When Kawasaki introduced the Ninja H2 and H2R, it raised the bar for high performance motorcycle exotica with its supercharged 998cc engine. As impressed as we were by the H2, one superlative we would not use to describe it was “practical.” Kawasaki hopes to change that with the 2018 Ninja H2 SX, a supercharged sport-tourer that sacrifices some of the H2’s high performance aspirations for better everyday usability.
From the outside, the supercharged 998cc Inline-Four looks the same as on the H2. The inside, however, is a different matter. The pistons, cylinder head, cylinder, crankshaft, camshafts and throttle bodies are all new. The impeller is the same size as on the H2 but its blades are angled differently, while the intake chamber was reshaped for higher efficiency. Air entering the chamber passes through a new diffuser which improves fuel efficiency while helping prevent engine knocking. Intake funnel lengths were optimized for low- to mid-range performance.
These changes were intended to improve thermal and fuel efficiency. Kawasaki didn’t release any specific fuel economy figures, it did claim a significant improvement on the H2 and numbers similar to the Ninja 1000 and Versys 1000. The engine also runs cooler than on the H2, which allows for a larger fairing for improved wind protection. The engine also runs quieter with less air flow, which means it doesn’t need as large an exhaust as the H2, shaving 6.6 pounds.
Despite being designed for better efficiency, the engine still claims an impressive 197.3 hp at 11,000 rpm (206.7 hp with ram air) and 101.3 lb-ft. at 9500 rpm. The gear ratios are also new, optimized for sport-touring with longer first and second gears. An assist and slipperclutch reduces lever clutch pull and reduced back-torque effects.
The H2 SX’s trellis frame is similar to the H2’s frame, but modified to accommodate the potential added weight of a passenger and panniers. The chassis is more rigid and the wheelbase is an inch longer to improve stability (especially with luggage) and Kawasakiclaims the H2 SX can support a payload of 430 pounds, or about as much as the Ninja 1000 (by comparison, the H2 can only accommodate 231 pounds).
The ergonomics are a balance of sport riding and comfort. The riding position is less upright than on the Ninja 1000, but not as aggressive with a more relaxed bend to the elbows and knees than the ZX-14R. Kawasaki will offer two choices of seats, the standard comfort seat with a relaxed knee bend and thicker cushioning or a lower seat option that drops the seat height from 32.9 inches to 32.3 inches.The tail section was also designed to accommodate removable accessory panniers.
The IMU-equipped H2 SX is equipped with a number of electronic aids including three engine modes, traction control, wheelie control, anti-lock brakes, and, a first for Kawasaki, electronic cruise control.
Up front, the H2 SX uses a fully-adjustable 43mm fork tuned to balance performance and comfort. The rear suspension uses the same KYB monoshock with a piggy-back reservoir as found on the H2, with adjustable compression damping, rebound damping and preload.
The braking system consists of two 320 mm discs up front with radial-mount four-piston monoblock calipers and a single 250mm rear rotor with two-piston caliper.
Other features include an LED headlight and taillights and an LCD display. Kawasaki also offers an SE version that adds launch control, quick shifter, lean-angle sensitive LED cornering lights, and a color TFT screen (pictured below).
The 2018 Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX will be available in Metallic Carbon Gray/Metallic Matte Carbon Gray while the SE version comes in Emerald Blazed Green/Metallic Diablo Black. U.S. availability remains to be confirmed.