It’s amazing how far motorcycles have come, especially when you compare a newer model like the 2017 Kawasaki Z650 to the earlier iterations of that badge, namely a 1979 Kawasaki KZ650.
Autoweek editor Mark Vaughn reminisced about an old bike in his latest comparison publication. Back in 1979, he bonded with his brother’s old Z650 over thousands of miles. At that time a new KZ650 would set you back $2,200, which was no small sum, and in his eyes it was a “the most magnificent piece of machinery ever made.”
Powered by a transverse-mounted inline four engine, the 465 pound KZ650 had 62 hp and 41 lb-ft of torque on tap. Mark certainly felt those pounds when leaning into corners, accelerating, braking, etc. Very different from today’s 406 pound Z650, which feels like a measly 46 pounds with how light and tossable it is. That performance can be attributed to the easy-revving, upright parallel twin engine with around 68 hp and 48.5 lb-ft of torque.
Numbers alone, an increase of 8 ponies over the span of 38 years may not seem like much, but numerous improvements have been made elsewhere to produce a quicker bike with more precise steering and handling.
“They were both great bikes, but modern technology makes for a much wider and more usable powerband -- and for so much more speed, stability and safety.”