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2017 Kawasaki Z650: MD Ride Review (Part One) – Updated With Additional Commentary

We are working on a full review of Kawasaki’s all new 2017 Z650, but we had to convey some preliminary thoughts as we finish the full article. This is an extremely impressive motorcycle on several levels.

Our report from the press launch is hard to fault. With a new frame, re-tuned engine and suspension, and all new looks, Kawasaki could have easily dropped the ball in at least one area, but we don’t see it.

Competing against excellent bikes like the Suzuki SV650 and Yamaha FZ-07, and, let’s face it, having to build to a bargain price point (in this case starting at $6,999), the new Z650 stepped into the teeth of it. Nevertheless, from handling to engine performance, we think Kawasaki may offer the best, most balanced package, yet.

This category has traditionally suffered from poor braking performance, and we have really been impressed with both the power and feel offered by the Z650 brake package.

The engine changes made by Kawasaki are also a step forward, in our opinion, despite the fact that peak horsepower may be down slightly. Although still possessing good top end, Kawasaki concentrated on improving low-end and mid-range power and torque, to very good effect. As we noted earlier, this almost makes the Z650 feel like it carries a larger displacement motor.

Finally, we will have a lot to say about the new steel trellis frame, which we find to be an extremely interesting development by Kawasaki for both this bike and the upcoming Z900. Increasingly unique at gatherings of motorcyclists, steel trellis frames have certain qualities that we like, and will explore in greater depth in our final report.  Stay tuned for our full report.


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26 Comments

  1. Auspuff says:

    That bike is an ugly spud. Give me a simple, effective KZ550, any day!

  2. Jonny Blaze says:

    I had a Versys 650 for 5 years, which shares the same engine as the Z, albeit in a slightly different state of tune. It pulls effortlessly upto 7000 rpm, above which bark becomes harder than bite.

    The engine is bullet-proof, never had any mechanical issue with it, only needing regular oil and filters changes. I even rode it on an iron butt ride, which left my FJR companion amazed.

    The only gripe is the vibrations between 4-5K rpm, which can be fingers numbing.

    Being vertically challenged with a weakening left knee, I let it go.

    Those looking for a lower seat height and even more torque, consider the Street Twin. I’m lovin’ it.

  3. Dino says:

    Wonder if a Victory motor would fit in there…

    And the victory headlight (get rid of that sagging mammory gland hanging off the front)

  4. Lewis says:

    I almost walked right by this at the Cycle Show this past weekend. Probably a good thing as most of these new standard style bikes from low priced to high are not easy on my eyes. This Kawi is not bad, and I like the new SV 650 and love the XSR 900 (especially in the new blue color). I hope Yamaha puts the XSR treatment on the FZ10 (which is hard to look at) as are the KTM,BMW,Z1000 etc.

  5. Butch says:

    A nice, uncluttered, naked twin, reminiscent of the early tube framed Buells.
    Whack off that tag bracket and tuck it in, slap on a round headlight and presto,
    A modern reincarnation of a S-1 Lightning.
    Make mine Black please.

  6. Daddiey says:

    Still rocking my 2011 Ninja 650R and loving it. Great bike for the real world.

  7. Mick says:

    My thoughts on a bike like this always go toward questions like:

    Do any 600 sportbike front ends easily slap on to this baby?

    Ditto the shock.

    Where are a significantly market heavy budget parts and are they easily replaced with significantly lighter parts that are on some sportbike or whatever?

    Why don’t they make a bucks up “S” model so I don’t have to ask the above questions? Haven’t the dirt track guys developed lots of delicious crack for the engine?

  8. Tom R says:

    So, steel trellis frames are “Increasingly unique”. Exactly how does something increase in its uniqueness?

  9. Denny says:

    This is not at the moment my category of interest since I switched recently into ADV type bike, but if I was to pick a naked, this would be it.

  10. Kevin P says:

    Dirck,
    This ride report is easy to fault compared to your own initial ride and press release. In contrast your earlier report was great.

    I look forward to a full review. Bikes like this and the similar FZ-07 and new SV650 are the bikes more people should own. In fact let’s see more V-Strom and Versys type adventure bikes in the 650/700 class. How about
    a 700cc Tenere or even FJ7. These bikes have light weight, enough power, and great prices. But the naked Z650 is mean looking and a true modern standard.

  11. Dave says:

    I remember when everyone laughed at Buell for the exhaust under the engine………….lol!

  12. Trent says:

    That’s not a ride report, or even part of one. That’s a teaser.

  13. i’m letting go of my taller and heavier 2015 v-strom 650; at my age it’s somewhat precarious moving it around the garage. a ninja 650 preceded the strom; i may move to to the z650, and its lack of skin may help ease some of the maintenance tasks. looking forward to the ride report.

  14. Ron Gordon says:

    Gladius? The exhaust is a nice development of Buell’s units.

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