Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX

‘The SX cer­tainly does Fast when re­quested. On the Por­tuguese launch it de­voured the Es­to­ril cir­cuit’s long straight in sec­onds, and was still ac­cel­er­at­ing at over 270 km/h when I had to brake for the sec­ond-gear Turn One’

Bike India - - CONTENTS - STORY: ROLAND BROWN PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: DOU­BLE RED & ULA SERRA

This fast and crazy su­pers­port can carry a pil­lion, pro­vided you find one brave enough

THE NINJA H2 SX has plenty in com­mon with the ma­chine that started Kawasaki’s su­per­charged fam­ily three years ago. just like that orig­i­nal Ninja h2, the SX has sharp-edged styling, it fea­tures a blower bolted to its four­cylin­der en­gine, and an­swers a twist of the throt­tle by do­ing its best to rip its clip-on bars out of your hands.

But the Ninja h2 SX is a very dif­fer­ent ma­chine from the out­ra­geous orig­i­nal h2. it has an ag­gres­sive, origami-like full fair­ing in­stead of a half­fair­ing, its screen is taller, those clip-ons are higher and it’s built for com­fort as well as speed. The su­per­charger that is mostly hid­den be­hind the body­work is de­signed for econ­omy as well as power. and al­though the SX makes a claimed 200 PS, its throt­tle re­sponse is pos­i­tively civilised.

The SX cer­tainly does Fast when re­quested. On the Por­tuguese launch it de­voured the es­to­ril cir­cuit’s long straight in sec­onds, and was still ac­cel­er­at­ing at over 270 km/h when i had to brake for the sec­ond-gear Turn One. But on the pre­vi­ous day’s road ride it coped re­spectably well with every­thing from mo­tor­way to cob­bled streets and hilly hair­pins, feel­ing more like a ZZR all-rounder than the lat­est mem­ber of Kawasaki’s su­per­charged crazy gang.

That’s not sur­pris­ing given the num­ber of the SX’s new parts, start­ing with the 998-cc, 16-valve en­gine that is based on the ex­ist­ing h2 unit (which it­self was de­rived from the ZX-10R’s). New in­ter­nals in­clude cylinder-head, cams, and crank­shaft, with re­shaped pis­tons con­tribut­ing to an in­crease in com­pres­sion ra­tio from 8.5:1 to 11.2:1, which im­proves ther­mal ef­fi­ciency.

The su­per­charger and in­take sys­tem are also much mod­i­fied. The im­pel­lor’s blades, whose di­am­e­ter re­mains un­changed, are set at a slightly shal­lower an­gle. The alu­minium air-box is smaller (five litres rather than six) and in­cor­po­rates a dif­fuser that helps elim­i­nate the pre-ig­ni­tion (ping­ing) that might oth­er­wise have re­sulted from the in­creased com­pres­sion.

in sim­i­lar fash­ion, the chas­sis also keeps the same for­mat — tubu­lar steel trel­lis frame and sin­gle-sided alu­minium swingarm — while chang­ing key

com­po­nents. Di­am­e­ter of many of the main frame tubes has been in­creased from 22.2 to 28.6 mm and the rear sec­tion con­sid­er­ably beefed up with ad­di­tional tub­ing, al­low­ing pay­load to be in­creased from 105 to 195 kg, so a pil­lion and pan­niers can be car­ried.

The steer­ing head was moved for­ward by 15 mm, al­low­ing im­proved steer­ing lock; the swingarm is also length­ened by 15 mm, con­tribut­ing to the wheel­base grow­ing by 25 mm to a sta­bil­ity-en­hanc­ing 1,480 mm. Tilt­ing the en­gine for­ward in the frame by two de­grees has low­ered the cen­tre of grav­ity slightly. Sus­pen­sion com­bines 43-mm forks and a re­mote-reser­voir Kayaba shock; both ends are multi-ad­justable and the shock has a re­mote preload ad­juster.

There’s plenty of h2 fam­ily re­sem­blance, with that sharp-edged fair­ing’s nose car­ry­ing the River Mark logo that the Kawasaki cor­po­ra­tion be­stows only on stuff that’s a bit spe­cial. The same logo comes up when you turn the bike on to light up the TFT dash that is a fea­ture of the up­mar­ket h2 SX Se model. The Se also dif­fers from the stan­dard bike with fea­tures in­clud­ing cor­ner­ing head­lights, heated grips, taller screen, ma­chined wheels, cen­tre-stand and a two-way quick-shifter.

