The versatile Z1000 has been a hit for Kawasaki, and that naked streetfighter is now getting a sibling: the new-to-North America 2016 Z800 ABS. Kawasaki says this mid-level streetfighter, which will not be sold in California, has the attitude and aggressive style of its bigger brother but is fitted with a smaller four-cylinder engine displacing 806cc. With its natural riding position, adjustable KYB suspension and responsive chassis, this new Z800—which has been on sale in Europe since 2013—is expected to work well as a commuter or as weekend entertainment. It’s not a shrunken Z1000, as one might expect; rather, the new Z800 is an improved version of the old Z750.
Kawasaki says the Z800’s liquid-cooled DOHC 16-valve engine boasts excellent midrange power, aided by ultra-fine fuel injectors with 34mm Keihin throttle bodies and two different length intake funnels to optimize airflow at various engine speeds. The exhaust, with large-radius curved header pipes, has equalizer tubes connecting header pipes one and four as well as two and three. This helps low-rpm response, and an exhaust valve upstream of the muffler further aids low- and midrange crispness. A short exhaust eliminates the center pipe and aids mass centralization. In addition to large oil jets to keep the pistons cool, this engine has large crankshaft journals and a low-friction camshaft chain.
The Z800’s transmission, a six-speed, has short overall gearing designed to improve the bike’s fun quotient around town. Sixth gear, however, is purposefully high, for comfortable cruising rpm on the highway.
Not unexpectedly, the Z800 has a tubular backbone frame made of high-tensile steel, plus a steel swingarm and lightweight cast aluminum engine subframe. The front engine mounts are behind the cylinders, close to the engine’s center of gravity, to reduce engine vibration felt through the handlebar.
Front suspension is handled by an inverted 41mm KYB fork. It’s adjustable for rebound damping and preload. In back, the KYB shock with piggyback reservoir is also adjustable for preload and rebound. As for the suspension tuning, Kawasaki says the 2016 Kawasaki Z800 will remain “poised, predictable, and entertaining” on deserted back roads or on pothole-infested city streets.
Four-piston brake calipers are on duty in front, working with a pair of 277mm petal-type rotors and a lightweight Nissin ABS unit. A 216mm petal-type rotor and single-piston caliper are used for the back wheel. ABS is standard. The supersport-style wheels, which reduce unsprung mass, are fitted with Dunlop Sportmax D214 radial tires.
While aggressive looking, the Z800 is no match for the otherworldly H2 and H2R siblings. The compact headlight is mounted as low as possible, helping to create what Kawasaki calls a “menacing face.” And from the side, Kawasaki stylists have combined the curved upper engine shrouds with a chiseled lower cowl to create the image of a predator holding prey in its mouth.
Even if you can’t see that, the Z800 does have a weight-forward stance that can’t be missed, plus sleek rear features include a slim tail and an LED taillight. Standard luggage hooks allow luggage to be secured using tie-downs or bungee straps.
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