Impossible to approach a product like the Z650RS without first commenting on its style. But what a pretty babe! And successful retro is not easy. As proof, the many attempts of the automotive world are more caricature than homage to the original model. In this case, not only is the respect for the Z650 of the late 1970s undeniable, but we are also forced to admit that Kawasaki even managed to frankly improve the line and the proportions of the original machine. With its rounded tank, classic instrumentation, airy silhouette and the elegance of a host of other components, the Z650RS deserves to be called sublime.
Under the period dress, modern
When we catch our breath, we see that under its pretty vintage line, the Z650RS recycles most of the mechanics of the ordinary Z650, a model located in the middle of the Kawasaki range and whose main qualities are accessible behavior. and good value. These remain intact on the RS which proves to be as suitable for relatively inexperienced customers as for more seasoned motorcyclists, but capable of satisfying themselves with the modest 67 hp of the 649 cc parallel twin. However, the latter defends itself well by producing a good level of torque from the first revs and still quite decent acceleration.
Despite an attractive bill, high quality
Motorcycles have seen their prices climb recently and ten thousand dollars is less and less enough to acquire a reasonably desirable mount. However, for this sum, the Z650RS is very difficult to fault. Beyond the talent deployed in terms of style, we note that a great effort has been made to conceal cables and hoses, a feature much appreciated on a completely bare frame. The advanced finish of the engine and the exhaust system, the nice styling of the wheels and the good taste demonstrated in the choice of colors are other factors giving this mid-range model a high-end air.
Modern in terms of behavior too
Motorcyclists accustomed to the latest in performance sometimes forget the appeal of a simple and light frame whose relatively modest performance translates into daily, stress-free riding. With its limited horsepower, the leanness allowed by its narrow engine, its open driving position leaving the back straight and putting no weight on the hands, its low mass and its chassis favoring maneuverability, the Z650RS is extraordinarily friendly to the day by day. Its attributes make it particularly inviting in an urban environment where higher performance is completely unnecessary and where less balanced ergonomics quickly become unpleasant.
Sporty, up to a point
The Z650RS also being a mechanical cousin of the sporty Ninja 650, the road behavior offers great qualities. Winding roads are swallowed up with ease and pleasure thanks to a solid chassis and precise, light steering. However, the Z650RS remains much more road than track and by pushing the pace a little too much, the flexibility of the suspensions is felt and the whole thing gradually loses its calm nature. On the other hand, this flexibility on the part of the suspensions (whose adjustment possibilities are few) brings a very acceptable level of comfort on imperfect roads, and the compromise therefore seems appropriate.
And the downsides?
The downsides are few, but still present. For example, the padding of the saddle is correct as long as the distance traveled is not very great. The rather simplistic brake components, meanwhile, allow safe and effective slowing down, but nothing more. For motorcyclists more demanding than the style and the price could seduce, the engine with the performances a little too fair and the character a little too banal risks limiting the pleasure of piloting. Finally, without doing so in an exaggerated way, we note that the twin-cylinder sends vibrations to the hands of the pilot at high speed.
There are many motorcyclists complaining about the sometimes tortured, sometimes uninspiring lines regularly offered by Japanese manufacturers. Too bad, since the quality of the products is almost always exceptional, both in terms of refinement and reliability. Thanks to its retro treatment and the great care taken in its finish, the Z650RS manages to pair the fame of Japanese engineering with a deliciously high level of visual charisma. It is not aimed at very horsepower-intensive riders for whom the 900 version of the RS is much more appropriate. But for everyone else, succumbing to temptation can only be encouraged.
- Brand: Kawasaki
- Model: Z650RS
- Price: $10,149
- Warranty: 1 year/unlimited mileage
- Engine: 649cc liquid-cooled parallel twin
- Transmission: 6-speed, chain final drive
- Fully fueled weight: 187 kg
- Front brake: 2 discs with 2 piston calipers and ABS
- Rear brake: 1 disc with 1 piston caliper and ABS
- Front tyre: 120/70 ZR17
- Rear tire: 160/60 ZR17