Kawasaki’s new Ninja H2 SX SE takes on the MCN250 test route

Is Kawasaki’s new Ninja H2 SX SE the ul­ti­mate do-ev­ery­thing road bike, or a one-trick pony ham­strung by its head­line-grab­bing su­per­charger?

MCN - - CONTENTS - By Richard New­land DEPUTY EDITOR

Lust is rarely a slave to logic. What­ever the al­lure; eyes, mouth, face, or... some­thing else, there’s al­ways a pri­mal phys­i­cal at­trac­tion to suck you in. Kawasaki’s Ninja H2 SX SE lacks sub­tle beauty, mak­ing do in­stead with a mus­cu­lar bru­tal­ity and Trans­form­ers an­gu­lar­ity that will ap­peal to some, but it’s what’s hid­ing up its skirt that re­ally turns me on. When the orig­i­nal Ninja H2 made its de­but the buzz was all about bold power claims from the rev­o­lu­tion­ary su­per­charged 998cc en­gine. But while it was one hell of a ride, it lacked re­fine­ment and us­abil­ity. There were many ponies, but only one trick, and that got bor­ing af­ter the twenty-fifth time you’d

slowed down just so you could surf the adren­a­line of nail­ing it again. Kawasaki’s end-game was al­ways to take their in-house de­vel­oped su­per­charger tech and democra­tise it for the masses, and this is their first at­tempt. Don’t let the Ninja H2 moniker fool you, this isn’t a loosely dis­guised orig­i­nal wear­ing a dif­fer­ent dress. They ride noth­ing like one an­other in the ar­eas that mat­ter. Where once the en­gine’s de­liv­ery was a sledge­ham­mer that bru­tally wiped out the tar­mac be­tween you and the hori­zon, it’s now one of the most pleas­ing pow­er­plants on the road. Gluti­nous dol­lops of torque and power mean that it’ll pull from 2500rpm in sixth with the sort of surg­ing drive that an elec­tric train would be proud of. But get the blue bar climb­ing on the dash as the su­per­charger’s im­peller ac­cel­er­ates through the sound bar­rier, and it feels as vis­ceral as a su­per­bike mill. It’s that light­ness and emo­tive ag­gres­sion in the en­gine that de­fines the ride, but doesn’t dom­i­nate it. You never lose the sense of the SX’s mass, but the speed at which the en­gine picks up its skirt fools your brain into shed­ding 50 ki­los off its mea­sured weight. The il­lu­sion is per­pet­u­ated by how the SX han­dles, and the sub­tle sup­port af­forded by the elec­tron­ics pack­ages, too. There’s no semi-ac­tive sus­pen­sion and that’s a tick in the ‘pros’ col­umn for me. Very few electronic sys­tems work with­out dis­tract­ing quirks (BMW’s Dy­namic ESA be­ing one ex­cep­tion), while the SX’s well­com­posed me­chan­i­cal hard­ware de­liv­ers great con­sis­tency and feel. On bumpy back roads and bil­liard-smooth A-road sweep­ers along the MCN250, the SX feels pli­ant and com­posed. The sup­port un­der brak­ing is excellent, es­pe­cially for such a big bus, and its sta­bil­ity and mid-corner se­cu­rity mean you soon find yourself push­ing harder than you might have ex­pected pos­si­ble. There has been crit­i­cism over its lack of con­joined rider aids, but I’m not jump­ing on that band­wagon ei­ther. I’ve cov­ered over 3000 miles on this bike, and with the ex­cep­tion of a few miles in the var­i­ous modes for the sake of re­search, it lives in full power mode, with the trac­tion con­trol set to the least in­tru­sive ‘1’. Wet or dry, I’ve found no need to stray from those set­tings.

The only throt­tle crit­i­cism is how it picks up from com­pletely

closed at low speed, where there’s a re­sis­tance that you learn to pre­empt by pick­ing up the throt­tle early as you exit tight corners or round­abouts, eras­ing that fall­ing sen­sa­tion be­fore the drive ar­rives. But the ac­tion is silky, and the electronic safety nets su­perb, es­pe­cially the deft in­ter­ven­tion from the anti-wheelie. With so much mumbo in your right wrist, the SX will lift with ease un­der hard ac­cel­er­a­tion, and by the time you fac­tor in crests, bumps or wil­ful bru­tal­ity, the front tyre can spend a lot of time sep­a­rated from the tar­mac. But rather than cut­ting the pup­pet’s strings and thump­ing you back to terra firma, the anti-fun sys­tems gen­tly lower the an­gu­lar nose with­out ever re­ally rob­bing you of for­ward mo­men­tum. The ABS and trac­tion con­trol work sim­i­larly seam­lessly when pro­voked, but you’ve got to be push­ing, or brak­ing, very hard to make ei­ther in­ter­vene.

Much of that is down to the over­all chas­sis pack­age. The steel trel­lis frame ab­sorbs and con­trols

‘It’s a near-per­fect half­way house be­tween tour­ing soft­ness and su­per­bike rigid­ity’

‘Prac­ti­cal­ity com­bined with an un­der­tone of pure men­ace’

with enough flex and ten­sion to en­able both grip and rid­ing com­fort, de­liv­er­ing a near-per­fect half­way house be­tween tour­ing soft­ness and su­per­bike rigid­ity. The bal­ance that en­gen­ders then di­rectly con­trib­utes to less reliance on the well-honed rider aids. But none of this ex­plains what makes the SX feel so spe­cial. It’s ar­guably lack­ing the head­line spec, bells, whis­tles and cock­tail um­brel­las that oth­ers rely on. It’s not a con­ven­tional beauty, ei­ther. And yet you feel priv­i­leged on board. There’s an ooz­ing aura of build qual­ity and slick­ness, a soundtrack that’s as ad­dic­tive as any il­licit in­jected con­coc­tion, and the ever-present sen­sa­tion that some­thing spe­cial is hap­pen­ing.

The di­ver­sity of the MCN250 ought to ex­pose mul­ti­ple weak­nesses, but it merely un­der­lines its ver­sa­til­ity. There’s nowhere where it feels frus­trat­ingly ill at ease and so many places, from empty sin­u­ous B-roads to bolt-up­right mo­tor­way schleps, where it feels born to do it.

It’s the very em­bod­i­ment of a sports-tourer: nei­ther one thing nor the other, but a per­fectly bal­anced bas­tardi­s­a­tion of both. A dev­as­tat­ingly ef­fec­tive road bike that de­liv­ers prac­ti­cal­ity com­bined with an un­der­tone of pure men­ace.

KAWASAKI NINJA H2 SX SE TOURER £18,899

Good chas­sis man­ners and big grunt make it fun through corners

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