Under the broad promise of “True Commitment”–to adventure, sport and life in general–Kawasaki unveiled several new models at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy, for the upcoming 2018 model year. Ranging from a 400cc entry-level sportbike to a supercharged, 197-horsepower (claimed) sport tourer, with a retro standard and pure sportbike thrown in for good measure, the new models honor Team Green’s World Superbike Championship three-peat (thanks in no small part to rider Jonathan Rea) as well as its past accomplishments as a leader of the Japanese liter-bike movement and the legendary Z1. While we expect to see all of these bikes in Kawasaki’s U.S. lineup, Kawasaki is keeping a lid on the final confirmation until December 1, and we’ll be on the ground at the New York City IMS show when the news breaks. It should also be noted that these images may be of European models, so details and colors may change.
2018 Z900RS and Z900RS Café
We got an up-close and more complete look at the Z1-inspired Z900RS that debuted at the Tokyo Motor Show, plus its newly-unveiled sibling the Z900RS Café. Both bikes are powered by the same 948cc in-line four that powers the Z900, with faux engine fins that are reminiscent of the original Z1’s air-cooled mill. While they look retro, the Z900RS and Z900RS Café benefit from a host of modern conveniences, like a 41mm inverted fork, two-mode Kawasaki Traction Control, an assist-and-slipper clutch, an LED headlight and taillight, and a traditional analog dual-dial instrument with a backlit multifunctional LCD screen.
In the U.S., the standard Z900RS will be available in two colors: Metallic Flat Spark Black ($10,999) and Candytone Brown/Candytone Orange ($11,199). Unfortunately, the Café variation, which adds a café racer-style cowl, dropped handlebar and stepped seat, currently is not slated for sale in the U.S. If you want that to change, let your dealer know!
2018 Ninja H2 SX
The Kawasaki that we were most excited to see at EICMA was the mystery supercharged sport tourer that was teased in a video with the tagline “Supercharge Your Journey.” This mystery bike turned out to be the Ninja H2 SX, and while it might not be what we’d really hoped for (a desperately needed update of the Concours 14, which returns relatively unchanged for 2018), it’s still pretty darn cool and probably a hoot to ride.
The engine and supercharger, while appearing quite similar to the Ninja H2’s, actually incorporate a redesigned impeller and intake system, revised gear ratios, and new pistons, cylinder heads, cylinders, crankshaft, camshaft and exhaust. It flows less air, so it’s quieter and requires a smaller, lighter exhaust system. It’s also more fuel efficient, with Kawasaki claiming fuel economy numbers on par with the Versys 1000. If that’s the case, we could expect to see a range in the vicinity of 214 miles.
As expected for a bike capable of carrying a passenger and luggage, the H2 SX’s trellis frame was redesigned and Kawasaki says it can handle a 430-pound load. Its wheelbase is longer and steering head angle shallower, for stability and easy maneuverability at parking lot speeds.
Suspension is fully mechanically adjustable both front and rear, with a remote rear preload adjuster. Otherwise, there are plenty of electronic acronyms: KCMF (the bike’s “brain,” which incorporates a Bosch IMU and oversees the rest of the electronics), KTRC (three-mode traction control), KLCM (launch control, only available on the up-spec SE version), KIBS (cornering and pitch-controlled ABS), engine brake control, three power modes, cruise control and a quick shifter (only available on the SE).
The up-spec SE version also includes a taller windscreen, LED cornering lights that come on in three increments (10, 20 and 30 degrees of lean), steel brake lines, a 12V socket, a centerstand, heated grips, a tank pad and a full-color TFT screen (the standard model has a regular LCD screen). Interestingly, panniers are an optional accessory on both versions.
With a claimed output of 197 horsepower, the Ninja H2 SX might be the fastest sport tourer on the block, but finding out how easy it is to live with will have to wait until we can snag one for a full test. It will be available in two colors: the standard version is Metallic Carbon Gray/Metallic Matte Carbon Gray ($19,000) and the SE is Emerald Blazed Green/Metallic Diablo Black ($22,000).
2018 Ninja 400
Replacing the Ninja 300 for 2018 is the Ninja 400, with its 100cc bump in displacement resulting in a claimed 9 horsepower gain, for a peak of 48 horsepower. The new bike also utilizes a trellis frame with the engine as a stressed member and the swingarm bolted to the rear of the engine for stability and weight savings–it has a claimed wet weight of 370 pounds.
The new smallest Ninja also features an assist-and-slipper clutch, more rigid 41mm front fork and 310mm single front brake disc. A 30.9-inch seat height is more than one inch shorter than before, and it utilizes the same analog tachometer/LCD display as the Ninja 650, which includes a gear indicator.
The 2018 Ninja 400 will be available in a standard (non-ABS) version ($4,999) in either Candy Plasma Blue or Metallic Spark Black and an ABS version in Metallic Spark Black ($5,299), Pearl Solar Yellow/Pearl Storm Gray/Ebony ($5,499), or the Kawasaki Racing Team (KRT) edition in Lime Green and Ebony ($5,499).
2018 Ninja ZX-10R SE
The littlest Ninja’s big brother, the Ninja ZX-10R, gets a new SE model variation for 2018, and it’s the first Kawasaki motorcycle to feature semi-active electronic suspension (KECS). The KECS system was developed with Showa, and uses its 43mm Balance Free Front Fork and Balance Free Rear Cushion (BFRC) Lite rear shock. Kawasaki claims this is one of the fastest electronic suspension systems in the industry, with control via a direct actuation solenoid valve that allows for a 1-millisecond reaction time, quicker than systems that use step-motors or pilot valves.
The system also utilizes stroke sensors to relay stroke speed and compression data every 1 millisecond, which is combined with data from the IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) and the bike’s speed from the ECU every 10 milliseconds to tell the solenoids how much damping is required. There are three modes: Road, Track and Manual, which allows the rider to choose rebound and compression damping settings electronically to suit their preferences.
The Ninja ZX-10R also gets forged Marchesini wheels and the Kawasaki Quick Shifter system for clutchless up- and downshifts. It comes in one color, Metallic Flat Spark Black/Metallic Matte Graphite Gray. MSRP is $21,899.