2018 Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX SE | Road Test Review

2018 Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX SE
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s the Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX SE! Gulping air through the massive intake (visible to the right of the headlight), this supercharged, kryptonite-green machine breaks new sport-touring ground. Photos by Kevin Wing.

Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive…OK, maybe those are a stretch, but riding Kawasaki’s new Ninja H2 SX SE can definitely make you feel like a superhero. Maybe it’s the sporty, hands-forward flying–er, riding position…but more likely it’s the heart-pounding, breathtaking acceleration from the 998cc supercharged in-line four.

Intoxicating to be sure, but as a machine billed as a real-world, tour-ready sportbike, the Ninja H2 SX SE also has to don its mild-mannered Clark Kent persona on demand. I put more than 1,400 miles on our test bike, including a 600-mile overnight ride to the Moto Talbott motorcycle museum in Carmel Valley, California, along with the normal weekend canyon runs and, yes, commuting duty (it’s a lot of bike for grocery-getting, but makes the chore much more interesting), to see if this super tourer is real-world ready.

2018 Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX SE
Smooth, stable and of course fast, the Ninja H2 SX SE follows in the footsteps of other speed demons like the Honda CBR1100XX Blackbird, Suzuki Hayabusa and Kawasaki’s own ZX-11 and ZX-14R.

Jenny’s Gear
Helmet:Arai Corsair-X
Jacket:Alpinestars Stella Vika
Pants:Alpinestars Stella Vika
Boots:Sidi Gavia Gore-Tex

The H2 SX may have been sired by the bombastic Ninja H2 hypersport, but it’s domesticated with features like a longer, sturdier trellis frame that’s passenger- and luggage-ready (ours was equipped with optional color-matched hard saddlebags), larger bodywork and cruise control.

The SE version I tested adds LED cornering lights, a full-color, four-mode TFT display, a taller windscreen, Kawasaki Launch Control Mode, a quickshifter, braided steel brake lines, heated grips and a centerstand.

2018 Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX SE
To test the H2 SX SE’s sport touring chops, we took it on a 600-mile overnight ride to check out the Moto Talbott motorcycle museum, where we got the VIP tour thanks to curator Bobby Weindorf. If you plan on riding the newly reopened Big Sur coast, Moto Talbott on beautifully curvy Carmel Valley Road is a must-stop. Photo by Randy Wilder.

To better accomplish the SX’s street riding and touring mission, the H2’s engine and supercharger also received some changes.

New cast aluminum pistons, cylinder heads and cylinders and a higher compression ratio (from 8.5:1 to 11.2:1) improved thermal efficiency, the intake and exhaust cam profiles were shortened to match the reduced airflow of street riding speeds, and the planetary gear-driven supercharger got a new impeller.

The new supercharger is efficient enough to not require an intercooler, yet it doesn’t generate excessive heat (I noticed a little on my lower right leg, but not enough to bother me).

The real-world results of this new “balanced supercharged engine” are impressive; our test bike, which churned out 165 rear-wheel horsepower and 87 lb-ft of torque on the Jett Tuning dyno, achieved an average of 41.1 mpg, besting the 37.3 mpg of the much less powerful Ninja 1000 sport tourer we tested back in 2014.

(But beware: fuel economy is directly tied to how much air you’re sucking through the supercharger; I once watched 20 miles disappear from my indicated range on a one-mile freeway sprint up a mountain grade.)

2018 Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX SE
Left switchgear contains heated grips button, cruise control and selectors for engine power modes and traction control.

I’m mixing my superhero metaphors, but with such great power comes great responsibility, and the H2 SX includes enough tech to (hopefully) keep you shiny side up and facing the right direction.

It also offers a high level of customization that will take the bike from mild-mannered Clark Kent to full-on caped Man (or Woman!) of Steel–or something in between–with the push of a few buttons.

The Kawasaki Traction Control has three levels or can be turned off. There are three power modes, Full (max power), Middle (75 percent of max, milder throttle response) and Low (50 percent of max, mildest throttle response). The quickshifter, cornering lights and launch control are switchable, and even engine braking is adjustable. Interestingly, the only thing you can’t shut off is the Kawasaki Intelligent ABS.

All of it is monitored by a Bosch 5-axis IMU that Kawi tweaked with its own software to add a sixth axis: yaw.

Some might grumble about electronics and rider aids, but personally I like knowing a bike like this has my back in the event I let my super-ness go to my head.

2018 Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX SE
Analog speedometer is complemented by a full-color TFT display that’s easy to read even in direct sunlight. Clip-ons are a couple of inches above the triple clamp but still might be too low for some.

