Motoring: Designers produce a predator on the prowl
Kawasaki’s new Sugomi-influenced Z1000 appears ready to bolt, writes Paul Owen.
Kawasaki’s press bumf for the new Z1000 ABS streetbike refers to something called Sugomi as an influence on the design of the all-new bodywork. Presumably this isn’t the drugs that said designers were putting in their coffee at work, which were obviously previously-legal brainwarping highs judging from the end result. Evidently Sugomi-style bikes are meant to look predatory and ready to spring forward, like a tiger stalking prey, or Usain Bolt ready to explode from the starting blocks. And that’s pretty much how the 2014 Kawasaki Z1000 ABS has turned out, once you overlook a few excesses like all the Zeds stamped into the seat fabric.
This visual tension also carries over to the riding position of the new Zed-Thou. With the handlebars mounted lower and closer to a rider who now sits slightly higher on a lighter new rear alloy subframe, the ergonomics have taken a turn towards the sportier side of the streetbike sector. As someone of average height I welcomed the shifting of my upper body forward, as it placed more of my weight on the front wheel, and prolonged comfort when riding the Kawasaki at sustained open road speeds. However taller riders may feel a little cramped with the shift, and the instrument pod isn’t quite as easy to consult as before. You take your eyes off the oncoming roadscape for a considerably longer period if you wish to know just what speed you’re travelling at. Which could potentially become a bit of an issue when riding a 147-bhp bike capable of tunnel vision-triggering speeds.
Kawasaki says that the shift in instrument pod location was made in the interest of mass centralisation. Yeah, right. If the company wanted to get so serious about mass centralisation that a few grams-worth of electronic instruments was considered worth shifting, it would’ve stacked the gearbox above the crankshaft to shorten up powertrain length like most of the Z1000’s four-cylinder competition has done. That said, the Z1000 has a powertrain that’s so much more than average. It’s ultrarefined and capable of delivering searing performance, with only the old-school linear layout to put a brake on its brilliance.
During data-acquisition testing for New Zealand Autocar magazine, the Kawasaki trumped KTM’s new 1290cc Super Duke in the two 0-100km/h and 80-120km/h acceleration tests that Fairfax’s NZ Autocar magazine measures.
The margins between the two bikes were miniscule but it was still a clear win to the Jappa in such real-world performance criteria. Yet the $17,995 Z1000 ABS costs roughly ten grand less than the Austrian bike. Sure you don’t get the traction control and selectable throttle modes of the more expensive Katoom, but at no time during my time aboard the Zed did I feel that I needed them.
The ride-by-cable throttle of the Kawasaki precludes the offering of such electronic tricks, but it also gives access to one of the smoothest and most progressive torque deliveries in the streetbike segment.
That there’s more torque and more intake noise than supplied with the last Z1000 upgrade (introduced in 2010) adds both accelerative and aural muscle to the riding experience.
If a gap opens in traffic on busy roads, the Kawasaki can claim it almost instantly thanks to its shorter gearing, the wealth of midrange torque, and the flawless response of the bike to any adjustment in throttle position.
On the opposite side of the performance ledger, both economy and range appear to have incrementally improved, although more of both remains on my wishlist for the Z1000. While it’s out, add a slipper clutch to the list. Although the Kawasaki’s six-speed gearbox and well-conceived clutch are delights to operate, a little security to prevent rear wheel lockup when downshifting a gear too far would be nice.
Sugomi-style: Kawasaki says its new bike is meant to look predatory and ready to spring forward.