If you looked at Kawasaki’s bombastic Ninja H2 supercharged sportbike back when it was introduced in 2015, and thought to yourself, “Gosh, that’s my bike…if only it didn’t have such an aggressive riding position,” we have just the bike for you. Kawasaki says that the mildly tamed 2018 Ninja H2 SX supercharged sportbike was “developed for the daily applications of today’s sportbike rider.” You can even get matching hard luggage for it. Still scratching your head? Perhaps we should start from the beginning….
At the 2014 Intermot show held every two years in Cologne, Germany, Kawasaki unveiled the 300-horsepower, experts-only, very much non-street-legal Ninja H2R. A month later, it announced a street-legal, 197.6-horsepower version, the Ninja H2, based on the exact same supercharged engine. While its claimed peak horsepower figure was actually below two other liter-class superbikes, the BMW S 1000 RR and the Ducati 1299 Panigale, what the H2 promised above all was exhilarating, breath-taking, chest-pounding acceleration. Consider that the bike wears the Kawasaki River Mark, indicating it was developed by the Kawasaki Heavy Industries Group—including the downforce-inducing bodywork by the Kawasaki Aerospace Company. When a bike needs wings to keep it on the ground, a la Formula One or IndyCars, you know you’re in for a heckuva ride.
What the H2 isn’t, is practical. Which is where the new H2 SX comes in…as long as you can accept that 197.6 horsepower is practical, because despite its 998cc supercharged in-line four being tuned for more low-to-midrange output, Kawasaki USA’s press release claims the same 200ps (197.6 horsepower) figure as the H2. The new H2 SX is also longer than the H2, with new bodywork, a sturdier trellis frame that’s ready for matching hard luggage and a full-color TFT display. Could this really be the next generation of everyday sportbikes?
An important aspect of creating a street-friendly sportbike or touring machine is fuel economy. So while the H2 SX’s engine and supercharger appear very similar to the H2’s, they have actually undergone several changes aimed at making the bike more practical for street riding and touring purposes. The first step was increasing the engine’s thermal efficiency by increasing the compression ratio from 8.5:1 to 11.2:1, with new cast aluminum pistons, cylinder heads and cylinders. The intake and exhaust cam profiles were shortened to match the reduced airflow requirements of street riding, and the supercharger was redesigned with a new impeller, intake chamber, cams and exhaust components. Kawasaki USA didn’t provide estimated fuel economy numbers, but the European release we got at the EICMA show claims the H2 SX betters the current Ninja 1000 sport-touring bike, which averaged 37.3 mpg when we last tested it back in 2014.
Next up on the street-smart list is payload capacity and stability, and the redesigned trellis frame now boasts a 430-pound capacity and is ready to accept Kawasaki’s matching hard side cases. The single-sided forged aluminum swingarm was lengthened by 0.6-inch for added stability at speed, and the steering lock was increased to 30 degrees both left and right for easier low-speed maneuvering.
The H2 SX will be available in two trim levels. The base model includes electronic cruise control, all-LED lighting, a 2-mode LCD display, 3-mode Kawasaki Traction Control (KTRC), Kawasaki Intelligent ABS (KIBS), Engine Brake Control, three power modes (Full, 75-percent and 50-percent) and a 5-axis Bosch IMU with a sixth axis (yaw) calculated by Kawasaki’s proprietary software developed through World Superbike racing experience. The H2 SX SE adds LED cornering lights, a full-color TFT display, a larger windscreen for touring, Kawasaki Launch Control Mode for wheelie and wheel spin control, a quickshifter for clutchless up- and downshifts, braided steel brake lines, heated grips and a centerstand. Both models feature a fully adjustable 43mm KYB fork and fully adjustable KYB 40mm rear shock with remote preload adjuster.
The 2018 Ninja H2 SX is available in Metallic Carbon Gray/Metallic Matte Carbon Gray, at a retail price of $19,000. The H2 SX SE is available in Emerald Blazed Green/Metallic Diablo Black, at a retail price of $22,000. The Kawasaki 28-liter hard saddlebag set is optional, as are other add-ons like an Akrapovič slip-on muffler, helmet lock and Ergo-Fit reduced reach seat.