Japanese Mega Standards Shootout

Tom Roderick
by Tom Roderick

Kawasaki Z1000 ABS vs. Suzuki GSX-S1000 ABS

Almost two years to the month, we took our first ride aboard Kawasaki’s new-gen Z1000 ABS ( 2014 Kawasaki Z1000 ABS – First Ride). We were initially impressed, scoring the Z1K a 93% in its single-bike review. Then came our 2014 Streetfighter Shootouts ( 2014 Super Naked Street Brawl, 2014 Super Streetfighter Smackdown) where the Z rounded out the bottom. In all fairness, the Z1K was matched against the most exotic of European nakeds boasting more performance and costlier prices. Even then the Z1K nearly stole third-place podium finishes from the Ducati Monster 1200S.

Enter the 2016 Suzuki GSX-S1000 ABS, a Japanese naked powered by an inline-four-cylinder engine that, on paper, looks to be the Kawi’s equal. Like the Z1000 ABS, John Burns awarded the Gixxus 1K a respectable 86.25% in his First Ride review. But it’s always difficult to take the measure of a motorcycle during a one-day press intro, especially when there’s no competing model with which to measure it by. So, let’s shake the leaves from these two trees, rake them up and see which pile is better to jump into.

japanese mega standards shootout, In recent times we ve been unable to often say a Suzuki holds a clear price advantage but that s certainly not the case here At 10 499 the GSX S1000 ABS with traction control is 1 500 less than the 11 999 Z1000 ABS
In recent times we’ve been unable to often say a Suzuki holds a clear price advantage, but that’s certainly not the case here. At $10,499 the GSX-S1000 ABS (with traction control) is $1,500 less than the $11,999 Z1000 ABS.

As noted, both bikes are powered by inline-Fours. A closer look at each engine’s specs reveals a Kawi motor that’s larger capacity, shorter stroke, bigger bore, and with a 1,000 rpm lower redline compared to the Suzi. During our testing John and I were both of the opinion that the Z1K was the more productive low- and mid-range power producer – accelerating harder out of corners and absolutely walloping the Gixxus in top-gear roll-ons. Our seat-of-the-pants impressions were born out when we strapped each bike to the dyno the following week.

“Kawasaki feels like it has a lot more low-rev power, either that or it’s geared quite a bit shorter,” says JB. “A tooth, maybe two tooths, on the GSX-S’s rear sprocket would wake it right up I bet.” From my 2013 First Ride Impression, I reported that compared to the 2013 Z1000, the rush of forward acceleration is made more prominent by virtue of shorter first-through-fifth gear ratios.

japanese mega standards shootout, The dyno chart makes Kawasaki s real world power advantage obvious as it holds an edge over the Suzuki everywhere up to 8 700 rpm The top end is where the GSX S shines cranking out a considerable 144 ponies at its peak Both bikes spin about 5 500 rpm at 80 mph
The dyno chart makes Kawasaki’s real-world power advantage obvious, as it holds an edge over the Suzuki everywhere up to 8,700 rpm. The top end is where the GSX-S shines, cranking out a considerable 144 ponies at its peak. Both bikes spin about 5,500 rpm at 80 mph.

So, more outright power for the Gixxus but more usable power for the Z1K. Almost a wash. Neither bike excelled at smooth power application as both exhibited the kind of lightswitch throttles associated with EFI systems of the past. The Suzuki boasts a type of combined traction control/ride mode technology where setting #2 softens throttle response while delivering maximum horsepower and increasing TC intrusiveness (setting #3 drops power like a rain mode and ups TC), but even in this mode, modulating power was a black or white affair.

Another issue of engine performance is the production of high-frequency vibrations associated with inline-Fours. “People who can’t tolerate engine vibration need to buy a Twin or a Triple, because both of these bikes give off a little four-cylinder vibration; not an objectionable amount from either one, to me, but it’s discernible,” says Burns. The Kawasaki, to me, emits more irritating vibrations than does the Suzuki, enough so that I’ll choose to ride the Gixxus over the Kawi for this reason alone.

japanese mega standards shootout, The instrument cluster on the Gixxus 1K is cleaner and more informative with a gear position indicator and without the two stage tachometer of the Kawasaki Note the Renthal Fatbar which may help in damping engine vibes but definitely makes fine tuning handlebar placement a breeze
The instrument cluster on the Gixxus 1K is cleaner and more informative with a gear-position indicator and without the two-stage tachometer of the Kawasaki. Note the Renthal Fatbar which may help in damping engine vibes, but definitely makes fine-tuning handlebar placement a breeze.

The seat on the Suzuki is also a little plusher than the more stylized (Z-stitching) seat of the Kawasaki. Outside of this nitpick, though, both bikes seemed to offer equal comfort, with neither John nor I finding something to complain about. “They both let you get plenty of smooth, quiet airflow, and neither one cooks your thigh meat,” says Burns. “In fact, for the kind of riding I do most of the time, they’re both great utilitarian motorcycles.”

