The 2007 Kawasaki Z1000 enters this year’s comparison fresh off a redesign, which saw the Kawi get new styling and internal tweaks to its ZX-9 motor.
The Kawasaki Z1000 has been a heavy hitter in the streetfighter class since its inception back in 2003. Powered by the 953cc motor sourced from the once-mighty ZX-9, the potent Z has endeared itself to the naked scene with its aggressive performance and sharp lines. For 2007 Kawasaki took its best-selling street bike in Europe and gave it an overhaul, with some internal tweaks to its stompin’ motor and a fashion makeover that has Z1000 faithful divided with its extensive use of body work and flared exhaust pipes. Regardless of what you think about the new Zed 1K, the end result is the runner-up of Streetfighter Comparo II.
At the heart of the matter is the oversquare Inline-Four, with a 77.2mm bore and 50.9mm stroke resulting in the most diminutive motor in the test. Kawasaki modified the engine’s cam profiles and shrunk intake and exhaust valves by 0.5mm, as well as utilizing a new crankshaft and increasing flywheel mass to smooth it all out. They also kept the Z’s distinctive four-pipe look, with a new 4-2-1-2 exhaust system with a flared-out faux dual-pipe cap. The changes are meant to both comply with new emissions standards and improve performance in the lower half of the powerband. On the dyno the Zed’s engine is lowest in horsepower, producing 107.5 ponies at 9700 rpm. Huh? Where’s the beef? It redeems itself in torque production with a more impressive 66.6 lb-ft at 8000 rpm, the highest of all save for the DQ’d Triumph. The Z’s hearty torque curve exhibits that low-end oomph Kawasaki was shooting for.
The keyword found in almost every description of the Kawasaki’s engine is ‘smooth’. The Z1000 is buttery smooth, but it packs a nasty little punch. The Z’s mill provides ample motor across the powerband with a terrific mid-range zing. The extra bit of pop and user-friendly nature allowed the overachieving Z to sweep both engine portions of our scorecard. There are some engine vibes approaching seven grand on the tach, but it’s easy to forgive when you weigh it out against the whole package.
With its two-toned wheels, copper-colored seat and dramatic exhaust, the Kawasaki Z1000’s styling either wins riders over, or puts them off.
“The Z1000 motor is unbelievably smooth and powerful,” says Hutch. “Unfortunately, it has no real identity other than that it is fast as hell. That’s the problem with the Inline-Four as a motor for a streetfighter – it’s just kind of bland compared to the Twins and Triple. However, once the Z starts piling on the mph and the tach is heading towards redline, its identity becomes very distinct: Asphalt annihilator!”
Divvying out that power to the rear wheel is an even smoother six-speed transmission. Kawasaki freshened the gearbox with a new ball-bearing gearshift lever and primary gear ratio and we couldn’t find any fault with the setup, other than getting lost in the first gear/neutral shuffle once or twice. Overall it was hands down the best of the bunch, with its 8.5 rating a full point higher than the second-place Yamaha.
The Kwakker’s Nissin braking components get the job done too, but they don’t match the superbike-like power of the Tuono or the Ducati. As is the case with the other bikes in this class, four-piston radial calipers squeeze down on a pair of front rotors, with the Z utilizing 300mm discs up front. The rear 250mm rotor is pinched by a single-piston unit.
“The Kawi brakes provided good power and feel, but required a little too much lever for my tastes,” concludes BC.
The ’07 incarnation of the Z1000 delivers a bevy of torque on the low end of the powerband, ensuring plenty of motor upon corner exits.
Ergonomics on the Kawasaki got mixed reviews and is stuck in a three-way tie for second, with its 7.5 just 0.3 behind the class-leading Tuono. On the negative side is the Z1000’s seat. Some of our riders had no complaints about the stiff perch, while others agreed the forward-sloping seat squashed their unmentionables against the tank. It is almost easy to forgive the seat’s flaws due to the perfection of the remaining riding position traits, with its well-placed foot controls and wide bars that sit at just the right spot for a wide range of riders praised by our entire troupe. The seat, in spite of its tallest 32.3-inch height, gets narrow at the front and helps it to feel lower than it is and gives the rider a sensation of being in the bike rather than perched atop it.
