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Head to head: Ducati Streetfighter V4 S vs Kawasaki Z H2

The two new kings of the hyper naked class do battle, but which comes out on top?

SINCE these two bikes were announced the public have been asking us to run a head to head comparison of what many believe are the two kings of the hyper naked category.

Both offer other-worldly levels of power, torque, and outright performance, although both go about succeeding in totally different ways.

Ducati Streetfighter V4 S vs Kawasaki Z H2

The Ducati is a traditional take on the streetfighter concept – take a high performance sports bike, strip off the fairings, and ditch the clip on bars in favour of yoke mounted items. The Kawasaki on the other hand only shares its engine with Kawasaki supercharged sports bike the Ninja H2. It’s designed from the ground up to be a naked.

We’ve been lucky enough to test both of these new bikes already in 2020, here’s what we think.

Price

One of the areas where these two machines differ the most is on price, with the Ducati V4 starting at £17,595 and rising to £19,795 as tested for the Streetfighter V4 S. The Kawasaki though starts at £15,149 and rises to £16,799 for the top-spec performance edition.

Engine

The heart of any super naked is of course the engine, and both of these bikes feature some of the most technologically advanced and powerful engines to ever grace a road-going production motorcycle.

With 208hp, the Ducati just wins the outright power battle, although when riding the bike on the road that’s not the full story. While the Ducati is very torquey, producing 90lb-ft, it’s engine only really comes alive above 8,000rpm. Singing like a demonic choirboy all the way to the stratospheric redline.

Producing 197bhp and 101lb-ft of torque, the Kawasaki’s supercharged thousand cc engine is the polar opposite of the Ducati, producing effortless amounts of shove from any revs and allowing the rider to be lazy with gear selection as you ride the never-ending tsunami of torque.

If you were riding on track, the more peaky delivery of the Ducati would come into its own, more than likely helping the bike to match the lap times of the Panigale V4 sportsbike, but on the road the more useful delivery and grunt of the Kawasaki makes it a much more rewarding ride.

Suspension and handling

With the Streetfighter V4 S borrowing much of the chassis and suspension tech from the Panigale V4 S sports bike, the Ducati is blessed with some seriously top-shelf suspension in the form of the Öhlins EC semi active forks and rear shock.

It’s some of the best kit on the market and with that, you get the highest levels of stability, support, and handling. The Ducati is lightening fast to turn, with a hard-as-nails character that perfectly suits the razor sharp styling. The comfort offered by the set up is also second to none, as the system constantly adapts to changing road surfaces to maximise comfort and precision.

With its fully adjustable Showa suspension front and rear, the Kawasaki does seem a little outgunned in this test, although the Kawasaki despite its size and weight (239kg ready to ride) is still a formidable back road weapon.

The suspension is plush and compliant when riding slowly yet seems to improve the faster you go. If anything limits the bike on a quick road ride it’ll be the Pirelli Diablo Rosso III tyres finding the limit before the suspension does.

Brakes

Both machines are blessed with top-spec stoppers in the form of Brembo M4s on the Kawasaki and the Ducati. As you’d expect, both bikes have full IMU controlled cornering ABS and traction control.

With the Ducati weighing in at under 200kg ready to ride, the mighty Brembos seem to stop the bike before your brain has managed to calculate what’s happening. The bite and feel through the lever is exceptional, with only a minor amount of fade occurring after four frantic hours of fast road riding.

Likewise, the stoppers on the Kawasaki are also super strong, with front tyre biting into the tarmac in heavy stops with audible displeasure.

Tech

With the Panigale again providing the tech for the Streetfighter V4 you have one of the most immersive and wide-reaching motorcycle interfaces on the planet. The world really is your oyster as you can fettle and fiddle the bikes settings with MotoGP levels of geekery.

The Kawasaki though is more stripped back and simple, a few riding modes, engine power modes, and traction control that also controls the wheelie are all that it really needs.

If you’re a fan of getting your bike exactly how you like it, the Ducati is a tool to be reckoned with, while fans of just getting on and riding will appreciate the simplicity of the Kawasaki Z H2.

Verdict

After spending a day prior to the lockdown hammering the Ducati around some of the UK’s best riding roads on the Ducati I was exhilarated, impressed, and left feeling a little hollow at the same time.

Nobody can deny the Streetfighter V4 is a formidable motorcycle, with speed, power, handling, and specs that embarrass most top-flight sports bikes, but it only felt special when the rev-counter kissed the redline. Anything below brain-out speeds kind of just felt okay.

I found it hard to justify the Streetfighter of the arguably prettier and better performing Panigale V4 S.

The Kawasaki on the other hand isn’t a reworked sports bike, it is a super naked, from the ground up. The engineers who built it worked to make it totally different to the H2 sports bike, so the machine offers much more than just a H2 with wind in your face experience.

It’s chunky torque and electric bike-like acceleration never failed to put a smile on my face, the fact that it isn’t a re-worked sports bike only makes it a more exhilarating machine.

If You have £20k to spend on a naked bike and want the best on-road experience that money can, get the Kawasaki.

You can put the money you save into a load of trackdays and some new lids!

If you’re serious about nailing your lap times on track, buy the Streetfighter – or even better: just get a Panigale!

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