Kawasaki Unveils New 2008 Models

September 26, 2007
Adam Waheed
By Adam Waheed
Road Test Editor|Articles|Articles RSS|Blog|Blog Posts|Blog RSS

His insatiable thirst for life is only surpassed by his monthly fuel bill. Whether rocketing on land, flying through the air, or jumping the seas, our Road Test Editor does it all and has the scars to prove it.

A tricked out race version of the 2008 Kawasaki Ninja 250 on display at the Vegas dealer show.
This is the new ZX-10R? No? The new ZX-6R? No, again? Then what in the name of neon green is it? The new Ninja 250R! Gadzooks!

If you couldn’t yet tell, fall is definitely here. And no, it’s not the cooler weather, earlier sunsets, or even the subtle change of the leaves from luscious summer green to crisp fall yellow. What really kicks off autumn for us is the release of new motorcycle models. Motorcycle USA, as well as hundreds of Kawasaki dealers nationwide, were treated to an up-close and personal look at Kawasaki’s 2008 line-up during its annual dealer meeting held in Las Vegas, Nevada.

With 2007 a largely successful year for Kawasaki in terms of racing success here in the States in addition to growing overall sales, it would be easy for Team Green to recycle its 2007 line-up. Not wanting to rest on laurels though, Kawasaki completely revamped three of its sportbikes as well as adding one all-new 2008 off-road option. Let’s fill you in on the three revamped sportbikes first.

Ninja ZX-10R

This year’s AMA Superbike championship got off to a rough start for Monster Energy Kawasaki’s roadracing team. The squad struggled to get the 2007 ZX-10R platform up to speed. And the racetrack wasn’t the only place where the ZX-10R struggled. Although plenty fast in stock trim, media outlets criticized the bike for its large overall feeling and its love-it or hate-it styling. Kawasaki appears to have addressed this year’s concerns with the new model.

For 2008, the Kawasaki designers came together to make an ideal superbike for the street with performance an engineering priority before outright streetability. The bike was designed with assistance of Japanese Superbike racer Akira Yanagawa and developed on Kawasaki’s own Autopolis test track in Japan.

2008 Ninja ZX-10R
The new ZX-10R engine features secondary fuel injectors and an advanced ignition management system that retards ignition timing when rpm spikes are detected.

The engine features a host of updates that all amount to an engine tuned for even greater top-end performance without sacrificing any of the mid-range punch that the potent 998cc engine was already known for. Secondary fuel injectors, reshaped intake ports and a larger airbox all contribute to the engine’s enhanced power delivery. Perhaps most impressive is the advanced ignition management system that monitors both throttle and gear position as well as rate of rpm change and retards ignition timing when rpm spikes (aka wheel spin) are detected.

Harnessing the new 10R’s engine is an updated chassis. The frame steering head has been moved forward 10mm to go along with other subtle frame tweaks that all amount to a claimed better handling machine. The front fork has an all-new Diamond Like Carbon (DLC) which reduces stiction and increases overall rider feedback. The rear shock now features both low and high-speed compression damping allowing the bike to be tuned more sensitively. The new massive black swingarm is now a pressed piece as opposed to last year’s cast design and features a top brace that contributes to the bike’s overall stability at speed.

In the braking department, the 10R up front now features larger 310mm petal discs grabbed by new Tokico radial mount calipers fitted with dual pads per caliper. On the bike, the setup looks clean and ultra-trick.

2008 Kawasaki ZX-10R
When our Associate Editor threw a leg over the new ZX-10R on display at Vegas, his impression led him to believe the ’08 design is slimmer with a very aggressive, track-oriented riding position.

Wheels are all new as well and are manufactured with more precise dimensions and less wall thickness than last year’s.

The 10R has a new look for ’08. Bodywork seems to be much more streamlined and the underseat exhaust was ditched in favor of a small MotoGP-inspired exhaust can exiting from the side. In person, the bike looks much more compact than the previous model. Upon hopping aboard Kawasaki’s new superbike you can immediately tell how much narrower the bike feels. Seat height also seemed to be lower. The foot position is still crouched and the handlebar controls are close and very low, which equate to a track-oriented riding position. The ’08 ZX-10R comes in three colors and can be had for $11,549.

Ninja 250R

The smallest Ninja in Kawasaki‘s lineup hasn’t had a redesign in over 20 years. So when Kawasaki unveiled the 2008 Ninja 250R, we were excited to say the least. The entry-level Ninja is completely reworked for 2008. It features a revised Parallel Twin engine that has been tuned for greater low-end and midrange performance. The chassis now features a diamond-style steel frame and a new square tube-type swingarm all painted black, just like its bigger brothers.