Only the Se comes in green paint­work, which has a high-qual­ity metal-flake look with­out match­ing the stun­ning mir­ror-fin­ish that con­trib­utes to the orig­i­nal Ninja h2’s high price. Dif­fer­ences from that bike are clear when you climb aboard the low seat, be­hind a screen that is no­tably larger, and barely have to lean for­ward to bars that are slightly higher than the ZZR1400’s, let alone the racier h2’s.

i was glad of that and the ex­tra steer­ing lock at the start of the launch route, which be­gan by head­ing through morn­ing rush-hour traf­fic in Cas­cais, out­side Lis­bon. The SX has three rider modes, with M (for Medium) cut­ting out­put to 75 per cent though the range, and L (for Low) chop­ping off an­other 25 per cent from Full power. The op­tions are worth hav­ing but throt­tle re­sponse is suf­fi­ciently re­fined that they’re not re­ally needed in the dry.

it’s a big change from the bru­tal orig­i­nal h2, and an ad­van­tage in most sit­u­a­tions. in­stead of lurch­ing for­ward slightly un­con­trol­lably, the SX feels much like a ZZR1400 as it pulls obe­di­ently if not par­tic­u­larly en­thu­si­as­ti­cally from 4,000 rpm or be­low, kicks harder through the midrange and from about 6,000 rpm re­ally comes alive, as the boost fig­ure at the bot­tom of the dial quickly rises from its base set­ting of 100 (per cent of at­mo­spheric pres­sure) to­wards dou­ble that num­ber.

By 8,000 rpm it’s re­ally steam­ing — bars go­ing light in the first three gears, en­gine feel­ing de­li­ciously sweet-revving as the tacho nee­dle flicks to­wards the 12,000-rpm red-line. it’s much like a very smooth ZZR1400 with a chirp­ing sound as you shut off (ap­par­ently caused by the su­per­charger blades’ tips break­ing the sound bar­rier). i was glad of the Se model’s shifter, which worked well in both direc­tions. elec­tron­ics in­clude three-stage trac­tion con­trol, which has to be dis­abled for proper wheel­ies, and a launch con­trol that few own­ers are likely to use.

The fair­ing and screen did a de­cent job of di­vert­ing wind at speed, but i was dis­ap­pointed that the screen isn’t ad­justable, so pre­dictably gen­er­ated some an­noy­ing roar un­less i was in a racer crouch. iron­i­cally, the hum­ble Z1000SX pro­vides some sim­ple ad­justa­bil­ity. Project leader hi­royuki Watan­abe said the h2 SX’s ex­tra per­for­mance meant that adding ad­justa­bil­ity would have re­quired a very strong and, there­fore, heavy screen. The Ninja also lacks the hand pro­tec­tion

that a ded­i­cated sports-tourer should pro­vide. at least the Se’s hot grips were fairly pow­er­ful.

Com­fort and prac­ti­cal­ity oth­er­wise seemed pretty good on a day-long ride with nu­mer­ous breaks. The seat is quite low but bet­ter padded than it looks, and there’s a rea­son­able amount of legroom. (More than the ZZR1400 gives, ac­cord­ing to Kawasaki.) a pil­lion gets solid grab-han­dles. There’s a power socket in the dash­board, but no USB out­let or stor­age com­part­ment. The stylish GiVi ac­ces­sory pan­niers can each hold a full-face hel­met; there’s no op­tion to add a top-box.

as for fuel econ­omy and range, that’s per­haps even more de­pen­dent on how the bike is rid­den than it is with nor­mally aspi­rated bikes. Kawasaki claim the SX is al­most as fuel-ef­fi­cient as the Ver­sys 1000 dur­ing their ho­molo­ga­tion test­ing, av­er­ag­ing 5.8 litres/100 km. Maybe, it is and, maybe, some own­ers will set the cruise con­trol at a sen­si­ble speed, get over 300 km from the 19-litre tank and be de­lighted.

