2007 Kawasaki Z1000
Mad power that looks the part
Get the Flash Player to see this player.It sure is nice to live in a world where most everyone can reap the benefits of someone else's smart decisions or discoveries. Penicillin comes to mind. Louis Pasteur ranks pretty high on my list of all-time greats, and I'm a fan of the establishment of the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America.
Are you still reading and wondering what this has to do with the 2007 Kawasaki Z1000? In my opinion the revamped Z is the result of two good decisions that benefit the American rider.
Whether it's simply a matter of design cycles or an earnest desire to reward the buying public, Kawasaki made a host of changes to the exciting but flawed Z1000. So many things were tweaked or replaced that the list reads like a new bike introduction.
Rap sheet or laundry list?
Team Green had some serious objectives for the '07 Z1000. They wanted to bulk-up performance, refine the chassis, revise the riding position and give it a make-over. So where did they start?
Though the engine didn't receive a major overhaul, a few key items were altered internally on the ZX-9R-derived 953cc DOHC inline-Four. In order to bias the torque curve with more low- and mid-range oomph, cam profiles were changed and intake and exhaust valves were reduced by half a millimeter from 2006 dimensions. New cylinder casings are claimed to reduce pumping loss, and an altered oil pump gear ratio allegedly contributes to reduced mechanical losses. Kawasaki has aimed these changes to improve low and mid-range performance, addressing some complaints about the previous model's relatively modest bottom-end power. I say it's torque-licious.
Down in the basement, flywheel mass was increased 7% from '06 and the final-drive gearing has been lowered ever so slightly. Work continued in the tranny package by reshaping the shift cam and adding ball bearings to the shift lever. Reduced clutch effort is provided by lower-rate clutch springs. Finally, the radiator was lightened and its cooling capacity increased by 18%. Anything else that's changed on the powerplant is primarily external and mostly cosmetic.
Feeding the four hungry 77.2 x 50.9mm cylinders with a compression ratio of 11.2 is the job of an all-new fuel injection system. Smaller 36mm throttle bodies (from 38mm), oval-shaped sub-throttles (instead of the round units from last year), and injectors that spray an ultra-fine mist in a new pattern have been implemented in the hopes of providing a responsive and smooth feel at your right wrist.
What's left of the fuel mixture after it endures the swirling firestorm of combustion gets shuttled out through a revised "iconic exhaust system." Knowing the distinctive four-pipe look had grown on people (and grated on others) over the past four years, Kawasaki didn't want to give up the signature piece of the Z's appearance: the over-under shotgun quad exhaust system. Though it went from a 4-2-4 to a 4-2-1-2 this year, it still has the heart of the older model's look with two end caps per exhaust can. You can fool some of the people some of the time...
They may be trying to placate those quad-exhaust lovers of you out there by keeping a familiar look, but there's more than meets the eye.
Hidden away in the right-side exhaust, just ahead of the silencer, is a valve designed to "tune back-pressure waves for enhanced response in the low-mid range," according to Kawi press materials.
(And if it helps the Z pass EPA noise regulations, too, so much the better. -Ed) As if that wasn't enough, the whole system is said to be lighter than before, no matter what your eyes tell you.
According to MO's dyno last year the '06 Z wicked up 127 hp at a smidgen over 10,000 rpm with 69 ft-lbs. of torque almost dead on 8,000 rpm. Kawasaki didn't provide claimed horsepower figures for '07, but the provided spec chart boasts a torque figure of 73.1 ft-lbs at 8,200 rpm, up slightly from the crankshaft claim of 70.5 at 8000 rpm for the old model. Kawi product manager Karl Edmondson estimates that the new Z is probably down a top-end pony or two from last year due to the new focus on low-end grunt.
The biggest drawback to the Z of the past four years was the ridiculous amount of engine vibes that made their way to the rider. The previous bike had three rigid motor mounts (one in front of each outer cylinder and one near the footpegs) and one rubber mount (just above and behind the counter-shaft sprocket cover).
