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.

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2015 Kawasaki Ninja H2 First Ride Review

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 slipper clutch 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 Kawasaki claims 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.

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  • Jim

    Well, this certainly isn’t what I was expecting. Is it awesome? Yep. Is it practical? Not sure. Can one afford the insurance? Probably not.

  • BDan75

    Awesome. But I wouldn’t want to be a passenger. The woman in the first pic looks to be one good throttle twist away from a date with the pavement.

    • Gabriel Owens

      Hold tight and clinch ya cheeks

    • Junker

      Ha, I was thinking she was about 4′ 10″ and 99 lbs. Can you imagine a normal sized girl up there 3+ feet off the ground? I’m sure that wouldn’t affect handling. (I mean the bike.)

      Fortunately I never ride 2-up so…

    • TronSheridan

      I can imagine about 0% of owners touring 2 up on this thing.

      • BDan75

        Probably correct. If I were in the market for this kind of machine, the hard part for me would be justifying it vs. a ZX-14R with some comfort/touring mods.

    • QuestionMark666

      Passengers are totally unnecessary power-robbing options that ruin handling.

  • Gabriel Owens

    Well Holy Shit!. Kawasaki is serious.

  • Mark Vizcarra

    whoa, got me a lil chub right there

  • Junker

    The styling is a little much for me, but I guess it is THAT kind of bike. The first thing that caught my eye in a negative way was the lines on the fairing sides. I’d like to see one in person.

  • Alaskan18724

    In black, flash to the original ZX-11. Not a bad thing.

  • DickRuble

    Why does the passenger on a touring rig have to sit so high? How does that help stability, how does that improve comfort?

    • Vaughan

      Sadly most bikes sit the passenger too high and too far back. Hopefully the retro fad will see some 70s/80s style long flat-ish seats soon.

    • major tom

      lThe footpegs are key. With the pilot’s rear set pegs needed for proper knee bend and height for wide tires and frame, the passenger’s pegs have to be high so their toes don’t foul the riders heels, they instead sit behind the rider’s calves which are angled forwards. Still it’s ugly and awkward. That is the price you pay for uncompromising performance. Everything is sacrificed, bigger airbox’s, so less gas tank size, and wide tires for halfway durability.and grip.Street bikes back in the day had 3″ rear suspension travel now it’s like a classic moto-cross with almost 6″

      • DickRuble

        Sounds reasonable. I am not fully convinced but you make a reasonable argument. Thanks!

  • Akumu

    Gimme.

  • John A. Smith

    Nice. But I’d have been happier if they simply offered factory hard bags for my ZX-14R.

    • StripleStrom

      amen brother John

    • spiff

      My bet is they will phaze out the zx14 altogether.

      • StripleStrom

        I’ll bet they will phase out the Concours.

        • Brent

          ZX14 is tbd on getting phased out.
          Concours is already getting the chopping block in some markets as it was never updated for Euro 4. Right now they are cleaning Euro stock, but I have no idea if that means USA and other markets.

    • Brent

      probably because that bike is too aggressive to be called a sport tourer.. It’s saving grace is that it’s so long it stretches out your body

  • John B.

    Electronic cruise control!!!

  • Gruf Rude

    Just what a small rider and tiny passenger need: 200 horsepower! Will this start the arms race to a supercharged 900 hp flat-8 Gold Wing that can haul the standard 425 pounds of American rider and passenger with hair dryer in top case to 200MPH?

  • Gabriel Owens

    Best news out of eicma. Hands down.

  • Merlin Stewart

    Wow, those are some impressive pictures.

  • John B.

    Most of the miles I ride are sport touring miles, but I am having a hard time figuring out this motorcycle. In particular, I would be hesitant to waste miles on this motorcycle droning long hours on the highway. I guess it compares favorably with the Super Duke 1290 GT, and panniers are a welcome feature on any road motorcycle. My friend has an H2 and pays about $6,000 a year for insurance. That would be a deal breaker for me on a sport tourer. I agree with John Smith below, and wish Kawasaki would put hard bags on the ZX-14.

    • Old MOron

      I was wondering where you’d been. Figured I’d find you here. And as I read this, I thought this bike would be perfect for your, “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.”

      • John B.

