Nice work Kawasaki
‘Small changes make a big difference to the litre sports-tourer ’ Continued over
New three-level traction control, improved comfort and a string of detail tweaks – including revised suspension, a lower seat and a higher screen have made Kawasaki’s already brilliant Z1000SX even better. The bike is expected to cost around £10,000 when it goes on sale in the New Year. It’s clear the firm have listened to owners and delivered exactly what they asked for.
‘The IMU talks to the traction control and cornering ABS, both which are lean-sensitive’
Ispent a year with a Kawasaki Z1000SX back in 2015. Together we covered just short of 20,000 miles. I commuted in rain, sun and even snow. I ventured out on some light touring, occasionally two-up with my fiancée on the back. I even had some fun on track at both Rockingham and Donington Park. As with the original bike back in 2010, I felt Kawasaki really hit the spot with the SX; a comfortable sports-tourer, practical, yet at the same time fun.
Over the year, I modified the SX slightly. I fitted a larger screen for improved wind protection, tweaked the suspension slightly for the track and fitted the optional heated grips. I felt it needed a slightly comfier seat, both for rider and pillion (more so the pillion), more wind protection and a slightly sportier edge. By the end of my time with it, with new models challenging the SX, it needed a facelift, a nip and tuck here and there, but nothing major.
Now, late in 2016, Kawasaki have not only rectified the niggles I discovered but also added a few extras like traction control (KTRC), driven by an integrated Bosch Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU). This is also partnered to the new Kawasaki Cornering Management Function (KCMF) which modulates braking force, meaning the SX’S traction control and ABS are lean anglesensitive for the first time.
Back in 2015, I wanted more weather protection. The updated model’s screen is 15mm taller and the fairing is 28mm wider at each side and now overlaps the frame. As a result the mirrors are also wider, too, by 20mm, to give a clear view behind.
After draining a full tank of fuel in around 130 to 140 miles I was thankful for the break on the older SX as the seat was sporty-thin and didn’t have the support needed for big miles. Again, Kawasaki have clearly listened to customer feedback as the new seat is wider and thicker for both rider and pillion.
Kawasaki have also revised the SX’S suspension (see over the page), mainly it seems to compensate for its extra 4kg and to lower the seat height. The extra weight comes from the new exhaust which makes the 2017 SX Euro4 compliant, plus the addition of new electronics, that larger fairing and new perch.
Kawasaki have even improved the clocks, adding an ambient temperature gauge, gear indicator and an adjustable shift light. The old bike’s traction control wasn’t bad, but it lacked lean angle sensors and a sophisticated IMU. The new system is much more advanced and similar to that of the ZX-10R, but with different parameters and algorithms to suit its sports touring brief.
As soon as you throw a leg over the new bike you start to notice the changes. The clocks are easier to read, but also boast more information, the manually adjustable screen is a fraction higher, and yes, the fairing is notice- ably wider, along with the mirrors. The new fairing not only gives the 2017 SX an aggressive stance, but makes it more practical.
Some parts of the SX have remained untouched, including the frame and engine. Kawasaki have cleaned up the fuelling for Euro4 and a added an ecofriendly exhaust, but the SX engine’s essential character and output remain the same as the old bike (140bhp and 82ftlb of torque).
At slow speed, the fuelling is faultless and, combined with a light clutch and gearbox, the SX is a delight in town, despite its 235kg bulk. Out of town you can make full use of the 1043cc Zed Thou-derived motor. Make no mistake, this is a quick bike, now made better as the new TC helps to keep the wheels in line, even when cranked over. There are three levels of TC to choose from (and it can be deactivated completely).
Mode three is the most intrusive, and on our rain-lashed first day of testing I repeatedly tried to provoke a slide – and failed. The TC cut the ignition immediately, and rather abruptly, but prevented any wheelspin at all times. Settings two and one are less intrusive and more suited for drier conditions or the track – just there to help your enjoyment by providing a safety net. It’s hard to feel or hear the system working, until you provoke it in a way owners are unlikely to, like attempting to wheelie, for example.
Unlike the TC, the ABS can’t be adjusted or switched off. In the wet the system is really impressive, finding grip I just didn’t think was there. You can just feel the ABS working on the rear pedal but it isn’t intrusive and the front lever is pulse-free. It’s an unusual feeling being able to ride aggressively on an unfamiliar road, knowing you can just jump on the stoppers if a corner should unexpectedly tighten, without fear of locking either wheel.
Day one was spent splashing around in the rain but it was apparent that the new bike has a tendency to drop into corners a little too quickly. It was particularly noticeable in the wet and the front just didn’t give 100% confidence – it was as if the tyre were under-inflated. In the dry, this feeling wasn’t as apparent as you throw the bike into the corner with more aggression. But the new bike didn’t have the agile feel I was expecting. Long, sweeping corners took more than the expected amount of counter steering to get onto, and hold, a constant line.
Kawasaki have lowered the rear, changed the shock linkage, and twiddled the suspension settings at both ends. The lowered rear has also reduced the ground clearance slightly compared to the old model. I believe they have actually slowed the steering – but a back-to-back test with the 2015 bike will give us a direct comparison. The steering isn’t bad, it’s just not as neutral as expected. But the feedback is actually impressive, more so from the rear; it’s just the initial turn-in where there’s room for improvement.
We had two days of riding in the south of France. After this length of time on a bike I usually start to feel my age, but that wasn’t the case with the new SX. The seat is an improvement over the old model, as are the screen and top fairing, giving more wind protection. With the screen fully upright, 90mph cruising felt comfortable, with just enough windblast on your shoulders and lower legs to give you a sensation of speed. Away from boring motorways I prefer riding with the screen down for an uninterrupted view ahead.
The ergonomics are excellent – and it will be interesting to test the touring credentials of the SX further when we can get some serious miles under our belts back in the UK. It should be a huge improvement for the pillion, too.
The clocks are now clearer, there’s an easy to read gear positon indicator and plenty of information for touring – mpg, tank range and trips. What’s more, you can scroll through the clocks from the easy-to-navigate buttons on the left-hand bar.
However, I did feel the new SX was a little vibey at fast motorway speeds, around 95mph, over 6500rpm on the analogue tacho. The engine still has plenty in reserve but there was some noticeable vibration through the pegs. Again, we didn’t get the opportunity to ride for big, fast motorway miles but it’s something we will test further when we get the bike back to the UK.
‘The seat is a big improvement over the old model, as are the taller screen and wider top fairing’
Euro4-friendly exhaust and new electronics raise weight by 4kg, but suspension is revised to suit
Engine may be unchanged but the SX’S ergonomics are significantly improved