2016 Kawasaki ZX-14R Review
2016 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R – Click above for high resolution image gallery

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R Review

Bike Tested: Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R; Road Test No. 747

Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 19,82,798/-

The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R is a serious machine that is built to give you a taste of warp speeds

After that refreshment break by the highway-side, as you zip up your jacket, you feel something heavy pass by followed by a rather large gust of wind. As you look ahead into the horizon, you cannot believe you actually missed something of that proportion zoom past you that silently; yet so striking. Like a bullet from a gun, a missile from a jet, a ninja at night, the speed of sound doesn’t feel that fast now, does it? The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R has made its way over the years as one of the fastest mass produced bikes to ever roll on this planet. The big daddy of all superbikes now in its 2016 glory, is one of the most desired bikes among various kinds of riders. Let’s dig in a little deeper to find out why the ZX-14R is one of the best superbikes you can buy.

Motor Quest: The Ninja ZX-14R started out with a 1200cc engine back in 2000, while it got its first major update in 2006 that carried the primitive 1400cc engine. Ever since Kawasaki has been updating its technical specs to keep up with the equally popular Suzuki Hayabusa.

The iconic black and green theme doesn’t need any introduction

Styling – Standing there while you look into the horizon, you cannot miss the unmistakable silhouette of the massiveness that is the Ninja ZX-14R. The first thing you notice is the smooth shaped frontal fairing and the devil eyes staring at you. The dual-tone colour scheme gives it a distinctive look from its older models while the exhaust gets a better looking finish. The air intake at the front is immediately noticeable and the four-fin theme on the side gives it a refreshed look.

The twin exhausts do not fail to go unnoticed

The bubble shaped fairing gives it a distinct look and serves the purpose

Everything about the Ninja ZX-14R is top notch. The quad-headlight setup never gets old. However, the tail-light section is something that can be appreciated only by a few. The proportionately wide tail section has clear-lens blinkers as well as the tail-lamp. What separate the ZX-14R from everything else are the big bazookas on either sides that are crafted to perfection. The tank area is wide and long which seamlessly blends in with the fairing of the bike. The flagship Ninja as a whole, when in motion, looks like a huge bullet gliding in air thanks to its aerodynamic oriented design.

Everything else looks blurry once you’ve set a place to go

Instrument Cluster and Switchgear – The console on this Kawasaki is one of the neatest looking ones I’ve come across. As one might expect it to be large and spread out, the instrument console is relatively compact. It features a typical LCD in the centre surrounded by two analogue displays for the speedometer and tachometer. The small LCD displays practically carry all bits of information (probably more than you’d want), some of which can be toggled. From engine temperature to traction control levels (KTRC) and gear indicator to power modes, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R packs a lot of stuff in that tiny little space. All toggle and reset functions can be operated by bar mounted switches.

The console is made up of two analogue meters with a small LCD at the center

Keeping up with modern times, the engine can be tuned on-the-go for High/Low power modes while the KTRC and ABS can be adjusted for three levels with ‘3’ being the least intrusive. This can get pretty confusing in the beginning as the nomenclature designated is absurd. Of course, these modes can be turned off to unleash the full potential of the motorcycle in the right riding conditions. The switchgear used feels premium and works perfectly while riding.

The ZX-14R is fairly comfortable to ride on

Ergonomics – So what does it feel like to mount one of the world’s fastest mass production motorcycle? The first thing you discern is the humungous body. The handlebar is far off the seat and wide enough with the clip-ons at such an angle that you do not feel as uncomfortable as most other litre-class superbikes. The seat is very soft and the tank has the correct curves for your knees to rest against it. Honestly, the bike felt surprisingly comfortable even for long rides. The rubberised footpegs are also a blessing and the bike truly felt like a sofa due to its comfortable ergonomics along with exceptionally smooth engine. It’s easy to crouch down completely on the fuel tank and also see through the windshield.

Its easy to go fast on this one with just a twist of the wrist

Performance – I’ve got two words for you – blow away. It doesn’t matter if I’m referring to its competition or the rider, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R will simply blow you away. At first, everything about the motorcycle feels intimidating. The 1441cc four-cylinder block makes around 207 BHP at 10,000 RPM with the ram-air intake and 158 Nm at 7500 RPM. The new cams and the long-stroke designs deliver the necessary torque throughout the rev range which is what makes the bike so practical to ride in urban conditions. Even when you’re not in the right gear, the engine doesn’t violently knock at revs as low as 3500 RPM.

The ZX-14R has speed that it carries with class

The 1400cc engine is full of refinement, torque and power throughout the band

The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R isn’t the craziest bike you’ll ride, the power delivery is not as brutal, the throttle response is smooth and and one can feel the build up of the delivery while progressing through the rev-range. Starting from the low-range, the response is smooth while at the high-range, the full brute of 200 horses can be felt. Twist the throttle at any moment and any speed, you’d feel the traction control trying to work really hard keeping the rear from spinning out. About the KTRC, the interference is as subtle as it gets. If you’re riding on the highest level of traction control, you might feel the engine isn’t torque filled. However, what you may miss out on is feeling the huge bump in speed as the acceleration is really smooth. Turning it off? There’s nothing like the front wheel of a 269 kg bike taking off as you cross the first couple of 100 km/hr which is actually a piece of cake. The bike does around 135 km/hr in the first gear itself while the second tops out at 170 km/hr. I did manage to push up to 220 km/hr in third gear beyond which it was impossible to go, given our Indian roads.

