First Ride: 2007 Kawasaki GTR1400

Kawasaki enter the super-tourer class with their blistering GTR1400. Well-appointed and refined, this top-end tourer also comes with a strong helping of brutish Kawasaki performance.

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Submitted by dagored99 on Wed, 02/04/2008 - 17:34

Visordown Motorcycle News


In this molly-coddled, nappy-wearing world Kawasaki stick out like a sore thumb. The marque has always been about power and speed and despite ever-increasing legislation they stick to their guns. For this, they are to be saluted. Sometimes they make rather heavy bikes, sometimes they haven't gone round corners very well, but Kawasakis always make lots of horsepower and go extremely fast. And that is, after all, what motorcycles are supposed to do.

So when they launched their new GTR1400 super-tourer in the rain-lashed Alsace region near the French/Swiss border, they came out with all guns blazing. At the press conference there was no cocking about with dreamy images or girly voice-over, instead we were treated to a pounding re-hashed edit of 'Eye of the Tiger' and video images of the GTR kicking the shit out of corners. ZZR1400 power and Kawasaki's ethos of maximum speed had just invaded the previously peaceful world of sports-touring. Goodness gracious, I nearly spilt my tea.

It's a hell of a thing, this bike. It looks damn imposing just sat there: muscular lines, bulging bodywork, built-in panniers (that don't leak) with speed strakes down the side, massive shotgun exhaust pointing way out the back. The shaft-drive castings are a work of art, the build quality is extremely high and with plenty of stainless steel and solid anodizing, it's a sensation confirmed when you sit on the bike for the first time. It feels solid. Kawasaki have really done their homework on this one, and the whole bike exudes an air of purpose and excellence. The GTR's a bit aloof actually, the new bully on the block making the FJR1300 and Pan European look a bit weedy by comparison. Is it intimidating? No, but it's a whole lot of motorbike and it commands a certain respect.

You're talking 300kgs when fuelled-up and ready to go, but the weight is hidden well. A few journos toppled off at a standstill (foot slips out on gravel, down you go) or pulling U-turns (over the C of G, down you go), but once underway the GTR is completely manageable. For about 70% of the riding time during the launch the roads were deluged with water and for really fast riding on some of the awful German routes we crossed into, you were aware of the weight as the front and rear tyres skipped and slipped on overbanding. In the dry and with zealous use, the brakes would get extremely hot and start to fade as the mass of the Kawasaki bore down on the front end, but this was only after real heavy-handed riding and the two instances when the GTR's weight made its presence felt. The rest of the time, it simply wasn't an issue. However, I wouldn't like to be under 5'7" and at the controls. A couple of the shorter-legged riders squeaked quietly when performing low-speed manoeuvres.

Before you go anywhere, first you've got to start the thing. The GTR uses a new electronic key-fob system called KIPASS, which does away with a conventional ignition key. Instead you've got a round switch on the headstock that turns the bike's ignition on and off, and an easily-lost immobilizer fob without which the bike won't start. It works, but I'm not really sure why it's there. The fob also houses a key for the fuel tank and panniers (as does the base of the round switch) but I dunno. It just seems to be solving a problem that doesn't exist. Anyway, we're riding towards Salzburg on a mix of A-roads and busy motorways: how does the GTR feel? Smooth, really smooth and unstoppably powerful with a quiet, civilized manner. The mirrors are extremely effective, being an under-the-elbows effort a la Pan European, and your legs are nestled against the side of the tank in moulded cut-outs between the frame and the fairing. I'm seriously bloody comfortable. There's an electric screen in front of me which I set at 2/3rds for most of the time. In the heavy rain it's great as I can raise it to maximum, duck down behind, pop my visor and peer through the gap between the top of the screen and the edge of my visor. On the Autobahns there's a slight weave with the screen set high, so I drop it down to minimum and tuck down low. The weave disappears and a top speed of 160mph comes up on the easily-read analogue clocks. Electric screens have been around forever, ignored by most but they do work in this instance. A larger screen is available for the GTR at £130, and serious mile-munchers will probably want to invest.

I'm not a huge fan of the ZZR1400 nor its peaky power delivery. I find it fussy and rather irritating, so was fascinated to feel how the Variable Valve Timing and torque-boosting modifications to that motor for use in the GTR would make it feel. It's completely transformed, to the point whereby the 1,352cc engine is better used in the GTR than it is in the ZZR. The motor is absolutely laden with torque, grunting up from as little as 3,000rpm with a torrent of foot-pounds and a glorious rasp from the exhaust. There's no discernible power step as the VVT operates, as there is on Honda's clunky VTEC system on the VFR800, just seamless grunt that endows the GTR with effortless performance at any normal operating speed. If you're eating motorway miles the Kawasaki will do so in complete serenity, while whooshing through overtakes with the merest twist of throttle. Once you get to your destination, have dropped off your luggage at the hotel and fancy exploring the local A-roads, there's more than enough power to have fun with. We nailed mile after wet mile of mountain passes on the launch and pushing the big bike was a lot of fun. Kawasaki reckon you could get 200 miles from each 22-litre fill-up at a steady cruise, although I reckon 170 miles is more of a realistic figure.

Kawasaki have made much noise of their new shaft drive, and it's a stoating system. Immeasurably better than anything BMW have ever come up with, under power the drive is completely neutral and the gearbox is sweet as a penny. Clutchless-shifts come naturally on the GTR, there's really no need to use the clutch for going up the 'box, and you can pop down through the gears fairly enthusiastically into corners without any hopping or nasty noises from the back end. Interestingly, 6th gear is an overdrive gear on the GTR. It's set so high and flat that it's best saved for motorway work, and quick overtakes require the rider to drop down into 5th to get the power they need. It makes sense I suppose, this is a long-distance bike and the too-tall 6th gear allows you to cruise effortlessly at 90mph while averaging around 37mpg. That's pretty good for a bike this size.