        I know you and I agree today’s market is flooded with fantastic motorcycles. If I owned 10 motorcycles and a couple trailers I could (theoretically) have the perfect motorcycle for every riding scenario.

        I’ve reached the age where I don’t like to take care of things. For now, one motorcycle is enough for me, but there’s no single motorcycle that’s perfect in every situation. All this to say, I would be thrilled to own an H2SX, but some of the details (insurance, tires) of owning one bug me. I read in a recent a book I read recently, the key to happiness is figuring out what is worth suffering for. Everything, even motorcycles, involves some suffering.

        • Old MOron

          My Griso always leaked oil from underneath the rocker covers. My riding pants still have oil stains on both shins. I tried using OEM gaskets, and aftermarket gaskets, but the one thing I hadn’t tried was doing the work myself.

          Finally I put my own hand into it. I sat in my garage on a pleasant afternoon and carefully scraped away the old, leaky gasket, cleaned away residue with a scouring pad, and generally made sure the surfaces were as clean and perfect as possible for mating with the gasket.

          As I worked, I kind of understood satisfaction and bonding-with-bike that people describe when they talk about doing maintenance. But my appreciation was short lived. We have plenty of nice afternoons in SoCal, but I want to spend them riding, not hunched over a needy machine.

          • TonyCarlos

            Stop with the suspense. Did you fix the leaks?

          • Old MOron

            Yes, long enough to trade the bike in for my S1000R.

  • Relayer

    Awesome. Little taller screen and hit the road. What’s it weigh? Tank size?

    • Brent

      564lbs with a 4.2 Gallon tank

  • Speedwayrn@yahoo.com

    Foot pegs look a little high and back for distance touring. Would need to sit on it to know for sure……

  • kenneth_moore

    Any word on price? I assume it’s in the $20k range. Is it coming out with the other 2018s? Will I have to pre-order one like the H2?

    • Brent

      Canadian pricing is starting at $21,899 so that technically puts it at $17,193 for the USA market. The SE version is $25, 299 so that will translate to $19,862 for USD

      • kenneth_moore

        Wow, that’s not bad at all. Thanks for the info!

        • denchung

          Keep in mind though, that the H2’s Canadian MSRP, when converted to US dollars, is about $24,000, compared to the US MSRP of $28,000. Until we get official confirmation for US prices, take the Canadian prices with currency conversion as a rough guideline.

          • kenneth_moore

            Under $18k does sound too good to be true. If it’s in the neighborhood of $20k, then it’s within my price range. $28k…nope. Hopefully the insurance companies will classify it as a touring bike so the rates are affordable.

          • Jeremy Scott

            This website is reporting the exact prices quoted for the Canadian and Euro market but has US prices of $19,000 for the base and $22,000 for the SE.

            https://riders.drivemag.com/news/kawasaki-h2-sx-z900rs-prices-announced

          • Brent

            I’m just going off the hunch that if the Canadian H2SX is 10k cheaper than their h2…

            The H2SX for the states would sit around 18-19k also… that’s just me

  • Bmwclay

    Forget all this hoopla. Isn’t 177 hp good enough? Assisted gear shift, shaft drive, probably standard OEM bags, and ESA anyone? How’s 7-8 grand sound? Just buy a low milage K1300S and be happy.

    • Deryl Clark

      and set a permanent appointment day to take it in for it’s monthly recall

  • Phillip

    Now this is a beast of a sport tourer

  • TonyCarlos

    Find me the female passenger willing to assume that position for a 500 mile day and I’ll marry her.

  • Motonut_1

    Just what I’ve always wanted to tour on, a bike that’s so fast I won’t even have to worry about the scenery. After all, looking at the scenery just slows you down anyway!

  • QuestionMark666

    I’m a strong candidate to this one. I was planning a K1600GT for spring but the size keeps me away. the R1200RS was just too bland. I do short rides, overnight rarely but I want bags, this looks FUN.

  • TronSheridan

    Mmmmm, daddy like. I put a deposit down for one just in case. If I decide not to get one, then someone in line behind me will…

  • major tom

    Kudos for Kawasaki! Have fun kids.I’m too old to pick it up if I dropped it but it would be fun to look at with a tasty little chick on the back as they flashed by.