For 2007, Kawasaki designed a cast-aluminum engine sub-frame to relocate the forward mount from the front of the cylinder to the rear, leaving the two remaining mounts where they were. The result is an improvement in the bike's CoG of the engine and an intended reduction in chassis flex, in addition to quelling obnoxious vibration. Additional frame mods have the steering head moved forward 10mm that helps cause the wheelbase to grow from 55.9 to 56.9-inches. As part of the frame package, the new swingarm is constructed of pressed aluminum. As a whole, frame rigidity has been reduced by 15% for an improvement in feedback to the rider.
Kawi engineers also gave the suspension a once over, going to a 41mm inverted Showa fork (previously Kayaba units), with variable rebound damping and flush-style preload adjusters. Kawi says the fork is smoother in the upper half of the stroke while getting firmer as the fork is compressed. Attached to the new Bottom-Link Uni-Track swingarm is a Showa piggyback reservoir shock with twin-locking-ring preload adjustment and step-less rebound damping.
The fronts are all-new radial-mount four-piston calipers that squeeze 300mm petal-type rotors, and are complemented by a radial-pump master cylinder. Kawi claims the radial master cylinder and radial-mount calipers to be firsts in the industry in this class of bike, so they must not think the Z belongs with streetfighters such as Aprilia's excellent Tuono, Ducati's S4RS or MV Agusta's Brutale. The rear caliper is unchanged but its petal-type rotor gets a massive increase in size, growing from 220mm to 250mm.
All these performance enhancements are nice, but Kawasaki took it one step further by improving rider ergos. Paying particular attention to the rider triangle, the rubber-mounted handlebars have been moved closer to the rider for a more upright riding position while offering more control. The girth of the bike below the saddle is apparently 40mm narrower, the fuel tank is narrower and the foot control guards have moved inward. Last year's Z was perfectly cozy to me; this year it's even better. Save for a saddle that teeters between just right and too firm, this mass-produced streetfighter is quite possibly one of the best fitting bikes I've ever ridden; everything is right where it needs to be.
A bike that has mad power has to look the part, right? Appearance is almost always subjective, but if you're not too bothered by the wide-load look of the new exhaust cans you have to admit that this is one mean looking bike. Like virtually every other aspect of the Z, the body gets a make-over, too. The tailsection, fuel tank, aforementioned exhaust, headlamp/bikini fairing and mirrors all get tough-guy restyling. And to clean up the lines while still looking cool, an all-new side cowl with integrated turn signals shrouds the radiator.
Putting the final touches on the renovation is a white-faced analog tach with a built-in LCD fuel gauge, while an adjacent LCD readout gives all the usuals. The ZX-10R could take a few lessons from this well-thought-out, easy-to-read display.
Phew! That's a lotta meatballs!
In order to see what all these changes had wrought, Kawasaki invited a whole bunch o' press-types to the gorgeous California wine country of Sonoma county and surrounding areas. It's hard to imagine a more beautiful area with a veritable smorgasbord of roads perfectly suited to sample the Z.
Climbing aboard the bike I could quickly tell that changes to the rider triangle put me in a very upright position. The reach to the bars was just right and very natural. I was square (or so it felt) over the saddle and footpegs.
The bike starts easily, and the ECU quickly adjusts idle speed automatically. Some quick parking-lot trolling had me dabbing at the rear brake in amazement. The increased rear rotor diameter has given the rear brake on the Z much more stopping power.
Once it was time to enter the fray of surface-street battle, I rolled on the throttle and was amazed at the super-smooth throttle response and ultra-linear power. With the exception of a very slight delay from closed throttle, the fueling is seamless. This very minor hesitation could very well be resolved by fiddling with the adjustments at the throttle housing for the push-pull cables. Ultimately, what you should note more than anything is the fact that the engine starts to make usable steam as low as 3,200 rpm; power builds quickly and smoothly all the way to the 11,000-rpm redline. Use the light clutch action to pick your way through the very slick tranny to second or third gear and just leave it there for most non-freeway riding. Torque: ain't it grand!
