Kawasaki is known for creating seriously fast bikes. The legendary ZZR1100 started the top-speed war among Japanese manufacturers in the 1990s, with Honda countering with its CBR1000XX Blackbird and Suzuki the GSX1300R Hayabusa.
More recently, Kenan Sofuoglu aboard a Kawasaki Ninja H2R superbike hit 400 km/h on Osman Gazi Bridge in Turkey (watch the YouTube video; it’s fantastic).
I was understandably nervous when picking up the touring version of that bike from Mike Hopkins Motorcycles in Bellville, as it features the same supercharged 998 cm3 mill. When I asked the salesman how much the SX was detuned, he answered: “Not much.”
Supercharging a hyper motorcycle engine makes a lot more sense than turbocharging. As a supercharger is mechanically linked to the engine (and the boost production related to engine speed), it is a lot smoother and more predictable than the on-off nature of a turbo relying on exhaust gases to spool up. This volatile power delivery is simply dangerous on a powerful motorcycle and explains the demise of turbo bikes in the previous century.
Interestingly, the H2 SX produces the same maximum power as the ZZR1400 (albeit less torque) and also shares a similar wheelbase dimension. That is where the similarities end, however, as the H2 has a steel-trellis frame compared to the aluminium unit of the ZZR and it weighed considerably less (237 kg) on our scales than the claimed 269 kg of the 1400, resulting in a much more exciting power-to-weight ratio.
The front-end’s intimidating, outlandish styling sets the tone for the rest of the bike; it looks like no other sports tourer on the road. For the size of the machine, it appears modern, lithe and ready to devour the opposition. Mounting the bike, you realise it is not a ZX-10R superbike as the seating position is comfortable, the bars are easy to reach and your legs rest at a favourable angle. Comfort is crucial when it comes to touring, even when it happens at warp speed. There is cruise control, heated grips and a full digital instrument cluster that can be customised. Apart from all the information – including boost and lean angle – power and traction control levels can also be set. Cornering LED lights illuminate based on the lean angle. Enough about the specs, though; time to find out how it goes.
First gear, clutch out and throttle to the stop. As on any modern 1,0-litre machine, it takes commitment to trust the electronics while hanging on for dear life. The most surprising aspect is not the smooth building of power to ludicrous levels but the sound the supercharger blow- off valve makes when shutting the throttle; pure Group B rally car turbo flutter! The quick-shifter allows full-throttle shifts up and down the six-speed transmission, all while you’re scanning the rapidly approaching horizon for any kink in the road. Those brakes are crucial and up to the task when it comes to slowing down.
Somehow the performance is more controllable than on a full-on superbike because the long wheel- base and added mass inspire confidence. This allowed us to set the fastest ever 0-100 km/h sprint time of 3,26 seconds on a bike (launch control is available). Fuel consumption was another record during this test, but not for efficiency reasons... When that supercharger is producing boost, fuel is gulped in quantities not seen since the days of large-capacity two-strokes.
Kawasaki has created a sports tourer with an evil streak. While it has most of the cruising credentials to devour long roads, the supercharged engine urges the rider to squeeze the throttle at every opportunity.
On paper, the Ninja may not be worth the R60 000 premium over the ZZR1400 but the looks and ride are reason enough to take the plunge. Just make sure you still have money left to fuel the beast and pay the inevitable speeding fines.
FAST FACTSModel: Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX SE
Price: R310 995
Engine: four-cylinder, four-stroke, supercharged, liquid-cooled.
Power: 147 kW @ 11 000 r/min
Torque: 137 N.m @ 9 500 r/min
0-100 km/h: 3,26 seconds
Fuel Consumption (on test): 11,7 L/100 km
Service Plan: 6 000 km/12 months (first service at 1 000 km)