Ever since the 2008 model year, Kawasaki’s Concours 14 has been an impressive sport-touring candidate. For 2010 Team Green ups its game with an even more refined version of the Connie, which showcases the Japanese firm’s first-ever production traction control, as well as updated ABS and a mix of touring upgrades.
The 2010 model sources the same ZX-14-derrived mill that debuted on the original. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And it’d be hard to imagine ‘fixing’ the 1352cc Inline Four, which continues to impress with its blistering performance.
Peak power numbers are 134 horsepower and 88 lb-ft of torque, the hp stats second only to the high-revving Honda, while the torque figures took top honors in our testing cadre. And thanks to the Kawi’s variable valve timing, which alters cam-lobe profiles dependent on rpm, the torque production is robust at pretty much any rev range. Not that many riders will need all of that power on demand.
Always impressive on the dyno, the Kawasaki Concours 14 delivered the highest peak torque at 87.9 lb-ft. in the test.
“How much damn power do you need? The Kaw not only has plenty of it, it seems to have plenty no matter what rpm range I happened to be in,” notes Donald. “I sure didn’t have to worry much about what gear I had dialed in as I approached corners (within reason of course), as there was plenty on tap to power out. And if I was headed into a straight stretch I could hang on and just let her keep winding up!”
Acceleration and peak power impress, but the Concours powerplant’s sheer refinement is perhaps most notable. Every test rider commented on the C14’s deceptive speed, with glances at the speedo often registering surprise. However fast you think you’re going on the Concours, add 20% to it.
There really no legitimate cause to whine about the Concours mill, except that it’s almost too refined. It doesn’t feel particularly brutish or sinister. Where the Honda V-Four has a clatter and the Sprint GT a distinctive Triple sound (though not as sweet-sounding as before), they both feel different. And different is good.
It’s a remarkable feat that the Kawasaki doles so much power to the ground without an overpowering herky-jerky feel at the throttle. Yet the C14 does a solid job massaging the power delivery from the right wrist.
Also safeguarding hamfisted riders is Kawasaki’s KTRC traction control. Detecting wheelspin with the existing ABS sensors, the KTRC modulates engine output via ignition timing, fuel delivery and air intake, the latter through sub-throttle valves. The system reigns in the bruising motor on loose surfaces like gravel shoulders or wet roadways. It also cuts out any one-wheeled attempts, though the system can be switched on/off on the fly by pressing the input button on the left handlebar. The KTRC is a definite safety bonus and much appreciated on a large mount like the Concours.
The KTRC in action during the 2010 Concours 14 press launch. The traction
control detects wheelspin and cuts engine power via ignition timing, fuel
delivery and air intake. The safety feature is a definite bonus on the C14.
The Connie’s Tetra-lever final shaft drive transmits the copious torque production to the rear wheel without much harshness. And the six-speed gearbox manages to be both precise and silky. Ditto for the clutch engagement as well.
“The transmission was smooth and easy to operate,” notes Donald. “I did notice some drive train lash, but not too bad at all.”
The C14 gearing makes for practical touring applications. A short first gear crawls along with scant clutch or throttle input required, assisting with low-speed maneuvering (where the heavy Kaw can use all the help it can get). Meanwhile the sixth-gear overdrive helps stretch out the fuel economy, with the Concours observing a marked improvement in fuel efficiency this year. The fuel-sipping engine map, a new-for-2010 feature dubbed ECO mode, extended range well past 200 miles at 40 mpg. Taken off the superslab and our eager throttle hands cut the mpg totals down to the 35 mpg range.
The 2010 Kawasaki Concours 14 handling is much improved over the previous model year. It is surprisingly nimble for a 700-pound motorcycle.
The latest generation of K-ACT ABS (Kawasaki Advanced Coactive-Braking Technology) tackles a challenging task: bringing a near 700-pound high-speed monster to a safe halt. The braking package features four-piston Nissin calipers biting on a pair of 320mm rotors. The rear pedal features a two-setting linkage rear-to-front, with Mode 1 offering a lighter linkage effect, and Mode 2 a more pronounced stopping power. As a whole the braking system does an admirable job, though not quite on par with the excellent stoppers found on the VFR.