But it's the handling of the big GTR that raised eyebrows and blood-pressures. Despite its considerable bulk and the aforementioned low-speed sensation of mass, you can hustle on this bike should you want to. Pick your lines deliberately, use the full width of the road, keep the whole thing smooth and you can have real fun on the 1400. The monocoque frame is 20% stiffer than the donor ZZR model to cope with the extra weight, and they developed the bike with firmer suspension and softer tyres than current touring bikes. The idea was to give the GTR good handling while allowing the tyre to soak up some of the smaller bumps, and it works. There's considerably more ground clearance than a Pan European, and the Bridgestone BT021s afford a huge level of grip and cornering safety. The only concern was with all that weight and power, how long a rear tyre lasts remains to be seen. With spirited riding I reckon you'd do one in under 2,000 miles, but you'd have to be going like a lunatic to get that low.

I went into the GTR launch expecting a bit of a lash-up, to be honest, and came away deeply impressed at what is a well-finished and executed motorcycle. The build quality, style, performance and handling of the 1400 are exceptional and so long as comparative things like fuel consumption and tyre life don't hobble it, the GTR should wipe the floor with the competition. The performance of the Kawasaki fully-laden with luggage and fuel is outrageous. Don't be scared off by all this talk of speed, it's not like it's unmanageable or anything, it's just there's a surplus of power should you want to use it. And even if you don't, it's nice to know it's available.

SPECS

TYPE - TOURING

PRODUCTION DATE - 2007

PRICE NEW - £10,999

ENGINE CAPACITY - 1352cc

POWER - 155bhp@8800rpm

TORQUE - 100.5lb.ft@6200rpm

WEIGHT - 279kg

SEAT HEIGHT - 815mm

FUEL CAPACITY - 22L

TOP SPEED - 160mph

0-60 - n/a

TANK RANGE - N/A

In this molly-coddled, nappy-wearing world Kawasaki stick out like a sore thumb. The marque has always been about power and speed and despite ever-increasing legislation they stick to their guns. For this, they are to be saluted. Sometimes they make rather heavy bikes, sometimes they haven't gone round corners very well, but Kawasaki's always make lots of horsepower and go extremely fast. And that is, after all, what motorcycles are supposed to do.

So when they launched their new GTR1400 super-tourer in the rain-lashed Alsace region near the French/Swiss border, they came out with all guns blazing. At the press conference there was no cocking about with dreamy images or girly voice-over, instead we were treated to a pounding re-hashed edit of 'Eye of the Tiger' and video images of the GTR kicking the shit out of corners. ZZR1400 power and Kawasaki's ethos of maximum speed had just invaded the previously peaceful world of sports-touring. Goodness gracious, I nearly spilt my tea.

It's a hell of a thing, this bike. It looks damn imposing just sat there: muscular lines, bulging bodywork, built-in panniers (that don't leak) with speed strakes down the side, massive shotgun exhaust pointing way out the back. The shaft-drive castings are a work of art, the build quality is extremely high and with plenty of stainless steel and solid anodizing, it's a sensation confirmed when you sit on the bike for the first time. It feels solid. Kawasaki have really done their homework on this one, and the whole bike exudes an air of purpose and excellence. The GTR's a bit aloof actually, the new bully on the block making the FJR1300 and Pan European look a bit weedy by comparison. Is it intimidating? No, but it's a whole lot of motorbike and it commands a certain respect.

You're talking 300kgs when fuelled-up and ready to go, but the weight is hidden well. A few journos toppled off at a standstill (foot slips out on gravel, down you go) or pulling U-turns (over the C of G, down you go), but once underway the GTR is completely manageable. For about 70% of the riding time during the launch the roads were deluged with water and for really fast riding on some of the awful German routes we crossed into, you were aware of the weight as the front and rear tyres skipped and slipped on overbanding. In the dry and with zealous use, the brakes would get extremely hot and start to fade as the mass of the Kawasaki bore down on the front end, but this was only after real heavy-handed riding and the two instances when the GTR's weight made its presence felt. The rest of the time, it simply wasn't an issue. However, I wouldn't like to be under 5'7" and at the controls. A couple of the shorter-legged riders squeaked quietly when performing low-speed manoeuvres.

Before you go anywhere, first you've got to start the thing. The GTR uses a new electronic key-fob system called KIPASS, which does away with a conventional ignition key. Instead you've got a round switch on the headstock that turns the bike's ignition on and off, and an easily-lost immobilizer fob without which the bike won't start. It works, but I'm not really sure why it's there. The fob also houses a key for the fuel tank and panniers (as does the base of the round switch) but I dunno. It just seems to be solving a problem that doesn't exist. Anyway, we're riding towards Salzburg on a mix of A-roads and busy motorways: how does the GTR feel? Smooth, really smooth and unstoppably powerful with a quiet, civilized manner.

The mirrors are extremely effective, being an under-the-elbows effort a la Pan European, and your legs are nestled against the side of the tank in moulded cut-outs between the frame and the fairing. I'm seriously bloody comfortable. There's an electric screen in front of me which I set at 2/3rds for most of the time. In the heavy rain it's great as I can raise it to maximum, duck down behind, pop my visor and peer through the gap between the top of the screen and the edge of my visor. On the Autobahns there's a slight weave with the screen set high, so I drop it down to minimum and tuck down low. The weave disappears and a top speed of 160mph comes up on the easily-read analogue clocks. Electric screens have been around forever, ignored by most but they do work in this instance. A larger screen is available for the GTR at £130, and serious mile-munchers will probably want to invest.

Continue for the Visordown verdict of the Kawasaki 1400GTR

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