2015 Kawasaki Versys 650 ABS/LT and Versys 1000 LT – First Look Review

After a long wait, the Kawasaki Versys 1000 is finally coming to America, with extensive updates and standard hard saddlebags.
After a long wait, the Kawasaki Versys 1000 is finally coming to America, with extensive updates and standard hard saddlebags.

When the Kawasaki Versys 650 debuted for 2008, it had styling as unusual as its name (a mash-up of “versatility” and “system”). Powered by the 649cc parallel twin from the Ninja 650, the Versys was tall and lithe with an upright seating position, a gazelle-like middleweight adventure tourer with no off-road aspirations. Mostly free of plastic bodywork, except for a small but quirky front fairing, the Versys was an absolute blast to ride and had few direct competitors. A 1,000cc version, powered by an in-line four, arrived for 2012, but it was not brought to the U.S.

The Kawasaki Versys 650 LT comes with standard 28-liter quick-release saddlebags and hand guards.
The Kawasaki Versys 650 LT comes with standard 28-liter quick-release saddlebags and hand guards.

For 2015, Kawasaki will bring extensively updated versions of both models to the U.S. The 2015 Kawasaki Versys 650 ABS has more aggressive (and less polarizing) styling with a larger adjustable windscreen, more horsepower and torque, updated suspension and brakes, more fuel capacity and other improvements, and the 2015 Kawasaki Versys 650 LT adds 28-liter KQR (Kawasaki Quick Release) hard saddlebags and hand guards.

With similarly angular styling, the 2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT offers a big step up in terms of power and sophistication. It’s powered by a 1,043cc in-line four and includes engine power modes, traction control, adjustable suspension, ABS, KQR saddlebags and hand guards.

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New styling on the Versys moves it closer to the Ninja family of sportbikes. Larger windscreen is height-adjustable.
New styling on the Versys moves it closer to the Ninja family of sportbikes. Larger windscreen is height-adjustable.

To give the Versys 650 a boost in performance and fuel economy, Kawasaki gave it a one-piece exhaust system, revised ECU settings and a new fuel pump, and it added the KAMS (Kawasaki Air Management System) radiator air ducting system. Its liquid-cooled, fuel-injected DOHC parallel twin features a 180-degree crank and a balance shaft to quell vibration, further aided by new rubber engine mounts attached to the steel frame. For added range, fuel capacity is now 5.5 gallons, up from 5. The gearbox has six speeds and final drive is via chain.

A new 41mm Showa fork, with spring components in the left tube and damping components in the right to save weight, offers 5.9 inches of travel and stepless rebound and preload adjustability. It is paired with a new KYB shock that has 5.7 inches of travel and a new remote preload adjuster. New calipers, master cylinders and pads improve braking performance, and ABS is standard. Six-spoke cast aluminum wheels similar to those found on the Ninja ZX-6R and ZX-10R are now shod with Dunlop Sportmax D222 developed specifically for the Versys 650. Seat height is 33.1 inches.

Ergonomics were improved by moving the footpegs down and forward, and wind protection was enhanced with a larger windscreen that can be adjusted over a 2.4-inch range without tools. A revised instrument panel, new LED taillight and stiffer subframe (to accommodate the KQR saddlebags) round out the long list of improvements.

The 2015 Kawasaki Versys 650 ABS and Versys 650 LT will be available in Candy Lime Green or Pearl Stardust White.

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The Versys 1000 has engine power modes, traction control and ABS.
The Versys 1000 has engine power modes, traction control and ABS.

Although new to the U.S., at the heart of the Versys 1000 LT is an engine familiar to fans of Kawasaki’s street-oriented, liter-class sportbikes—a version of the liquid-cooled, DOHC, 4-valve 1,043cc in-line four found in the Ninja 1000 and Z1000, which offers smooth, tractable power. Full and Low engine power modes and three-mode KTRC traction control are standard. The 6-speed transmission is aided by an Assist and Slipper Clutch, and a chain sends power to the rear wheel.

A twin-spar aluminum frame offers sportbike-like lightness and rigidity. With 5.9 inches of travel front and rear, the 43mm male-slider KYB fork and horizontal back-link shock offer rebound and spring preload adjustability, with a remote knob for dialing in rear preload. Triple-disc brakes with standard ABS slow things down, and Bridgestone Battlax T30 sport-touring tires provide plenty of grip and longevity.

Like the 650, the 1000 has a windscreen that can be adjusted for height without tools (over a 2.95-inch range), as well as a 33.1-inch seat height, 5.5-gallon fuel tank, 28-liter KQR saddlebags and hand guards, but the 1000 adds a center stand. Claimed curb weight figures are not yet available for any of the 2015 Versys models.

The 2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT will be available in Candy Burnt Orange/Metallic Spark Black or Flat Ebony/Metallic Spark Black. All Versys models available in December, pricing will be released in November.

The Versys 650 LT and Versys 1000 LT are equipped with 28-liter Kawasaki Quick Release saddlebags.
The Versys 650 LT and Versys 1000 LT are equipped with 28-liter Kawasaki Quick Release saddlebags.
Hand guards are standard equipment on the Versys 650 LT and 1000 LT.
Hand guards are standard equipment on the Versys 650 LT and 1000 LT.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Very appealing for those of us who want a lighter sport-touring machine. And no pretensions about off road, thank god. Can’t wait for a road test and pricing. My Beemer is old and high mileage, so I am a candidate.

  2. I love the new lighter weight sport touring bikes like this one. Unfortunately, I have arthritis in my hands and my next bike needs to have cruise control or I’d jump on this 1000.
    I’ve got a 7 year old BMW and I’m still getting recalls on it! 🙁

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