UPDATE: MotoUSA sampled the 2016 ZX-10R at Sepang. Read the full report in our 2016 Kawasaki ZX-10R First Ride Review.
Kawasaki’s Superbike platform was long due for an overhaul and Team Green gives the World Superbike-winning ZX-10R a thorough refresh for the 2016 model year. The previous generation ZX-10 debuted in 2011 and during that five-year development span Kawasaki’s Superbike rivals saw significant upgrades, foremost among them the electronic aids prominently showcased on rides like the BMW S1000RR and new-for-2015 Yamaha R1. Now Kawasaki aims to even the SBK score, hailing its World Superbike-developed suspension and electronics package for the 2016 ZX-10R ($15,999).
The Ninja’s 998cc displacement and 76 x 55mm bore and stroke dimensions remain identical to the previous model, but several internal modifications have been made to the 2016 Inline Four. A lighter crankshaft promises quicker revving and an increase of bottom- and mid-range power. The crankshaft balancer is lighter too, with connecting rod journals sporting a new coating to reduce friction at high rpm. New pistons are five grams lighter due to shorter skirts. Cylinder head changes include larger coolant passageways as well as reshaped intake and exhaust ports, both of which are now polished (previous model only had polished intake ports). A revised combustion chamber shape and 1mm larger diameter titanium exhaust valves (25.5mm) boost power at high rpm, with the top-end power increases also facilitated by new camshaft profiles with more overlap.
The titanium-alloy exhaust system sources new headers with a connector pipe joining the third and fourth cylinder headers to “help smooth the engine response.” Kawasaki touts the new exhausts weight reduction, though the 2016 ZX-10R’s overall claimed curb weight has jumped 11 pounds to 449.8 pounds (454.2 for the ABS model).
A 25% larger volume air box sources a new air filter, with 60% more surface area and enhanced airflow. Kawasaki claims the air intake updates improve engine responsiveness, acceleration and bottom- to mid-range power. New electronic throttle valves, used on the H2R, team with a new ECU to modulate airflow. The ZX-10R also offers selectable Power Modes with varying power delivery. The three modes are: Full, Middle (80%) and Low (60%).
Kawasaki’s Quick Shifter (KQS) comes standard on the ZX-10R, allowing clutchless upshifts through the six-speed transmission. Gearing has been revised for 2016, with shorter gear ratios for second through sixth (tall gearing was a primary complaint of the ZX-10R during MotoUSA’s 2015 Superbike Track Shootout). The clutch, which retains slipper functionality, has dropped 130 grams weight due to a thinner primary gear.
Hold on to your acronym hats ladies and gentlemen, because there’s a whole slurry of ALL CAPS electronic systems employed by the Ninja. Many of these electronics are familiar carryovers from the previous model, but they benefit from the addition of a Bosch five-axis Intertial Measuring Unit (IMU). The five axis measurements, as explained in Kawasaki’s press material include: “longitudinal acceleration and braking, transverse or lateral forces when cornering, vertical acceleration such as when cresting a hill at steady speed, rotational roll rate (or lean angle) as well as the pitch rate such as during a wheelie or under hard braking.” Using these IMU measurements, the new ECU calculates yaw rate, which results in six-axis operation. And if all this IMU six-axis/yaw rate stuff sounds familiar, it’s because the 2015 R1 employs a similar system.
Aside from the new IMU, the ECU incorporates inputs from sensors measuring wheel speed, brake pressure, throttle position, engine rpm and throttle opening to control the various electronic aids. One such system is the Sport Kawasaki Traction Control (S-KTRC), which returns from the 2015 model but now offers five modes instead of three. The first two modes are for a racer on the track, with Mode 3 for a “dry circuit with high-grip tires” and Mode 5 is for a wet circuit. Kawasaki states Mode 4 is “intended for dry canyon roads or commuting” with Mode 5 also suited for street use. The new IMU enhances the S-KTRC system by factoring in non-horizontal track surface conditions, like road camber and gradient.
Another system incorporating the IMU measurements is the Cornering Management Function, available on the ABS-equipped ZX-10R ¬(ABS is dubbed Kawasaki Intelligent anti-lock Braking System (KIBS) in Team Green marketing speak). The Cornering Management Function modulates brake caliper pressure based off lean and pitch angles to keep the bike from “standing up” when braking in the corners. It sounds similar to BMW’s ABS Pro option, utilized on the HP4 and S1000XR, which impressed us as tested on the latter model.