A new 37mm telescopic front fork and five-way preload adjustable rear shock make sure the black 17-inch wheels stay on track.

2008 Ninja 250R
An update to the old reliable Ninja 250 was overdue and now the little Ninja looks more like, well, a little Ninja.

The bodywork is large and angular and looks similar to an early model ZX-10R. Since the fairings are devoid of any displacement badges, it’s going to be hard for most to tell that it’s only a 250cc bike, which will be a major selling point for riders that wouldn’t typically want to be seen with a smaller bike.

If that’s not enough to get you excited, Kawi also had a full-on race Ninja 250R with a slew of aftermarket go-fast race goodies all designed for outright racetrack performance. Can you say Ninja 250R cup? But the best thing about the new 250R is that Ninja styling and performance is only $3,499 away.

Looks like Kawasaki’s got you covered on the asphalt next year. Whether you’re looking for outright lap times at the track, looking to smoke the guy next to you at the stoplight or even if you’re a newbie rider just looking to get into motorcycling and need something that’s reliable, affordable and just plain looks cool, then Kawasaki can have you dialed…but what about on the dirt?

Ninja ZX-14

This year’s ZX-14 is the established horsepower king and there was a lot of speculation whether Suzuki’s new Hayabusa would have what it takes to dethrone the biggest Ninja. We’re going to have to wait until we put the two head-to-head, but for now the 2008 ZX-14 definitely looks like it has what it takes to hold off Suzuki’s advances.

2008 Kawasaki ZX-14
The new Kawasaki ZX-14 engine has been modified to meet stricter Euro-III emissions, with the aluminum monocoque frame also getting tweaked.

Underneath the swoopy, aerodynamic bodywork, enhancements have been made to the already potent 1352cc inline-four powerplant which Kawi claims translates into a smoother low-end power spread that builds all the way to a higher peak power hit – all, mind you, while now complying with strict Euro-III emissions. To achieve this, the fuel injection system was updated and the injectors spray angle was increased from 15 to 20 degrees to increase fuel atomization. A new cylinder head, featuring larger secondary air ports, allows the engine to inhale more of that potent go-go mixture. The exhaust system was also updated to regain some of the losses from the added honeycomb catalyzer that was necessary for the bike to meet emission requirements.

The chassis was updated as well and now features an enhanced version of big K’s unique aluminum monocoque design that is now die cast as opposed to last year’s gravity cast piece. This allows the ’08 frame to be even stronger while reducing weight.

Perhaps the most important change to the ’08 ZX-14 is its new styling. The bike now looks the part of a serious straight-line speed machine, instead of something out of a bad sci-fi movie. The front facia is much more streamlined and has a new aerodynamic look which shows off Kawasaki’s aerospace heritage.

The 2008 ZX-14 comes in two standard colors (Metallic Midnight Sapphire Blue and Atomic Silver) for $11,699 and in a special edition color scheme (Metallic Flat Spark Black / Metallic Persimmon Red) for $11,999.

KLX140 and KLX140L

Keeping in Kawasaki’s 2008 trend of developing new models, the men in green have made a fresh-faced, fun-sized dirt bike that looks to bridge the gap between novice riders, parents and pit-bike racing enthusiasts.

2008 KLX 250S
Inspired by its motocross-dominating KX cousins, the all-new KLX140 and KLX140L deliver dirtbike fun for developing riders.

The 2008 KLX140 and 140L come in two different wheel sizes. The 140 is equipped with smaller 17-inch front and 14-inch rear wheel sizes designed for shorter riders. The 140L has a larger 19-inch front and 16-inch rear wheel combo designed for people that need a bit more leg room. Kawasaki is quick to point out that the bike is more than just a playbike and has all the go-fast goodies of a full-size KX dirt bike.

At the heart of the new dirt bike is a high-revving 144cc air-cooled single-cylinder 4-stoke engine that is both powerful and reliable. Starting is push-button easy with the keyless electric start button located just in front of the upper triple clamp. A five-speed close-ratio transmission featuring a progressive manual clutch helps novices master clutch engagement and allows for half-clutch use when riding at low speeds.

A sturdy KX-inspired steel perimeter frame and aluminum swingarm equate to a dirtbike designed for off-road action. The 33mm telescopic front fork has specific spring rates and damping settings respective to each model. The KLX140 rear shock has five-way preload adjustability allowing for effective performance by a wider variety of riders. The 140L’s rear shock has the addition of four-way compression and 22-way rebound damping adjustment.

High quality RK EXCEL aluminum wheels and petal-style disc brakes adorn the KLX, just like its big KX450F/250F brothers.

The KLX140’s come in Lime Green and can be had for $2,699 for the standard and $2,999 for the L model.

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