The Connie’s 690 pounds (tank full) deliver their full effect in the parking lot, where its hefty dimensions are a chore to manhandle. Kawasaki should be commended, however, with the aforementioned benefits of the KTRC system making low-speed jaunts through sub-par traction zones a trouble-free endeavor.
Squeeze out the go juice and the C14 distinguishes itself well. Gone is our handling complaint of the previous model, which had trouble maintaining stable leans. A new tire spec seems to have solved the issue. The Concours still feels its weight and takes longer to transition in tight terrain, yet it’s a deft handler for its size. Sort of like an athletic tight end in football, who runs well, but not so well that he’ll be returning kicks.
While its dimensions and curb weight make it seem lumbering compared to the slim VFR and lightweight Sprint, the Concours trades turn-in speed for stability. The same holds true on the freeway, where the heavy Kawi is super steady, and the plush suspension soaks up the bumps.
The suspension on the Kawasaki offers convenient tool-less preload and rebound adjustment at both the fork and shock.
The suspension components offer the most adjustment in our test, with preload and rebound adjustment at both the 43mm fork and rear shock. The Kawi’s fork is also the easiest to fiddle with, featuring tool-less adjustment clickers at the top of the fork caps. The rear shock, like the rest of the bikes in our test, makes use of a remote knob for preload adjustment.
First and foremost the Concours is a touring mount, and Kawasaki dove in head first with its 2010 model. As mentioned beforehand, the ECO mode boosts real-world range to exceed 200 miles. And heated grips are standard features now, to go with the adjustable screen, 12V plug and roomy, easy-to-use integrated saddlebags.
The only bike in our test to feature an adjustable windscreen, along with the fairing it delivered by far the most protection in terms of surface area. Yet the screen caused some buffeting or turbulence in all the position settings. The other bikes, particularly the Honda, felt more aerodynamic. Where they cut through the air with minimal resistance, the Kawasaki feels like its barreling against the air by virtue of brute strength alone, and seemed to be susceptible to strong crosswinds.
The Kawasaki offers the most creature comforts, with its wide
fairing and tall windscreen, as well as standard heated grips.
Ergonomics are the most touring friendly of the bunch, with comfy seat and ample protection from the elements, courtesy of its wide fairing. Riding position places the pilot in an upright stance, a marked difference from the slight forward pitch of the Triumph and Honda. If choosing the winner were solely a matter of comfort on long-haul roosts, there’s no question what machine comes out on top.
“If I want to seriously tour… I take the Concours,” states Tom. “Let’s face it: adjustable windscreen, heated grips, more relaxed riding position, the big Kawasaki wins hands down. Hey, anybody want to ride to across the country? I’ll ride the Concours!”
Aiding rider comfort, a new bodywork panel seals a fairing opening that blasted hot air on the rider’s right side. Engine heat was a common complaint from 2008-2009 Concours owners, so the fix was one of a number of alterations to the 2010 design based on direct consumer feedback. Another example is the repositioning of the side mirrors so that they show more than the tops of the saddlebags. The new mirror placement improves the situation, but does not resolve it completely.
Another 2010 request is an info trigger switch at the left handlebar, giving the rider easy access to a host of up to the minute information about the ride including mpg, remaining fuel range, tire pressure, outside air temperature as well as activating the ECO mode and a variety of other bike data. The LCD display is easy to read and offered pertinent information, including a gear position indicator.
Fit and finish on the Kawasaki is excellent. However, the styling is unchanged from 2008, which can be considered either a positive or negative depending on rider opinion. The general consensus seemed to find the Kawasaki an attractive ride, though blockier than the trim Sprint or the standout looks of the Honda.
Selling for $15,300, the C14 delivers a lot of touring value in stock trim. As a pure-touring platform with sporting capabilities, the Concours is hard to beat.