Kawasaki reveals an all-new model for its Z series of naked streetfighters with the 2017 Z650. Team Green touts the return of its Z650 moniker, with the original 1976-era Z650 a smaller-displacement offering to complement the high-performance Z1. Flash forward 40 years and the new Z650 replaces the ER-6n naked standard and serves as the entry-level model of Kawasaki’s naked streetfighters alongside the Z1000 and Z900 (also new for 2017).
Stripped Down Ninja 650
The new Z650 specs are nearly identical to the updated 2017 Ninja 650, as it’s effectively a stripped down naked version of Kawasaki’s popular middleweight sportbike. The 2017 model-year changes to the 650 platform are highlighted by updates to the tried-and-true 650 Parallel Twin, as well as a new trellis frame that drops significant weight from the outgoing design.
Updated 650 Parallel Twin
Kawasaki’s liquid-cooled 649cc Parallel Twin gets a refresh for 2017 to meet Euro 4 regulations. Press materials state the engine performance was optimized for mid-range oomph (3000-6000 rpm), with smooth power delivery throughout the powerband. Peak power claims are 67.3 horsepower at 8000 rpm and 48.5 lb-ft of torque at 6500 rpm. Kawasaki also claims improved fuel efficiency from the updated Twin. The Z650’s drivetrain includes a six-speed transmission featuring a clutch with assist and slipper function.
Lighter Frame and Revised Chassis
The new Z650 shares the Ninja 650’s all-new steel trellis frame, which replaces the perimeter design of the previous 650 model. This new frame weighs 33 pounds and contributes to the Z650’s claimed 412-pound curb weight – a 53-pound reduction from the ER-6n it replaces.
Suspension components include 41mm fork and single rear shock, with the latter adjustable for preload. The 650’s shock lays centered above the swingarm, a more conventional position than the older Ninja 650/Versys/ER-6n designs where the shock was prominently displayed on the right-side linking the swingarm and frame.
Braking components are identical to the Ninja 650, with dual 300mm petal discs pinched by dual-piston calipers up front and a single 220mm petal disc with single-piston caliper out back. The new Z650 also incorporates Bosch 9.1M ABS as standard feature.
Z650 Naked Streetfighter Style
The Z650’s styling represents the biggest departure from the Ninja 650 and, more dramatically, the ER-6n it replaces. The Z650 features more aggressive lines and a stripped down naked look similar to its larger-displacement Z siblings. Press materials describe the Z’s styling ethic as “sugomi” – a term which Kawasaki explains thusly:
“Sugomi describes core performance and styling elements found in Kawasaki’s Z supernaked models. Imbued with sugomi, their performance excites; a ride on a Z supernaked is a visceral experience that stimulates the senses; engine and chassis tuning deliver a high level of control. Sugomi is also evident in their sharp styling, dynamic crouching form, and distinct silhouette.”
See? Sugomi. Got it? Good. You learned something new and also now have a guaranteed winner next time you are forced to play Balderdash.
But will the new Z650 make it stateside? The ER-6n it replaces, while popular in Europe, never caught on in the U.S. market, so American riders will have to wait and see. As of this posting date, the Z’s MSRP and availability are unavailable.