Road Test

Kawasaki ZX-10R Review

It was the maddest 1,000cc superbike in the world, then they tamed it. TWO rides both incarnations of the Kawasaki ZX-10R back to back...


With the ZX-10R Kawasaki reverted to what it knew best - making a shrieker of a power plant! The only similarities between the ZX-9R's engine and the ZX-10R's were being both inline fours. Kawasaki went back to the drawing board and came up with a whole new 998cc motor with a slipper clutch, titanium valves and specially designed pistons for maximum power. Internally every component was designed to be as light as
possible to allow the ZX-10R to rev faster and make its claimed 172.6bhp, or 182.6bhp if you include the effect of RAM air.

Interestingly at the bike's launch Kawasaki delayed announcing the final claimed power figure until after Honda and Yamaha revealed theirs, which it then promptly beat by a few bhp. That's marketing for you, and shows how important it was to Kawasaki that the ZX-10R was the most powerful 1,000.

On paper there doesn't seem to be many differences between the '04 and '06 bike's engines. In the update Kawasaki made the ZX-10R's flywheel heavier to, they claimed, help 'prevent the rear wheel locking when the throttle is shut off' (isn't that what slipper clutch does) and a 'greater resistance to wheelying in first, second and third gears.' Which is a great pointer as to what the riding experience is like.

Despite Kawasaki's claims the '04 bike churns out a genuine 160.6bhp and 80.2lb.ft of torque while the '06 bike makes 164bhp and 81.7lb.ft. So the '06 bike is faster, right? No. When it was launched the '04's motor was a breath of fresh air - fast, revvy and a bit of an animal, in keeping with the rest of the bike and Kawasaki's new image. In '06 this beast was tamed. Although they are both hellish fast the new generation doesn't quite have the same raw feeling of  power about it. It doesn't buzz and vibrate, it doesn't sound as raw and it certainly doesn't accelerate as fast.

On the old bike you are always a bit nervous about cracking the throttle wide open in first because it will kick the front up in the air as soon as the power starts to churn in at around 7,000rpm. It's not a gentle progression upwards, more a slam as the unreadable clocks attempt to imprint themselves into your visor. The later bike is far smoother and while it still rears up, it does so in a more controlled and less aggressive fashion, if there is such a thing. Part of this is due to the new bike's heavier crank, which means the motor doesn't rev up as fast, but also the new fuel map. To meet the stricter EU emissions laws Kawasaki was forced to alter the fuel injection map to make it more efficient, something that tamed, or at least took the edge off the fierce power delivery.

Once up to speed the new bike's engine is as impressive as ever and it's hard to split the two bikes. While the '06 model feels slightly stronger in the midrange, and vibrates less while at speed, in all truth there is virtually no way you can unleash anything like their full potential on the UK's roads. But it's fun trying...

Continue the Kawasaki ZX-10R Versus Review - 3/3

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