Kawasaki Kept The Engine And Put A New Bike Around It

Kawasaki beefed up its naked Z900 with even more under-the-hood updates for 2020 and an all-new look created by a wild new color combination. It may look a lot like the previous generation, but this model saw a ground-up rebuild that touched on just about everything but the engine with refinements across the board. While the 948 cc engine reprises its role as the beating heart of this machine, it also benefits from new electronic features in a bid to garner an advantage in the hotly-contested, sub-liter naked bracket.

  • 2020 Kawasaki Z900
  • Year:
    2020
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    inline-4
  • Displacement:
    948 cc
  • Top Speed:
    135 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    8999
  • Price:

2020 Kawasaki Z900 Design

2020 Kawasaki Z900
- image 871685
2020 Kawasaki Z900
- image 871698
Although the bodywork on the Z900 is exactly what you'd expect from a Kawi “Z” model, it still manages to convey an aggressive look to match its demeanor.

Although the bodywork on the Z900 is exactly what you’d expect from a Kawi “Z” model, which is to say fairly minimal, it still manages to convey an aggressive look to match its demeanor. The factory kept to its sugomi design thread, which translates roughly to “a predator ready to pounce,” and it’s easy to see that in the crouched poise of the Z900.

A minimal, sculpted, and vented front fender doubles as grit deflectors for the inner fork tubes to help prevent premature failure of the fork seals, kind of like gaiters for inverted forks. The blackout treatment starts early with black fork stanchions and tripletree to set the mood. A new LED headlight projector splits the night from its minimal housing, and the factory mounted the standoff blinkers unusually high on the housing; a step that is sure to improve your visibility to the traffic in front of you.

Up top, the bikini flyscreen is more of an aesthetic feature than an actual protective measure for the rider though I’m sure it does a marvelous job of protecting the new 4.3-inch color TFT instrument display. The background can be set to black or white according to preference and ambient light levels, and it can be set to automatically adjust its display with three rider-programmed profiles. A Bluetooth wireless connection lets the bike network with your phone through Kawi’s RIDEOLOGY THE APP feature that monitors your ride data, acts as an interface to set up the bike’s higher electronics and field hands-free phonecalls under way.

A short-rise handlebar gives your wrists and shoulders a bit of a break by allowing for a slightly more upright riding posture, but the narrow waist and jockey-mount foot controls shape the rest of the rider’s triangle in such a way as to allow for the most extreme lateral body English. The gunfighter-style saddle rests at 31.5 inches off the deck with an inconspicuous p-pad and fold-up, subframe-mount footpegs if you like to share the fun with a friend.

LED taillight, taglight and blinkers take care of the rearward lighting, and like up front, they are positioned to make themselves highly visible to following traffic.

2020 Kawasaki Z900 Chassis

2020 Kawasaki Z900
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2020 Kawasaki Z900
- image 871702
2020 Kawasaki Z900
- image 871700
A revamped, tubular-steel Trellis frame places a premium on strength and agility for decisive flicks and quick reversals.

Part of the newness associated with the MY2020 Z900 lies in the very bones of the beast; a revamped, tubular-steel Trellis frame that places a premium on strength and agility. The steering head sets a rake angle of 24.5 degrees with 4.1 inches of trail to put it at the agile end of the spectrum, and that combines with the 467.5-pound curb weight to turn in decisive flicks and quick reversals.

Revised inverted, 41 mm front forks run with two out of three of the usual tweaks with rebound damping and spring preload adjustments, and that’s the same as out back. Suspension travel measures at 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches at the front and rear, respectively. That’ll give you ample traction under less-than-stellar road conditions.

Petal-disc hydraulic brakes have dual 300 mm rotors and four-pot calipers to haul down the front wheel with a 250 mm disc and single-piston anchor out back. ABS protection comes with the standard equipment package. Cast wheels round out the rolling chassis, and new for this year are the Dunlop Sportmax Roadsport 2 hoops that make the connection to the tarmac in a 120/70-17 up front and a 180/55-117 out back. The “Z” rating means the tires will take whatever you have the fortitude to throw at them.

