Kawasaki's venerable Versys 1000 has provided great bang-for-the-buck street adventure since its Stateside debut more than a decade ago. As the model name implies, the Versys is built for well-rounded versatility; be it urban commuting, sporting back-road romps, or traveling the interstate with its spacious helmet-swallowing detachable hard bags fully packed, the Versys truly is a jack of all trades.

When you've got all this at a price point within reach of the masses, why up the ante? Yet Kawasaki has done just that, infusing its new for 2019 Versys 1000 SE LT+ with fresh styling, a suite of high-end features including semi-active suspension, the very latest IMU-based rider-aid technologies, and that plus tacked to the model name signifies smartphone connectivity. These updates have understandably come at a price premium however, as this third-generation Versys 1000 now lists at $17,999, a full $5,000 more than its predecessor.

2019 Kawasaki Versys 100 SE LT+ right side
The 2019 Kawasaki Versys 100 SE LT+ has an MSRP of $17,999.Kevin Wing

It’s fair to assume the price hike may exclude a portion of the platform’s loyal fan base, but given its upscale features, the Versys 1000 SE LT+ is in fact a bargain among comparably equipped competition. “Versys models have historically been good sellers for KMC, but according to many of our dealers, they often generate questions in the showroom,” says Kawasaki Product Manager Croft Long regarding a general lack of understanding of how well-rounded the Versys model is. “For the 2019 flagship Versys 1000 SE LT+, we are fulfilling customer requests for a higher level of technology while retaining the comfort and easy-to-ride character Versys has always possessed.”

I recently spent a couple of days aboard the Versys SE LT+ at a Kawasaki press ride staged in Arizona, logging a 300-mile day tracing an open highway route from Scottsdale to Theodore Roosevelt Dam before heading northwest for a night in the historic town of Prescott. The following morning included some good sporting fun as we carved up state Route 89, a curvy stretch of mountain road leading to scenic Sedona.

Arizona state Route 89
A 300-mile day on the Versys 1000 SE LT+ included the curves of Arizona state Route 89.Kevin Wing

Along the touring leg, our longest nonstop stint of two hours left me feeling no worse for wear. Credit the bike’s firm supportive saddle and spacious upright ergos (unchanged from its predecessor) along with improved wind protection and comfort of a new fairing with a revised manually adjustable-height windscreen. The screen now has a central vent that effectively minimizes head rocking turbulence, and the pair of knobs that lock it into your chosen position can now easily be reached from the saddle.

Kawasaki 2019 Versys 100 Windscreen
Wind protection is improved thanks to the new fairing and windscreen.Kevin Wing

While the same liquid-cooled, DOHC, 16-valve, 1,043cc inline-four remains, the 2019 Versys is the first Kawasaki model to feature an ECU-controlled Electronic Throttle Valve system, eliminating throttle cables in lieu of an accelerator position sensor located in the throttle grip. I was pleased to find the twist grip spring tension feels very natural, and the ride-by-wire throttle mapping deals out extremely smooth and linear power delivery. Kawasaki claims the engine produces 75 pound-feet of peak torque at 7,500 rpm but curiously chose not to provide a horsepower figure. My seat-of-the-pants dyno suggests peak ponies are fairly mundane for a liter-class inline-four. It's evident this engine has been tuned for ease of use and exhibits an over-rev that feels very much a product of the throttle map. While I didn’t get confirmation from Kawasaki, it felt to me that the throttle closes slightly as you near redline, a trait that is particularly evident in lower gears as it lays down at 9,500 rpm and eases up to the 10,000-rpm rev limit. Heck, you can even keep it pinned at the rev limit and the engine zings along contently. While the over-rev strategy may be a viable refinement, you best short-shift if racing for pinks.

An all-new dash combining an analog-style tachometer flanked by an attractive high-res full-color TFT display lends the Versys an up-scale appearance and a wealth of information. In addition to its prominent digital speedometer and gear position indicator, the TFT display presents the selected ride mode, various trip computer data, fuel gauge, coolant and ambient air temperature, clock, Kawasaki’s Economy cruise icon, and an adjustable shift indicator. The TFT offers a choice of two display layouts that prioritize on-screen info for either touring or sport. The Touring display is chock-full of useful info, while I found the Sport display a bit gimmicky with frivolous telemetry displays for throttle position, front brake application, and fore/aft chassis pitch—none of which I care to watch while midcorner.

