Back in 1971, when I was still very much in Bag-dad, Kawasaki set the world ablaze with the introduction of the fastest production motorcycle ever; the H2. A two-stroke (those smokey engines) with a 7 500 rpm redline, which was high for the time, and a 1:1 horsepower-to-weight ratio. It would send inexperienced riders wheelie-ing over backwards and beating their friends to every red light—but you’d also likely blow through that red light. The original H2 was nicknamed the Widowmaker for its ridiculous power and lackluster brakes and suspension. It was dangerously fast.
Forty-four years later and Kawasaki would once again stun the world, reintroducing the H2, but this time swopping the insanely powerful 2-stroke motor with that of a 1000cc supercharged powerplant.
The H2R was born – a 300hp track-only animal that would make even Chuck Norris soil himself. This, again, made the H2 the world’s fastest production motorcycle.
In 2016, Kawasaki made the supercharged Ninja H2 available to the masses. With 100 horsepower less, R300k cheaper and a license plate and mirrors, customers who were brave enough, and more importantly had the money, could experience the anger and pleasure from the supercharged litre beast.
I have been lucky enough to have tested both the H2R and H2 base models. The H2R brings a whole new meaning to the word scary, while the H2 was sublime in just about every aspect. The only problem was that it was restricted to a small customer base, not only because of its hefty price, but also its aggressive nature. Not many riders could, or wanted to handle that much power. It’s great for the odd out-ride and breakfast run sprint, but even that is a lot of work and leaves your body feeling a bit battered. However, it’s a riding experience like no other and one that every biking nut should be able to engage in. Kawasaki have now answered the cries from Customers and Dealers asking for a more refined and user-friendly version of its supercharged phenomenon. Basically, an H2 you can ride every day.
Ninja H2 SX
Kawasaki’s latest member of the Ninja H2 family is a supercharged, 200hp sportbike with a comfy passenger seat and space for panniers. The bike is a mix of crazy speed and comfort. As Kawasaki puts it: “The Ninja H2 SX is the “Supercharged Sportbike” offering the most desirable street qualities of Hyperbikes, Sportbikes and Sport Touring bikes”. It is, in short, wonderfully excessive.
It’s a sportbike with touring features, 200hp, tons of electronics and a supercharger; no other motorcycle on the market can be described this way… “It’s a cross between a hyperbike, sportbike and sport touring bike” say Kawasaki. “There’s no competition.”
There is no competition and that’s what makes it so special, apart from the supercharged motor of course. Kawasaki were very clever in using the one-of-a-kind engine in a sophisticated platform. They have in the past released some of the best sport touring bikes – the ZZR range and more recent Z1000SX. While the ZZR 1400 is still a valid option, especially here in SA where it’s loved, the Z1000SX never really took off. Journos and Customers alike loved the overall feel and comfort of the bike but were left wanting more from the engine and electronics.
The new Ninja H2 SX now replaces the Z1000SX as Kawasaki’s new sports touring option. While Kawasaki’s focus on the H2R and its de-tuned civilian counterpart H2 were very much on speed above all else, the H2 SX has been completely reworked and refined for comfort and everyday rider friendliness. That translates to ergonomics revised for a less aggressive riding position, an added rear seat to share in the fun and 58 litres of luggage-carrying capacity for extended trips. Don’t let the civilities fool you though. The supercharged 998cc inline-four engine still coughs up a titanic 200hp, supplemented with a whirl from the boost that constantly entices you for more throttle. Kawasaki sent the outraged powerhouse to anger management classes to help clam it down. The result is a much more sensible, efficient, everyday satisfying agent that is a pleasure to operate. Power a plenty no matter the rpm or gear, just twist-and-go. Acceleration is where you can really feel the advantage of the supercharger, but overall speed doesn’t feel any faster than a normally aspirated litre machine. Producing 137Nm of torque at only 9 500rpm helps deliver the power faster than anything else out there in the production superbike category. That’s 13 more than the new all-conquering Ducati Panigale V4, although I still think the 1100cc V4 Italian Stallion would achieve a faster top speed. One thing the V4 or any other superbike does not have is that supercharged whistle on deceleration, which is still very apparent and fulfilling on the H2 SX.
While attending anger management classes the H2 SX did gain a bit of weight, 18 kilos in total. Although, out on the road this actually helps improve the bikes overall stability. The chubby weight and 30mm longer wheelbase give it a much more balanced feel in all areas, without hampering the handling. It’s no racy superbike for sure, but the agility is surprisingly good considering its weight.
The standard setup is not ideal for attacking turns. The front end is soft causing the front to float a bit in the turns.
