Thinking about it, the new ZZR1400 has to be the most-hyped motorcycle in history. In the run up to the release of this new model we've been bombarded with press releases, teaser videos, dyno charts and head-to-heads with the Hayabusa. Kawasaki's drag-racer Rickey Gadson has eulogised the new model and, rather boldly, Kawasaki claim it's the 'king of all sports bikes' and 'the world's fastest accelerating production motorcycle'.
Kawasaki have thrown everything at it except a touch of modesty. Which is all very well, but it does set the ZZR1400 up to be a disappointment. Unless it really is something quite special.
Well now it's time to find out.
The new ZZR1400 was launched at the Nardò Ring, a closed-doors testing facility in the south of Italy. It features a 7.8 mile perfectly round, four-lane high-speed ring and inside this massive high-speed bowl are various other proving grounds, including a handling circuit, drag strips and more. A petrolhead's dream and the perfect place to put the new ZZR1400 through its paces.
The list of changes to this new model is as long Inspector Gadget's arm, but the main points include a new engine, with a capacity hike from 1,352cc to 1,441cc, KTRC - Kawasaki's traction control, the same as used on the Versys 1000 and very similar to that on the ZX-10R, adjustable power modes, a stiffer frame, longer swimgarm and revised, yet familiar styling. Kawasaki claim 200bhp @ 10,500rpm but 210bhp @ 10,500rpm with the addition of RAM air.
Oh and it's heavier too, but only by a couple of kilograms. You see, despite the 1.4kg Kawasaki have managed to shave off the weight of the wheels, all that extra engine requires stronger engine internals, a larger radiator and a stronger chassis but what's a few kilograms between friends?
Sat on the bike it feels firmer than the previous model, even under my meagre 11-stones, it doesn't sag, it feels more sportsbike than sportstourer. Pulling away, I was impressed with how light the front end feels, despite the bike's visual and actual weight, it feels more nimble than you'd think it had any right to be. It might surprise you to know that the bike wasn't extensively developed on a high-speed ring, instead most of its development was on country roads with a bit of autobahn testing thrown in and it shows.
Our first test was out on track, where bikes like the ZZR don't often tread, usually for good reason. When you take a big bike out on track, at the point of getting on the brakes, to turning in, there's usually more than a few moments where you'd think: 'we're not going to make this' but the ZZR did a very good job of imitating a superbike. It is ferociously fast and it racks up speed in a way that's so decieving. Barely revving the engine, the ZZR pulls and pulls.
If you want to rev it out, you can and it's got a hell of a top-end on it but your braking point approaches just as fast if you feed in gears and keep the motor in the sweet spot.
The ZZR feels as comfortable under heavy braking as my ZX-10R. With stiffer suspension compared to the previous model, the bike feels settled and controlled from the moment you apply any braking force, where the older bike would initially squat. The longer wheelbase also helps weight distribution and instead of feeling like the weight's gone up and over the front wheel, you feel like it's firmly behind it, meaning that your forearm may well give up braking way before the bike wants to.
Being a physically large bike, you do feel like you're leaping a fence when shifting from one side to another through a chicane, but the additional weight means that the bike doesn't get unsettled when you're moving around. Once it's on its way into a corner, it's planted. The front end is really solid. On a bike like this it's usually the moment you tip in that it becomes clear that you're not going to get anywhere near the apex but the stiffer forks mean you can think an ambitious line and end up on that line. Even though it's large, it changes direction without protest and it feels really sure-footed when carrying the brakes in right up to the apex. I'm not sure you could say that about the original ZZR1400.
Click for Kawasaki ZZR1400 review page 2 of 2.