Up until now, the FZ-09 has been widely regarded as having fallen short of its potential. The suspension was insufficient, throttle too abrupt and a lack of electronic goodies made it a little too simple for the price and current competition. Yamaha saw the error of its ways and set about the business of correcting past mistakes with a significant re-design for 2017 that improves in all the most-criticized areas on its predecessor. The MY17 FZ-09 sports improved throttle-response mapping along with traction control and ABS, so improvement was definitely made in the electronic gadgetry department. But, does this newest version meet popular demand and expectation? I wanted to explore that and I’ll share my findings with you.
Yamaha moved away from the cyclops headlight of the previous models with a dual LED headlight setup that brings with it a wide, but flat, headlight housing for a completely different look up front. Beefier cheek fairings and small side covers add some visual weight to the front, and not only do the side covers enclose and protect the ends of the radiator, they also serve as a handy spot to mount the front turn signals to get them off the headlight housing. This does clean up the front end nicely, even though it places the turn signals in a more vulnerable position, and it makes it look more like its big brother, the FZ-10.
The rear end got cleaned up as well with taillight and turn signals mounted up under the subframe, and the plate holder moved down to the single-arm, hugger-style rear fender. I gotta say, I never was much of a fan of the mudguard-style fender that stuck out from the subframe, and the hugger really cleans it all up quite nicely.
Blackout treatment around the bike gives it a nice, custom flair with seriously sinister undertones to go with its sleek new physique. You can pencil me in as not a fan of the headlight arrangement — it’s a little too Power Ranger monster for my taste — but overall, this here is a much cooler-looking ride than last year’s model. The clean rear end and radiator plates, though minor, seem to make all the difference in the world.
Yamaha builds the FZ-09 on a cast-aluminum frame in its effort to keep overall weight low, and at 425 pounds soaking wet, we can call that mission accomplished. Wheelbase length measures out at 56.7 inches long, and the 26-degree steering head gives the bike a 4.1-inch trail for balanced handling that corners and reverses well while retaining some tracking stability.
Handling is improved over the previous model through the new-for-2017 suspension components that include the fully adjustable, 41 mm, usd front forks and the motocross-style monoshock that comes with tunable preload and rebound damping. Not only is the rear shock tucked away out of sight of the casual observer, but the positioning allows for a narrower frame that furthers the slimming effort on this version.
Wheel travel measures out at 5.4-inches front and 5.1-inches rear for enough range to handle most conditions. A pair of 298 mm discs and four-pot calipers slow the front wheel, and the rear wheel makes do with 245 mm disc. Both ends benefit from the new-for-’17 ABS feature that bumps up the safety factor considerably while adding some of the electronic yummy-goodness that fans of the Tuning Fork brand were clamoring for.
Yamaha powers the FZ-09 with its 847 cc, Crossplane Crankshaft Concept CP3 engine. In response to critics of the too-abrupt throttle changes of the previous gen, Yamaha repurposed the FJ-09 fuel map for use with the FZ’s ride-by-wire throttle control. The result is a much tamer, less abrupt response that retains but a fraction of its former snappiness, much to the benefit of the handling since the previous setup was widely regarded as being far too sensitive to even minor changes in throttle-grip position. Yammy’s proprietary D-mode allows the rider to further tune power deliver according to riding style and conditions, so you should be able to mix and match D-mode and traction control settings to suit whatever kind of rider you identify as on any given day.
The magic continues into the innards with fracture-split big-ends on the connecting rods, and a cylinder-to-block offset purported to reduce friction. Staggered intake-funnel lengths help broaden the powerband on this water-cooled three-banger, mainly downward, and the factory claims a total of 64.5 pound-feet of torque at 8,500 rpm; plenty for some fun, especially given the light curb weight.
A slip-and-assist clutch added this year gives the left hand a break with a lighter pull, and it adds to the overall contact-patch integrity by limiting backtorque through the six-speed transmission on particularly aggressive downshifts. Not only does all this rectify past mistakes, it makes the FZ-09 a friendlier bike for inexperienced riders, and a safer bike for saltier ones.
