When Kawasaki resurrected the Concours label two years ago with its ZX-14-based (but basically all-new) Concours 14, the factory's original intention was to put more "sport" in the sport-touring category. With the engine and chassis lineage tracing directly to the biggest Ninja, Kawasaki engineers were looking to create a sport-tourer that was more at home carving mountain passes at speed than its forebear. And they definitely delivered on that goal; in our '08 hypersport-tourer comparison ("Long-Range Missiles", June '08), the Concours 14 bested the competition despite a few niggling issues by virtue of its superb all-around performance.
Kawasaki conducts a lot of focus group research with its customers, and they found that while the Concours 14 following was very enthusiastic about their likes on the new model, they were also very adamant on what improvements they felt were needed. And interestingly enough, those improvements all centered on making the C14 more comfortable for the long haul-not so much in any area of corner-carving performance. But with the current economic conditions forcing many manufacturers to hold back on introducing any major updates on their new models, it was easy to assume that the Concours fans would be waiting at least a year or two more for an upgraded model.
So much for the conventional thinking. In a quick upgrade timeline normally seen in the more popular hardcore supersport category, Kawasaki has sprung a heavily updated Concours 14 on the riding public for 2010-a mere two years after its debut. And the list of improvements are numerous and substantial; none of them are just bolt-on updates, and it's easy to see that some serious time (and R&D money) was spent designing and testing the Kawasaki's new components. We were given the opportunity to experience the new Concours 14 firsthand for a day in the mountains above the resort town of Palm Springs, California, and came away knowing that Team Green isn't taking this category lightly.
You Want It, You Got It
We didn't have any complaints about the Concours' ZX-14-derived engine and chassis-and neither did the focus groups-so the beefy 1352cc powerplant and stout monocoque-style frame return basically unchanged. The only real change chassis-wise was to the front suspension, where the oil level in the 43mm inverted fork's tubes was raised to increase resistance to bottoming. The rebound damping/spring preload-adjustability remains on both ends, with the convenient rebound damping knobs on the fork and remote hydraulic spring preload adjuster on the rear shock also making a welcome return.
Slightly revised LCD display...
Slightly revised LCD display panel now has an ambient thermometer, a feature requested by previous Concours owners. There are also displays for the Economical Riding indicator, plus the K-ACT ABS on models so equipped.
Radically revised radiator...
Radically revised radiator outlets in the fairing pull much more heat from the radiator area, helping reduce engine bay temps and thus engine heat radiation on the rider.
When we rode the previous...
When we rode the previous Concours through chilly climes, we were wondering why heated grips weren't available as an option. Lo and behold, stepless-adjustable heat is now standard on the '10 Concours. Note also that the mini-glove box has been relocated to a spot just above the grip heat adjustment knob, with an electric lock.
Heading the list of owner complaints with the previous Concours 14 was engine heat management. Getting baked by rising engine heat on their shins and upper torso while sitting in traffic was the number one gripe, so Kawasaki engineers addressed the problem with better ducting and heat shielding in the more aggressively designed fairing. The open spaces in the trailing edge of the fairing that used to dump hot engine air onto the rider's legs have been sealed up, and the fairing side panels sport much larger radiator exhaust ducts on each side to help evacuate heated air from the area behind the radiator. The fairing is also wider on the trailing edge to direct hot air from the radiator ducts away from the rider's legs as it flows rearward. The exhaust header below the rider's right footpeg now has a shield to prevent heat from radiating upward.