Kawasaki ZZR1400 (2006 - 2011) review

Ben Cope's picture
By Visordown on Sun, 1 Jan 2006 - 12:01

Details
Manufacturer:
Kawasaki
Category:
Sports Tourers
Price:
£ 9799
Overall
4
Insane engine that just keeps on delivering power until the redline.
The screen is a bit low and your licence is in danger.

Clear road, tuck in behind the screen and pin it. The speedo reads up to 280kph, but there’s an unmarked segment beyond that, where ‘300’ should be but isn’t. The needle swings up to and a millimetre or two beyond the phantom ‘300’ (186mph in English) with indecent haste; the tacho nudges past 11,000rpm and refuses to go further. Rolling off for traffic I glance at the clocks and notice the gear indicator – Kawasaki’s new ZZR1400 was only in fifth. Another run in sixth is a repeat of before, except the rev counter only registers 10,000rpm.

This is one indecently fast motorcycle. Restricted to 186mph it may be, but the ease with which it reaches that speed is breathtaking. (Don’t worry, this all took place on an autobahn where such things are legal, and therefore 100 per cent safe.)

With a claimed 197bhp, the ZZR1400 is being touted as the most powerful bike in the world, ever, for now. And it is nearly (but not quite) beyond reproach.

Initial impressions were of a bulky, imposing motorcycle with slightly dated white-faced clocks, enormous silencers and slender sticky-out mirrors, but to be honest I was taken aback by just how good the ZZR turned out to be. The first inkling came within a second or two of pulling away: burbling across the wet cobbles of the hotel carpark, full lock to full lock, the ZZR’s size and mass (215kg dry) melted away. The combination of riding position and weight distribution rendered the bike as nimble as a 600cc commuter. Blimey.

Second surprise came on the twisty, bumpy and mostly wet German back roads. The ZZR was a breeze. Light steering, superb feedback and plush, compliant suspension made light work of unfamiliar roads. The forks err to the soft and would bottom over potholes, but overall it’s an impressive chassis package given the ZZR’s bulk. Once the roads dried and we found some faster corners ground clearance ultimately put a cap on fun, but dialling in a touch more preload would broaden the bike’s limits. As it was the pegs kissed the ground first, followed by a bulge in the fairing on the right, but only after a dozen passes round one corner for photos. Braking impressed too; lots of feel and power front and rear, and none of the elastic sponginess at the lever present on some Kawasakis, notably the ZX-10R.

Third surprise wasn’t really a surprise. We expected the ZZR to be fast, and fast it is. A claimed 197bhp is a lot by anyone’s standards; you can’t pussyfoot around it, the ZZR is a monster, but a surprisingly manageable, useable monster. Open the throttle wide above 6000rpm and the world around you shrinks to a blur.

Why then does the ZZR exist? Born to replace the outgoing ZX-12R sports-hyper-touring rocketship, this is Kawasaki’s statement to the world. “Look what we can make,” they’re saying, “and see how bloody fast it is”. And that’s followed by a hasty back-pedal or two.

So we heard how the ZZR1400 got its DNA from a conceptual mating of the old ZZ-R1100, ZX-12R and ZX-10R, and that it exists to stand proud as Kawasaki’s flagship model. We also heard of the new motor’s compact design and oil pressure actuated camchain tensioner, designed to resist the stresses of drag-style starts.

Then we got a steer away from speed and performance, as if Kawasaki needed to assuage a pent up nervousness at suddenly finding itself with the world’s most powerful production motorcycle.

Getting huge power from the 1352cc inline four evidently wasn’t a problem but we were told Kawasaki, “wanted to make sure the bike was not intimidating in the rain or at low speeds, even if the rider were not cautious with the throttle”. Well excuse me, but that’s nonsense. If you’re planning on not being cautious with the throttle on a 1400cc, 197bhp motorcycle then you probably shouldn’t be riding it. The ZZR makes nearly 200bhp, for crying out loud. Awesome? Yes. Impressive? Yes. Intimidating? It damn well should be.

The upshot is that while the ZZR is astonishingly, breathtakingly fast, and surges forward with a creamy, liquid rush above 6000rpm, below that the delivery has been muted. On the wet, slippery often single-track roads we were sent on during the launch to demonstrate just how manageable the ZZR is on wet, slippery, single-track roads, power delivery below 6000rpm isn’t breathtaking. It was possible to crack the throttle open at low revs in wet corners and not be in danger of the rear spinning up or stepping out. And that’s not right. A motorcycle like this should demand and encourage good throttle control. I want my 1400cc motorcycles to feel like they’re going to tear my arms out of my sockets at all rpm. I’ll wager that back-to-back with a Hayabusa the ZZR is going to lose out in low-down stomp. In contrast the Kawasaki kicks in with a surge just below 6000rpm that feels out of kilter with the rest of the bike’s smooth refinement.

This is the only blot on an otherwise brilliantly well presented copybook. Dig deep and you’ll find the attention to detail lacking – the galvanised zinc effect rear wheel spindle nut and pressed tin preload collar on the rear shock, for example – but on the whole it is slick and well-executed with a broad range of abilities. The ZZR will scratch commendably, tour without batting an eyelid – although tyre life will be an issue on longer hauls, especially two-up – and it is king of the autobahn blast. If you like your motorcycles big, blue (or dark grey) and bloody fast, you should probably buy one of these.

