What is it?
Kawasaki’s take on the highperformance tourer. Spacious, comfy and capable of getting both of you from here to there with absolute ease. The engine is a retuned (less peak power but more midrange) version of the ZZ-R1400 engine with variable valve timing for the best balance of low down power, top end and economy. At least that’s the theory.
So does it work?
Yes and no. The GTR accelerates strongly and with sixth gear being an overdrive it’s a relaxed cruiser at motorway speeds too. Point it at a no-speed-limit autobahn and you’ll happily see 150mph on the speedo with a pillion and luggage with no weaves or wobbles. Try doing that on a Honda Pan European without needing both lanes just to go straight.
But the GTR isn’t perfect. The electrically adjustable screen needs another couple of inches (stop sniggering at the back) to match the Honda’s high speed serenity even on its highest setting. And while the seat is comfy, the (non-adjustable) handlebars are angled slightly too far back towards the rider, which makes your forearms ache after less than 100 miles.
Tell me about that engine
It’s a 1352cc, liquid-cooled, inline four-cylinder motor. Mostly conventional like Kawasakis tend to be. The most powerful in class too like Kawasakis tend to be. Variable valve timing ads flexibility and the sensibly chosen gear ratios allow sportsbike acceleration and relaxed high speed cruising too, 85mph in top gear is just 4000rpm. The change from first to second gear is a bit clumsy, but other than that it’s a slick shift for a shaft drive bike. And that first gear change is about the only time you notice the shaft drive. Kawasaki’s tetra-lever system works well to eliminate a traditional shaftdrive’s adverse effect on a bike’s handling.
The only flies in the ointment are the clutch and the fuel consumption. The clutch gets grabby as it gets hotter, so town riding can become a bit clumsy. Which is the last thing you need at the end of a long day, in a strange foreign town, lost, looking for a hotel in the dark. Fuel consumption can be good for a 1352cc motorcycle if you ride with restraint and keep the speeds sensible. Best figures we saw were a shade under 50mpg which gives a 230 mile tank range. But the worst was 35mpg which drains a tank in around 160 miles.
And the chassis?
Not quite so conventional. The frame is an aluminium monocoque, which helps keep the GTR relatively narrow but also adds weight up high. Handling is confident though and the GTR is very stable through corners, while still having enough suppleness in the suspension to be comfy. Both front and rear suspension is adjustable for preload and rebound damping and a remote preload adjuster on the rear shock makes it simple to switch from solo to two-up settings.
The brakes are excellent. The fourpiston front calipers are radially mounted to reduce flex and maximise the relationship between lever pressure and braking force. ABS is standard and works well. In 1800 miles I’ve yet to activate the front ABS but the rear comes in more often. You feel the chatter as the wheel locks and unlocks, but it doesn’t affect the ride.
The GTR comes with most things you’d want as standard including panniers that work really well. They’re simple to operate and sturdy enough to survive being rubbed along a few cars in a misjudged filtering situation. And there are lots of gizmos. Some of them are good and some not so. The tyre pressure monitors are a superb idea and work well. As soon as the system detects a pressure drop of a couple of psi below the recommended settings the warning light appears and is so irritating you have to do something about it.
Likewise the ABS is superb and the remote suspension adjustment and well-placed 12v power socket make touring life easy. There’s no stereo, which might be a problem for some people, and no heated grips. Plus, the trip computer is next-to-useless because the numbers dart about all over the place. The fuel gauge reads full for 70 miles them plummets to almost empty and the warning light comes on when there’s still 50 miles left in the 22 litre tank.
The biggest problem with the GTR is a silly keyless starting gizmo. The ignition key stays in the bike and a remote transponder sits in your pocket. The transponder disables the electronic steering lock and ignition immobiliser. Just like a car. Which is fine, but cars also have remote opening for fuel filler flaps and luggage compartments. On the GTR you have to remove the bulbous key from the ignition to fill up with fuel and operate the luggage which defies the point of the keyless system anyway. Put simply, it’s rubbish and we know of at least one bike that’s had serious problems.
Kawasaki has fixed just about everything wrong with the GTR for 2010. A taller screen, revised keyless system, an ‘economy’ fuel map, revised riding position and optional gel seat (which is also 25mm lower). Plus there’s a sophisticated traction control system as standard as well as heated grips and repositionedmirrors for a clearer view of the road behind.