2014 Kawasaki Z1000 | FIRST LOOK

Kawasaki's Z1000 naked bike has never been a conservative machine, but the latest version, looking like something straight from the pages of a Japanese manga comic, is the most outrageous example yet. Shaped in what Kawasaki Design Chief Keishi Fukumoto calls "Sugomi" style, the cartoonish silhouette is intended to evoke "the palpable energy and tense anticipation of a crouching panther focused on its prey."

Styling is always subjective, but few will argue with the Z1000’s performance potential, made even more potent this year with revised intake cams, a freer-breathing airbox, and more aggressive ECU tuning to increase power output from the 1,043cc inline-four, especially at low and midrange rpms. Kawasaki claims 140 horsepower here, up four ponies over last year’s bike (claimed torque remains unchanged at 81 pound-feet). Shorter overall gearing (except for a slightly taller 6th ratio) will make those extra ponies even more accessible.

The aluminum frame, which arcs over the inline-four engine, is unchanged, but a new, Showa Separate-Function Big Piston Fork that divides compression and rebound damping into separate legs should improve front-end feedback. New, one-piece radial-mount front brake calipers paired with 310mm petal-type rotors should improve braking, too. Pricing as been set at $11,999 with standard ABS; surprisingly, S-KTRC traction control is not an available option.