Kawasaki has made it abundantly clear that it intends to kick ass and take names in every segment of motorcycling. And the latest salvo in the Japanese firm's battle for supremacy is aimed at the naked literbike class, with an all-new version of its Z1000.
Kawasaki's announcement of its newest Zed is about as forthcoming on details and specifics as a general discussing troop movements on CNN. But here's some things we know for certain: The powerplant comes from Kawasaki's ZX-10R, and-just like every large-displacement naked bike with a donor engine from a supersport relative-has been retuned for additional low-end and midrange. Interestingly, Kawasaki also says the new Z's engine is more powerful than the previous Z1000's, as well as being more torquey. Which ZX-10R engine, you ask-the current or previous-generation? Best guess says it's the previous generation, as photos show the Z1000's starter on the port side; the current ZX-10R's starter lives on the right.
The Z1000's frame is said to be made of aluminum, and extensive conjecture suggests it might be monocoque, a la Kawasaki's ZX-14 uberbike. Radially mounted Nissin calipers at the front look same-same as the ZX-14's as well, but the new-for-the-Z wave-type rotors are more likely a ZX-10R's 300mm in diameter (or smaller) than the 14's 310mm. Word on the street says Showa supplies the inverted fork and rear shock, although the fork looks just different enough from the one on Kawasaki's ZX-6R to keep it from being a direct lift from that parts bin. Three-spoke cast-alloy wheels are one of the few items on the Z that could have come from its predecessor.
Kawasaki says it's re-engineered the Z1000's chassis rigidity for "truly outstanding feedback," and has improved mass centralization as well, helping create the normally mutually exclusive qualities of greater stability and nimble handling. Plus, a narrower saddle and a handlebar mounted closer to the rider result in more compact ergos; it remains to be seen if this last development is good thing or not, especially for taller riders.
As you can plainly see from the photos, the big Zed has also been thoroughly restyled. The tail section and front quarter-fairing retain the familiarity of the previous Z, but the Power Rangers-style engine covers and dual-outlet mufflers are certain to be love-it or hate-it elements. You'll no doubt instantly know which side of that particular debate you live on.
Performance-wise, though, this latest Z1000 should turn out to be a stone-cold uniter rather than a divider. The previous-generation Z was all neon-orange or -green hooligan attitude coupled to a snorting engine that encouraged loutish behavior. If Kawasaki has amplified those best traits-as it suggests-then the Z1000 will fit right in with its plan for widespread class domination.