2017 Kawasaki Z900

Editor Score: 87.25%
Engine 19.0/20
Suspension/Handling 11.5/15
Transmission/Clutch 9.5/10
Brakes 8.25/10
Instruments/Controls3.75/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 8.75/10
Appearance/Quality 8.75/10
Desirability 8.5/10
Value 9.25/10
Overall Score87.25/100

For all those traditionalists/purists who bemoan modern motorcycle electronics (TC, ride modes, electronic suspension, etc.), Kawasaki has a bike for you. The 2017 Kawasaki Z900 in this review is lighter and more agile than either the Z800 or Z1000, is more powerful than the Z800, costs way less than the Z1000, and is devoid of electronics save its gear-position indicator.

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Kawasaki did outfit the Z900 with mechanical technology in the form of an assist and slipper clutch – which makes for an incredibly light pull at the clutch lever, and the ability to bang a series of downshifts without fear of hopping the rear wheel uncontrollably – but otherwise the bike is elemental: engine, frame, suspension, brakes. Correctly combining those four ingredients remains a delicate balance, but with the Z900, Kawasaki appears to have a winning package.

Beginning with claimed curb weights, we see the Z900 at 463.1 pounds (ABS model, 458.6 pounds for non-ABS) is 24.2 pounds lighter than Z1000 (487.3 pounds), and a whopping 46.3 pounds lighter than Z800 (509.4 pounds). Like the Ninja 650 and Z650 we recently tested, Kawasaki’s weight-loss program can be seen across the new-for-2017 spectrum, as those motorcycles also enjoy considerably lighter curb weights. 

Even with its hefty wet weight, the Z800 managed to best the Suzuki GSX-S750 in our 2016 Gentleman’s Hooligan Comparo. So, weight isn’t the be all end all when it comes to motorcycle performance, and it shows with the Z900. Weighing significantly less than the 800, the Z900 was almost guaranteed to be a better performer, and our day aboard the new Z in the mountains and canyons of San Diego county proved the new 900 to be an agile and capable naked.

z900

Kawasaki says a large contributor to lower weights of its new Z900, Z650 and Ninja 650 is the use of trellis framework. The Z900’s frame is claimed to weigh only 30 pounds.

The Z900 welcomes quick transitions and confidently holds its line through long sweepers. The 41mm inverted fork, adjustable for rebound damping and spring preload, does a commendable job handling surface irregularities but is a little vague at communicating precisely what’s happening at the front wheel. The same can be said of the rear monoshock (also adjustable for preload and rebound), but considering the bike’s price point, both suspension units are a reasonable compromise.

z900

The Z900 exhibited precise high-speed handling manners, while Dunlop Sportmax tires provided sure footing. The lack of traction control was always in the back of my mind, but linear power production coupled with excellent throttle communication and perfect fueling made easy work of applying power to the rear wheel.

Power production from the 948cc inline four-cylinder is linear across the tach with a noticeable uptick in rev speed around 6,000 rpm. I noticed the tach naturally sitting around 5,500 rpm during spirited riding, ready to smooth into the meat of the Z900’s power curve. Sans traction control, the easy-to-use power delivery is certainly welcome, but those who like to feel acceleration will appreciate the 6k-rpm bump.

Z900 riders will also appreciate all the effort Kawasaki put into developing the bike’s intake snarl. Inhalation noise grows evermore pleasant as revs swing past the 6,000 mark toward the bike’s 11,000 rpm redline. It’s a cacophony only the rider hears, and so serves a secondary purpose of leaving those around the Kawi unoffended by what appears to be a quiet motorcycle.

Dual 300mm discs and 4-piston calipers provide impressive stopping power, but without some of the feel and control you get from more expensive units. Both the front brake and clutch levers are adjustable.

Dual 300mm discs and 4-piston calipers provide impressive stopping power, but without some of the feel and control you get from more expensive units. Both the front brake and clutch levers are adjustable.

