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KAWASAKI ZX-10R SE (2018-on) Review

Published: 09 April 2018

Updated: 09 April 2018

Kawasaki has broadened the ZX-10R’s appeal with electronic suspension.

KAWASAKI ZX-10R SE  (2018-on)

Kawasaki has broadened the ZX-10R’s appeal with electronic suspension.

Overall Rating 4 out of 5

Kawasaki has broadened the ZX-10R’s appeal by letting you change its suspension and therefore its character with a touch of a button. It’s most impressive on the road where you can choose the set-up you want to suit the kind of road you’re on. It’s pretty handy around the circuit, too, but aftermarket race suspension will also be the way to go for racers and serious trackday riders. 

Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5

The semi-active suspension is at its most impressive on the road. One of the ZX-10R’s most impressive traits in standard form is the plushness of its Showa forks and shock. That velvety ride quality is still there in Road mode, but it’s slightly tougher, as the magic damping control does its thing when you brake, throttle and lean. It all adds up to a ZX-10R with a crisper feel. It’s lighter, more talkative in your hands and rock-solid stable. 

You can feel just how much damping range there is (a sign on top drawer suspension) by experimenting with ‘Track’ mode on the road. The extra damping support it gives actually helps the Kawasaki steer and change direction even easier, putting an even bigger grin on your face, but unsurprisingly it doesn’t handle road bumps as well.

A setting between Track and Road (easily done in Manual mode) would be perfect, but when you don’t feel like doing your Johnny Rea impression on your favourite stretch, the beauty of the KECS is you can click it into its soft setting and enjoy a comfortable ride.

You could even go a step further in Manual mode and set the SE really soft for motorway cruising and for riding in the wet.

Flick into Track mode on the circuit and with its stronger damping control, the Kawasaki stays firmer at the back, holding itself up under hard acceleration and slowing the rate of dive when hard on the brakes. But at full lean the suspension softens to help tyres meld into the Spanish tarmac. It’s lighter steering through chicanes, more stable and less effort to ride fast.

This electronic set-up short-cuts hours and possibly even days-worth of trying to dial in the perfect set-up yourself, but as impressive as the KECS the forks have a slightly dead feeling as you trail brake into the apex and steering still isn’t as sharp as some if its superbike rivals.

It’s also worth noting fork and shock preload (which is still a pig to get to) isn’t electronically adjustable, so for circuit work you’ll still have to dig out your screwdriver and C-spanner to set suspension sag. 

Lighter wheels are an undoubted plus, but you’d can’t feel their benefit riding the SE in isolation and the IMU-fuelled traction control, anti-wheelie, quickshifter and autoblipper are up there with the best in business. Kawasaki disconnected the conservatively-set ABS for us on the track and while the M50 Brembos monobloc calipers don’t lack power, they lack the joyful feeling and bite of the best set-ups out there. 

Serious circuit heads will still be better off with well-set aftermarket suspension and bespoke springs, but the SE is perfect for occasional trackday riders. Just flick a button to have fun all day and ride home without rattling out your fillings.

Kawasaki’s electronic suspension doesn’t change the ZX-10R’s overall character or the way it performs, but at the touch of a button it lets you feel how differently it can ride and handle, without having to get on your hands and knees with a screwdriver wondering what screw it is you’re supposed to be turning

Engine 4 out of 5

The SE uses the same inline four-cylinder motor as the standard ZX-10R, which on our dyno makes 191bhp at the rear wheel. It’s plenty powerful, but a lack of mid-range punch and tall overall gearing makes it feel sluggish unless you really rev it.

Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5

The suspension units themselves are tried and tested. The only things to go wrong are the electronics controlling them and the motors inside. These systems have been around for years now in rival machines and no major problems have been reported.

Insurance, running costs & value 4 out of 5

Priced in the same ballpark as its premium superbike rivals, it’s not cheap, but the semi-active Showa suspension units are the same top-spec gas forks and shock found on the base and ZX-10RR models.

Insurance group: 17 of 17 – compare motorcycle insurance quotes now.

Equipment 5 out of 5

The ZX-10R SE features Kawasaki’s (and Showa’s) first self-adjusting forks and shock. As well as suspension that’s designed to always give you the perfect amount of support, bump-absorption and comfort when you need it, the range-topping machine also gets the lightweight Marchesini wheels and autoblipper from the homologation special ZX-10RR. It also has a quickshifter, riding modes, an IMU controlled traction and wheelie control, ABS and Brembos.

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 2018
Year discontinued -
New price £18,949
Used price £13,500 to £16,000
Warranty term Two years
Running costs
Insurance group 17 of 17
Annual road tax £93
Annual service cost -
Max power 197 bhp
Max torque 84 ft-lb
Top speed 186 mph
1/4-mile acceleration -
Average fuel consumption -
Tank range -
Engine size 998cc
Engine type Liquid-cooled, 16v, inline four
Frame type Ali twin spar
Fuel capacity 17 litres
Seat height 835mm
Bike weight 206kg
Front suspension 43mm Showa forks, semi-active
Rear suspension Single rear Showa shock, semi-active
Front brake 2 x 330mm discs with four-piston radial Brembo calipers
Rear brake 220mm single disc with single-piston caliper
Front tyre size 120/70 x 17
Rear tyre size 190/55 x 17

History & Versions

Model history

2018: ZX-10R SE introduced. Features Showa semi-active suspension and the autoblipper and Marchesini wheels from the ZX-10RR

Other versions

ZX-10R, 197bhp, 206kg

Base model, launched in 2016 with Euro 4 motor, lighter engine internals, Showa gas forks, chassis and styling mods, Brembo monoblocs, quickshifter, rider modes, traction and wheelie control.

ZX-10RR, 197bhp, 206kg

The homologation special RR is the one you want for racing. It’s no more powerful than the R, but has stronger crankcases, DLC-coated tappets, a larger cylinder head to accept high-lift cams, lightweight wheels and a blipper.

ZX-10R SE, 197bhp, 206kg

New for 2018 the SE has the engine, chassis and electronics of the ZX-10R, the autoblipper and lightweight wheels of the RR with new electronic semi-active Showa suspension. 

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