Want a four-cylinder Japanese sportbike? These days, the offerings are slim, but there’s a hot rumour that we might soon see a new Kawasaki four-cylinder that revives a long-dormant sportbike class. The story is, Kawasaki is working on a ZX-4R.
So what’s this bike going to be about? Doesn’t Kawasaki already have a Ninja 400, that’s reckoned a pretty decent middleweight in its own right?
The ZX-4R is supposedly intended as a premium offering, just like the four-cylinder ZX-25R is (seen above). In fact, it’s supposed to be based on the same design as the ZX-25R, with the engine worked over. The details are fuzzy, and not necessarily correct, but gossip says the engine will be both stroked and bored, with the bottom end beefed up just enough to handle the increased load.
Does that make sense? Uh … usually motorcycle manufacturers put wimpier top ends on beefier bottom ends, not the other way around. But who knows? The ZX-25R is certainly not your average quarter-litre budget bike. The Asian-market screamer runs to 50 horsepower at 15,500 rpm. Maybe it wouldn’t take much effort for that gearbox and driveline to handle another 25 horsepower?
If Kawasaki actually did this, jamming 50 percent more horsepower into the tiny sportbike, it would be reviving a market segment that’s been abandoned for basically decades. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Japanese OEMs all built 400-class sportbikes, offering reasonably high performance in a very compact package. Remember, the GSX-R series started with a JDM 400, not a 750! Over the past decade, Kawasaki’s Ninja 400 has probably come the closest to recapturing that formula, but it’s still a budget-oriented twin primarily, even though it has decent suspension, ABS, assist/slipper clutch and so on.