Test riding the Kawasaki Z900

Jun 18, 2017, 11:35 IST | Jim Gorde

Kawasaki has added more greenery to its BS IV-compliant 2017 line-up in India, with the all-new Z900. It looks more approachable, but has a very aggressive engine

Not everyone likes vegetables. However, as unpleasant as a green diet may seem, one Japanese manufacturer has turned it into a signature line of dishes. They're mostly green, with a choice of orange and black as well, but, they've become rather recognised. More importantly, they've also been linked with a special case of hooliganism.

The Z line of motorcycles from Kawasaki has always had a bit of an edge to it. The Z800 was a great all-rounder that let you ride without being scared silly, whereas the Z1000 demanded a bit more respect. Its snake-eyed front end and chiselled appearance garnered huge a fan following, many of which turned into owners. The Z800 went on to become one of the most popular bikes, not just in India, but also in Europe. Those who were just not ready for a big 1,000 turned to the 800. Now, there's a 900. And it's closer to the 1,000 in more ways than one.

The Z900 looks - and actually is - well-rounded, in every sense. It has lost a bit of the edgy design and seems better built. It looks a bit chunkier and, while that takes away a little from its formerly aggressive demeanour, it adds to the ease of approach.

Yes, the Z900 is actually a rather approachable machine.

The bulkier headlamp unit, the revised tachometer - which now starts from zero and doesn't have a separate display for the building block revs - and the added bits of equipment make it seem easier to ride.

The large rotors provide good stopping power. Pics/Sanjay Raikar
The large rotors provide good stopping power. Pics/Sanjay Raikar

But, the aggression has been heightened in the motor. As was mentioned in our international first ride review, the Z900 is closer to the Z1000 than the Z800. At 948 cc, it's 142 cc more than the old 800, and just 95 cc less than the Z1000. The bike is extremely refined and feels very responsive. The peak power is now 125 PS, which peaks at just 9,500 rpm. The peak torque, rated at 98.6 Nm, peaks at 7,700 rpm, but a chunk of it is evident from 5,000 rpm. The six-speed shifter is slick and precise, as expected from a modern Japanese street bike. The clutch action is light and lets you set off easily.

The aggressive 948-cc transverse- four comes with robust crankcase sliders as standard
The aggressive 948-cc transverse- four comes with robust crankcase sliders as standard

The hills were soon alive with the sound of multi-cylinder music. The Z900 feels agile enough through the bends and the light front end makes it seem even more eager to dart into corners and come powering out hard. The way the power comes - thanks to the close ratios - feels different from a litre-bike. Where a litre-naked redlines at about 140 km/h in first, this one did the same in third. It doesn't feel as intimidating and that's a good characteristic. Another standout feature was the crystal-clear LCD info-display console that was easy to read even in the brightest sunlight.

The LCD console is extremely legible, even under bright sunlight
The LCD console is extremely legible, even under bright sunlight

There are no fancy multi-level maps for traction control, or multi-level ABS. There is ABS, and that's it. The brakes are a pair of 300-mm petal rotors at the front bitten by Nissin four-piston callipers. The rear unit is solitary 250-mm disc with single-piston calliper. The Dunlop - 120/70 front and 180/55 rear - ZR-17 rubber worked well in the heat and traction was good. One instance saw the rear stepping out when giving it some gas mid-lean, but that was nothing that couldn't be caught.

That's what the Z900 is about. It's a stepping-stone to the super-nakeds or even the litre-class. It's about making bigger seem more manageable and while this is no 650, or 750 or even an 800 anymore, it does behave much smaller than it is, and that, in essence, is its purpose of existence. Fair to say, Kawasaki has done a great job closing the gap.

Of course, it comes at a price. The bike we had came with a slew of accessories, including a set of neat sliders on the crankcase. All included, you're looking at a hefty tag of Rs 9 lakh (ex-Delhi, with accessories). On road, that would translate to almost a whole lakh more than the outgoing Z800. And, if you're wondering, like a whole host of others who will inevitably pose the question to future owners, it delivers a claimed 5.5 litres/100 km (18.2 km/l).

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