Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R Review
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The latest iteration of the fabled Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R gets mechanical updates and a whole lot of electronic wizardry
The Kawasaki Ninja is among the most revered names in the world of performance motorcycles in over three decades of its existence. Among the many iterations of the Ninja brand name, a particular motorcycle has enjoyed a special place– the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R. The litre-class Ninja made its debut a few years ago in the Indian market and has gone on to become the most popular superbike on sale in the country. What we are reviewing today is the new 2016 Kawasaki ZX-10R which has been developed with inputs from Jonathan Rea, the reigning World Superbike (WSBK) champion, and his teammate, Tom Sykes. Kawasaki has a firm belief that the learnings from WSBK are better as the race bikes are much closer to their road-spec machines as compared to MotoGP bikes. So have this knowledge from the world of racing helped Kawasaki in honing the skills of the new Ninja ZX-10R? Let’s find out.
Style Check: 7/10
As you walk up close to the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R, you start suspecting whether it is really the new bike or not. And there’s a good reasoning for that. While most manufacturers try to add few stickers and minor cosmetic changes in the name of an update, that wasn’t the case with the new bike as most of its changes have been made to its internals. The biggest distinguishing factor is the new graphics with extra greener elements. Look closely and you will notice that the front fairing, exhaust muffler and the tail section is completely different.
The larger fairing has been employed for better high-speed stability and aerodynamic flow while the windscreen has been mounted directly to the fairing to reduce vibrations at high speed. The low slung stance has been maintained while the chiselled twin-headlamps with the air-intake in the middle look menacing. The compact dimensions and the sporty styling do make the 2016 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R an attractive looking motorcycle.
But in comparison to its European rivals, it just doesn’t manage to evoke the same emotions. Had the new bike got some design influences from the devilish looking H2, things could have been a bit different. The design elements that failed to make an impression include the muffler and the three-spoke forged aluminium wheels that looks a few decades old! Switch gear quality, as expected at this price point, is top notch with ergonomically positioned buttons. Build quality of the motorcycle is also very impressive with tight panel gaps and no ugly welds visible to the naked eye.
The Features List: 9/10
Given the fact that it is the flagship litre-class offering for Kawasaki, the Ninja ZX-1OR is filled to the brim with features. The bike gets equipped with a fully-digital instrument console. It is jam packed with information and is a geek’s wet dream. One does need time getting used to the plethora of information but gladly the speedometer is easily readable on the go. The LED backlit bar-graph tachometer changes colour as the revs climb, from amber to orange and finally red closer to the revv limiter.
Then there’s the mirror mounted LED indicators which honestly don’t have much prominence but add to the cool quotient! The Ninja ZX-10R also gets an Öhlins steering damper which sits neatly between the clip-on bars. The new motorcycle also features Showa Balance Free Fork at the front, making its debut on a full production motorcycle. Both the legs of the USD forks can be individually adjusted for compression and rebound damping. At the rear there’s the firm’s Balance Free Rear Cushion (BFRC) shock. Braking system too has been overhauled as it uses Brembo M50 monoblock aluminium callipers grabbing on huge 330mm twin discs at the front.
Performance Test: 10/10
Powering the 2016 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R is the same liquid-cooled, 998cc displacement inline-four monster generating 200PS of power with similar bore and stroke. Kawasaki focused their attention in making the new powerplant lighter which also had to be Euro 4 compliant. Weight savings were achieved by lighter balance shaft and pistons, titanium alloy headers, and a titanium exhaust canister. The end result is that despite being more eco friendly, the ZX-10R hasn’t lost out on its firepower. Start the motor and it feels and behaves like a conventional in-line four motor does, albeit a lot quieter. At lower rpms the bike feels docile but all that changes when you wring your wrist and feed in some revs. From a high school choir group, the Ninja ZX-10R turns into a hardcore metal band performing at Rock am Ring the moment you cross 7,000rpm.
Acceleration is brutal as you duck down under the windscreen to take refuge and magically understand aerodynamics while holding on to dear life. 0-100kmph sprint can be dismissed under three seconds and once can hit 170kmph in 1st gear itself! Since we were riding the bike on public roads the above weren’t tested but I have no doubt in my mind whether the above numbers could be achieved or not. The first gear is pretty tall while the rest of the gears have been closely matched for better drive through the corners. Despite the tremendous amount of ammunition the powerplant is also very tractable, as the bike doesn’t knock even in top gear wile rolling at double digit speeds! The 6-speed gearbox works with precision and is now housed in a racing-style “cassette” design. The slipper clutch system is also lighter than its predecessor and throttle response (ride-by-wire) is incredibly crisp while NVH levels are of the first order.
