2016 Kawasaki Z800 ABS | FIRST LOOK

Kawasaki brings its midsize naked streetfighter stateside (to 49 states, at least…)

Kawasaki just announced a batch of early-release 2016 models bound for the American market, including this Z800 naked bike that will give Kawasaki a foothold in the suddenly crowded middleweight streetfighter category alongside bikes like the Suzuki GSX-S750 and Yamaha FZ-09. Available in Europe and other international markets since 2013, the Z800 isn't a scaled-down Z1000—which it cosmetically resembles very closely—but an improved version of the old Z750, with an 806cc inline-four mounted in a sporty-yet-sensible steel backbone frame.

Coming to market at $8,399, the Z800 is slightly more expensive than the GSX-S750 ($7,999) and FZ-09 ($8,190) but anti-lock brakes, which aren’t available on either of the other bikes, come standard on the Kawasaki—a difference that justifies the slight price increase. The rest of the specification is as expected for the class and pricepoint, including basic KYB suspension components adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping only and quality rubber in the form of Dunlop Sportmax D214 tires at both ends.

Kawasaki makes no power claims, but it’s not unreasonable to expect a rear-wheel readout in the neighborhood of the mid-80s from the DOHC, four-valve four, with smooth throttle response from the digital-fuel-injected, 34mm Keihin throttle bodies. With a claimed curb weight of 509.4 pounds acceleration should be brisk enough to be entertaining, and moderately aggressive chassis geometry—a 56.9-inch wheelbase, 24 degrees of rake, and 3.9 inches of trail—should make cornering and commuting both fun. A tubular handlebar with just a slightest rise and sweep looks to describe a slightly forward-leaning riding position, better to ward off what windblast flows over the small, sculpted headlight surround.

You can find the Z800 ABS at your local Kawasaki dealer this coming September, with a 12-month warranty, in any color you’d like as long as that’s Metallic Spark Black with Flat Ebony/Lime Green accents. Unless you’re located in California: Kawasaki informs us that the Z800 is certified for sale only in the other 49 states as of right now. “We will continue to develop the Z family for the U.S. market,” Kawasaki Public Relations Manager Kevin Allen says, “but in order to respond to recent product releases from the competition in this segment, KMC's strategy was to import this non-California-compliant version for 2016.”

PRICE $8,399
ENGINE 806cc, liquid-cooled inline-four
FRAME Tubular-steel backbone
FRONT SUSPENSION KYB 41mm fork adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping; 4.7-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION KYB shock adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping; 5.4-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Tokico four-piston calipers, 277mm discs with ABS
REAR BRAKE Tokico one-piston caliper, 216mm disc with ABS
RAKE/TRAIL 24.0°/3.9 in.
WHEELBASE 56.9 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 32.8 in.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 509 lb. wet
CONTACT [kawasaki.com][]