Kawasaki 1400 GTR review: 600 miles in 24 hours. By Paul Hood
In the movie Top Gun, Tom Cruise’s choice of earthbound transport was a Kawasaki GPZ900R. And it wasn’t because he couldn’t afford a car. It was because the GPZ900R was the fastest production sportsbike on the planet.
F-14 pilots who rode the GPZ900R reckoned that it was faster off the line and to 100mph than a Tomcat on afterburner.
If like me, you remember the mighty GPZ900R, you’ll know that Kawasaki has a long and proud history of building many of the worlds most iconic and cutting-edge sportsbikes. The Z1 in the 70’s, ZXR750 in the 80’s and the ZZR1100 in the early 90’s – models that re-wrote the sports bike rule book.
Kawasaki’s focus on building world-beating sportsbikes does however mean that they don’t have as much of a history of producing sports-tourers. Kawasaki did produce a couple of shaft-driven touring bikes in the 80’s, [the GT range] but the manufacturer is undoubtedly best known for building out out sports motorbikes.
So the 1400 GTR is an important bike. It marks Kawasaki’s re-entry into the increasingly popular sports-touring category after an absence of almost 20 years.
The touring category is fiercely competitive. The Honda ST1300 ABS, the Yamaha FJR1300 and BMW’s R1200RT are all evolutions of models that have been in production for at least 15 years. Kawasaki has got some serious catching up to do.
To give a ‘real world’ review, I rode the 1400GTR as potential buyers will – covering big miles over a variety of different roads in a short space of time.
A 600-mile round trip from Colchester to Liverpool via the world-famous Cat Fiddle pass.
Here’s how I got on.
The 1400 GTR is a stylish-looking bike. Despite being physically imposing, (at 1400cc, the engine is the biggest engine in its class) it actually appears less bulky looking than some of the other bikes in the same class (Honda’s ST1300 and BMW’s R1200RT).
For a large bike it has clean lines with well-integrated detachable panniers. The layout of the clocks and switchgear is similarly clean and uncluttered. An LCD dash displays useful information, including fuel economy range, tyre pressures and a useful gear indicator.
A clever ‘keyless ignition’ system offers enhanced security plus the benefit of not having to fiddle about with an ignition key.
The riding position is very natural and the seat very comfy indeed – wide, well padded and supportive. The wide, tall, electrically adjustable screen does a first-class job of cocooning the rider in an envelope of still air, directing windblast right over the riders’ helmet. It’s a plush, quiet, comfortable ride – very impressive.
The real trump card of the package is the engine. It’s an absolute corker. A direct descendent of the engine that powers the iconic ZZR1400, it is hugely powerful, responsive and effortless.
It may have had its power reduced from near 200bhp to 155bhp, but that power builds strongly from tickover delivering instant torque that translates to eons of immediate drive.
Variable valve timing makes the power seamless and extremely usable. Kawasaki’s long history of building tuning large-capacity motorcycle engines is evident in this engine. Try as I might – I can’t pinpoint a single flaw in the way this engine delivers. 10/10
The Cat fiddle pass runs for 15 miles between the Derbyshire town of Buxton and Macclesfield in Cheshire. It’s one of the most famous biking roads in the UK. A great mix of fast sweeping bends and tight hairpins, it is a good test of the agility of a large sports-tourer.
The big Kawasaki performs well, the front end in particular gives a good level of feedback through the tighter turns. The physical size of the bike is a constant reminder of the need to exercise caution, but even pushing on doesn’t unsettle the bike.
We stop for a quick coffee at the Cat Fiddle pub atop the moors pass, and get chatting to a motorcycling veteran, ex-TT racer ‘Doddy’.
Doddy offers to guide us down the final 5 miles of the Cat Fiddle pass, and sets off, smooth as you like, but at quite a pace, aboard a 13-year-old VFR750. Following Doddy’s flowing lines on a Honda CBR600RR, Matt Kelly shows an abundance of natural riding skill by keeping up well –hardly touching the brakes through the tight twists and turns.
And although the big Kawasaki can’t quite hold a perfect line through the very tight turns, the immensely powerful engine proves enough to compensate. This type of A-road isn’t typical of the territory that large sports-tourers will encounter every day, but the Kawasaki fared well. 8/10
The 1400 GTR is a bold new entry into a competitive sector. It’s a category that Honda, Yamaha and BMW have invested heavily, over a long period of time, honing flagship models.
Having been absent from the Tourer scene for so long, Kawasaki has no real right to be fielding a class-leading contender at the first attempt. But that is exactly what the 1400GTR is. A genuine alternative.
It cossets the rider, whooshing him along on an effortless tide of instantly accessible power. The 1400 GTR offers an accomplished ride. It goes, handles, and stops far better than a bike of this size feels like it should.
The 1400 GTR has made the sports-tourer class even more competitive. If you’re in the market for a big sports tourer, the Kawasaki absolutely deserves a test ride.
PRICE/AVAILABILITY: £11,699. On sale now.
POWER/TORQUE: 155bhp @ 8,800rpm / 100 lb/ft @ 6,200rpm
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