All the extra goodies naturally add to the sticker. At $8,999, the current FZ-09 is about what you’d expect for the money, while the previous version was a bit overpriced for what you got at $8,190.
There’s no shortage of mid-size naked bikes out there right now, and it seems that all of the Big Four brands are getting in on the action, so I decided to see how Kawasaki’s Z800 stacks up against the new-and-improved FZ-09. Right off the bat I gotta’ say that although the new FZ headlight housing isn’t my favorite thing in the world, at least it isn’t as fugly as the Z800’s lamp can. Kawi leaves the turn signals mounted on the headlight housing, and follows that up with cheek fairings that don’t quite cover the edges of the radiator, leaving the front looking a little busy and cluttered.
Flylines are similar with both bikes carrying an abundance of angles with just enough curvature to soften the look just a bit. One thing that Yamaha definitely got right this year is the rear end; Kawi’s offering carries the same tired and old subframe-mount mudguard that Yamaha left behind with the neat-and-clean hugger arrangement on the current FZ-09. I know it’s a matter of personal taste, but I really prefer the looks of the Yamaha product overall.
Kawi runs similar suspension components, though without a compression damping adjustment, it falls a bit short of the full trifecta of front-fork flexibility. Dual, 277 mm discs are a trifle smaller than the FZ’s discs, but that’s minor, and both bikes benefit from ABS protection so neither one gains an advantage here. Riders will likely find the 24-degree rake and 3.9-inch trail makes the Z800 a little more agile than the FZ-09, but the trade off comes at the cost of straight-line stability. Since the vast majority of these bikes will never see the inside of a racetrack, comfort over a long commutewill be increased, and rider fatigue decreased with the slightly slower steering of the Yammy.
Kawasaki pits an 806 cc four-banger against Yamaha’s 847 cc triple. Both engines hit pretty hard, but the difference in configuration and a handful of cubes leaves the Kawi a bit light in torque with 61 pound-feet against the FZ-09’s 64.5 pounds o’ grunt. While Kawi has ABS as standard equipment, the finer things like rider modes and traction control are entirely absent, so Yamaha beats the pants off the Z800 that was such a close match to the previous year’s FZ-09.
Yamaha comes off the prouder with its $8,999 sticker versus the $8,399 tag on the Kawi. Those six extra Franklins, however, buy a lot of bike, and pound-for-pound, the FZ-09 is more bike for the buck.
“It sure looks like Yamaha tightened up in all the right places this time around. The FZ-09 was a disappointment to many, and to the factory’s credit, it didn’t mess around about addressing the issues. While this bodes well for the immediate future of the line, the rest of the market is stepping up its game as well, and this is just the next weapon in the unending arms race in yet another sub-category.”
My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “The new FZ-09 comes out swinging and seems to address the complaints of the previous model year. The throttle response is a whole lot nicer and the slipper clutch is a welcome addition.”
|Engine Type:||847cc liquid-cooled, DOHC, inline 3-cylinder; 12 valves|
|Bore x Stroke:||78.0mm x 59.1mm|
|Fuel Delivery:||Fuel injection with YCC-T|
|Ignition:||TCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition|
|Transmission:||6-speed; multiplate assist and slipper wet clutch|
|Final Drive:||O-ring chain|
|Suspension / Front:||41mm inverted fork, fully adjustable; 5.4-in travel|
|Suspension / Rear:||Single shock, adjustable preload and rebound damping; 5.1-in travel|
|Brakes / Front:||Dual hydraulic disc, 298mm; ABS|
|Brakes / Rear:||Hydraulic disc, 245mm; ABS|
|Tires / Front:||120/70ZR17|
|Tires / Rear:||180/55ZR17|
|L x W x H:||81.7 in x 32.1 in x 44.7 in|
|Seat Height:||32.3 in|
|Rake (Castor Angle):||25.0°|
|Maximum Ground Clearance:||5.3 in|
|Fuel Capacity:||3.7 gal|
|Fuel Economy:||44 mpg|
|Wet Weight:||425 lb|
|Warranty:||1 Year (Limited Factory Warranty)|
|Colors:||Candy Red, Matte Silver, Intensity White|