Frame: Trellis, high tensile steel
Front Suspension / Wheel Travel: 41mm inverted fork with rebound damping and spring preload adjustability/ 4.7 in
Rear Suspension / Wheel Travel: Horizontal back-link, stepless rebound damping, adjustable spring preload/ 5.5 in
Rake/Trail: 24.5°/4.1 in
Front Tire: 120/70 ZR17
Rear Tire: 180/55 ZR17
Front Brakes: Dual 300 mm petal-style discs with four-piston calipers, ABS
Rear Brakes: Single 250 mm petal-style disc with single-piston caliper, ABS

2020 Kawasaki Z900 Drivetrain

2020 Kawasaki Z900
- image 871716
2020 Kawasaki Z900
- image 871681
2020 Kawasaki Z900
- image 871701
The 948 cc inline four-banger mill carries directly over from the previous year with its high-revving nature and thrilling performance.

The 948 cc inline four-banger mill on the Z900 carries directly over from the previous year with a 16-valve head (four poppets per cylinder) and downdraft intake funnels to ensure efficient aspiration for the system. A 73.4 mm bore and 56 mm stroke allow for a high-revving nature with a moderately-hot 11.8-to-1 compression ratio that’ll require top-octane road champagne.

Keihin throttle bodies manage the induction with 36 mm bores. The signal from the right grip is modified by the Riding Modes feature along with the Kawasaki Traction Control and dual Power Modes. Combined, these deliver a modicum of safety along with a tuneable engine personality so you can dial in for conditions and preference.

Liquid cooling helps with the emissions, plus the water jacket has a tendency to dampen the mechanical noises in the cases to keep the engine from sounding too obnoxious. In another bid to tune the engine noise, the Z900 runs a 4-into-1 exhaust system with a blackout silencer kicked up at a jaunty angle and a stainless-steel muffler end cap that dresses up the muffler and will stand up to the heat.

A slip-and-assist clutch couples engine power to the six-speed, overdrive-ratio transmission to provide another layer of safety, with a tough chain-type final drive to put the power to the pavement. The factory is keeping the horsepower figures close to the vest, but it declares a torque output of 73 pound-feet at 7,700 rpm, and that turns in an estimated 135 mph in top gear at the redline.

Engine: 4-stroke, 4-cylinder, DOHC, 16-valve, liquid-cooled
Displacement: 948 cc
Bore x Stroke: 73.4 mm x 56.0mm
Compression Ratio: 11.8:1
Maximum Torque: 73.1 lb-ft @ 7,700 rpm
Fuel System: DFI® with 36mm Keihin throttle bodies
Ignition: TCBI with electronic advance
Transmission: 6-speed, return shift
Final Drive: Sealed chain

2020 Kawasaki Z900 Pricing

2020 Kawasaki Z900
- image 871712
2020 Kawasaki Z900
- image 871696
2020 Kawasaki Z900
- image 871695
MSRP is $9k for gray and black or $9.3k for blue and silver.

Buyers can choose between a pair of ywo-tone combinations this year, each with its own MSRP. The Metallic Graphite Gray/Metallic Spark Black rolls with Kawi Green accents and frame members for $8,999. If you want something a little less monochromatic, you can opt for the Candy Plasma Blue/Metallic Matte Fusion Silver package for $9,299.

Special Features: Rideology the App Smartphone Connectivity, TFT Instrumentation
Engine Management Technology: Assist & Slipper Clutch, Dual Throttle Valves, Economical Riding Indicator, KTRC (Kawasaki Traction Control), Power Modes, Smartphone Connectivity
Chassis Management Technology: ABS (Anti-lock Brake System), Horizontal Back-link Rear Suspension
Warranty: 12 Month Limited Warranty (optional Kawasaki Protection Plus™)
Colors: Metallic Graphite Gray/Metallic Spark Black, Candy Plasma Blue/Metallic Matte Fusion Silver
Price: $8,999 / $9,299

2020 Kawasaki Z900 Competitors

2018 - 2019 Suzuki GSX-S1000
- image 834109
2020 Kawasaki Z900
- image 871711
I find Kawi in the enviable position of having a slightly superior product at a less expensive pricing point.

For my head-to-head with the Z900, I felt it was fair to stay within the Japanese Big Four. With that in mind, I grabbed the GSX-S1000 from Suzuki. Suzuki leads off with a similar, bug-like headlight housing that is so typical of the naked-sportbike genre, but the radiator shroud and chin fairing compliment the design and almost nudge it out of the naked category; almost, but no quite. Personally, I prefer that look as I feel it’s a bit more finished in appearance, despite the extra weight it adds to the equation.

