Kawasaki’s big-sell­ing sports-tourer has been im­proved, but by how much?

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - By Adam Child MCN SE­NIOR ROAD TESTER

On what ap­pears to be the one dry day of the year, it’s a plea­sure to get out on any bike, let alone one as com­pe­tent as Kawasaki’s Z1000SX. The howl­ing, west­erly wind has dried the roads and pushed the tem­per­a­ture up into al­most dou­ble fig­ures – and on board the com­fort­able and ver­sa­tile 2016 SX I’m reac­quaint­ing my­self with the con­cept of hav­ing fun, rather than sim­ply sur­viv­ing, on two wheels.

The now ‘old’ SX is a great bike and a se­rial win­ner of MCN group tests. I ran one as a long-term test bike in 2015, cov­er­ing close to 20,000 plea­sur­able miles. As the miles slip by I ask my­self why, other than to meet Euro4 regs, would you want to change it?

Sub­tle changes

Ahead of me is Neevesy on the freshly minted 2017 SX. The en­gines in both bikes are near-as-dam­mit iden­ti­cal, with power and torque the same. Manu- fac­tur­ers’ claimed weights for some new bikes are up this year and my bike might even have a slight ad­van­tage as the old model is four ki­los lighter. So, on pa­per at least, they haven’t changed it too much.

But as I pull along­side Michael, I glance over and feel a lit­tle en­vi­ous. The styling mods to the 2017 bike are sub­tle but make a real dif­fer­ence, es­pe­cially the ag­gres­sive face of the new bike, which makes it look like it be­longs in the newly ex­tended Zed family. The in­di­ca­tors are now flush, there are new LED head­lights, the pil­lion seat and grab rails have all been re­designed… Ev­ery time I grab a glimpse I no­tice some­thing ex­cit­ingly new or dif­fer­ent. Time for my go.

As soon as you throw a leg over the 5mm lower and slightly wider and thicker seat you no­tice yet more sub­tle dif­fer­ences. Dig­i­tal clocks with an ana­logue rev counter are all-new and more in­for­ma­tive and come with a use­ful gear po­si­tion in­di­ca­tor and am­bi­ent tem­per­a­ture gauge. The screen is taller (by 15mm), the body­work is no­tice-

ably wider (28mm), as are the mir­rors (20mm). Even the pil­lion gets a larger seat and a more sub­stan­tial grab rails.

Once the wheels are rolling, that new body­work and a man­u­ally ad­justable screen give more wind pro­tec­tion than be­fore, while the mir­rors give a slightly wider view be­hind, but the ride is sim­i­lar. The fu­elling is nearper­fect on both bikes, and both have class-lead­ing grunt and ful­fil the sporty side of sport-tour­ing eas­ily.

These Zeds are fast, de­cep­tively so in the grand tra­di­tion of great sports tour­ers, and we found it all too easy to cruise over the speed limit without notic­ing. En­gine-wise, there re­ally is noth­ing to split the two bikes.

Han­dling is also very sim­i­lar, es­pe­cially as they even share the same Bridge­stone S20 rub­ber. The 2017 SX car­ries those four ex­tra ki­los, has re­vised sus­pen­sion, a shorter wheel­base and the rider sits lower in the chas­sis – but you’d have to be su­per sen­si­tive to no­tice a huge im­prove­ment. In fact the big­gest han­dling dif­fer­ence be­tween our test SXS was down to the older bike’s squared off rear S20.

How­ever, as dark­ness fell and the tem­per­a­ture dropped, turn­ing the roads damp, the 2017 SX played its ace card: ex­cel­lent class-lead­ing elec­tron­ics. Kawasaki has in­stalled an IMU, which mea­sures six axes, in­clud­ing lean an­gles and is in con­stant com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the bike. The re­sult is cor­ner­ing ABS and lean-sen­si­tive trac­tion con­trol, which now come as stan­dard, while the over­all elec­tron­ics pack­age is far more ad­vanced.

The trac­tion con­trol cut-out is no­tice­ably less abrupt on the new bike, and you can now brake mid-cor­ner, even in the wet, and ac­cel­er­ate as hard you dare whilst still cranked over. The clever 2017 SX does a lot of the think­ing for you. And while the 2016 bike has TC and ABS, they are rel­a­tively ba­sic – its elec­tron­ics hav­ing aged more quickly than the rest of the SX.

Like the older bike, there are three lev­els of TC on the 2017 SX: mode one be­ing for sporty, dry rid­ing with mode three be­ing the most in­tru­sive. As we ended a 287-mile day, I opted for mode three, the most elec­tron­i­cally man­aged, and sim­ply let the SX worry about the con­di­tions as I con­cen­trated

on the im­por­tant ques­tions of the day, namely: what’s for tea?

The new rider aids are class-lead­ing and, although purists might not like the idea of a com­puter con­trol­ling the process of find­ing grip while brak­ing or ac­cel­er­at­ing, they are per­fect when you’re tired and con­di­tions are far from per­fect. In­ter­est­ingly, the new brakes didn’t have the ini­tial bite and feel of the old bike’s.

The new LED head­lights are scorchers and an im­prove­ment over the older model’s and made my late night ride home along North York­shire lanes far less of chore than it is on most bikes. I was thank­ful, too, for the seat’s ex­tra com­fort, which takes the numb bum thresh­old way be­yond the 2016 bike’s 150 miles.

The 2016 model is still a bril­liant sports tourer The new elec­tron­ics give ex­tra con­fi­dence On the out­side the changes are sub­tle

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