2009 Kawasaki ZX-6R Review – Street Test

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2009 Kawasaki ZX-6R Review – Street Test

Post by ganahsokmo on Thu Jul 08, 2010 12:23 pm

A new-bike press introduction is kind of
like a honeymoon. A nice hotel and an exotic location can’t help but
make your partner seem as sexy as possible.


Such as it was at the world
press launch for Kawasaki’s thoroughly updated ZX-6R. Riding the
new Ninja around Japan’s Autopolis circuit was like sex on wheels. It
was difficult to find any fault with the ZX as we consummated the
relationship at the fabulous race circuit.

But how would the ’09 ZX-6R perform during the bumps and grind of
street riding? And would major engine mods pay off once we strapped the
Ninja to the dyno? Would the bloom fall off the rose?

The answers, in order, are: surprisingly well; yes; and no!
After
getting some street miles on the new ZX-6R, we’re certain the Ninja is
able to slug it out with the big guns in the 600cc sportbike class.

Our last few weeks with Kawi’s newest Ninja have proven it has the
goods to go toe to toe with the best in the ultra-competitive
middleweight sportbike class.


During our time on the ZX at Autopolis, we already learned that the
new bike steers sharper than the previous generation, aided by sportier
steering geometry and the loss of some 20 lbs. Our biggest question mark
revolved around the output of the newly enhanced motor. The 3000-ft
elevation of Autopolis muddied the waters somewhat.


An
impressively linear powerband for a high-strung four-cylinder,
culminating with nearly 108 ponies at 14,000 rpm.

But now we’re back near sea level and we have the Area P dyno to
tell us things our butt dyno can’t. The ZX spat out an impressive 107.7
horsepower on the ol’ Dynojet, which is very competitive with its rivals
in terms of peak ponies and a massive 10 hp jump over the previous
model. But that number only tells part of the equation. The Ninja now
has some real midrange cojones, something it’s been missing since its
636cc days. Most illuminating is how the ZX’s entire powerband mostly
keeps up or exceeds that of Honda’s CBR600RR, easily the punchiest 600
over the previous two years.


What was
once the class weakling has transformed into a middleweight ripper.

On the street, this broad power curve and short gearing provide for
strong launches away from traffic lights. Good, usable power arrives as
low as 7,000 rpm, which makes for impressive acceleration at
street-appropriate revs. And its roll-on grunt is amazing for a 600. Its
immediate responsiveness in top gear at 80 mph makes a rider check the
handy gear indicator to see if it’s in fifth or even fourth gear.

The ZX-6R
is at home on a twisty mountain road.

Engine vibration is readily apparent at idle, but it turns smooth at
cruising speeds. The ZX exhibits immaculate throttle response, always
delivering a nuanced transition from closed throttle, something all
fuel-injected bikes can’t claim. And despite the EPA’s best efforts to
make every motorcycle sound like a turbocharged sewing machine, the ZX
delivers a deliciously howling soundtrack to its rider. Gearshifts are
done with little effort and smoothly for the most part, but re-engaging
gears from neutral can be notchy at times.


In commuter use, the Ninja’s riding position is reasonably hospitable
for a supersport. Its bars are fairly close to the rider but a bit low
for good street comfort. A narrow windscreen allows wrist-relieving air
pressure to hit a rider’s shoulders at highway speeds, and the flow
around a helmet is smooth. The mirrors provide a decent view and are
even halfway attractive. And speaking of appearances, we think this new,
sharp-edged design is one of the best looking 600cc Ninjas ever.


But cruising around city streets is just a preamble to the ZX’s main
attraction of tearing up serpentine canyon roads. The many changes to
the new frame and chassis geometry give the Kawi a newfound agility plus
robust feedback from the front end. The stock dual-compound Bridgestone
BT-016 tires are impressive - proving to be splendidly neutral while
providing excellent grip. The Kawi’s brakes are faultless, being as
powerful as you dare yet amazingly subtle when you want to bleed just a
hair of speed during corner entrances.
The
revitalized ZX-6R is ready to take on all comers in our 2009 Supersport
Shootout.


The middleweight Ninja is blessed with a thoroughly modern
suspension. Up front is Showa’s Big Piston Fork, a fresh new design that
saves weight and potentially offers improved performance (see our First
Ride report for further details). At the rear, the shock includes
the usual adjustments for preload and two-way low-speed damping, plus
the addition of high-speed compression damping. Beefy Americans will
appreciate the bike’s stiff springs, although they proved to be a bit
too firm for my 145 lb frame. Some spring preload alterations might find
a sweet spot for lightweights. We’ll have time for optimizing the
suspension in time for our upcoming Supersport Shootout.


So, after a few hundred miles on the street, our favorable impression
from the ZX-6R’s racetrack press launch hasn’t dimmed. As we predicted
then, this stellar new sportbike has the goods to run with the best in
the 600cc class. Exactly how it stacks up against its worthy competition
will have to wait until we ride them all back to back, but one thing is
certain: The Ninja will not again be finishing at the back of the pack.


Keep it tuned to Motorcycle.com for what will undoubtedly be
a hard-fought battle for middleweight supremacy.

Related Reading
2009
Kawasaki ZX-6R Review
2008
Supersport Shootout
Kawasaki
Japan Tour
2009
Kawasaki Motorcycles Released

ganahsokmo

Join date : 16/01/2010
Age : 35

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