With such huge torque spreads, riding these bikes through curvy bits is almost like riding with an automatic transmission. Shifting is more an option than a necessity, with stout acceleration available anywhere above 4000 rpm on both bikes. And of course, the jump into hyperspace in the higher rpm ranges means any straights are gobbled up with startling quickness, requiring that you’d better be paying attention to the next approaching corner.
Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past few months, the overwhelming evidence pointing to Kawasaki’s ZX-14R as the new horsepower king isn’t news. Our SuperFlow dyno confirmed that prediction, with the Kawasaki churning out a peak of 183.9 horsepower at 10,200 rpm, compared with the ‘Busa’s 166.2 horsepower at 9500 rpm. Torque is no contest either, with the ZX-14R quickly overtaking the ‘Busa’s initial jump to surpass it at 4500 rpm and continue building its advantage to a stump-pulling 108.9 ft-lb at 7500 rpm.
What appears on dyno chart paper to be an absolute drubbing by the Kawasaki in any acceleration contest, however, is actually far from it. Yes, the ZX-14R is definitely quicker, but the ‘Busa does a good job of holding its own for a bike that mechanically hasn’t been touched for four years. For instance, because of its torque advantage below 4500 rpm, any top-gear acceleration passes from 60 mph have the Suzuki getting a jump that it doesn’t give up until just past 100 mph.
The Kawasaki's overall ergos...
The Kawasaki's overall ergos are much mellower than the Hayabusa's more aggressive stance, with a more upright torso, shorter reach to the bars, and more relaxed footpeg position.
That same torque and a stout clutch also allowed the ‘Busa to get a better launch off the line in our quarter-mile testing. While the Suzuki was fairly easy to load the engine with the clutch in order to get maximum drive off the line, the Kawasaki’s clutch requires a deft touch and some patience with the throttle (or a pro like Rickey Gadson) to get a good launch. Our initial runs with the ZX-14R’s traction control turned off ended up being abject lessons in throttle/clutch technique, as even launching at 2500 rpm would see the Kawasaki’s brute power quickly spinning up the clutch (and rpm) too fast; attempts at loading the engine with more clutch engagement only resulted in wheelies that would kill the run.
We ended up turning our quickest run on the ZX-14R — a 9.69-second/148.7-mph blast, uncorrected — using the traction control on level one. Further attempts at improving upon that run with the TC off only started burning up the clutch; in contrast, the Suzuki’s 9.89-second/141.7-mph best was a piece of cake.
Make no mistake though; two-tenths of a second and 7 mph is an eternity in the quarter-mile, and displays the Kawasaki’s brute horsepower advantage on top. Once the clutch is engaged, the ZX-14R’s rate of acceleration is mind-boggling; it literally feels like the bike has a forced induction system, as the bike continues to pull just as hard at 150 mph as it does at 50 mph. As we stated in the First Ride story on the Kawasaki (“The New King Cometh”, April 2012), Gadson rode a bone-stock ZX-14R that was lowered and geared two teeth taller on the rear sprocket to an uncorrected 9.31-second run at Las Vegas Speedway’s dragstrip at altitude; we’d like to try some similar bolt-on mods in the future to see if we can get the Kawasaki into the 8s…stay tuned.
Thankfully, the ZX-14R’s braking system is strong and controllable enough to handle bleeding off the tremendous speed the engine is capable of generating. Stopping power from the twin 310mm-discs with radial-mount four-piston Nissin calipers is superb, with excellent power, progressiveness, and feel. The Suzuki’s front brakes unfortunately are a comparative disappointment; the brake pad feel is wooden, with a very linear progressiveness that requires a death grip to get good braking power. An aftermarket set of brake pads and some brake lines are definitely in order for any ‘Busa owner in our opinion.
All Hail the New King!
To tell you the truth, we had assumed that the previous generation ZX-14 had marked the end of Kawasaki playing neighborhood bully with the Hayabusa. With all the controversy that surrounded the original ZX-12R and the threat of horsepower limits back then, plus the global economic crisis putting a crimp in new bike development in recent times, producing a bike with 184 rear wheel horsepower seems a bit audacious, even for Kawasaki. But it’s pretty clear that the reputation of producing the most powerful production bike is an important feather in Team Green’s cap. We’re certainly not complaining. SR
Miracles do happen. Proof? Neither Kento nor I received one speeding ticket while testing Kawasaki’s brute new ZX-14R against Suzuki’s long-successful Hayabusa. The acceleration performance and sheer speed that these two bikes are capable of is downright impressive – borderline psychotic even.
The Kawasaki features heroic power, along with equally potent brakes and ergonomics that would make it a standout in even the sport-touring category. The only thing that hindered my 170-mile ride on the bike was its poor fuel mileage – of course, I wasn’t exactly light on the throttle. Then again, how could you be? The Hayabusa is just a tick behind the ZX-14R in relatively every category, with what feels like less power through the midrange, lackluster brakes and more cramped ergonomics. The ‘Busa did feel a bit better in the canyons, where the slightly softer-sprung ZX-14R required more effort to steer. But what the Suzuki made up for in the canyons, it more than lost in its cumbersome feel at parking lot speeds. That’s why my money goes to the Kawasaki. Now on to saving up for the speeding tickets that will ensue.
I’ve got to hand it to Kawasaki. While most of the other OEMs are still barely climbing out of their economic foxholes, Team Green has basically been charging forward with both guns blazing. And the new bikes Kawasaki has been unveiling haven’t been dressed-up old models — they’ve been serious redesigns that certainly required some company resources.
The ZX-14R is one serious beast of a motorcycle, but it’s a beast that’s got some manners. It’s relatively comfy, smooth as silk, and can take your significant other without forcing them onto a torture rack.
That Kawasaki would choose to continue slugging it out with the Hayabusa — and this time landing a solid knockout punch — in a category that some now look at as irrelevant took some audacity. I for one am glad that they’ve continued a tradition that dates back to the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, when their two-stroke multis (my first bike was an H2 750 triple) terrorized the traditional four-stroke contingent; being able to say that you make the meanest, most powerful production motorcycle on the planet would most certainly be cool in my book.