The 2022 Kawasaki Z650RS works with the adage “look good, feel good”, appealing to our senses with a delightful retro outfit, reminiscent of the classic styling cues seen on the original Z family of motorcycles, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.Built on the proven package that is Kawasaki’s Z650 upright and uneven sportbike, the Z650RS takes the same willful chassis and fun twin-cylinder engine, then adds a cool, laid-back riding position to match its stylish retro look.We strutted with the Z650RS stuff on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip before hitting the coastal mountain roads of Malibu to hit you with the fast facts.
- A playful 649cc parallel-twin engine hits the mark. Kawasaki’s versatile middleweight mill has an energetic disposition that can’t be ignored, also serving double duty as a friendly city dweller or canyon compatriot. The highlight of this pip p-twin is how it flexes a nice amount of low and mid-range punches, delivering its power with an engaging enthusiasm that won’t intimidate new or intermediate riders. Salty veterans will twist the plug and revel in a throaty induction howl, wringing every ounce of performance on tap with glee. With the exception of some low-end on-off acceleration, most prominent in first gear that quickly fades as you click through the gears, this powertrain wraps up cleanly and suits the RS’s gentlemanly styling perfectly.
- Six-speed and an assist and slipper clutch are standard fare on the Z650RS. These new slipper clutches weren’t available back when the original Z650 four-cylinder prowled the streets in the late 1970s and 1980s. But that’s just one of the many benefits of living in our modern world. We get a tidy gearbox with positive shifting and a slipper function to help prevent wheel hop, should you get frisky with your downshifts. Adjustable levers increase an incredibly light clutch pull. Positive Neutral Finder is an overlooked feature that comes in very handy. If you’re at a stop in first gear, upshift and the transmission automatically engages neutral, with no manipulation.
- Kawasaki captures an old-school vibe via a neutral riding position. Classic standard bikes have one of the most universal ergonomics, and the designers brought the Z650RS to it with some subtle tweaks. Longer fork tubes allow the top triple clamp to be mounted three-quarters of an inch higher, while the wide rear handlebar takes advantage of that increase in height. The RS’s grips sit about two inches higher and over an inch closer to the rider, supporting you and creating a distinct vibe from the naked Z650. The luxuriously plush 31.5-inch-tall stepped seat pulls the retro threads together, which necessitated a rear subframe redesign due to its flatter profile. Shorter riders shouldn’t worry about saddle height, as there’s plenty of squish and it’s tapered forward to help you reach the bridge.
- Tasteful style elements combine the new and the old. Attention to detail makes all the difference with vintage-inspired components, such as the 3.1-gallon teardrop tank, best shown with the excellent paint finish and pinstripes of Candy Emerald Green. The same can be said of the side panels and fenders, which take inspiration from the 1978 KZ650. Two easy-to-read analog-style chrome bezel clocks flank an LCD display with a speedometer and fuel gauge, adding mojo to mix while staying on time. Unfortunately, the LCD screen is difficult to read in direct sunlight. Other nice touches include full LED lighting, with the era-appropriate round headlight and oval taillight, a direct nod to classic Z machines. Finally, we have the cast aluminum wheels reminiscent of the metal spoke hoops of the good old days, especially in gold.
- Three stylish color options are available. Two standard color choices are available for the MSRP of $8999: Candy Emerald Green and Metallic Moondust Grey/Ebony. Whichever paint scheme you choose, know that premium finishes extend from nose to tail. However, the green option cannot be overlooked, if only because it looks the part. Of course, those who want to add an extra $250 can get the Z650RS 50th Anniversary Edition, referencing the legendary Kawasaki Z1 livery, with its Candy Diamond Brown color scheme.
- Maneuverability is a hallmark aboard this mid-weight machine. Sitting in your comfortable perch, flipping the tubular steel frame through city streets or canyon roads is done without much entry into the bars – a feature that riders of any skill level can appreciate. No doubt the sporty 55.3-inch wheelbase and steep 24-degree rake for doing their part in making the 412-pound Kawi move nimbly on the roads. We can also exploit the wide steering range at lower speeds when negotiating tight urban environments.
- The KYB suspension aims to provide a comfortable ride. Borrowed from the Ninja 650 and Z650, the RS uses nearly the same non-adjustable KYB fork and spring-preload adjustable cantilever shock. Suspenders mask our charming, pothole-ridden Hollywood better than a crew of movie set dressers, gobbling up hard punches without flinching. As things turn to rolling canyon roads with hotter rhythms in store, I might observe that the RS feels a bit under-damped for my 180-plus-pound frame when facing beaten tarmac. However, the chassis is never nervous, nor plunges willy-nilly under braking. Soaking in the landscape is nice, but still capable of running at a spirited pace.
- The Nissin components fulfill their role well. Dual-piston calipers and 300mm rotors performed the braking duties on Kawasaki’s mid-weight machines with solid performance, providing good feel and unintimidating bite. Out back we have the familiar single-piston caliper and collaborating 220mm disc, which can help clean up the lines deftly. Non-adjustable Bosch 9.1M ABS is standard on the Z650RS and very handy for anyone learning the ropes of motorcycling or veterans. Experienced riders might think its intervention errs on the side of caution on bumpy tarmac, though it doesn’t hamper braking power.
- Dunlop Sportmax Roadsport 2 tires are standard. A trustworthy set of tires makes a difference. The Roadsport 2s are a great complement to the Z650RS’ goals, offering good grip on the road and capable of achieving respectable mileage. If they don’t meet your needs, the 17-inch wheels will fit a wide range of aftermarket rubber.
- The 2022 Kawasaki Z650RS takes sleek looks and packs them into a modern platform. The Ninja 650 and Z650 have proven their place in the market, presenting themselves as worthy mid-weight machines suitable for commuting, canyoning, and more. This solid base is a perfect home for those tasty RS dressings, which Kawasaki has pulled off in spades – sure, a few liquid-cooling bits could be hidden better, but the rest is dashing. Adding a little flair to a package that works beautifully is a winning formula, and judging by the number of heads turning on the Sunset Strip, it seems I’m not the only one who noticed.
Photograph by Kevin WingDRIVING STYLE2022 Kawasaki Z650RS SpecificationsENGINE
- Type: Parallel twin
- Displacement: 649cc
- Bore x stroke: 83 x 60 mm
- Maximum torque: 49 ft-lbs at 6,500 rpm
- Compression ratio: 10.8:1
- Valvetrain: DOHC; 4vpc
- Fueling: EFI with 36mm Keihin throttle body
- Transmission: 6-speed with positive neutral sensor
- Final drive: sealed chain
- Frame: steel trellis
- Front suspension; travel: 41mm non-adjustable fork; 4.9 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Horizontal shock absorber adjustable in preload by spring; 5.1 inches
- Wheels: cast spoke
- Tyres: Dunlop Sportmax Roadsport 2
- Front tyre: 120/70×17
- Rear tire: 160/60 x 17
- Front brakes: 300mm petal-type rotors with 2-piston calipers
- Rear brake: 220mm petal-style disc with single-piston caliper
- ABS: Bosch 9.1M
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 55.3 inches
- Rake: 24.0 degrees
- Trail: 3.9 inches
- Seat height: 31.5 inches
- Fuel Capacity: 4.0 gallons
- Curb weight: 412 lbs.
- Colors: Moondust Gray Metallic/Ebony; emerald green candy
2022 Kawasaki Z650RS Price: $8999 MSRP
2022 Kawasaki Z650RS Test Photo Gallery