Our testers were uneasy about the Z’s handling characteristics, one of the few blights against the Kawasaki’s otherwise impressive scorecard, where it earns a second-to-last 6.7 rating. While the 24.5-degree rake, 4.1 inches of trail and 56.9 wheelbase aren’t too dramatic, there is something akimbo with the new Z’s chassis. The front end is not as confidence-inspiring as its competition, but once you get use to its vague feedback it gets along quite well. It also takes a bit more effort to turn in at first than the Italians, but is more willing than the gangly FZ1 or Triumph. One possible culprit could be the 190-series rear tire since the competition utilizes 180s – except the Yamaha which, as luck would have it, is the only bike to rate worse in this department.
We had similar gripes during our First Ride evaluation on the Z last summer, which was remedied somewhat by tinkering with the suspension settings on the 41mm Showa fork. Another complaint is the Z’s tendency, like the Yamaha, to scrape the pegs with regularity when leaned over. Quick transitions also aren’t as quick as the dexterous Italians, with the Z’s porky 481-lb tank-empty weight not helping things out in this regard.
While it appears to display a four-pipe exhaust, the new Z1000 is a dual exhaust, with each silencer sporting a faux two-pipe cap.
All right, since we’re getting bitchy, let’s get all our grievances out in the open and talk about the Kawasaki’s other low spot on its scorecard – Appearance. We don’t want to sound shallow but, in part, the Kawi falls short of an upset comparo win because our testers thought it wasn’t pretty enough. With its 6.7 placing it behind the Triumph (7.5) and the Tuono (9.0), the take it or leave it looks of the Z1000 has less takers than expected. For every tester who gave high marks to the Kawasaki’s bold look, there was another rider who found the scheme unpalatable. It looks like the copper-colored seat and wheels, pointed body work and dual-faux four-pipe exhaust don’t appeal to everyone.
“Styling on the Z is what kept it in the running for me,” admits Hutch. “I like the way it looks, except for the two-tone wheels. I even like the funky exhaust in this application. I didn’t think I would from the images I saw, but in person it works with the overall styling. It might have the best looking headlight/fairing combo of the five bikes in this test.”
“Luckily my job is not to rate the bikes strictly on appearance,” huffs BC, in contrast to Ken’s praise. “If it was, the Kawi would have lost this one before it started. Enough said.”
The Kawasaki took top honors with its engine, but in the handling department there were some complaints about the chassis.
Our test riders were in more harmonious accord when it came to judging the Z’s Fit and Finish, where the Zed pulled second. Everything on the Kawasaki appears well made, even though it’s generally just plastic bits and pieces. The lone exception to this praise being the mirrors, which kept twirling at the stalks and required constant tightening. Tucked behind a small cowling, the instrument cluster is a model of useful simplicity. A large analog tach dominates the left side, with the right section of the tach housing a digital fuel gauge, useful for keeping track of the 4.9-gallon tank. On the right an LCD display frames an easy-to-read speedo up top, with dual trip meters, digital clock and engine temp gauge beneath. We appreciated the temperature gauge, which we made good use of when our Z’s radiator got blasted by a rock and sprung an arterial leak about halfway into our first attempt at a street ride. The Z held in there like a champ, however, motoring 30 miles to the nearest parts store for repairs, spewing the precious coolant all over Kenny the entire time.
“The Z1000 is the easiest bike to hop on and ride, yet still has some edge for more aggressive riders,” says sultan of slick one-liners, Adam Waheed on the Kawasaki’s intrinsic appeal.
The Z’s easy-going but ready-to-party nature goes a long ways in generating its third-place result in the Grin Factor. The velvety motor gets the blood flowing without being too sketchy and the fact that it is a willing and capable accomplice to acting like a jack-ass was appealing to some of the boys in our group. You see, the Z’s got a bit of an edge to it, with the Kawasaki tapped by both Waheed and Steeves as their FMM picks due to its ability to deliver enough performance to sate their delinquent indulgences. There was also another aspect that spilled over into the Grin Factor ratings from the category where the Z had no equal – Value.
Getting our more hooligan-inclined riders to pull some impromptu tricks wasn’t a problem on the Z, or any of the other bikes for that matter.
How can you not smile at the Z1000’s $8649 MSRP? In this regard the Z1000 was the exact opposite of the Tuono. Sure the exclusive Aprilia bested the Kawasaki for first-place in this year’s comparo, but the advantage is a slim 1.7 points – 79.5 to 77.7. How much is that 1.7 difference worth? Well, $8350 if you’re comparing MSRPs, which means for an extra 300 bucks you can buy two Z1000s for the price of one Factory Tuono. Mind bottling, isn’t it?
Engine: User Friendliness 8.3
Engine: Open-Road Performance 8.5
Ergonomics/Riding Position 7.5
Fit & Finish/ Instruments/Cockpit 7.3
Grin Factor 7.5