The green Ninja has to do nothing special to blend in

Dynamics – The ZX-14R is underpinned by a monocoque chassis which Kawasaki says ‘delivers a light-handling and maneuverable motorcycle’. Well, the bike isn’t really a hero in the twisties, but it’s really not so bad. Considering the heavy weight and a long wheelbase, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R passes the test when it comes to handling around the corners. Generally, the motorcycle is really stable around long curves and I don’t really want to sound Captain Obvious by commenting on the straight line dynamics. When it comes to highways, which is where most Ninjas in our country are used, the bike is a bliss to ride. Visually, the ergonomics are intimidating because of the long fuel tank and the broad dimensions. Once the 14R is ridden, its like a sofa with wheels.

What is riding without a little fun around corners?

The brakes are ethereal and work pretty well at high speeds giving total control

The bike is really smooth to ride. There are no engine vibrations. The 50-50 weight distribution is a blessing as the the rider does not fatigue too much on longer rides. On the highways, post 100 km/hr, the wind blast isn’t felt that much thanks to the aerodynamic fairing and the windshield. There was a time during the test where I had to filter through typical Pune traffic, but by that time I had gotten used to the bulk of the machine. One thing that bothers in the city is the extremely large exhaust on either sides which tend to make contact with nearby vehicles if not careful. I know it sounds too clichéd, but this is one difficult motorcycle to ride in Indian traffic. The suspension is a bit on the softer side and little potholes are mostly never even felt. The front forks have enough travel as well to work with speed bumps. Even while heavy braking under high speeds, the front doesn’t dip suddenly which is a mark of an excellent suspension design.

The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R is a special kind of beauty

Verdict – So why would you buy a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R? Because you’re someone who knows how to go fast even without showing off, you’re someone who’s been in this world long enough to know what speed with responsibility means. The ZX-14R is not a motorbike that has to prove itself time and again what it is capable of. It’s that motorcycle who you look into the eye and know you’re going places. And you don’t reach there in style, but its presence alone is enough to give its competition the chills. At Rs. 19.82 lakhs, it doesn’t come cheap but you’re buying a rocket on two wheels!

This Ninja is as peaceful at high speeds as it is when standing still

What’s Cool

* Fantastic engine which is thoroughly refined and massively powerful
* Accelerates like a rocket on steroids, the speedo climbs like the tacho
* Can maintain high speeds with utmost ease, high speed cruising is a charm
* Sorted electronics package that just works, keeps the bike pointing in the right direction
* Excellent ride quality and comfortable ergonomics, you don’t get tired on the 14R

What’s Not So Cool

* Occupies almost car like space in the city
* Costlier than its chief rival by Rs. 4 lakhs

The rear is not the most stylish, but has an appeal of its own

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R Specifications

* Engine: 1441cc, four-cylinder, liquid-cooled, 4-valves, DOHC
* Power: 207.1 BHP @ 10,000 RPM (with RAM air intake)
* Torque: 158.2 Nm @ 10,000 RPM
* Transmission: 6-speed constant mesh
* 0-100 km/hr: 2.9 seconds
* Top Speed: 299+ km/hr
* Fuel Consumption: 8-12 km/l
* Fuel Type: Petrol
* Chassis: Monocoque
* Suspension: 43 mm USD Forks, 116 mm travel (Front), Uni-Trak Adjustable Preload Monoshock, 124 mm travel (Rear)
* Tyres: 120/70/17 (Front), 190/50/17 (Rear)
* Brakes: 310 mm Dual Petal Discs, 4-piston floating calliper (Front), 250 mm Petal Disc, twin-piston calliper (Rear)

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R Dimensions

* Length x Width x Height: 2170 mm x 770 mm x 1170 mm
* Wheelbase: 1480 mm
* Ground Clearance: 125 mm
* Seat Height: 800 mm
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 22-litres
* Kerb weight: 269 kgs

If you want a comfortable superbike, the Ninja ZX-14R is difficult to beat

Testers’ Note:

“The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R is a motorcycle which can do it all. Of course it’s not easy to handle in the city but once you get the hang of it, you will be riding it everywhere. The engine is supremely refined, the monocoque chassis is splendid and despite the size, gives this motorcycle good agility. If you want to tour in utmost comfort and speed, the ZX-14R is difficult to match. It might cost more than the Hayabusa but comes with a comprehensive electronics package which the Suzuki lacks.” – Faisal Khan, Editor, MotorBeam.
“It’s an irony that the fastest production bike is more comfortable than other superbikes. The ZX-14R or also known as the ZZR-1400, is the most refined superbike I have ever ridden! Very linear yet very quick in power delivery, this Kwacker stays in control with the amazing Kawasaki traction control system. Extremely beefy styling and the black and green colour scheme gives it the best of all road presence. And not to forget the monocoque chassis which is the USP of this bike!” – Dhanil Vira, Road Tester, MotorBeam.
“The Ninja ZX-14R is one of the most special bikes I’ve ridden. Not because it is fast, but because of the way it goes fast. You can completely let yourself go on this machine and yet it will make you ride itself with responsibility. What is appealing about the machine is its subtle styling with unconventional cues. The electronics package is not that comprehensive but is enough to keep things interesting. The ZX-14R is a bike that you buy not for the thrill and pleasure of speed, but because you respect it.” – Adwait Babras, Road Tester, MotorBeam.