On the freeway at 75 mph, the inline-Four is spinning just below its power threshold, making passing an easy chore. And at nearly every speed regardless of gear, the Z900’s engine remained remarkably smooth, with no excessive secondary vibrations emanating through the seat, footpegs or handlebars – not something we often say about four-cylinder engines. The Z is easy to maneuver around town and at parking-lot speeds thanks to a wide steering angle.

2017 Kawasaki Z900
+ Highs

  • Weighs less than both Z800 and Z1000
  • Linear power delivery with a bump around 6,000 rpm
  • Affordably priced
– Sighs

  • Still heavy compared to competitors
  • Should have traction control
  • Instrument cluster is just OK

The Z900 has its rider in a comfortably aggressive seating position with enough forward lean to help with wind blast, and a relatively short reach to not-too-wide but not-too-narrow handlebars. When testing the Ninja 650 a while back, we complained about the shortage of legroom for taller riders, but even though the Z900 enjoys a lower ride height of 31.3 in., compared to 32.8 in. and 32.1 in. for the Z800 and Z1000, respectively, I didn’t notice any knee cramps by the end of the day. Speaking of inches, it was interesting to note that the Z900 has a slightly longer wheelbase (57.1 in.) compared to the 800 (56.9 in.) and 1000 (56.5 in.), but it still felt more nimble than either of those bikes.

The instrument cluster is a combination of digital speedo and digital/analog tach, that also acts as a shift indicator. There are three different configurations for setting a shift indicator, none of which we were overly impressed with. The low fuel light came on at 100, with the range counter indicating 50 miles to go. If the 150 range is correct, that earns the Z a 33.3 mpg from its 4.5-gallon fuel tank. Note the GPI (here in neutral) in the center of the speedo.

The instrument cluster is a combination of digital speedo and digital/analog tach, that also acts as a shift indicator. There are three different configurations for setting a shift indicator, none of which we were overly impressed with. The low fuel light came on at 100 miles, with the range counter indicating 50 miles to go. If the 150 range is correct, that earns the Z a 33.3 mpg from its 4.5-gallon fuel tank. Note the GPI (here in neutral) in the center of the speedo.

At $8,399, the standard Z900 costs the same as the outgoing 2016 Z800ABS. Add ABS to the 900 and the price goes up $400 to $8,799, but even at that price, it’s still $3,200 less than the Z1000ABS. Having ridden all three Zs, we’re willing to say that the Z900 is better than both of its siblings with room to spare. How it stacks up against its current competitors (FZ-09, Street Triple 765, Brutale 800) will be fun to investigate.

Kawasaki refers to the Z900 as a naked with a “condensed Sugomi-inspired appearance.” What’s for sure is the Z900’s styling will prove to be far less polarizing than the Z1000. The green frame rails are a nice subtle detail on the Pearl Mystic Gray/Metallic Flat Spark Black model, or you can get it in Metallic Flat Spark Black without the green highlights.

Kawasaki refers to the Z900 as a naked with a “condensed Sugomi-inspired appearance.” What’s for sure is the Z900’s styling will prove to be far less polarizing than the Z1000. The green frame rails are an attractive subtle detail on the Pearl Mystic Gray/Metallic Flat Spark Black model, or you can get it in Metallic Flat Spark Black without the green highlights.