Clear road, tuck in behind the screen and pin it. The speedo reads up to 280kph, but there’s an unmarked segment beyond that, where ‘300’ should be but isn’t. The needle swings up to and a millimetre or two beyond the phantom ‘300’ (186mph in English) with indecent haste; the tacho nudges past 11,000rpm and refuses to go further. Rolling off for traffic I glance at the clocks and notice the gear indicator – Kawasaki’s new ZZR1400 was only in fifth. Another run in sixth is a repeat of before, except the rev counter only registers 10,000rpm.

This is one indecently fast motorcycle. Restricted to 186mph it may be, but the ease with which it reaches that speed is breathtaking. (Don’t worry, this all took place on an autobahn where such things are legal, and therefore 100 per cent safe.)

With a claimed 197bhp, the ZZR1400 is being touted as the most powerful bike in the world, ever, for now. And it is nearly (but not quite) beyond reproach.

Initial impressions were of a bulky, imposing motorcycle with slightly dated white-faced clocks, enormous silencers and slender sticky-out mirrors, but to be honest I was taken aback by just how good the ZZR turned out to be. The first inkling came within a second or two of pulling away: burbling across the wet cobbles of the hotel carpark, full lock to full lock, the ZZR’s size and mass (215kg dry) melted away. The combination of riding position and weight distribution rendered the bike as nimble as a 600cc commuter. Blimey.

Second surprise came on the twisty, bumpy and mostly wet German back roads. The ZZR was a breeze. Light steering, superb feedback and plush, compliant suspension made light work of unfamiliar roads. The forks err to the soft and would bottom over potholes, but overall it’s an impressive chassis package given the ZZR’s bulk. Once the roads dried and we found some faster corners ground clearance ultimately put a cap on fun, but dialling in a touch more preload would broaden the bike’s limits. As it was the pegs kissed the ground first, followed by a bulge in the fairing on the right, but only after a dozen passes round one corner for photos. Braking impressed too; lots of feel and power front and rear, and none of the elastic sponginess at the lever present on some Kawasakis, notably the ZX-10R.

Third surprise wasn’t really a surprise. We expected the ZZR to be fast, and fast it is. A claimed 197bhp is a lot by anyone’s standards; you can’t pussyfoot around it, the ZZR is a monster, but a surprisingly manageable, useable monster. Open the throttle wide above 6000rpm and the world around you shrinks to a blur.

Why then does the ZZR exist? Born to replace the outgoing ZX-12R sports-hyper-touring rocketship, this is Kawasaki’s statement to the world. “Look what we can make,” they’re saying, “and see how bloody fast it is”. And that’s followed by a hasty back-pedal or two.

So we heard how the ZZR1400 got its DNA from a conceptual mating of the old ZZ-R1100, ZX-12R and ZX-10R, and that it exists to stand proud as Kawasaki’s flagship model. We also heard of the new motor’s compact design and oil pressure actuated camchain tensioner, designed to resist the stresses of drag-style starts.

Then we got a steer away from speed and performance, as if Kawasaki needed to assuage a pent up nervousness at suddenly finding itself with the world’s most powerful production motorcycle.

Getting huge power from the 1352cc inline four evidently wasn’t a problem but we were told Kawasaki, “wanted to make sure the bike was not intimidating in the rain or at low speeds, even if the rider were not cautious with the throttle”. Well excuse me, but that’s nonsense. If you’re planning on not being cautious with the throttle on a 1400cc, 197bhp motorcycle then you probably shouldn’t be riding it. The ZZR makes nearly 200bhp, for crying out loud. Awesome? Yes. Impressive? Yes. Intimidating? It damn well should be.

The upshot is that while the ZZR is astonishingly, breathtakingly fast, and surges forward with a creamy, liquid rush above 6000rpm, below that the delivery has been muted. On the wet, slippery often single-track roads we were sent on during the launch to demonstrate just how manageable the ZZR is on wet, slippery, single-track roads, power delivery below 6000rpm isn’t breathtaking. It was possible to crack the throttle open at low revs in wet corners and not be in danger of the rear spinning up or stepping out. And that’s not right. A motorcycle like this should demand and encourage good throttle control. I want my 1400cc motorcycles to feel like they’re going to tear my arms out of my sockets at all rpm. I’ll wager that back-to-back with a Hayabusa the ZZR is going to lose out in low-down stomp. In contrast the Kawasaki kicks in with a surge just below 6000rpm that feels out of kilter with the rest of the bike’s smooth refinement.

This is the only blot on an otherwise brilliantly well presented copybook. Dig deep and you’ll find the attention to detail lacking – the galvanised zinc effect rear wheel spindle nut and pressed tin preload collar on the rear shock, for example – but on the whole it is slick and well-executed with a broad range of abilities. The ZZR will scratch commendably, tour without batting an eyelid – although tyre life will be an issue on longer hauls, especially two-up – and it is king of the autobahn blast. If you like your motorcycles big, blue (or dark grey) and bloody fast, you should probably buy one of these.

Score Breakdown
Overall
4

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