The new Z1000SX shows that it’s possible to create two distinct models almost for the price of one. The big Kawasaki’s engine, frame, swingarm, brakes and most other bits are taken straight from the naked Z1000 that was launched a year ago. Adding a nicely styled fairing, bigger petrol tank and a splash of lime green paint has created a sharp looking sports-tourer for a very different part of the market.
Kawasaki insist that the Z1000SXwas a key element in the Zed project all along, rather than being dreamt up afterwards. It’s easy to believe that, given the way its styling hangs together. More importantly, the claim holds up when you ride the SX and discover a bike that combines serious performance with impressive long-distance potential. (Correction: perhaps that should be bikes, because alongside the basic SX is a Z1000SX Touring model fitted with ABS and panniers.)
The SX’s key element is that fairing, which incorporates a screen that can be manually adjusted through three positions, after pressing a button behind the clock console. The screen isn’t huge, but in its upright position it sits near-vertically to provide a useful degree of wind protection. Returning it to the lowest position allows the SX to have a sleek look with a distinct hint of ZX-10R style aggression — ideal for those who fancy a super-sports bike but need more versatility.
Practicality is also aided by the larger tank, up to 19 litres from the Z1000’s stingy 15. There’s no change to the 1043cc, DOHC engine, apart from slightly taller gearing, and some covers being reworked to reduce vibration and noise. The Zed’s eye-catching twin-silencers exhaust stays, now finished in black. Power output is untouched all the way to a max of 136bhp at 9600rpm.
There’s no change to that beefy twinspar aluminium frame either, or to the twin-sided swingarm that works a horizontalShowashock unit.Suspension at both ends is slightly firmer to suit the SX, which is likely to carry more load, as well as being 10kg heavier at 228kg wet. Other cycle parts remain, including the radial four-pot Nissinfront brake calipers and wavy discs.
How does it perform on roads?
Given Kawasaki’s efforts to emphasise the SX’s differences from its naked cousin, it seemed slightly surprising that its launch was held on the same roads near Marbella. But although the two models’ riding positions are almost identical, with the SX having very slightly narrower bars and a5mmtaller seat, it felt distinctly different on the twisty roads of southern Spain.
Apart from the ZX-6R style instrument console (replacing the Z1000’s hinged job), the SX’s most obvious advantage is the way that small screen keeps some wind off your chest, even in its lowest position but particularly when it’s raised to the highest one. I wasn’t surprised to find some turbulence, especially as I’mtall, but the protection was nevertheless welcome.
It was great to be reunited with that big, flexible and sweet-revving engine. The Kawasaki responded cleanly from below 3000rpm even in top gear. By four grand in the lower gears it was pulling hard, then at 7000rpm it kicked again with a burst of smooth power. It’d cruise all day at a lazy 90mph, with the help of that fairing, and there’s enough top-end power for over 150mph.
The SX’s slightly taller gearing means it feels pleasantly relaxed at speed, too. And the 19-litre tank should give a reasonable if not outstanding range of about 150 miles. The broader seat, which incorporates extra storage space underneath it, was comfortable enough on our ride to suggest it will stay that way for big distances. A sturdy pair of grab-handles should keep pillions happy, while both pairs of footrests are newly rubber coated and the rider’s are rubber mounted too.
Chassis performance was a good match for the engine, combining flawless high-speed stability with a manageable feel. The Kawa felt slightly long and unwieldy on a few Andalucian hairpins, but most of the time it was reasonably agile. And its suspension coped very well almost everywhere, especially on the sweeping main road leading back down from Ronda to Malaga on the coast. Only one short, notoriously bumpy section made it feel a bit crude.
Stopping power from those Nissin four-pot radial calipers and wavy discs was exemplary, too, although I was disappointed to find that the launch bikes, like standard UK spec SX models, weren’t fitted with ABS. For that you’ll have to go for the Z1000SX Touring, which also incorporates colour-matched panniers. That’s a shame, but it doesn’t prevent the SX being a seriously capable all-round bike—and one that looks like being good value too, with a likely price of about £9400. Well done Kawasaki.
Words: Roland Brown Pics: Double Red
Price: £9400; Touring £10,400 approx (TBC).
Engine: 1043cc, liquid-cooled, six-speed, fuelinjected transverse four with four valves per cylinder
Power (claimed): 136bhp@9600rpm
Torque (claimed): 81lb-ft@7800rpm
Bore x stroke: 77 x 56mm
Rake and Trail: 24.5º x 102mm
Wheels and Tyres: Front: 120/70 x 17in Bridgestone Battlax BT016 on cast aluminium rim. Rear: 190/55 x 17in Bridgestone Battlax BT016 on cast aluminium rim
Suspension: Front:41mm Showa upside-down telescopic,120mm travel, adjustments for preload, compression and rebound damping. Rear: Showa shock,135mm wheel travel, adjustments for preload and rebound damping
Brakes: Front: 2 x four-piston radial calipers, 300mm petal discs with optional ABS. Rear: 1 x single-piston caliper,250mm disc
Seat height: 815mm
Wet weight (claimed): 228kg
Fuel capacity: 19 litres Colours: Green/black, black