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
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.
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.
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.
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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.