First Ride Review – 2016 Kawasaki Z800 ABS

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By Kent Kunitsugu

After decades of never really catching on with the American buyer, the naked standard motorcycle category appears to have finally taken hold in the US. Much of this long-awaited resurgence is due in part to Yamaha’s bombshell FZ-09 that offered unrivaled bang for the buck, and the other OEMs have obviously noticed its sales success. Suzuki was the first to challenge the FZ-09’s price-point/performance combination with its GSX-S750, and now Kawasaki is jumping into the middleweight standard fray by bringing its Z800 to the US market for 2016 (well, for 49 states for the time being; California residents unfortunately won’t get the bike yet due to the added emissions requirements for legality).

Kawasaki is jumping onto the mid-size, low-price, good-performance bandwagon by bringing over its Z800 ABS from the European market where it’s been on sale for the past year.

Available since 2013 across the Pond, the Z800 is powered by a liquid-cooled DOHC 806cc inline-four that is basically a bored-out/upgraded version of the old Z750 engine. A 2.6mm-larger bore with 10-percent-lighter pistons getting their undersides cooled by larger oil jets, revised intake/exhaust ports, longer intake manifolds, and a staggered intake funnel setup along with 2mm larger throttle bodies (now 34mm) not only boost peak horsepower by a claimed 6 hp to a 111 hp peak in European tune (Kawasaki USA wasn’t specifying any power figures), but also provide a major increase in midrange grunt. Helping in this regard as well are longer header pipes on the exhaust, along with equalizer tubes between cylinders and an exhaust valve in the under-engine chamber. Other minor internal updates include wider-radius journals on the crankshaft and a new cam chain for less frictional losses.

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