With what looks to be two big blocks of aluminum for brake calipers, I couldn't wait to squeeze the brake lever to bring the party to a stop.
It didn't take long to realize that the Z has gobs of stopping power. Unfortunately, it also didn't take me long to realize that the new binders, like those from last year, lacked feel. If I dared set the adjustable brake lever to position "1" for the most leverage, I was rewarded with good power but with the sensation of trying to squeeze two blocks of wood together. Well, maybe it wasn't quite that bad, but is it too much to ask from most of the Big Four to cough up a few bucks for some stainless-steel braided brake lines as original equipment?
Once I acclimated to the engine and braking traits I was ready to hustle this black beauty through the undulating ribbons of pavement. After several miles I was giggling like a school kid at the way the front levitated telepathically off the tarmac despite a 1-inch longer wheelbase. It wasn't much later when I started to pout like that same school kid at the way the bike wallowed when aggressively exiting tight turns.
On the return ride following lunch, I had the opportunity to switch bikes back and forth with friend-of-MO, Gabe Ets-Hokin. We had the Kawi tech put some preload in the shock of his bike in order to cure some of the mid-corner flightiness that we were both experiencing. My bike remained at the standard settings. Within several miles I was able to discern that just a couple of minor suspension adjustments had reduced much of the wallow.
Once the chassis was sorted as best we could get it I was able to concentrate a little more on the handling. Kawasaki makes no bones that the Z isn't a race-bred bike, but rather an "everyday motorcycle." Steering isn't supersport sharp but is neutral and predictable.
Power is available so early, is so smooth and so plentiful, that this bike is one of the most tractable machines I've ridden in some time...'
Of the myriad of changes the Z received for '07, two things stand out: Engine vibration, as promised, has been dramatically reduced, and the way it develops its power makes it a superb streetbike. There will always be some buzz inherent in most in-line Fours, but the difference between this year and last year is amazing. If the seat of my pants assessment of engine vibes weren't enough, I had only to check the mirrors. Yep, they've been liberated of enough vibes to actually be functional.
After a day and a half on the street and at least two sessions at Infineon Raceway, I couldn't help but come away with the thought that I'd really like to have such a fun and practical bike as 2007 Z1000 to call my own. What's more, I could have all the improvements this bike offers for a paltry $150 more than $8,499 of the first Z introduced four years ago. Seems too good to be true. And for a brief moment in time, that was almost the case. In the beginning, Kawasaki Motors Corp. had no intention of importing the '07 Z to U.S. shores.
For reasons that still confound me, the American market has limited taste for nakeds and standards. It's sportbikes, cruisers and tourers that tickle U.S. riders the most. In one sense this is understandable since we're graced with so much open country and a robust highway system to take us there. On the other hand, who wants to drone down the freeway on a high-performance, race-derived sportbike?
According to Edmondson, "In Europe the previous model (Z1000) was the best-selling bike. Not the best-selling Kawasaki, it was the best-selling motorcycle, out-selling all the Hondas, Yamahas, and not just in that category. It out-sold ZX-6s, 10s, GSX-Rs. It out-sold everything. In Europe these bikes (standards) are extremely popular, but they're just not as popular in the U.S."
So why bring a bike into a market where its success will likely be marginal?
Despite the harsh reality of black and white sales figures (whatever those figures may be, none were available at U.S. intro time) Edmondson admitted that when they unveiled the new Z at a worldwide marketing meeting in Japan, "The appearance alone got us excited to where we said, 'We have to bring this to the U.S.'"
So, to European riders and KMC, U.S.A., I say, "Thank, you!" Thank you for making American motorcyclists the beneficiaries of both your decisions.
|** Specs Courtesy of Kawasaki **|