2012Kawasaki W800 IN Review

Triumph may have the most evocative name for its Sixties retro bike, the Bonneville, but when it arrives to style, Kawasaki’s 2011 W800 has the look. There’s something about the posture and the traces of the W800 that make it one of the best looking motorcycles available today.
The engine is interesting past its classic vertical twin layout and air-cooling, as the right-hand side features a chromed tube containing the shaft which drives the overhead cam by a pair of bevel gears, resonant of older Ducati singles and twins.
There’s also genueneness in a “British” twin created by the Japanese, because Kawasaki’s Akashi factory developed its own vertical twin in the Sixties, the W1. This was developed from BSA’s 500cc A7, but with a roller instead of plain bearing crankshaft and capacity increased to 624cc. It was better developed too.
The latest W800 is a growth of the W650, which appeared in 1999. The engine is mainly the same, apart from a 5mm bore boost and the use of fuel injection alternatively of carburettors. A counterbalance shaft to tame the notorious parallel twin vibration remains. The suspension has been upgraded, which is especially welcome as the W650’s front was danxiously soft and underdamped.
The general quality and describing of the 800 has also moved on. The focal point is the stunning fuel tank, finished in a high-gloss, two-tone paint with pinstriping, with many other components in polished aluminium or chrome. The peashooter silencers, cushioned ribbed seat and wire-spoked metal wheels are pure Sixties, but you also get a single front disc brake and, of course, modern electrics and materials.
With modern standards, the performance seems distinctly retro too, but in a great way, as the W800 drags along. The sound is friendly and mellow and the engine pulls well plenty of not to feel breathless, as the W650 could, improved by plenty of torque at low revs, down to 2,500rpm.
There’s enough throw to recoup roads interesting, while on motorways you can continue keep pace with faster traffic regardless of end direction or topography. This kind of use creates the economy down to 45mpg, meaning a range of only 140 miles because the tank holds just 3.1 gallons. Even more annoying is the low-level warning light that flicks on at 100 miles. Back off the power and things improve, with up to 55mpg and a 170-mile range.
The handling is easy-going, with a pleasingly basic feel and no anxiousess, ideal for swinging through country bends. The set-up is quite soft, more so than the Bonneville, but it’s not bouncy and remains controllable.
While the base-model Bonneville costs £6,200, to get two-tone paint and something close to the style of the W800 you’d need a Bonneville SE at £6,600 or T100 at £7,000, so the Kawasaki is right in the mix at £6,650.

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