2017 Kawasaki Z900 Specifications
MSRP $8,399 / $8,799 with ABS
Engine 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four valves per cylinder, inline-four
Displacement 948cc
Bore x Stroke 73.4 x 56.0mm
Compression ratio 11.8:1
Fuel System DFI with 36mm Keihin throttle bodies
Ignition TCBI with electronic advance
Transmission 6-speed
Final Drive Sealed chain
Front Suspension 41mm inverted fork with rebound damping and spring preload adjustability/4.7 in
Rear Suspension Horizontal back-link, stepless rebound damping, adjustable spring preload/5.5 in
Front Tire 120/70 ZR17 Dunlop Sportmax D214
Rear Tire 180/55 ZR17 Dunlop Sportmax D214
Front Brakes Dual 300mm petal-type rotors with four-piston calipers, ABS
Rear Brakes Single 250mm petal-type rotor with single-piston caliper, ABS
Frame Type Trellis, high tensile steel
Rake/Trail 24.5°/4.1 in
Overall Length 81.5 in
Overall Width 32.3 in
Overall Height 41.9 in
Ground Clearance 5.1 in
Seat Height 31.3 in
Curb Weight 463.1 lb (claimed)
Fuel Capacity 4.5 gal
Wheelbase 57.1 in
Color Choices Pearl Mystic Gray/Metallic Flat Spark Black, Metallic Flat Spark Black/Metallic Spark Black
Warranty 12 Month Limited Warranty
12, 24, 36 or 48 months Kawasaki Protection Plus (optional)

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  • Brett Lewis

    The lb/hp is the same as the new FZ-09. The seat height is lower than the Yamaha (good for me), but the bike lacks TC. Are those aftermarket TC systems good-to-go?

    • Chris Noblett

      Its much closer but the edge still goes to the FZ-09.

      Plus after riding so many motorcycles I can say that the weight savings is more important that a few hp, IMO.

      Its not like its 5 or 10lbs either. It is 40 freaking pounds, that is significant.

      • Jon Jones

        Have to agree. That triple motor is awesome. Love to see more triples from the Japanese. The grunty pull of a three is really hard to beat.

        • Jeevan Chaukar

          Bro, I have tested Kawasaki Z800 and surely interested in Z900. Though traditionally triples will pull harder than inline four, Z800 still pulls very hard for its category. In fact it has initial acceleration as hard or harder than Triumph Street Triple (In India the Triumph is detuned to an extent while Z800 isn’t which results in this scenario)! This can be attributed to shorter gearing on Z800 vs taller on Street Triple (previous version i.e. 2013-2016 model). But due to congested roads of India, large turning circle and heavy weight of Z800 becomes too much to handle and Street Triple is by far more practical bike – something I ride to work everyday in seriously bad traffic. On open roads, despite being so heavy, Z800 doesn’t feel that way.

      • ColoradoS14

        For sure, the weight thing is nuts to me how two similar bikes can be so far apart. To have two similar bikes be 30-60lbs different is kinda silly and shows how some manufacturers seem to care more than others. I personally ride an Aprilia Shiver which weighed in around 485lb curb. I have since removed about 28lbs from the bike by replacing the exhaust and taking other steps. But it is still kinda crazy that Ducati was able to put out competing Monster 796 and 821s which weighed 60-70lbs less from the factory.

      • Brett Lewis

        I agree weight is important – comfort, user-friendliness and versatility is also, to me. The Kawasaki weighs as much as my Tiger 800, which has been comfortable enough for me to do several 2000 mile trips on. Z900 has a more suitable seat height than my 800, and the overall performance seems to be much better. Not sure the I would care much for the FZ-09 after a couple of days into a week-long trip, and the FJ-09 is too tall. The FZ’s tank is small at 3.7 gal, the Z’s isn’t huge but should be manageable with 4.5. The FZ may get better MPG though… Neither have much wind protection but I don’t necessarily need a full fairing either. Looking forward to the shoot-outs! If I lived in the mountains and never ventured far from home, the FZ would probably be the better choice.

      • Born to Ride

        It will be interesting to see the comparison. If the handling is as laser accurate and stable as Tom says it is, I doubt the FZ09 will handle better simply by virtue of lower weight. As far as power to weight goes, I’m willing to bet there are some caged ponies waiting to be unleashed in that nearly 1000cc engine. Ivan will find the key I’m sure.

  • Nicolás Pablo Pizá

    Fantastic looking machine

  • azicat

    Handling 8.5/15? That’s 57%. Was it that bad?

