Overall handling was excellent, with a very neutral steering response at any lean angle, unlike the slightly top-heavy feel of the previous generation model. The relaxed steering geometry provided better stability at a very small cost to steering effort and quickness, although the new ZX-10R was definitely easier to transition from full lean on one side to the other through Road Atlanta's switchbacks than the previous model; the work at mass centralization obviously paid off here. Brakes were basically like the previous generation: excellent, with superb power, feel and feedback, and a very linear response that allowed you to bleed off the tremendous speed generated by the Kawasaki with confidence and ease.
Usually we loathe bar-graph tachometers because they are difficult to read at a glance, but we'll make an exception here for the new ZX-10R. The Kawasaki's bar-graph tachometer is a very bright LED unit (instead of the usual poor contrast LCD) that can be programmed to flash at the desired shift point. The LED display automatically adjusts for ambient light, and it's easy to notice the whole bar graph flashing even in bright daylight conditions.
The Right Kind Of Safety Net
Even without its superb traction contr ol system, the new ZX-10R would still be a very impressive machine. But the addition of the S-KTRC takes the Kawasaki to a whole new level.
The 2011 ZX-10R demonstrates that today's rider aids are not fail-safe devices, nor do they magically make mediocre riders into good ones. And as the S-KTRC demonstrates, they can be transparent enough that they aren't the annoying electronic nanny that many fear.
Even though the new ZX-10R's sticker price has risen to $13,799 ($14,799 for the ABS model), it still undercuts the BMW by a good amount. The combination of its advanced traction control system and superb performance make the Kawasaki the most advanced Japanese sportbike yet and a serious contender for the literbike crown.
2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R
MSRP: $13,799 (ABS $14,799)
Type: Liquid-cooled, DOHC inline-four
Bore x stroke: 76.0 x 55.0mm
Induction: Keihin TTK47 DFI, 47mm throttle bodies w/oval sub-throttle plates, dual injectors/cyl.
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Bridgestone BT-016
Rear tire: 190/55ZR-17 Bridgestone BT-016
Rake/trail: 25.0 degrees/4.33 in. (110mm)
Wheelbase: 56.1 in. (1425mm)
Claimed wet weight: 436.6 lb. (198kg)
Seat height: 32.0 in. (813mm)
Fuel capacity: 4.5 gal. (17.0L)