Time To Ride: 8/10
The clip-on handlebars and rear-set footpegs mean that the riding posture is leaned forward and aggressive so touring is definitely the last thing you want to do on this bike. Despite the petite dimensions, there is lot of room for the rider on the saddle to move around. A litre-class superbike is supposed to dismiss corners with authority and that is something that the Ninja ZX-10R does with aplomb. The steering head has been positioned 7.5mm closer to the rider while the swingarm has been lengthened by 15.8mm. This front-end bias means that there is lot of grip on offer from the front-end. Just point the front tyre to what line you want to take and it follows your command instantly.
This swift handling nature does take some time getting used to but once you get a hang of it, the Ninja ZX-10R will delight you with its handling prowess. Sadly on our public roads we weren’t really able to push the bike around corners and the race track is the place where the Ninja will really come in its element. The new Bridgestone RS10 street/track rubber also plays a crucial part in improving the handling dynamics of the bike.
As we had mentioned before, the new bike gets equipped with Brembo M50 Monoblocs which are radially mounted on 330mm twin discs at front and at the back a 220mm single disc is gripped by a single piston calliper. Braking performance of the motorcycle is astonishing as it sheds speed with an appetite of a hungry carnivore. Braking is very progressive with very good feedback through the lever. As expected ride quality is on the stiffer side but it is decent with respect to its competitors.
Electronic Goodies: 8/10
The older bike was also loaded with a decent set of electronic wizardry but with the competition stepping up the game, especially the new Yamaha R1, Kawasaki engineers have responded. The biggest addition is the Bosch Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) that measures 5 axes of movement (longitudinal, transverse, and vertical acceleration along with roll and pitch rates) to calculate the sixth element. This sixth axis is utilised to adapt the motorcycle based on real-time conditions.
Unlike other manufacturers who use the Bosch software and hardware, on the new bike the software has been developed in house by Kawasaki with the help of its WSBK team. The Sports Traction Control (S-KTRC) now sports five modes of intervention as opposed to three in the previous model. Kawasaki Launch control Mode (KLCM) makes its debut on the new Ninja with three settings and the power mode also gets three settings full (100 per cent), medium (80 per cent) and low (60 percent). Cornering ABS has been added to its portfolio in the guise of Cornering Management Function. Last but not the least is the Kawasaki Engine Braking Control which was first seen on the flagship Ninja H2R. The system helps the rider in selecting how much engine braking the rider requires based on his preference. KQS (Kawasaki Quick Shifter) allows the rider to make upshifts without rolling off the throttle or engaging the clutch, and the rider can turn off the above system also. Going through the electronic settings though can be a bit difficult and we would have liked a much simpler UI.
Living With It: 5/10
The 2016 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R isn’t your daily ride for sure and will be mostly taken out on weekends for the most part of its life, given the trend of Indian superbike owners. Riding the bike in city is a task with the engine temp crossing the 100 °C mark easily and agility in city riding is also not that great. The wide turning radius will put to shame many cars and while the 204kg kerb weight is impressive for the power-to-weight ratio, one has to put in some effort to remove the bike from parking. Also the bike is a crowd magnet which means you will be followed by boy racers on their scooters and motorcycles wherever you go and sometimes they can come a bit too close for comfort. Servicing will be difficult unless you belong to a city where Kawasaki has its service centre setup.
Given its pricing, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R is a motorcycle that will be restricted to only affluent motorcycle consumers. Indians have a soft spot for superbikes and this means the ZX-10R will appeal to a wide audience. But riding a litre-class motorcycle isn’t easy as one has to be physically fit with good reflexes given the performance. Also we would personally suggest the buyers to take the Ninja to a race track as that is where it really belongs and it will astonish the rider with its firepower and dynamics. So if you are privileged enough to own one, please take the ZX-10R for a track day.
Final Call: 9/10
The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R is without doubt among the best superbikes on sale in the Indian market. The updates have been made in a clever manner to add to its desirability factor. What further makes the new motorcycle a mouth watering proposition is the Rs 18.9 lakh (on-road, Mumbai) pricing. I know that Rs 19 lakh for a motorcycle isn’t a small amount but when you see the price sheet of its rivals like the Yamaha R1 (Rs 26.9 lakh), BMW S1000RR (Rs 35 lakh) and the Ducati 1299 Panigale (Rs 32.4 lakh) the value quotient is understandable. But pricing isn’t the only aspect that makes the new Ninja ZX-10R a winner in our opinion, as it has the performance, handling, electronic goodies, and the cycle parts to make it a complete package.