Whether you appreciate the styling of Kawasaki’s Drifter or not, you have to hand it to Kawasaki for one thing. It goes all the way when styling a retro bike.
Look at the 2000 W650 in our November 6, 1999 article. It’s a classic parallel twin right down to the functional kick starter.
The Kawasaki Drifter models, with their blacked out suspension and chassis pieces and heavily valanced fenders are also hard core “retro”. No half measures here.
Forget about whether the Kawasaki Drifter is a shameless knock-off of a classic Indian design. Shameless Harley knock-offs have been selling well for years. The real question for Kawasaki is whether or not they have found a nitch in the market place with the Drifter or whether their styling exercise has gone too far for American tastes.
I, for one, like the styling of the Drifter. It’s the first bike that’s really made me feel the spirit of the old cruisers. I don’t know why, but it may just be the uncompromising approach Kawasaki took to the design.
By all accounts the Kawasaki Drifter (particularly the 1500) performs well, also. With fuel injection and a throttle-position sensor, the Drifter motor is more than competitive with other V-twins on the market.
But cruising is primarily about style and feel, isn’t it? That’s where you have to decide for yourself how you react to a bike like the Drifter.