Kawasaki sport display
Sport display shows all types of data including front brake force, throttle position, and chassis pitch.Kevin Wing

For touring stretches I preferred the soft suspension compliance of Rain mode, but wanted the full engine output of Road or Sport modes. Kawasaki has it covered with a customizable Rider mode that can be configured (while stopped) with your preferred mix of parameters and then selected like any other mode while riding. For example, this allowed pairing Sport mode power and TC characteristics with plush suspension response. Even better, the Rider mode setup menu also allows fine-tuning the Sport, Road, and Rain baseline with plus-five, minus-five steps of compression and rebound damping both front and rear.

Electronic suspension
Electronic suspension adjusts according to rider modes, but you can customize the combination of suspension and TC parameters in Rider mode.Kevin Wing

Spring preload adjustment is a manual affair on the fork, but rear preload is handled electronically (and can be changed while riding) with settings labeled as rider only, rider with luggage, and two-up with luggage. The trio of rear preload presets can also be altered with plus-five, minus-five steps of fine-tune adjustment within a dash menu. That’s a ton of chassis setup flexibility right at the tip of your thumbs. Best of all, when we hit the twisty bits, simply toggling into Sport mode instantly transformed my plush setup into a formidable back-road tool with excellent chassis feel, feedback, and stability.

Versys 1000 SE LT+ with sport mode
Sport mode turns the Versys into a back-road ripper.Kevin Wing

Kawasaki has fully leveraged the IMU implementation with what it calls Kawasaki Cornering Management Function. This entails lean-sensing cornering ABS along with pitch- and suspension-travel-sensing anti-dive on corner entry, followed with dynamic damping and advanced traction control through an apex and corner exit. For the sake of testing, I dialed in the softest front compression setting and found that the fork resisted bottoming while braking hard over nasty bumps. I found the Kawasaki Intelligent antilock Braking System (KIBS) simply fantastic. Even intentionally stabbing the front lever while leaned in with a fair degree of bank angle, a stunt that likely would've put me on the ground in the past, didn’t induce a bit of momentary front tuck, but, rather, immediate and steady stopping power.

Cornering Management Function
Kawasaki Cornering Management Function uses the IMU for lean-sensitive ABS function while controlling suspension action to minimize chassis pitch and dive.Kevin Wing

The Versys slipper/assist clutch makes life easier as well, providing light action and smooth engagement, eliminating engine-braking rear skitter. Combined with the standard feature Kawasaki Quick Shifter, seamless upshifts and auto-blip downshifts have made controlled corner entry and exit a cakewalk. Although the shift lever action has a spongy feel (a by-product of the quick-shift linkage), a light toe at the lever minimizes the sense of excess travel.

As a self-professed smartphone neophyte, it's possible I just don’t realize the potential of Kawasaki’s Rideology app, but from what I experienced it seems a bit basic at the moment providing vehicle info such as service and oil change mileage, a riding log (route tracking), and also allows you to upload ride mode tuning options to the bike while sipping on a cup of joe within Bluetooth range of the bike.

The innovative LED cornering lights located on the left and right fairing are a feature I didn't have the chance to evaluate in the dark. A trio of vertically arranged lights on either side illuminate sequentially as cornering lean angle increases. Watching a trailing rider in my mirrors confirmed that they do illuminate.

LED cornering lights
LED cornering lights illuminate as the Versys 1000 SE LT+ is leaned into a corner to cast light around the bend.Kevin Wing

No question the Versys 1000 SE LT+ provides refined power delivery, improved handling for more varied riding conditions, enhanced creature comforts, and a previously unavailable degree of riding safety. The question is whether or not consumers are willing to ante up for what they wished for.

2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 Se LT+ Specifications

MSRP: $17,999
ENGINE: 1,043cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC inline-four, 16 valves
BORE X STROKE: 77.0mm x 56.0mm
CLAIMED TORQUE: 75.2 lb.-ft. @ 7,500 rpm
FUEL SYSTEM: DFI w/ Keihin 38mm EVT throttle bodies
CLUTCH: Wet, multiple disc, assist and slipper function, cable operation
FRAME: Aluminum twin tube
FRONT SUSPENSION: 43mm inverted fork adjustable for KECS-controlled compression and rebound damping, and manually adjustable preload; 5.9-in.travel
REAR SUSPENSION: Horizontal back-link adjustable for KECS-controlled compression and rebound damping, and electronically controlled preload; 5.9-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE: 4-piston caliper, dual 310mm discs w/ ABS
REAR BRAKE: 1-piston caliper, 250mm disc w/ ABS
WHEELS, FRONT/REAR: Cast aluminum
TIRES, FRONT/REAR: 120/70-17 / 180/55-17
RAKE/TRAIL: 27.0°/4.0 in.
WHEELBASE: 58.9 in.
SEAT HEIGHT: 33.1 in.
CONTACT: kawasaki.com
Kawasaki 2019 Versys 100 left side
2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+Kevin Wing