If you have the money and are looking for a fast and comfortable sports tourer, then the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R is a good option, says Tushar Kamath
Photographs: Eshan Shetty
The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R is a legendary name in its own right. Sure, in India, it didn’t gain popularity easily like the Suzuki Hayabusa or the Dhoom bike (as many Indians call it) did, but the menacing green rocket has a legion of loyalists who swear by its hulk-ulean proportions and performance.
If the thrill of speed is what gets you salivating, one of the fastest accelerating bikes in the world offers enough grunt to leave a blinding trail of dust. The Ninja ZX-14R received a generation leap a few years ago, but the perfection focused motor doctors at Akashi felt the need to give their beloved demon a refresh. So have the updates made a difference?
Aesthetics and features
By no means is this a machine that’ll make anyone in your locality use the word ‘cute’ lest the ZX-14R growl at them. Visually, it’d take a keen eye to distinguish it from the pre-facelift model. Kawasaki has played with the colour to reflect the update and gets a dual-tone finish on the four ribs along the fairing.
Other updates include a coarser finish on the exhaust muffler, Brembo brakes, an Öhlins rear suspension and smoked oil reservoirs. What hits you in the face is, well, its face! The front section with its buggy-eyed projector beam headlamps split by an air-intake on top give the bike a look of pure evil.
The old-school twin-pod analogue console for the speedometer and tachometer will offer a feel good factor for some, while an LCD display gets sandwiched between the dials. As part of the update, the digital screen background can be changed from black to white. It’s an interface that’s easy on the eyes, but feels outdated in comparison to modern TFT digital instrument consoles.
Overall fit and finish quality is impressive and reflects the meticulous work put in by the Japanese engineers in their products and the switchgear quality impresses too.
Engine and performance
What good are imposing looks if you don’t have the engine to back it up? Thankfully, Kawasaki thinks so too. The 1441cc inline, four-cylinder power-plant pumps out 200PS (210PS with an optional ram air setup) of power and a peak torque of 158Nm. With the stricter Euro IV norms coming into play, Kawasaki’s engineers have revised the ECU to comply with the norms without affecting the power output.
The ride in low power mode, which cuts power by 25 per cent, makes the throttle response a little more forgiving. The Ninja ZX-14R felt very approachable at low speeds and surprisingly easy to ride despite its humungous dimensions.
Open the throttle and the bike transforms from a gentle giant into a missile after 5,000 rpm, with your surroundings turning into a warping blur. A lot of bikes can do fast, but what’s truly astounding is the effortless manner in which it is executed. With the ability to lick the quarter-mile in under 10 seconds, you don’t need my word for it.
What’s also likeable about the Kawasaki engine is its tractability. The engine can hold speeds of around 50 km/h without any knocking in 6th gear, making the grunt astounding, but accessible. There’s also a three level traction control system to safeguard the rider from sticky situations and lay the power down in a manageable fashion.
The 6-speed gearbox did feel a bit clunky between first to second gear, after which, the shift quality gets crisp and precise, while the clutch feels lighter than its predecessor too. The 2016 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R also gets the benefit of a slipper clutch which will be a boon on the racetrack, while a quick-shifter should have been added given the performance on tap. This Kawasaki is an exception with heat dissipation managed very well. The bike returned us an overall fuel efficiency figure of 12kmpl which is good enough for 250km on a full tank.
Ride, handling and braking
The clip-on handlebars are now 13.2mm higher and 13.3mm closer to the rider offering a good mix of comfort and sportiness. The updated bike also gets new 'gunfighter seat' which offer great cushioning. The generous saddle is touring and pillion friendly.
Another surprise that was in store for us was the handling dynamics of the Ninja ZX-14R, despite its bulky proportions. The updated model sports a compression and rebound adjustable Öhlins TTX 39 rear suspension system. The ride quality of the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R is supple as it absorbed the dips, cracks and bumps seamlessly on our Mumbai-Pune highway run.
The new bike also gets equipped with the latest Brembo braking hardware, similar to the Ninja H2 and H2R as well as the new 2016 Ninja ZX-10R. However, the brakes lacked the ferocious bite we’d want with a motorcycle capable of this performance, though you do have ABS.
At Rs 17.9 lakh ex-showroom Delhi, the 2016 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R is obviously only for those with deep pockets. The bike is all about absolute performance and the sheer ease with which the ZX-14R delivers that performance brings a smile to the face.
If you have the money and are looking for a fast and comfortable sports tourer, then the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R is a good option. The biggest thorn in its foot is the Suzuki Hayabusa -- especially since its prices dropped down to Rs 13.57 lakh after being locally assembled. Whether the Rs 4.5 lakh premium is justified is an answer that we shall find out some other day.