2022 Kawasaki Z650RS Review [10 Fast Facts: Retro-Style Motorcycle]

The 2022 Kawasaki Z650RS runs with the adage “look good, feel good,” appealing to our senses with ravishing retro garb, harkening back to the classic styling cues seen on the original Z family of motorcycles, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

Built on the proven package that is Kawasaki’s wholly modern Z650 upright, unfaired sportbike, the Z650RS takes the same willing chassis and fun-loving twin-cylinder engine, then adds a cool and casual riding position to match its slick throwback looks.

We strutted the Z650RS’s stuff on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip before taking to the coastal mountain routes of Malibu to hit you with the Fast Facts.

  1. A playful 649cc parallel-twin engine hits the spot. Kawasaki’s versatile middleweight mill has a peppy disposition that can’t be ignored, pulling double-duty as a friendly city go-getter or canyon compatriot equally well. The highlight of this p-twin pip is how it flexes a lovely amount of low-end and midrange wallop, dishing out its power with engaging gusto that won’t intimidate new or intermediate riders alike. Salty veterans will twist the grip and the revel in raspy induction howl, wringing out every ounce of performance on tap with glee. Save for some low-rpm on-off throttle snatchiness most prominent in first gear that quickly clears as you click through the gears, this powerplant spools up cleanly and perfectly suits the RS’s gentlemanly style.

  1. Six-speeds and an assist-and-slipper clutch are standard fares on the Z650RS. These new-fangled slipper clutches weren’t available back when the original four-cylinder Z650 prowled the streets in the late 1970s and ’80s. But, that’s just one of the many benefits of living in our modern world. We get a tidy gearbox with positive shifting and a slip function to help prevent wheel-hop, should you get frisky with your downshifts. Adjustable levers augment an impressively light clutch pull. Positive Neutral Finder is an overlooked feature that’s quite convenient. If you’re at a stop in first gear, shift up, and the transmission automatically clicks into neutral—no fiddling.

  1. Kawasaki captures an old-school vibe via a neutral riding position. Classic standard motorcycles have some of the most universal ergonomics, and designers took the Z650RS there with a few subtle tweaks. Longer fork tubes allow the upper triple-clamp to be mounted three-quarters of an inch higher, while the wide backswept handlebar capitalizes on that height increase. The RS’s grips sit roughly two inches higher and over an inch closer to the rider, propping you up and creating a mood distinct from the naked Z650. The luxuriously plush 31.5-inch-high stepped seat pulls the retro threads together, which called for some rear subframe refiguring due to its flatter profile. Shorter riders shouldn’t worry about saddle height, as there’s plenty of squish, and it’s narrowed towards the front to help you reach the deck.

  1. Tasteful styling cues combine new and old. Attention to detail makes all the difference with vintage-inspired components, such as the 3.1-gallon teardrop tank—best represented with the Candy Emerald Green’s excellent paint finish and pinstriping. The same can be said of the side panels and fenders, which take inspiration from the 1978 KZ650. Easy-to-read dual analog-style chrome-bezel clocks flank an LCD screen with a gear indicator and fuel gauge, adding mojo to mix while keeping up with the times. Unfortunately, the LCD screen is difficult to read in direct sunlight. Other nice touches include all-around LED lighting, with the period-appropriate round headlight and oval taillight—a direct nod to the classic Z machines. Lastly, we have the cast-aluminum wheels reminiscent of wire-spoke hoops from the good ol’ days—especially dashing in gold.

2022 Kawasaki Z650RS Review: MSRP

  1. Three elegant color options are available. There are two standard color choices available for the $8999 MSRP—Candy Emerald Green and Metallic Moondust Gray/Ebony. Whatever paint scheme you choose, know that the top-notch finishes extend from nose to tail. However, the green option can’t be overlooked, if only because it looks the part. Of course, those that want to toss in an extra $250 can get the Z650RS 50th Anniversary edition, referencing the legendary Kawasaki Z1 livery, with its Candy Diamond Brown color scheme.