A new addition to the electronics suite is Kawasaki Launch Control Mode (KLCM), which controls ignition and the throttle valves for wheelie-free starts. The system has three intrusion settings, with the least-intrusive Mode 1 allowing the riders to modulate clutch and throttle. Mode 2 offers more assistance while in Mode 3 the “rider simply drops the clutch with the throttle wide open.” Another electronic addition is Kawasaki Engine Braking Control (KEBC) – a feature that debuted on the H2R and is intended for track use to help stabilize braking and corner entry.
The aluminum perimeter frame’s steering head pipe has been moved 7.5mm closer to the rider for 2016. Kawasaki claims the repositioning improves front end feel as it places more weight on the front end. Rake and trail is unchanged (25° / 4.2 inches), however, the wheelbase stretches by more than a half-inch – from 56.1 to 56.7 inches. The extra length comes from the longer swingarm, which also claims increased torsional rigidity. Another significant change for 2016 is a 0.9 inch increase in seat height to 32.9 inches.
The ZX-10R debuts all-new suspension components in the Showa Balance Free Fork (BFF) and Balance Free Rear Cushion (BFRC) shock. The Showa BFF design places damping valves outside the fork legs in a damping force chamber, with pressurized nitrogen gas pushing back against the oil. The BFF is fully adjustable, with compression and rebound damping adjuster screws located on the damping force chamber at the bottom of the fork leg. Spring preload is adjusted at the top of each fork leg. The BFRC rear shock, also fully adjustable, sources a similar external damping force chamber design. The rear shock linkage ratios have also been revised for 2016 for a wider range of adjustment.
The Ohlins steering damper is the same as previous model, but settings are revised to accommodate the 2016 chassis updates. The Ohlins unit adjusts damping rates based on inputs of speed and rate of acceleration or braking.
Braking components are updated with Brembo M50 monobloc calipers clamping larger 330mm rotors (up from 310mm and no longer Kawasaki’s familiar petal-shaped disc). The front brakes, teamed with a new Brembo radial master cylinder and steel braided lines deliver “increased braking power, feel and heat dissipation.” The rear brake remains a 220mm rotor and two-piston Nissin caliper, though the rotor shape is changed to match the front.
Bodywork changes include a new cowl, which claims improved aerodynamics. The windscreen is larger and incorporates two small intakes to reduce negative pressure in the cockpit area, thus reducing rider buffeting.
The standard model, available in Metallic Matte Carbon Grey, will be offered in ABS and non-ABS spec with the ABS version MSRP listed at $15,999. A World Superbike-inspired KRT Edition, sporting Lime Green and Ebony colorway, will also be offered in ABS/non-ABS variants, with the ABS version retailing for $16,299.
2016 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R Specifications:
Engine: Liquid-cooled Inline Four, DOHC 16 valves
Bore x Stroke: 76 x 55mm
Compression Ratio: 13:1
Fuel System: DFI with four 47mm Keihin throttle bodies, two injectors per cylinder
Ignition: TCBI with digital advance and Sport-Kawasaki Traction Control (S-KTRC)
Final Drive: Chain
Front Suspension: 43mm inverted Showa Balance Free Fork, adjustable stepless rebound and compression damping, spring preload adjustability with 4.7 inches travel
Rear Suspension: Balance Free Rear Cushion shock, stepless, dual-range (low/high-speed) compression damping, stepless rebound damping, fully adjustable spring preload with 4.5 inches of travel
Front & Rear Tire: 120/70 ZR17; 190/55 ZR17
Front Brakes: Dual semi-floating 330mm discs with dual 4-piston radial-mounted Brembo M50 monobloc calipers
Rear Brakes: Single 220mm disc with aluminum single-piston Nissin caliper
Frame: Aluminum perimeter
Rake & Trail: 25°/4.2 inch
Seat Height 32.9 inch
Curb Weight* 449.8 pounds (454.2 pounds ABS model)
Fuel Capacity 4.5 gallons
Wheelbase 56.7 inch
Color Choices Metallic Matte Carbon Gray, Lime Green / Ebony (KRT Edition)
MSRP: $14,999 (non-ABS), $15,999 (ABS), $16,299 (KRT Edition ABS)