But don’t ex­pect to ex­ploit this 200PS su­per­bike’s per­for­mance and ride for hours on a tank of gas. Some jour­nal­ists re­ported bet­ter than 7.0 l/100 km at the rea­son­ably brisk launch pace. But us­ing the ac­cel­er­a­tion when­ever pos­si­ble brought the fig­ure tum­bling well be­low that, and se­ri­ous throt­tle abuse had the Ninja gulp­ing at 10 l/100 km. ar­guably only to be ex­pected, and just an­other hy­per­bike run­ning cost along with rear tyres and speed­ing fines…

han­dling was ba­si­cally very good, pro­vided you don’t take one look at the SX’s sleek lines and ex­pect it to be­have re­motely like a ZX-10R. With a kerb weight of 260 kg the Se ver­sion is nine ki­los lighter than the ZZR1400 but 18 kg heav­ier than the Ninja h2, let alone the 10R. its steer­ing ge­om­e­try is fairly con­ser­va­tive, its wheel­base sta­bil­ity-en­hanc­ingly long, and its sus­pen­sion set for com­fort as much as con­trol.

That was fine in town, where ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity was okay de­spite the clip-ons; and on the mo­tor­way, where the bike was im­pres­sively sta­ble at silly speeds even with pan­niers fit­ted. Steer­ing was ini­tially slightly pon­der­ous, but adding a few clicks of shock preload, via the eas­ily used re­mote knob, sharp­ened it use­fully. Ride qual­ity re­mained re­spectably plush and the Ninja dis­patched main-road curves with con­fi­dence and con­trol.

But in slower turns the bike’s length and weight counted against it, and were ex­ag­ger­ated by the bike’s rather abrupt de­cel­er­a­tion on shut­ting the throt­tle (prob­a­bly due to the to­tal fuel cut-off de­manded by lat­est emis­sion reg­u­la­tions). You can hus­tle down twisty back-roads rea­son­ably quickly, but you’re con­scious of a slight vague­ness and a fair bit of pitch­ing un­der ac­cel­er­a­tion and hard brak­ing. Firm­ing up the sus­pen­sion would doubt­less help to a de­gree but, in the ab­sence of semi­ac­tive units (which you might hope for from a posh sports-tourer), only at the ex­pense of ride qual­ity.

The Se model’s brak­ing was both pow­er­ful and con­trol­lable, though the aBS doesn’t work in cor­ners (de­spite the Bosch iMU) and the anti-lock sys­tem ac­ti­vated ear­lier than some un­der a heavy hand­ful. hope­fully, the stan­dard SX, which doesn’t get braided lines, stops just as well. i found the Bridge­stone S21 tyres fine, al­though a cou­ple of riders said they lacked con­fi­dence in them. There was cer­tainly enough grip to bend the long hero-blobs on track, and suf­fi­cient ground clear­ance for a de­cent pace be­fore any­thing solid touched down.

Per­haps, the fact that Kawasaki gave us a brief track blast at es­to­ril, but pre­vented fly­ing laps with coned-off sec­tions, sums up the unique, slightly odd-ball Ninja h2 SX rather well. it’s fast and ag­gres­sive but not a sports bike; and yet nor is it sim­ply a pow­er­ful, high­end sports-tourer. Think of it as some sort of nat­u­ral evo­lu­tion of the ad­mirably sen­si­ble Z1000SX, and you might be dis­ap­pointed.

On the other hand, think of this SX as an al­most-as-fast-and-crazy ver­sion of the out­ra­geous Ninja h2, with bet­ter throt­tle re­sponse, the abil­ity to carry a (brave) pil­lion and lug­gage, plus a more ac­ces­si­ble price, and this ad­di­tion to Kawasaki’s h2 fam­ily makes plenty of sense. Or, at least, comes as close to mak­ing sense as a 200-PS, su­per­charged su­per­bike is likely to do…

New cylin­der­head, cams and crank with re­shaped pis­tons have com­pres­sion ra­tio in­crease from 8.5:1 to 11.2:1

Steer­ing head moved for­ward by 15 mm; con­sole has dy­namic dis­plays

GIVI ac­ces­sory pan­niers can hold full-face hel­met; no top box op­tion

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