Either bike’s ability to handle uneven pavement is tackled by way of a three-way adjustable fork and a two-way adjustable shock. Maybe it’s the gold anodizing of the KYB fork on the Suzuki, we’re not sure, but both Burns and I preferred the suppleness the Suzuki’s suspension afforded. “For everyday normal commuting, I think I like the Suzuki and its more compliant suspension and cushier seat,” says JB. “The Kawasaki feels sprung a bit stiffer, which is no problem on smooth roads, but I remember the GSX-S suspension feeling a bit overwhelmed on bumpy backroads, but it seems that was true of the Z also.”

japanese mega standards shootout, With all that pipeage hanging off either side of the Z1000 you d think Kawasaki engineers could have done away with the under engine exhaust canister but there it is This seemingly extra amount of metal certainly contributes to the Kawi s 23 pound curb weight disadvantage
With all that pipeage hanging off either side of the Z1000 you’d think Kawasaki engineers could have done away with the under-engine exhaust canister, but there it is. This seemingly extra amount of metal certainly contributes to the Kawi’s 23-pound curb weight disadvantage.

Outside of the Kawasaki’s suspension compliance, and its 23 extra pounds, the green bike is definitely swifter in the twisties than the blue one. Tire size and rake/trail figures being (nearly) identical, chalk it up to the Z1K’s one-inch lesser wheelbase and stronger suspension allowing the Kawi to transition from left to right in quicker fashion than its lighter-weight competitor. That’s not to say the Suzuki is slow to corner, but it takes just the slightest bit more effort to induce a lean than does the Kawi. The tradeoff being a margin more straightline stability for the GSX-S.

Without the convenience of riding these two back-to-back, you’d never know these minor differences in handling characteristics exist. If you’re looking to make a purchase between the two, it’s a simple matter of the Kawi being a little quicker to turn and the Suzuki having a minor amount more stability. If you’ve a preference between the two attributes, that could be the deciding factor in your purchasing decision.

japanese mega standards shootout, At the track during our 2014 Streetfighter Smackdown we experienced ground clearance issues with the Z1K On the lower speed confines of the street neither it nor the Suzuki exhibited lean angle restrictions
At the track, during our 2014 Streetfighter Smackdown, we experienced ground clearance issues with the Z1K. On the lower speed confines of the street, neither it nor the Suzuki exhibited lean angle restrictions.

When it came time to stop the two naked literbikes, we were in store for another surprise. Like the Suzuki’s price advantage, it’s not often we get to say that a non-Brembo brake was the clear favorite. Between the self-branded calipers of the Kawasaki to the Brembo ones on the Suzuki, we both found the Brembos requiring much more pressure at the lever to apply the same amount of stopping power as those on the Kawasaki. Chalk it up to inferior brake pads or air in the lines for Suzuki’s Brembos, or just flat out better stopping performance for the Kawi, after riding the Z1K, stopping the Suzuki took an obvious amount of extra effort.

japanese mega standards shootout, When it comes to fashion Burnsie isn t a fan of the Kawi s Sugomi styling saying The Suzuki s not nearly so over styled in fact I like most of it including the same blue they use on their MotoGP bikes Quite tasty
When it comes to fashion, Burnsie isn’t a fan of the Kawi’s Sugomi styling saying, “The Suzuki’s not nearly so over-styled, in fact I like most of it, including the same blue they use on their MotoGP bikes. Quite tasty.”

The 2016 Kawasaki Z1000 ABS retains the same $11,999 MSRP as it did since the revamped model’s introduction in 2014. Kudos to Team Green for holding steady instead of issuing the gratuitous annual $100 or $200 price hikes. But in the face of the Gixxus and its MSRP of $10,499, it’s hard to justify spending the extra dough. The Kawasaki exhibits some advantages, but like JB mentioned earlier, it’d be easy to pep up the GSX-S’s drive by adding a tooth or two to the rear sprocket, providing more direct access to that 144 horsepower. You could also upgrade its braking performance with some aftermarket pads, and quicken its transitioning by dropping rear tire size from its stock 190/50-17 to a 190/55 or 180/55-17.

japanese mega standards shootout

Kawasaki Z1000 ABS

+ Highs

  • Quick in the corners
  • Low- and mid-range power
  • Great brakes

– Sighs

  • Love it or hate it styling
  • Stiff suspension
  • Comparatively pricey

In retrospect, maybe I was a little too generous in my initial first-ride review of the Z1000 while John a little too stingy in scoring the Gixxus in his first-ride review. Now that we’ve put the two together, it was unanimous between us and the ScoreCard that the Suzuki is the clear winner between them. Being the spendthrifts we are, it’s not surprising we see the financial benefits of purchasing the lesser expensive bike and spending the little it’d take in aftermarket upgrades to perfect its imperfections.

japanese mega standards shootout

Suzuki GSX-S1000 ABS

+ Highs

  • $1,500 less than Z1K
  • More Comfort
  • Less Vibes

– Sighs

  • Peakier engine
  • Slightly less agile
  • Lacking initial front brake bite

I’ve had my say. I’ll let Burnsie walk this one out.

