The new Kawasaki ZX-14R features a heavily revised, larger displacement (1441cc) engine and revamped chassis.
The ZX-14R's 1441cc engine has been heavily massaged for increased power throughout the rpm range. Rumors are suggesting that it will walk away from the Hayabusa at any rpm.
Slightly revised styling includes a different headlight treatment.
The KTRC traction control system is readily accessible via a left handlebar-mounted switch.
The Kawasaki 650 Ninja replaces the Ninja 650R, with a slightly massaged engine for increased midrange, and an all-new chassis for even better handling.
Virtually unchanged since its 2006 debut, the Kawasaki ZX-14 has been now been replaced by the new ZX-14R for 2012. Those only taking a cursory glance at the photos may scoff at what they think is a basically unchanged machine, but nothing could be further from the truth. The ZX-14R boasts a heavily revised engine and chassis as well as a host of detail changes with traction control, slipper clutch, and more aggressive bodywork styling heading the list.
The Kawasaki’s power output has been substantially upgraded, with displacement growing from 1352cc to a whopping 1441cc by virtue of a 4mm stroke increase, with bore x stroke dimensions now measuring 84 x 65mm. The cylinder head features reshaped combustion chambers that are now machined instead of cast, allowing tighter control of volume, and the intake ports are reshaped for improved flow. More aggressive camshafts with increased lift and revised profiles are controlled by a stronger cam chain and redesigned tensioner system to help keep valve timing accurate. All-new forged pistons with thinner crowns are lighter and force a compression ratio of 12.3:1, slightly higher than the previous 12.0:1 of the previous model, and a continuous oil-jet system cools the underside of the pistons to significantly reduce engine temps.
Down below, connecting rods with beefier small ends ride on a new crankshaft with thicker main journals (40mm from 38mm). Transmission gears have an improved heat- and surface treatment for more durability and smoother action, while the aforementioned slipper clutch smoothes downshifts. Dual gear-driven counterbalancers are retained but retuned for the longer stroke to cancel out vibes.
This larger engine inhales through the same Mikuni DFI with 44mm throttle bodies, but using a larger and thicker air cleaner element boasting 10 percent more surface area and 40 percent more airflow capability. Spent gases are exhaled through an all-new exhaust featuring tapered header pipes and larger-volume mufflers with dual catalyzers to allow high flow without polluting excessively.
Kawasaki is claiming a major increase in power across the board, but especially in the upper midrange area. In order to keep this power increase from unduly winding up the chassis or the rear tire—at least unintentionally—the ZX-14R is equipped with its own version of KTRC (Kawasaki TRaction Control) that has three levels of intervention that can be accessed via handlebar switch, plus two riding modes with full and 50 percent power levels for changing pavement conditions.
Keeping that power under control is the same basic monocoque-style aluminum box frame, but with substantial revisions in rigidity to maintain a better overall balance. More than 50 percent of the frame’s aluminum castings and forgings were modified for different rigidity and flex characteristics, working with a 10mm-longer swingarm with increased gusseting to match the frame’s different rigidity characteristics that extends the wheelbase 0.8 inches to 58.3 inches (from 57.5 inches).
The fully adjustable 43mm inverted fork and shock have improved bottoming resistance and revised damping/spring settings to handle the increased power. New 10-spoke wheels are machined for a trick look and drop a whopping 3.3 pounds of unsprung weight to aid in suspension performance, while the 310mm twin discs up front and single 250mm disc out back are made from a stiffer material, with updated brake pads to provide supreme stopping power.
Bodywork styling has been subtly reshaped for a more aggressive look, with the four-headlight front fairing featuring twin housings instead of the four separate units of the previous version. The radiator exhaust cutouts on each side of the fairing have been enlarged for improved cooling while still keeping the four-fin styling and directing heated engine bay airflow away from the rider and passenger. The seat has also been reshaped for more thigh support while still allowing shorter riders to more easily plant both feet on the ground.
Unfortunately, overall weight goes up slightly, from 566.7 pounds to 584.4 pounds.
The 2012 Kawasaki ZX-14R is set to retail at $14,699 for the Metallic Spark Black, Candy Surf Blue, and a “Golden Blazed Green” special edition.