The 2014 Kawasaki Z1000 ABS has been dramatically restyled. Kawasaki says it features “sugomi” or “the intense aura or energy given off by a person or thing of greatness.” Whether you like it or not, the styling is unique and bold. From a riding perspective, the front headlight assembly is so low that the bike seems to disappear in front of you from the saddle (more about that later).
Aside from the styling, there are several functional changes to the engine and chassis that we found to be improvements during our first test in and around the Los Angeles area last week. Kawasaki claims the already powerful 1043 cc inline-four DOHC, fuel injected engine makes more power and torque this year than ever before … virtually everywhere in the rev range. To achieve this, Kawsasaki made a number of changes.
These include new cams, breathing passages between cylinders to reduce pumping losses, revised ECU settings, revised velocity stacks, higher flowing air filter, changes to the exhaust header and even shorter final drive gearing (coupled with a taller sixth gear).
The fuel tank is larger this year (4.5 gallons) and the fuel pump incorporates a more accurate fuel level sensor.
Up front, Kawasaki surprised us with a very high quality Showa Separate Function, Big Piston fork, which is about as good as it gets on a sport bike these days. In our experience, these forks are very smooth (very low stiction) and very responsive to damping adjustments. The right fork tube handles compression and rebound damping adjustments, while spring preload adjustments are made on the left. All fork adjustments are stepless. The rear shock (adjustable for preload and rebound) gets revised damping settings and a more progressive linkage.
Similar to the new Ninja 1000, the Z1000 gets stiff, new monobloc front brake calipers with differentiated piston diameters (four pistons per caliper). The front rotors are big 310 mm units. The rear brake is a single 250 mm rotor with a lightweight, single piston caliper.
New wheels cut more than four pounds of unsprung weight, and carry newly developed Dunlop D214 tires.
A new, lighter aluminum subframe eliminates the need for side covers and narrows the width of the bike between the riders legs.
The riding position is slightly more aggressive for 2014, with the rider angled more forward and the seat slightly lower, placing the rider closer to the center of gravity. The ergonomics are complimented by a new, high quality aluminum handlebar with a different bend.
The new instrument pod floats above the headlights (which you do not see from the cockpit at all) and features clock, trip meter, fuel gauge and mpg indicator as well as a unique tachometer that shows riding rpm levels (4000 rpm and above) in a white bar graph that moves horizontally across the instrument panel.
The front end also includes new mirrors designed to improve the view around the rider’s elbows and a new four element (two low beam and two high beam) LED headlight.
After meeting Kawasaki in an obscure alleyway near downtown L.A. for a catered dinner, featuring a working artist that created a painting from scratch in 60 minutes (a street scene featuring the Z1000), we were led into a separate room where a curvaceous young brunette gyrated on top of, and around, the new Z1000 motorcycle. After several minutes, many of the male journalists actually looked at the new bike rather than the model.
A short tech presentation was followed by an evening ride through L.A., and the next day featured a much higher speed romp over Angeles Crest Highway.
We were very impressed with our ride on the new Z1000. The ergonomics are comfortable and functional, and the new engine tune was lively, but very smooth and controllable. Throttle response from the fuel injection is as close to perfect as you can get, a far cry from fuel injected bikes of just a few years ago. Opening a completely closed throttle resulted in a seamless transition, whether the bike was pointed in a straight line or being lifted off its side out of a corner.
Engine response is quick, and together with light, nimble handling, the new Z1000 seems to belie its huge engine (and associated crank inertia). The bike is very easy to ride and confidence inspiring, reminding me somewhat of the sublime handling of the 2011 Honda CB1000R naked we tested a few years ago.
Totally foreign to that Honda, however, is the engine performance of the new Z1000, which would stomp the CB1000R. This bike is fast! It will pull smartly out of corners from as low as 5,000 rpm and progressively rip through the tachometer to roughly 11,000 rpm. A huge plateau of torque and rising horsepower. Last year’s bike made close to 125 hp at the rear wheel, and we wouldn’t be surprised if the new bike is edging toward 130. We will try to confirm this when we get a test unit later.
Although we were very impressed with the new Ninja 1000 ABS, the Z1000 handles even better. Although it shares the same steering geometry as the Ninja, it has a slighly shorter wheelbase, much higher quality fork, and different tires that undoubtedly have a significantly different profile (they roll over much more easily), as well as phenomenal side grip and feel. We were hugely impressed with the Dunlop D214 tires designed for this bike (190/50 rear and 120/70 front). The naked Z1000 is also 22 pounds lighter than the Ninja with a claimed wet weight of 487 pounds.
Kawasaki got the details right, as well, with powerful, controllable brakes and a sure-shifting six-speed transmission. In keeping with the “sugomi” theme, the suspension is tuned for aggressive riding. Hard to fault anywhere above 8-tenths riding, we did find a very choppy ride on Southern California freeways (known for their undulations). We didn’t have the opportunity during our first ride, but we will try to dial this out (with damping adjustments) when we get a longer-term test unit.
Kawasaki is understandably proud of the fit-and-finish of the Z1000, which we could not fault. With high quality components, including an outstanding front fork and monoblock brakes, this is a lot of motorcycle at an U.S. MSRP of $11,999. Although Europe is offering three new ultra performance nakeds this year, they carry a higher price tag, and it will be a rare rider who needs more performance than the 2014 Z1000 ABS has to offer. Take a look at Kawasaki’s web site for additional details and specifications.