Still, when I first picked the Ninja H2 SX SE up from Kawasaki HQ, I admit I was a tad intimidated despite the tech. But a few miles later the intimidation was gone and I was marveling at just how easy it is to ride.

By the time I got home I was smitten, more than a little intoxicated by the H2 SX SE’s utterly smooth, effortless power but also amazed at its composure. Nothing about it feels flighty or nervous, and while it’s not exactly flickable, it’s responsive to every input and very stable.

The power spools up immediately in every mode, and response from the throttle-by-wire is nearly perfect, while the hydraulic-actuated assist-and-slipper clutch is silky smooth.

2018 Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX SE
Forged aluminum single-sided swingarm is 15mm longer than the standard H2 for greater stability.

At 84 inches long, with a 58.3-inch wheelbase and 574-pound curb weight, the H2 SX SE is big for a sportbike, even one with touring intentions (it slots in neatly between the Ninja 1000 and Concours 14 size-wise). Overall, I’d call the riding position “comfortable sportbike.”

Despite being mounted above the top triple clamp on the fully-adjustable 43mm Kayaba fork, some will find the clip-on handlebars too low for comfort on longer rides, though the reach over the 5-gallon gas tank isn’t extreme and the weighted and padded footpegs are lower than typical supersport height.

I did find that the angular seat created pressure points on the insides of my upper thighs after a long day. But my main complaint was vibration that would creep into the right grip at certain rpm/gear combos; on the freeway it would quickly put my hand to sleep unless I was able to use the cruise control. Around town it simply comes and goes.

2018 Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX SE
Optional color-matched saddlebags each hold a full-face helmet.

So is the H2 SX SE a real-world, touring-capable sportbike? Sure, but it’s something more special as well, a true superbike in many ways.

At $22,000, it’s doubtful Kawasaki will sell many of them, but I don’t think that’s the point. Sometimes you build something because you can–to create an aspiration, a superhero to inspire us mere mortals…and this bike definitely inspires my inner Supergirl.

2018 Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX SE
Despite the KHI mark on its nose and the small “supercharged” badge on the right side, when in Clark Kent secret identity mode many passersby–even fellow riders–don’t know what they’re looking at. Maybe it’s the saddlebags and centerstand….

2018 Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX SE Specs

Base Price: $22,000
Price as Tested: $23,200 (color-matched luggage)
Warranty: 1 yr., unltd. miles
Website: kawasaki.com


Type: Liquid-cooled, supercharged in-line four
Displacement: 998cc
Bore x Stroke: 76.0 x 55.0mm
Compression Ratio: 11.2:1
Valve Train: DOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Valve Insp. Interval: 24,000 miles
Fuel Delivery: Dual-injection DFI w/ 40mm throttle bodies x 4
Lubrication System: Wet sump, 5.0-qt. cap.
Transmission: 6-speed, hydraulic-actuated assist-and-slipper clutch w/ quickshifter
Final Drive: X-ring chain


Ignition: Digital
Charging Output: 420 watts @ 5,000 rpm
Battery: 12V 8.6AH


Frame: High-tensile tubular steel trellis, aluminum single-sided swingarm
Wheelbase: 58.3 in.
Rake/Trail: 24.7 degrees/4.1 in.
Seat Height: 32.9 in.
Suspension, Front: 43mm USD fork, fully adj., 4.7-in travel
Rear: Uni-Trak single shock, fully adj., 5.5-in. travel
Brakes, Front: Dual 320mm semi-floating discs w/ opposed 4-piston monoblock calipers & KIBS ABS
Rear: Single 250mm disc w/ opposed 2-piston caliper & KIBS ABS
Wheels, Front: Cast, 3.50 x 17 in.
Rear: Cast, 6.00 x 17 in.
Tires, Front: 120/70-ZR17
Rear: 190/55-ZR17
Wet Weight: 574 lbs. (without saddlebags)
Load Capacity: 429 lbs. (without saddlebags)
GVWR: 1,003 lbs.


Fuel Capacity: 5.0 gals., last 0.9 gal. warning light on
MPG: 90 PON min. (low/avg/high) 36.8/41.1/49.1
Estimated Range: 206 miles


  1. This is such a cool bike. At $22K, it’s out of my range, but boy would I like to take it for a spin. I own the Concours 14 now, so it would be really cool to experience a slightly smaller package with upgraded components. One can dream, I suppose. Nice review.

  2. Who is going to be able to work on a bike like this? Just how many service reps at your local Kawasaki dealership will have the training and experience to service this thing?? Let alone the special tools it will require.


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