendly powerband while always feeling smooth. Yamaha’s FZ-1 packed more power into a street naked superbike with it’s downtuned, 5-valve YZF-R1 motor a decade ago, but you know that’s history, when the Z1000 makes you realize how hard you worked to get to the meat of that power, never available low in the rev range. The Z1000 readily delivers its performance smoothly, and so easily from so low in its powerband, it makes even Honda’s impressive rival, the CB1000R feel that much closer to retirement in its life-cycle.
It’s ever so easy to get used to the easy power delivery of the fast Z1000, provided you are careful and show respect with your throttle control. The big Z’s six-speed gearbox is precise, and light for such a big bike. The naked Kawasaki packs more than ample performance, and is easily able to crack the 200kph barrier, and cruise thereon at speeds of up to 160kph, beyond which the lack of a front fairing becomes a problem. The motorcycle can easily climb to higher speeds, but wind buffet prevents holding more speed than this safely.
If there’s another something missed on the Z1000, this has to be traction control, which the powerful Kawasaki would do well to incorporate, given such potent performance. Opening throttle hard easily has the rear step out, the Z1000 showing its hooligan side with power slides, and calling for expert throttle modulation to stay in control of your bike.
The new Kawasaki seats its rider in a slightly sporty, mostly upright riding posture, with a light lean-in to its short handlebars. The latest gen Z comes with a twin spar, alloy frame, cast together with its swingarm pivots to reduce welds. The engine is rubber mounted, and slots in as a stressed member of the frame. In front, the Z1000 comes with separate function upside down telescopic forks, with preload adjustment via the left fork, and compression and rebound damping on the right. While at rear, there’s a horizontal layout, adjustable monoshock, and alloy swingarm.
The Z1000 rides on sticky rubber, providing good traction, with 17 inch rims front and rear. It always feels really light, even nimble for the litre class superbike it is. It’s a motorcycle that steers with neutral feel, and goes easily where pointed. Corners are dealt with confidently, even at high speed, where the bike’s stiff setup helps aid control. However, ride quality feels a touch too firm for Indian conditions, with the Z1000 suspension lacking poise over poor mid-corner road surfaces. When caught in such situations, the bike doesn’t feel quite as planted as required, and you need to sit up and wait fractions, till the road smoothens out, and the motorcycle has settled down. You can’t power through corners with poor surfaces on this bike.
The brakes, a set of 310mm petal discs in front and 250mm single petal disc at rear are powerful, sharp and easily engaged by just a finger or two as required. ABS is standard, and works perfectly.
Kawasaki has put together a convincing package with their latest Z1000, the confidence inspiring naked superbike always feeling so effortlessly easy-to-ride. Perhaps the best styled of all modern day Japanese naked superbikes, the Z1000 boldly signals the next generation is already at our doorstep. It’s a pity Kawasaki stinted on electronic aids, and isn’t providing traction control with the powerful Z, although in truth, this isn’t on any other close rival in India either. Overall, the Z1000, at a not so cheap Rs 12.5 Lakh (ex-showroom, Pune) still is hard to beat if you’re on the market for an in-line, four-cylinder litre class naked superbike in India.