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Review: Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R

Driven October 2013

Review: Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R

You know the party in the litre class segment has been in full swing for almost five years now. The madness started with Yamaha giving us a taste of the YZF-R1 superbike. Jumping on the me-too brigade, Yamaha was soon joined in by Honda and Suzuki with their respective 1000cc bikes. The litre class party must have started last decade but with the launch of the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R we can finally say – it's now in full swing.

What makes this bike special is the fact that it is a derivative of the ZX-10R used by the Kawasaki racing team, for their Superbike FIM World Championship, which gives it all the ingredients to make it one hell of a bike.

In true Henry Ford fashion, you can have the ZX-10R in any colour as long as it is lime green, and honestly, we would not like it in any other colour. From the front, the bike looks menacing, with its twin headlight and that big gaping ram-air-duct sitting right in the middle. While the sharply raked front fork, steeply raked visor and the exhaust give the bike a sporty stance in profile, the rear has a neat design element with the brake light and turn indicators all a part of a single assembly. The brake-light unit is compact and sits right below the pillion seat. This by far give the ZX-10R a unique back-end that is instantly recognisable as a Kawasaki.

Coming to the crowning jewel – the heart of the ZX-10R. The in-line 4 cylinder, 998cc motor, makes around 197bhp and 112Nm, and has a smooth power delivery all though the rev range. The engine can be revved all the way to 13000rpm and that shows you have a huge power band to play with. As in the case of most of these bikes today, power to the wheel can be sent in three different settings – low, medium and full. The traction control also comes with three stages, depending on riding conditions and riding skill.

But there is only so much you can get by looking at the specs sheet, and staring at the bike. Swing your leg over the saddle and things start falling into perspective. The riding position is extreme, as you would expect from a bike of this calibre.

As this was our first stint with the ZX-10R we decide to keep the power setting low and the traction control high. Learning how the bike behaves is a fairly quick process. The front forks give the right feedback and bike feels nimble enough to be thrown into a series of corners. Thanks to the electronic steering damper, they automatically adjust to the riders speed making the ZX-10R more useable in city traffic. With the compact engine and the 10kg weight saving over the previous model, you get a feeling that you are riding a 600cc motorcycle, rather than a full blown 1000cc bike.

Sure, once you get a hang of it, it's time to move the adrenalin rush up a few notches. Skip over the medium setting – as it feels very... medium. Jump for the full experience instead, where the acceleration is quick and it climbs the rev range faster.

Obviously you will love the bike in this state, as it sounds angrier and responds faster. The higher setting on Kawasaki’s race derived S-KTRC traction control sees to it that power is sent to the rear wheel in acceptable fashion. Don’t worry about those unexpected power wheelies to pop up when you twist that wrist, S-KTRC will manage it for you. Sure, if you want them to happen, then there is always an option of lowering the electronic nanny by a notch or two.  

With such precise cornering ability and a top speed close to 300kph mark, there are a few trade-offs. The bike’s horizontal back-link rear suspension sees to it that the bike feels great around corners, but is stiffer to cope with at higher speeds. If our roads were like race tracks, we wouldn’t have even brought this up. Sadly they aren’t, and it can be quite a pain riding the ZX-10R over a bad road, which will happen every now and then.  

By now you might be having that untamed desire to find out exactly how much the ZX-10R does to a litre? Sure, the Rs 15.7 lakh (ex-showroom, Pune) bike is not known for its fuel efficiency, and we did not treat it in that manner either. If you still insist, between top-ups the ZX-10R did return a figure of 13.99kpl. Efficiency can be stretched further if you go easy on the throttle; but once you are seated on that saddle, we are pretty sure you won’t.

The numbers
Inline 998cc engine, 198bhp, 112Nm, top speed: 300kph (approx), 0-100kph: 2.93sec, mileage: 13.99kpl, weight: 210kg, Rs 15.7 lakh (ex-Pune)

The verdict
The ZX-10R is as extreme as a litre class bike gets. With 197bhp on tap, the performance is exhilarating. But with all the electronic safety system on board, rest assured the Ninja is forgiving as well. A sticker price of Rs 15.7 lakh is not exactly cheap. But it's money well spent.

Abhinav Mishra

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