Evidence Suggests New Kawasaki Ninja 650 and Z650 for 2023
Updates expected to include traction control
With the calendar flipping over to July, we are now officially in the second half of 2022. That also means motorcycle manufacturers are starting to make their model announcements for 2023. Around this time of year, we typically hear about updated models returning with the always-popular “Bold New Graphics,” such as last week’s news of 2023 BMW paint options.
Of course, what we’re more interested in are models that are brand new, and existing models that are being updated. As always, Motorcycle.com‘s got our feelers out for clues about what to expect. To that end, MO has uncovered evidence that Kawasaki will be updating the Ninja 650 and Z650 for 2023.
We first figured something was up when we noticed the Ninja 650 and Z650 were not included on an initial list of 2023 model year Vehicle Identification Number information Kawasaki submitted to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. As with the first round of model announcements, the first versions of these lists are usually made up of models that are returning unchanged, as the information would be the same as the previous model year and it’s a simple matter of resubmitting the data for the new year. The absence of these two models was telling, especially when the Z650RS was included on the 2023 model year list.
The real smoking gun is certification data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the California Air Resources Board, which show the Z650 and Ninja 650 will now share the same engine and exhaust systems as the recently-updated Versys 650.
All three models share a similar engine, a 649cc liquid-cooled, four-stroke DOHC eight-valve Parallel-Twin with an identical 83.0 mm cylinder bore and 60.0 mm stroke. Despite these similarities, the Versys 650 has actually been using a slightly different engine for a decade. For 2010 and 2011, all three 650 models were certified together, with the same emissions data. That changed in 2012, when Kawasaki updated the Ninja 650 and the Z650’s predecessor, the ER-6n. The Versys did not get the same updates and continued to be certified at its previous emissions levels.
Over the years, Kawasaki continued to produce multiple versions of the engine, with the Vulcan S also getting its own tuned-for-torque iteration, plus its own certifications. For 2023, Kawasaki has certified the Ninja 650, Z650 and the Versys 650 together, meaning they now share the exact same engine tuning. Curiously, the 2023 Z650RS will retain its previous engine tuning, while the Vulcan S will continue with its own take on the 649cc Twin.
The new certification documents tell us a few things. For one, the Z650 and Ninja 650 will see a slight dip in their claimed horsepower output, dropping from their previous EPA-certified 50 kW to 49 kW (67.1 hp at 8000 rpm to 65.7 hp at 8500 rpm). We can also expect the Ninja and Z650 to get the same two-mode traction control system Kawasaki gave the Versys 650.
Both the CARB executive order and the EPA certifications have new model codes for the Ninja 650 and Z650. For 2023, the Ninja 650 goes by the codes EX650PP and EX650RP, (with separate codes for ABS and non-ABS versions). Likewise, the 2023 Z650 goes by the codes ER650NP and ER650PP. The last letter represents the model year, with “P”, as per industry convention, representing 2023.
Meanwhile, the 2022 Ninja 650 goes by the model codes EX650MN for ABS, and EX650NN for no ABS, while the 2022 Z650 uses the model codes ER650KN for ABS and ER650LN without ABS. Again, the last letter stands for the model year, and as per convention, 2022 is represented by the letter “N”.
Setting aside the model year codes, the Ninja 650 has been using the model codes EX650M and EX650N since 2020, the year it was last updated. Before that, it went by EX650J and EX650K. Likewise, the Z650 has also used the ER650K/ER650L codes since 2020, when it was also last updated. Prior to that, it went by the codes ER650G and ER650H.
This tells us that we can expect more changes than just swapping in the Versys 650’s engine tuning. We can probably expect updated styling as well, perhaps with the Ninja getting the same exaggerated chin spike below the headlights that Kawasaki gave the Versys. Selectable ride modes would be a nice addition, but they weren’t part of the Versys’ update, so we don’t expect they will be offered on the Z650 or Ninja 650 either. Chassis updates are also possible, though the emissions documents obviously don’t shed much light on that.
Kawasaki typically reveals updates to its Ninja and Z models in the fall, during the major motorcycle shows, and we suspect that will be the case again this year, when it reveals the updated 2023 Ninja 650 and Z650.
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More by Dennis Chung