  1. Maneuverability is a hallmark trait aboard this middleweight machine. Sat in your comfortable perch, flipping the tubular steel chassis around the city streets or canyon roads is done without much input into the bars—a characteristic that riders of any skill level can appreciate. No doubt, the sporty 55.3-inch wheelbase and steep 24-degree rake for doing their part in making the 412-pound Kawi nimbly flick about the roadways. We can also exploit the wide steering sweep at lower speeds when negotiating tight urban environments.

2022 Kawasaki Z650RS Review: For Sale

  1. KYB suspension focuses on delivering a cushy ride. Borrowed from the Ninja 650 and Z650, the RS uses nearly the same non-adjustable KYB fork and spring-preload adjustable cantilevered shock. The suspenders mask our lovely pothole-ridden Hollywood better than a crack team of film set dressers, gobbling hard hits up without a flinch. As things turn to undulating canyons roads with hotter paces in store, I might observe that the RS feels a tad under-damped for my 180+ pound frame when faced with beaten tarmac. Yet, the chassis is never nervous, nor does it dive willy-nilly under braking. Soaking in the scenery is nice, but it’s still capable of running at a spirited clip.

  1. Nissin components fill their role nicely. Dual-piston calipers and 300mm rotors have fulfilled braking duties on Kawasaki’s middleweight machines with solid performance, offering good feel and an unintimidating bite. In the rear, we have the familiar single-piston caliper and 220mm disc collaborating, which can help clean up lines deftly. Non-adjustable Bosch 9.1M ABS is standard on Z650RS, and quite handy for anyone learning the motorcycling ropes or veterans. Experienced riders might feel that its intervention errs on the side of caution over bumpy tarmac, though it doesn’t impede braking power.

2022 Kawasaki Z650RS Review: Price

  1. Dunlop Sportmax Roadsport 2 tires are standard fitment. A trustworthy set of tires does make a difference. The Roadsport 2 are a great compliment to the Z650RS’ purposes, providing a good grip on the road and capable of achieving respectable mileage. If they don’t suit your needs, the 17-inch wheels will accommodate a wide range of aftermarket rubber.

  1. The 2022 Kawasaki Z650RS takes dapper looks and weaves them into a modern platform. The Ninja 650 and Z650 have proven their place in the market, standing as worthy middleweight machines suitable for commuting, canyon riding, and more. That solid foundation is a perfect home for these tasty RS dressings, which Kawasaki has pulled off in spades—sure, a few liquid-cooling elements could be hidden better, but the rest of it is dashing. Adding a bit of style to a package that performs admirably is a winning formula, and judging from the number of turned heads on the Sunset Strip, it seems that I wasn’t the only one who noticed.

Photography by Kevin Wing

RIDING STYLE

2022 Kawasaki Z650RS Specs

ENGINE

  • Type: Parallel twin
  • Displacement: 649cc
  • Bore x stroke: 83 x 60mm
  • Maximum torque: 49 ft-lbs @ 6500 rpm
  • Compression ratio: 10.8:1
  • Valvetrain: DOHC; 4vpc
  • Fueling: EFI w/ 36mm Keihin throttle bodies
  • Transmission: 6-speed w/ Positive Neutral Finder
  • Final drive: Sealed chain

CHASSIS

  • Frame: Steel trellis
  • Front suspension; travel: Non-adjustable 41mm fork; 4.9 inches
  • Rear suspension; travel: Spring-preload adjustable horizontal shock; 5.1 inches
  • Wheels: Cast spoke-style
  • Tires: Dunlop Sportmax Roadsport 2
  • Front tire: 120/70 x 17
  • Rear tire: 160/60 x 17
  • Front brakes: 300mm petal-type rotors w/ 2-piston calipers
  • Rear brake: 220mm petal-style disc w/ single-piston caliper
  • ABS: Bosch 9.1M

DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES

  • Wheelbase: 55.3 inches
  • Rake: 24.0 degrees
  • Trail: 3.9 inches
  • Seat height: 31.5 inches
  • Fuel capacity: 4.0 gallons
  • Curb weight: 412 pounds
  • Colors: Metallic Moondust Gray/Ebony; Candy Emerald Green

2022 Kawasaki Z650RS Price: $8999 MSRP

2022 Kawasaki Z650RS Review Photo Gallery