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2012 Kawasaki ZX-14R Review

November 29, 2012 by  
Filed under Motorcycle Reviews

The terms “quickest” and “most powerful” are coveted titles in the two-wheeled world; after all, if you’re looking for mild manners, you’re better off scooter shopping than motorcycle hunting. Kawasaki’s outgoing Ninja ZX-14 was never in danger of having anemic performance or invisible road presence. Along with Suzuki’s bulbously styled Hayabusa, those muscular rides ruled the roost with their menacing looks and straight-line speed. But then the ZX-14 gained an “R” for 2012, and the boasting ensued. What makes an “R”? For starters, Kawasaki’s new flagship offers an 89cc boost in displacement, bumping it to 1,441cc. A three-setting traction control system has been added, while other engine improvements include a lighter, stronger piston, a more aggressive camshaft profile, and improved breathing characteristics through a re-shaped airbox and revised intake and exhaust ports. Kawasaki politely declines to disclose official output numbers. But the previous-gen ZX-14 produced 200 horsepower with ram-air in effect, so suffice to say the ZX-14R packs an even more brutish wallop.

2012 Kawasaki ZX-14R Action

Pin It Other upgrades include the addition of a slipper clutch (to reduce rear wheel hop during aggressive downshifts), a stiffer aluminum monocoque chassis, sportier suspension damping, and lighter wheels for enhanced maneuverability. Finally, heat management has been improved through a more pronounced fin design with cleaner exterior surfaces and hidden fasteners, while revised instrumentation now offers controls at the handlebar and additional information including an external air temperature and an “Eco” indicator—ironic, we must say, considering this bike’s ball-busting M.O.

2012 Kawasaki ZX14R Burnout

To test this fire-breathing bad boy, we spent a morning punching through the quarter mile at Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s “The Strip,” before a (relatively) more leisurely jaunt through Nevada’s scenic Valley of Fire State Park. The ZX-14R proved to be a more powerful—but also, more manageable—handful at the dragstrip, where traction control kept wheelspin and wheelies in check. While the least permissive setting (mode 1) would allow the front end to loop with a full-throttle whack, partial throttle will keep the nose down; modes 2 and 3 are appropriately more constrictive, and we found the middle setting to be adequately reassuring as we blasted down the strip, posting E/Ts in the 10-second range. Acceleration was nothing short of awesomely arm-stretching, with the engine charging urgently towards the 11,000 rpm redline while the traction control system offered brief burps that kept the tail from wagging.

2012 Kawasaki ZX-14R Engine

All that accelerative ability is less daunting on public roads, where the lack of timing lights and pressure to post impressive E/Ts highlights the ZX-14R’s tractable power and smooth thrust. Seating position is relatively relaxed, with a slight leg bend and forward upper body tilt, and the clutch, though a bit heavy, is progressive enough to enable easy shifts with the light-effort foot lever. And as angrily as the bike roars down the quarter mile, it also whooshes forward effortlessly on the road; serious speed accumulates without drama, making it awfully tempting to ride this ultra-powered motorcycle with law enforcement-attracting velocity. At least it’s appropriately obedient when not being ridden full-tilt; this bike becomes surprisingly mellow when unprovoked, with sedate cruising characteristics and smooth throttle response.

2012 Kawasaki ZX 14R Wheelie

All those claims of “quickest” and “most powerful”? While we don’t doubt their veracity, the following campaign would be equally truthful: “World’s Quickest Production Motorcycle With a Pussycat-Like Alter Ego.”

2012 Kawasaki ZX 14R

Beginner Riders Are you kidding? Beginner riders shouldn’t be allowed within ten feet of a ZX-14R, let alone in the saddle.

2012 Kawasaki ZX 14R Drag-Strip

Intermediate Riders Though it’s approachable enough under easy acceleration, further provocation brings out the devil in this Ninja. Best to stay away, intermediates.

2012 Kawasaki ZX-14R Review

Advanced Riders Okay, so the Ninja ZX-14R is clearly geared towards advanced riders… but still, even experienced motorcyclists owe it to themselves to approach this two-wheeled conveyance with caution. This is, after all, the quickest mass-produced bike money can buy, and it lacks anti-lock brakes, to boot.

2012 Kawasaki ZX 14R

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Author: BasemWasef (8 Articles)


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