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- Created: 18 August 2011
The new Kawasaki Z1000SX is designed for riders who are after some serious sports bike performance but who’ve had enough of the cramped and committed riding position that so often demands.
The bike is also part of a growing trend among the Japanese to create new bikes largely from existing components, Suzuki’s GSX650F is a Bandit with a full fairing, the Honda Crossrunner is a redressed VFR800, and there are many more examples. The Z1000SX is little more than a Z1000 with a suggestive suffix and some additional bodywork, although there’s nothing wrong with the formula as the Z1000 is an excellent bike, and recycling most of its components this way is essential in keeping down costs.
That bodywork is certainly good looking and highlighted well in the metallic green and black colour option. It’s aggressive and purposeful and looks fast before you’ve even fired up the engine. The dash meanwhile comes from the ZX-6R Ninja supersport bike, with minor changes to the graphics.
The engine is the Z1000’s proven 1043cc four-cylinder making 136bhp, with plenty of urge at lower rpm where it’s needed more often. The exhaust system is a stubby twin-silencer affair styled with a nod to the four exit exhaust that so distinguished the original Z1000 of 2003.
This is as the Z1000 and so is the chassis, including the aluminium twin spar frame. the suspension and brakes are carried over too, aside from minor adjustments to allow for the SX’s extra weight.
It works pretty well too. The engine fires up with a Kawasaki snarl, and once rolling it pulls reasonably well in the low to mid range. You do need to snick down a gear or two when you want to overtake smartly, and with a passenger on board the gears need to be given a work out too, but generally there’s a muscular feel to the motor that’s pleasing.
It’s typical Kawasaki though in feeling more in its element when the revs rise. There’s something of a kick at 7,000rpm and it’s from here to 10,000rpm that the real high performance is found. It’s not superbike quick but plenty fast enough for most riders and most roads, and given the right conditions and commitment should be able to see you to the far side of 150mph.
It’s something of a thirsty lump though, returning 39mpg for me in mixed riding conditions, meaning the 4.2 gallon (19 litre) tank will run dry after 160 miles, although in gentler touring the range should extend to 190 miles. It’s not bad, certainly a match for Honda’s VFR1200 sports tourer, but nor is it exceptional.
More irritating is the vibration. Spin it beyond 6,000rpm and the tingles through the bars in particular are irritating at first, and after a longer rider can even cause some numbness in your fingers. The seat isn’t especially plush either, although it’s bearable for an hour or so.
The screen is height adjustable, although it feels very low from the rider’s view, perched on top of the bike, and it has a fussy, almost gothic look to it. For taller riders the turbulence it induces hits below the shoulders so it isn’t an issue, but shorter ones will find it starts to buffet around the helmet, tiring on longer trips.
The chassis doesn’t work as well on the SX as the Z1000 though. It’s softly sprung and the steering tends to tuck in as you turn into corners, and as soon as you start to get sporty on the bike it starts to sway and feel vague. It’s not severe and riders who don’t really push the bike will quite possibly not notice, but if you’re hoping for a blend of superbike handling and comfortable ergonomics, as many will be, then the SX doesn’t quite come up to scratch.
There are two versions, the standard Z1000SX and the Tourer, which includes colour-matched panniers and ABS brakes. The panniers look good when they’re fitted but remove them and the remaining bracketry is unsightly. It’s not possible to leave them unlocked so you need the key every time you want to get into them, which can be a chore.
Other ergonomic downsides are rear view mirrors which show more of your arms than the road behind, and the button for scrolling the dash display being located on the dash itself, rather than the left handlebar where it would be much more convenient.
Even so, for its imperfections the Z1000SX is still a decent all round motorcycle with good performance and eye-catching looks, and the price isn’t bad either.
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|Model tested||Kawasaki Z1000SX|
|Price||£8,999 (Tourer: £9,799)|
|Engine||inline four-cylinder, liquid cooled, dohc 16v, 1043cc|
|Power||136bhp @ 9,600rpm|
|Torque||81lb.ft @ 7,800rpm|
|Tank/Range||4.2 gallons (19 litres)/160 miles|
|Transmission||Six gears, wet multi-plate clutch, chain final drive|
|Chassis||Aluminium twin spar|
|Seat height||32.3in (882mm)|
|Rake/trail||24.5°/ 4.02in (102mm)|
|Weight||503lb (228kg) (kerb)|