More weight is needed on the front, so I would suggest a couple of turns of pre-load to load up the front and make it more planted, which is easily done on the fully adjustable suspension.
The riding position is cozy. It’s the business class of sports tourers with its upright bars perfectly set, high screen that offers brilliant wind protection and a seat that doesn’t leave your rear end feeling like it spent a night in a Nigerian prison cell. Out on the open road is where the SX showed its true capabilities, showing off its allure like a show pony at a competition.
The SX handled the everyday commuting I did adequately. The clutch was easy to use and getting the chubby machine on and off the side stand was a lot easier than I thought. Seat height is well placed and even a standard-sized rider like myself never felt intimidated or uncomfortable. The heat from the engine was welcomed on the cold morning commutes, but not so much in the afternoon heat. Still, it’s way cooler than the Ninja H2 superbike. The SX’s engine temperature didn’t spiral once on the stop-start commute, this thanks to the massive nostrils at the front helping keep the hot-headed motor as cool as possible. They also added that aggressive styling that makes the H2 so enticing. The clutch was reasonably light and easy to use, while gear changes were better and smoother than the old school clutchless way. The gearbox was not the slickest and this brings me to my first of the two small complaints I had with the SX. Firstly, no quick-shifter standard on the SX model and secondly the same old plain-Jane analogue/digital TFT LCD dash. On a new 2018 model bike that cost R260 000 you would think a quick-shifter and colour display dash would be obvious inclusions as standard.
Sadly, they’re not. They do however come standard on the top of the range SX SE model, which costs R40k more, along with auto-blip for clutchless downshifts, launch control, heated grips, slightly bigger screen, braided hoses and very neat cornering lights built into each side of the fairing. This latter feature further illuminates the road when cornering at night.
I can’t for the life of me understand why Kawasaki would not just have a quick-shifter standard on the SX model. Not only would it add extra value to the bike, but also disguise the slightly stiff gear changes. Any modern-day motorcycle over 500cc should come standard with a quick-shifter, that’s how I see it. As for the dash, not sure what Kawasaki have against going the route all its competitors have gone. Nothing better than climbing on a new bike, turning the key on and seeing that massive colour TFT LCD digital screen light up with some funky graphics. This does not happen on the SX model, but is better on the up-specced SE model which comes with a better-looking colour dash.
Despite these two gripes the SX is still packed with loads of electronic wizardry. Everything from cruise control, to the very intelligent Kawasaki Cornering Management Function (KCMF) which oversees 3-mode traction control, wheelie control, engine brake control and Kawasaki’s Intelligent anti-lock Brake System (including pitching and corner braking control). There are three power modes delivering 50, 75 and 100 % of the engine capabilities as well as ABS.
Kawasaki claim 25% better fuel efficiency, saying it’s “on par” with the Versys 1000, which gets a claimed 15 kilometres per litre. That’s a big statement to make considering it’s a supercharged motor. Kawasaki claims more than 300 km fuel range from the 19-litre tank. Out on the open road the best I got was 15.4km per litre, riding patiently and sticking to the speed limit. That figure went up to 17km per litre when I wanted to explore more of the supercharged engines power. On the everyday magazine delivery commute, I averaged around 15.8km per litre, again riding more responsibly.
Braking was sharp and efficient with a great feel and never once faded during short or long rides. The ABS gets the job done nicely in the background without interfering too much.
The SX model is only available in what Kawasaki call “Metallic Carbon Gray/Metallic Matte Carbon Gray”, and while it sparkles exquisitely under sunlight, it doesn’t paint quite the same portrait parked in the shade. This is where it loses all its charisma and highlights the need for some extra colour. The SX SE models “Emerald Blazed Green/Metallic Diablo Black” colour scheme looks much more suited and highlights the bikes aggressive styling a bit more.
At the end of the day Kawasaki have made their supercharged engine more refined and open to the everyday rider. The new H2 SX is an accomplished blend of exhilarating power and performance, paired with comfort and efficiency. While it’s near perfect, you must anticipate the Ninja H2 SX within its realm of reality. It’s still a sports bike, just more upright and relaxed. The bike is a mix of crazy speed and comfort. As Kawasaki puts it: “The Ninja H2 SX is the “Supercharged Sportbike” offering the most desirable street qualities of Hyperbikes, Sportbikes and Sport Touring bikes”.
It is, in short, wonderfully excessive.
I really enjoyed my time on the SX and I must take my hat off to Kawasaki SA for making both models well priced in a market spiraling out of control. At R259 900 for the SX you get a lot of bike missing one or two little tricks and R299 900 for the complete package SE model, so I would lean more towards the SE model. Either way, you can now ride a supercharged bike that does not want to rip your arms off and have you visiting the chiropractor after every ride.