2016 Kawasaki ZX-10R International Media Launch - 8

After much anticipation, despite the rest of the world, and the international motoring media, getting first dibs on it at Sepang, Kawasaki Malaysia has finally launched the 2016 Kawasaki ZX-10R. At a media ride in Sepang International circuit, the 2016 ZX-10R was launched without much fan-fare, but with a sense of purpose and direction from Kawasaki Malaysia, eager to show the local motoring media crowd exactly what this race-oriented superbike is capable of.

While visually resembling the 2015 Kawasaki ZX-10R, the 2016 ZX-10R is pretty much a new bike from the ground up. According to Kawasaki Malaysia’s marketing manager Steven Ho, every nut and bolt was looked at in terms of improving performance.

This included input from Kawasaki Racing Team (KRT) rider and 2015 World Superbike (WSBK) champion Jonathan Rea and the team’s cumulative racing experience, which has seen it win WSBK championships since 2012. Of note is the suspension, developed together with Showa, despite the suspension company being owned by Honda.

With Brembo M50 Monobloc brakes lifted off Kawasaki’s H2 and H2R supercharged hyperbikes, the 2016 Kawasaki ZX-10R is very much a track-oriented weapon tamed, somewhat, for the streets. This track competence includes a whole suite of ride electronics, both to enhance the riding experience, and keeping the ZX-10R’s power under control.

2016 Kawasaki ZX-10R International Media Launch - 4

During the media test ride, we were allowed to ride the ZX-10R on three different sessions, with the bikes in two different riding modes, and the third session reserved for a rider “custom” mode. Come with us as we take you on a first ride of the 2016 Kawasaki ZX-10R.

At first approach, the 2016 Kawasaki ZX-10R gives off an aggressive, purposeful aura. There is no mistaking this bike for a cuddly teddy bear. The hard planes, sharp folds and fairing cut-outs all give the ZX-10R the look of a bike that is supposed to go fast, and very seriously so.

That the ZX-10R is designed for the track is immediately apparent when getting into the cockpit. The clip-ons place the hands into a tucked-in race position, and the rider’s legs and knees are folded up onto the high-set foot-pegs.

The first session on the ZX-10R was with the bike in “Low” mode. As one of three ride modes, the Low setting on the ZX-10R lets the engine rev up to the 13,000 rpm redline, but only 60%, or about 124 hp, is available. Riding the bike on low-power around the newly re-surfaced track at Sepang was very controllable, and safe.

2016 Kawasaki ZX-10R International Media Launch - 5

We dare say that in Low, any rider would be able to control and ride the ZX-10R well. This included a very compliant and competent Showa suspension, and braking that was linear and controllable.

Rushing the ZX-10R down the back straight saw it touch a shade below 200 km/h before dropping the anchors for the now off-camber turn 15. Cornering was found to be very predictable, and more importantly, stable. Any new rider, with a little riding experience, could probably ride and control the ZX-10R in Low mode.

Taking the flip-flop from turns five and six showed the 2016 ZX-10R – which weighs 206 kg, six kg more than the 2015 model – needed a little more heft to make the transition. Slow corners, like nine and 15, also needed a little more effort from the rider to make the turn-in.

2016 Kawasaki ZX-10R International Media Launch - 1

Conversely, fast sweepers, like five and 13, were take care of with little more than a thought and a nudge on the bars. The shape of the seat and tank allowed the rider to change body position on easily, and the arms and legs intuitively fell into place on the bike.

Going out for the second session, with the 2016 ZX-10R in Hard mode, changed the nature of the motorcycle entirely. Where 120 hp in Low mode made the ZX-10R docile and a little – dare we say it – dull, Hard mode made the bike feel more like, well, a bike.

With all 200-ish hp now being given free rein, charging into the corners, and sling-shooting out again, was performed with the precision of a Swiss watch. Dropping in and choosing a line was a matter of looking where you wanted to go, placing the gearbox in the right gear, and twisting the throttle open as quick as you dared.

2016 Kawasaki ZX-10R International Media Launch - 3

The 2016 Kawasaki ZX-10’s electronics come into full play here, with the IMU measuring bike movement in five-axes, and computing a sixth, allowing it to manage engine power and braking, as well as controlling traction at the rear. This let the rider take corners with absolute confidence.

Power on the straights, gunning for the redline, builds with a rush, and a fast foot, aided by the quickshifter, is needed to keep the gearbox in sync with the engine. The engine power comes on in a linear fashion, and the ZX-10’s electronics suite takes care of wheelies, wheelspin and traction.

On Hard mode, taking the corners needed full trust placed in the traction control, and the little computer brain delivered. Some ham-fisted handling of gear-changes and throttle, along with a slightly idiotic line into turn nine, didn’t phase the electronics out at all.

For the third session, test riders were allowed to chat with the mechanics about selecting ride modes, quickshifter engagement points and other customisation options for the 2016 Kawasaki ZX-10R. The amount of adjustment available on the bike is staggering, with suspension, launch mode engagement and other options on the table for the rider to choose from.

One option that was missed was a racing-shift pattern on the shift lever, something that only comes with the official Kawasaki race kit. The shift lever was rather short, and due to our rider having to deal with a lack of mobility in the left ankle due to an old riding injury, meant that up-shifts were a touch difficult, especially at racetrack speeds.

About halfway through the third session, it was noticed the brake lever was coming back to the bar a little too much. Pulling into the pits and checking with the Kawasaki mechanics showed the pads were a little overcooked, due to the many laps the bike took on the track.


A special mention about the Kawasaki Malaysia mechanics who looked after the author during the track session. The guys were switched on, and well-trained. Questions and adjustment requests were handled with no argument, and if what was requested couldn’t be done, it was clearly explained why.

The 2016 Kawasaki ZX-10R retails for RM104,859, including GST. Rivals to the ZX-10R include the BMW Motorrad S1000RR which goes for RM104,900 including GST, road tax and registration, excluding insurance, and the Ducati 1299 Panigale, which retails for RM172,999 including GST, on-the-road without insurance.

2016 Kawasaki ZX-10R Sepang launch -6

Niether Hong Leong Yamaha nor Boon Siew Honda officially import litre-class superbikes, but the grey import market prices the Yamaha R-1 and Honda CBR1000RR at around the RM100,000-plus mark. Suzuki Assemblers Malaysia no longer has the GSX-R 1000 L5 available for sale, and is awaiting delivery of the 2017 GSX-R1000 L7 at the later part of this year.

Overall, we came away with a favourable impression of the 2016 Kawasaki ZX-10R after the track test session. It is very much a racetrack weapon, and honed to deliver performance above all. We shall be spending some time with the ZX-10R for a full review shortly, and will be finding out more about this hard-edged superbike in due course.

GALLERY: 2016 Kawasaki ZX-10R