    • Old MOron

      Azicat makes a good point, Tom. You said:

      “considering the bike’s price point, both suspension units are a reasonable compromise”

      and

      “the Z900 has a slightly longer wheelbase (57.1 in.) compared to the 800 (56.9 in.) and 1000 (56.5 in.), but still felt more nimble than either of those bikes.”

      So does it really score that poorly in the Suspension/Handling category?

      PS: good review. I had no interest in either of the previous bikes, but this one seems like a good steed.

      • azicat

        Yup, it’s only 1 point higher than the MO rating for the CSC RX3, which had the rake/trail geometry of a grocery cart.

    • Typo. Fixed now. 11.5. Basically, exceptional handling, adequate suspension.

  • Old MOron

    Oh, and that lead photo is fooking awesome.

    • Born to Ride

      Would be better if Kawi would tone down the angry eyes a bit more.

  • kenneth_moore

    Does Kawi say, or is it assumed by the experts, that this bike’s trellis frame is “trickle-down” tech from the H2? I think a lot of riders are hoping the H2’s forced induction, or something like it, will also trickle down.

    • Kevin Duke

      The H2 was the first Kawi with a trellis frame, so it’s some sort of trickling down whether they play that up or not. But a trellis frame isn’t new technology. Forced induction creates immense packaging problems and adds considerable cost, so don’t expect it fitted to any bike that needs to be built to a price point.

  • Jon Jones

    Good stuff! I do love Kawasaki styling.

  • Vrooom

    Interesting people like the looks here, and hated them on another site. I like everything but that headlight, though nakeds aren’t much use where I live. How about a sport tourer or Adventure tourer with this motor Kawasaki?

    • Joe

      It would be nice to get a sport tourer with this engine, especially because the Ninja 1000 is so damn expensive to insure.

      • Born to Ride

        Who’s to say a Ninja 900 would be appreciably cheaper?

        • Joe

          Because the Ninja 1000 is actually 1043cc, bringing it above the 1000cc insurance bracket. Also, the name “Ninja” makes most insurance companies look at it like a sportbike (ZX series), at least in the states.

          Having sub 1000cc would instantly lower the insurance, as well as leaving out the Ninja moniker.

          • Born to Ride

            I guess if they called it an EX900 or something it might have a chance. But the majority of insurance cost is done in brackets based on type of bike. “Ninja” automatically lands the bike in the highest teir superbike bracket regardless of its displacement. For reference, I have two monsters. I pay almost identical rates for my 982cc bike as I do for my 1078cc bike. If I’m not mistaken it’s 15$ more for the 1100 but it’s 2 years newer. So make and model factor into the equation far more than the displacement does.

  • Dave S

    Price??????

    • denchung

      $8,399 / $8,799 with ABS.

    • Born to Ride

      Listed multiple times in the article…

  • Cam

    Good to read the engine is still nearly vibe-free. I had a 2003 ZX-9R for a few years, and put >30,000 miles on it. It had to be the smoothest 4-cylinder motor of its time – just glassily smooth at all rpm, especially after I rejetted it. Almost the same power as the new 948 cc unit here. +1 on a great lead photo. The green trellis frame is also pretty cool. Can’t wait to see the results of a longer test.

  • Born to Ride

    All analog? Check. Balanced but capable performance? Check. Little bit of character to the power delivery?Check. Now you’re speaking mah language. Make this into a Versys without increasing the weight or the price appreciably and I might be a first time Kawasaki owner.

  • JMDGT

    I for one always seem to be amazed at the nice bikes Kawasaki makes. I shouldn’t be.

  • Andrew Ho

    They can give you upside-down fork but they cant give you radial caliper to go with it. come on! now if only we can mod one in.

  • TENDO_CRIATA

    The frame looks weak about the convergence point of the vertical engine structure.
    That being said, I’d prefer gusseting in that area.