Kawasaki to Release New KLR650S Variant for 2023 (UPDATED)

Dennis Chung
by Dennis Chung

Variant appears in Australia certifications

Kawasaki surprised us all a year ago when it brought back the KLR650, resurrecting the venerable adventure bike with fuel injection, updated styling, and a new one-piece frame.

For the U.S., the third-generation KLR650 was available in a few different flavors, the base model, the Traveler model with a top case and the Adventure model with side cases, auxiliary lighting and engine guards, not to mention ABS versions of the base and Adventure models.

Kawasaki Australia offered two versions for 2022, the KLR650 (model code KL650F) and the KLR650 Adventure (model code KL650H).

In Australia, Kawasaki offered just two versions for 2022, the base model and the KLR650 Adventure, both with ABS. For 2023, however, Kawasaki appears to be preparing a new, third option. The proof comes to us from a new update to Australian vehicle certifications for the KLR650. A June 16 update added a third marketing designation for KLR650S.

The document still only outlined details for the KLR650 and KLR650 Adventure, with no clue of how the KLR650S will differ from its siblings. The section detailing the vehicle identification number does confirm a third variant. The big clue is the character in the VIN’s seventh position. The first VIN code with the “F” stands for the base model KLR650 while the second code with the “H” represents the KLR650 Adventure.

The Australian VIN details suggest the KLR650S will go by the model code KL650K.

The “K” model is new, and we can rule out the possibility of it being for one of the variants offered in the U.S. As outlined in Kawasaki’s U.S.-market model year 2023 VIN decoder below, the existing KLR650 variants use the letters “F”, “G”, “H”, “J” and “L” in the seventh position. That leaves us with the conclusion that the KLR650S will adopt the model code KL650K and be an all-new variant.

[UPDATE, Aug. 2, 2022: An updated VIN decoder released by NHTSA confirms the KL650K variant will be coming to the U.S., along with a KL650M variant. We assume the M variant will be non-ABS version of the KLR650S.]

We are still left with two lingering questions: a) how will the KLR650S differ from the others? and b) will it be offered outside Australia? Unfortunately, we don’t have any clues that can shed light on either mystery.

We could infer that the “S” represents either an entry-level, or even a “street” model, but Australia already recognizes the existing KLR650 as a beginner bike under its “Learner Approved Motorcycles Scheme” (LAMS), while a street-biased version seems antithesis to the whole point of the KLR650. The S does bring to mind the Vulcan S, which Kawasaki positions as a “sport cruiser”. A sportier KLR variant might be a possibility, but at that point, we’re venturing more into the Versys 650‘s territory.

The Australian VIN details have the letter “P” in the tenth position. This typically indicates the model year, with P indicating a 2023 model. We suspect Kawasaki will announce the KLR650S in the months ahead, at least, for Australia. We’ll have to wait and see if Kawasaki will offer the KLR650S anywhere else.

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Dennis Chung
Dennis Chung

Dennis has been a part of the Motorcycle.com team since 2008, and through his tenure, has developed a firm grasp of industry trends, and a solid sense of what's to come. A bloodhound when it comes to tracking information on new motorcycles, if there's a new model on the horizon, you'll probably hear about it from him first.

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2 of 12 comments
  • Jim Bob Jim Bob on Jul 28, 2022

    Seems that nobody in the comment section is happy with the KLR as it is. People wanting 20 more HP, engine transplants, lighter weight etc. The only attractive aspect of the KLR seems to be the price and that is why they sell so many. As long as you can deal with the slow, heavy nature of the bike, you’re good to go and you’ve saved $3,000. Otherwise, take a look at the Tenere, though it’s not a bike for cheapskates.

  • Denchung Denchung on Aug 02, 2022

    UPDATE: A revised VIN decoder released by NHTSA confirms the KL650K variant will be coming to the U.S., along with a KL650M variant. We assume the M variant will be non-ABS version of the KLR650S.