“Other than the coming apocalypse, I think they’re both great bikes for the money, but I think the Suzuki is greater because it’s less money. They’re both supremely comfy due to their standard-bike ergos, but for me the Suzuki’s just a bit nicer, it’s instruments a little easier to read. It also makes huge horsepower and weighs two pounds less than the $17k Aprilia Tuono Factory we put on the scales the same day. I could never buy a motorcycle without the looks of the thing being a big consideration, and I like this Suzuki. I won’t voice my opinion of the Z again, except to say it makes me think of some sort of weird sea serpent with a saggy old bosom covered in bass-boat paint.”

japanese mega standards shootout

Japanese Mega Standards Shootout Scorecard

CategoryKawasaki Z1000Suzuki GSX-S1000
Total Objective Scores91.1%100%
Quality, Fit & Finish85.0%85.0%
Cool Factor77.5%82.5%
Grin Factor86.3%85.0%
Roderick’s Subjective Scores83.1%84.4%
Burns’ Subjective Scores83.1%85.6%
Overall Score84.7%88.0%

Japanese Mega Standards Shootout Specifications

Kawasaki Z1000 ABSSuzuki GSX-S1000 ABS
MSRP$11,999$10,499 ($9,999 non-ABS)
Horsepower129.6 hp @ 10,400 rpm144.4 hp @ 11,700 rpm
Torque77.2 lb-ft @ 7,600 rpm76.3 lb-ft @ 9,400 rpm
Engine Capacity1,043cc999cc
Engine TypeFour-stroke, 4-cylinder, DOHC, 16-valve, liquid-cooledFour-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, inline-four
Bore x Stroke77.0 mm x 56.0mm73.4mm x 59.0mm
Compression11.8:112.2 : 1
Fuel SystemEFIEFI
Transmission6-speed constant mesh6-speed constant mesh
ClutchWet, multi-plateWet, multi-plate
Final DriveO-ring type, sealed driveO-ring type, sealed drive chain
Front Suspension41mm inverted SFF-BP fork with stepless compression and rebound damping and spring preload adjustability / 4.7 in43mm KYB fully adjustable telescopic fork, 4.7-in. travel
Rear SuspensionHorizontal monoshock with stepless rebound damping, adjustable spring preload / 4.8 inKYB link type single shock with rebound and preload adjustment, 5.1-in. travel
Front BrakesDual 310mm petal-type rotors with radial-mounted four-piston monobloc calipers and ABSDual 310mm semi-floating disc, Brembo radial-mount 32mm four-piston caliper
Rear BrakesSingle 250mm petal-type rotor with single-piston caliper and ABSSingle 220 mm disc, one-piston Nissin caliper
Front Tire120/70ZR-17120/70ZR-17
Rear Tire190/50ZR-17190/50ZR-17
Seat Height32.1 in.31.9 in.
Wheelbase56.5 in.57.5 in.
Rake/Trail24.5 ° / 4.0 in.25.0°/3.9 in.
Curb Weight488 lbs465 lbs
Fuel Capacity4.5 gal.4.5 gal.
ElectronicsABSABS, Traction Control
ColorsGolden Blazed Green / Metallic Spark BlackMetallic Triton Blue
Warranty12 Month Limited Warranty12-month, unlimited miles
Join the conversation
4 of 35 comments
  • Craig Hoffman Craig Hoffman on Nov 24, 2015

    With it's greater high speed stability and top end power, the GXS sounds like a good high speed sweeper kind of bike. Genuinely pleased to see 144 stock EPA legal ponies from the legendary Suzuki K5 engine. It seems Suzuki did not smack it completely senseless with the dumb down stick.

    Drop a tooth on the front sprocket, add a Power Commander, Akrapovich full exhaust and some decent front brake pads and the new Suzuki is the kind of bike that would likely make me happy for a long time. The current ride is a bought new in '06 FZ1 with that mod list, (plus a Penske shock) and I love the thing.

    With their decent handling, plentiful power, relative affordability and unbreakable Japanese reliability, this kind of motorcycle really is a do it all fun and fuss free ride. Pick your brand/style, and rock on!

  • Kw Kw on Jan 06, 2016

    I was able to demo the z1000 last summer and if they had one in stock I would have taken it. Vibes were noticeable at around 6k but not terrible.

    • See 1 previous
    • Kw Kw on Jan 17, 2016

      I know what you mean, I went to a Yamaha demo day as well. I rode the fz09 and the r6. They were very strict and only let us ride 2 bikes a day or I would have tried the 7. I was tempted by the fz09 but there was just something about that z1000 that spoke to me. Everyone talks about that Yamaha triple and it is fun but that Kawi 4 makes a really nice sound when you roll on the throttle.