2008 Kawasaki ZX-10R - First Ride - Enter The Warrior

Packing Almost 180 Horsepower, This Is The Fiercest Ninja Yet

By Aaron Frank, Photography by Kawasaki

Kawasaki claims 178.5 horsepower at the crankshaft (and 189.4 bhp factoring in ram air)-an increase of roughly 6 horses over last year's model. Most of this gain comes in the upper third of the rev range (engineers report that low-end and midrange power are essentially unchanged), but the '08 10R feels fiercer across the entire rev range thanks to multiple changes that make the power more accessible.

Flawless fuel injecting and instantaneous throttle response (aided this year by secondary, showerhead-type injectors), coupled with an increased appetite for revs resulting from slightly lower gearing and reduced reciprocating mass, make cracking the throttle on the newest Ninja an imminently thrilling proposition. The twistgrip is now ribbed (for the rider's pleasure?), but I still went home with blisters on my palms-when this bike hooks up, you'd better hold on tight!

On the subject of hooking up, what about the Kawasaki Ignition Management System (KIMS) that debuts on this new Ninja, described in a previous issue as traction control? Clarifying points that were overstated in the original press materials, the engineers were adamant that KIMS is not traction control. Though this advanced ignition-management system can produce tractionenhancing benefits under certain conditions, the primary purpose is to protect the engine from heatrelated damage (see "Hard Parts").

KIMS, in other words, is not some Big Brother-ish attempt to electronically neuter your throttle hand, as some speed freaks feared. The system is essentially transparent to the rider-not a single journalist at the test noticed the system influencing power delivery. After laying waste to a head-high stack of rear tires over two days, we assure you that the '08 10R will happily spin, slide, snap-wheelie and yes, even high-side you right off should your right wrist give the appropriate order.

The only place you would feel a traction benefit, the engineers explained, would be a situation where revs rose suddenly, contrary to rider input-passing over a puddle of spilled diesel, for example, when the throttle position remains constant but the rear wheel starts to spin. If the throttle-position sensor relays that the rider is applying throttle and asking for full power, full power is delivered. When it comes to managing that power at the contact patch, you're on your own, champ.

Fortunately, the new chassis is up to the task. The wheelbase is now an inch longer at 55.7 in., and the swingarm is 2mm longer and pivots 2mm lower in the frame, all to enhance rear-wheel traction. The ZX-10R's ability to rocket off corners, particularly on Day 2 when extra-grippy "Losail Special" Pirelli Super Corsas were spooned on (U.S. ZX-10Rs will come with Bridgestone Battlax BT016s), was its most impressive trait.

Numbers were juggled up front this year as well, with an additional 1.5 degrees of rake (up to 25.5) and .3 inch of trail. Despitemore relaxed front-end geometry, the '08 bike nonetheless steers quickly, the combined result of a more forward-biased riding position, decreased crankshaft inertia from the lighter crank and also the lower roll center resulting from a new exhaust that relocates more mass underneath the bike. Once in a turn, the 10R sticks on-line without wandering or requiring correction, which we appreciated in Losail's multiple combination corners.

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