The exposed members of the aluminum twin-spar frame also seem to be better planned than the industrial Trellis the Z900 is built around, says me. As for the hardware, the GSX-S1000 breaks even with dual adjustments fore-and-aft, and two out of three ain’t bad though it leaves room for improvement on both machines.

Suzuki runs with an Advanced Traction Control System that rocks a trio of preset profiles plus “Off” along with an optional ABS feature to round out the safety electronics to cede a slight advantage to the Z900 for its more robust electronics suite. Suzuki also utilizes a slipper-style clutch to combat wheel hop, so it breaks even with Kawi there.

As for price, the schedule for the MY20 Suzuki GSX-S1000 is still TBA at the time of this writing, but last year’s model rolled for $9,999, and I expect the 2020 model to cost at least that much, maybe a couple hundred more to leave Kawi in the enviable position of having a slightly superior product at a less expensive pricing point.

He Said

“Man, I ain’t gonna’ lie, I’m digging the blue-and-silver paint this year, though I think a chin fairing like Suzuki uses for it gixxess line would put the looks right over the top. Looks aside, this bike brings the power and handling to the table with a fairly well-rounded electronics suite even if the Italians, Germans and Brits offer even more, but those are different markets. As for the Big Four, it’s a game of inches at this point, and it seems like Kawi should get credit for (probably) reaching the pinnacle of sub-liter naked-sport production.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “Tuned for low-end torque, it’s a good thing there’s a deep butt swale because you can seriously drive this right out from under you without it. It has a lot of power, and even with the updates like the Smartphone connectivity and TFT instrumentation, it’s still at a nice price point. You really get a lot of bike for $9grand.|

2020 Kawasaki Z900 Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: 4-stroke, 4-cylinder, DOHC, 16-valve, liquid-cooled
Displacement: 948 cc
Bore x Stroke: 73.4 mm x 56.0mm
Compression Ratio: 11.8:1
Maximum Torque: 73.1 lb-ft @ 7,700 rpm
Fuel System: DFI® with 36mm Keihin throttle bodies
Ignition: TCBI with electronic advance
Transmission: 6-speed, return shift
Final Drive: Sealed chain
Chassis:
Frame: Trellis, high tensile steel
Front Suspension / Wheel Travel: 41mm inverted fork with rebound damping and spring preload adjustability/ 4.7 in
Rear Suspension / Wheel Travel: Horizontal back-link, stepless rebound damping, adjustable spring preload/ 5.5 in
Rake/Trail: 24.5°/4.1 in
Front Tire: 120/70 ZR17
Rear Tire: 180/55 ZR17
Front Brakes: Dual 300 mm petal-style discs with four-piston calipers, ABS
Rear Brakes: Single 250 mm petal-style disc with single-piston caliper, ABS
Dimensions & Capacities:
Overall Length: 81.5 in
Overall Width: 32.5 in
Overall Height: 42.5 in
Ground Clearance: 5.7 in
Seat Height: 31.5 in
Curb Weight: 467.5 lb
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gal
Wheelbase: 57.3 in
Top Speed: 135 mph (est)
Details:
Special Features: Rideology the App Smartphone Connectivity, TFT Instrumentation
Engine Management Technology: Assist & Slipper Clutch, Dual Throttle Valves, Economical Riding Indicator, KTRC (Kawasaki Traction Control), Power Modes, Smartphone Connectivity
Chassis Management Technology: ABS (Anti-lock Brake System), Horizontal Back-link Rear Suspension
Warranty: 12 Month Limited Warranty (optional Kawasaki Protection Plus™)
Colors: Metallic Graphite Gray/Metallic Spark Black, Candy Plasma Blue/Metallic Matte Fusion Silver
Price: $8,999 / $9,299

Further Reading

Suzuki GSX-S1000

2018 - 2019 Suzuki GSX-S1000
- image 834105

See our review of the Suzuki GSX-S1000.

Kawasaki

ALLYN IMAGES: DO NOT DELETE
- image 795478

Read more Kawasaki news.

TJ Hinton
T.J got an early start from his father and other family members who owned and rode motorcycles, and by helping with various mechanical repairs throughout childhood. That planted a seed that grew into a well-rounded appreciation of all things mechanical, and eventually, into a formal education of same. Though primarily a Harley rider, he has an appreciation for all sorts of bikes and doesn't discriminate against any particular brand or region of origin. He currently holds an Associate's degree in applied mechanical science from his time at the M.M.I.  Read More
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All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: kawasaki, suzukicycles.com

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