2008 Kawasaki Versys First Look – Motorcycle USA

31 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on 2008 Kawasaki Versys First Look – Motorcycle USA
Kawasaki Versys Tourer
Kawasaki Versys Tourer

2008 Kawasaki Versys First Look

Kawasaki delivers a new entry to its 2008 lineup in the form of the Versys – a mid-sized machine based off the 649cc parallel Twin powering the Ninja 650R.

Kawasaki has unveiled a new addition to its stacked 2008 roster – the mid-sized Versys. The Japanese manufacturer has been known to let the cat out of the bag early – as they did last fall with the redesigned Concours 14. The new sport-touring bike is based off the ZX-14 and was arguably the most anticipated ’08 design; however, the release of this all-new multi-purpose 649cc naked bike, based off the Ninja 650R, is an unexpected surprise.

Already a hit with European riders, Kawasaki now offers up this intriguing model to the American public for 2008.

From the looks of things, the Versys is a smart option for beginners and intermediates looking for an all-around ride. We found the Ninja 650R, which the Versys is a clear derivative of, to be an amenable model for such riders when we tested it head-to-head against the Suzuki SV650 last year, and this new design figures to carry on the user-friendly habits of its Ninja forebear while challenging Suzuki’s V-Strom 650 for market share in the entry-level Adventure Touring class.

Actually, the new Kawasaki seems to have taken styling cues from all of the aforementioned machines, with the more naked half-fairing and front cowling look of the Versys leaving the majority of the front end exposed and giving the new bike a clean look compared to the V-Strom. How well the smaller frontal area will protect the rider from the elements will be a point of interest once we get some seat time on this baby. The styling similarities to its Suzuki competitor end quickly though.

Once the eye wanders down to the engine and exhaust, which is pulled right off the Ninja 650R – the distinctive under-slung location an unmistakable trait from the half-pint Ninja, the clean Versys design takes center stage.

The Versys 649cc parallel Twin sports an identical 83.0 x 60.0mm bore and stroke borrowed from the 650R. The Versys motor does sport some internal tuning changes, however, with Kawasaki promising the modifications deliver commuter friendly attributes like smooth power and flexible torque. On the spec sheet the changes result in a 10.6:1 compression ratio (11.3:1 for the 650R) and a claimed maximum torque figure of 44.9 lb-ft @6,800 rpm (reduced from the 48.5 lb-ft @ 7,000 rpm for the 650R).

Kawasaki describes the character of the Versys’ motor to be entertaining for even the most advanced riders, yet predictable enough to inspire confidence in less-experienced motorcyclists.

The half-faired Versys looks to us like a head-to-head match-up with Suzuki’s V-Strom 650 as an entry-level adventure-tourer

Read into the dreaded de-tuned-for-your-riding-pleasure philosophy however you wish. Hopefully the already linear powerband of the 650R is not compromised too much by this self-imposed flattening of the performance curve. Sometimes it works, but sometimes it doesn’t.

We’ll have to wait and see how it translates in the real world.

A steel trellis frame looks similar to that on the 650R until you get to the all-new gull-wing aluminum swingarm, which stretches out the wheelbase by 0.2-inch to 55.7 inches, and the trellis approach to the sub-frame which replace the unsightly passenger-peg brackets of the 650R. Gone too is the gaudy red paint. The new swingarm design is longer but still connects to the frame via a right-side mounted shock, recognizable from the 650R.

Geometric changes to the Versys chassis are minimal with rake remaining identical at 23 degrees and trail increasing by an almost imperceptible 0.1-inch to 4.3 inches.

The rear Showa unit is adjustable for preload and rebound damping, delivering 5.7 inches of travel. Two-stage damping valves on the rear shock provide progressive compression through the stroke so that initial feel is soft but gets firmer as the load increases. Up front suspension duties on the Versys are carried out by an inverted 41mm telescopic fork, which is adjustable for height, preload and rebound damping.

The new fork delivers over an inch more travel at 5.9 inches compared to the 4.7-inch travel on the standard units found on the 650R. Plus, they are not red either.

Six-spoke wheels and pedal-style rotors are the same as those on the Supersport and Superbike Ninjas. Dual 300mm discs are up front, grabbed by two-piston calipers, while a single 220mm disc is squeezed by a single-piston design out back. The 17-inch wheels are adorned by a 120/70 front and 160/60 rear tires.

One look at the Versys exhaust, engine, and rear shock and there is no doubt that the new design is based off the popular Ninja 650R.

An interesting feature on the Versys is the adjustable windscreen, with three height positions spaced 20mm apart to provide optimal protection for its rider. Behind the screen a control panel features a large analog tach, with a right-side display screen projecting a speedo, fuel gauge, odometer, clock, and dual trip meters. A pillion seat is also supplied standard, allowing for a passenger.

Compared to its Ninja sibling (or is it more of a cousin?), further changes include a six-lb heftier claimed dry weight at 399 lbs and $500 steeper MSRP at $6,899.

So, that leaves us with the question: What kind of bike is the Versys? It’s a fair inquiry that even its creator has a hard time answering, as evidenced from its press material announcing the Versys: Is it a practical commuter? Long-legged urban assault vehicle? Sportbike? Light Tourer?

The answer on all counts is a resounding Yes! This isn’t a niche specialist but rather a jack-of-all-trades with user-friendly versatility as one of its many charms.

Okay, well Kawasaki doesn’t have a hard time answering the question, but it sounds like an entry-level Adventure Touring bike to us. Whatever they want to call it is fine, but we can’t wait to get our hands on one figure it out for ourselves!

The intrument cluser on the new Versys is dominated by the analog tach, but a right side display provides the rider with a digital speedo as well as fuel gauge.

2008 Kawasaki Versys Specs:


Kawasaki Versys Tourer
Kawasaki Versys Tourer

Engine: Four-stroke, liquid cooled, DOHC, four-valve per cylinder, parallel Twin

Displacement: 649cc

Maximum torque: 44.9 lb/ft @6,800 rpm

Cooling: Liquid

Fuel injection: Digital fuel injection with two 38mm Keihin throttle bodies

Ignition: Digital CDI

Transmission: Six-speed

Final drive: O-Ring chain

Frame: Semi-double cradle, high-tensile steel

Rake / trail: 25 degrees / 4.3 in.

Wheelbase: 55.7 in.

Front suspension / wheel travel: 41mm hydraulic telescopic fork with adjustable rebound and preload / 5.9 in.

Rear suspension / wheel travel: Single offset laydown shock with adjustable rebound and spring preload / 5.7 in.

Kawasaki Versys Tourer
Kawasaki Versys Tourer
Kawasaki Versys Tourer
Kawasaki Versys Tourer
Kawasaki Versys Tourer
Kawasaki Versys Tourer
Kawasaki Versys Tourer

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