2018 Kawasaki H2 SX: What's Hot and What's Not?

John Burns
by John Burns

Revisiting the Emerald City

We already performed a complete road test with amazing video on Kawasaki’s amazing new H2 SX SE a while ago. But why let that stop us from revisiting the highest-ranked bike I ever raved about, with a 97.5% approval rating, and with the first engine I ever gave a perfect 20?


  • SMOOOOTH. She feels like she’s balanced and blueprinted. Do they still do that with hot rod engines? If you’ve been turned off of big inline Fours because you don’t like buzz, tingle, or vibration – you need to take this one for a test ride. Dual counterbalancers render it silky smooth. Does the impeller spinning 9.2 times faster than the crank cancel vibes too? Do steel tube frames damp out vibes better than aluminum beam ones?
  • FUEL EFFICIENCY: 40 mpg for a motorcycle that makes this kind of power is really good. You’re not helping save the planet, but, well, you’re not driving a monster truck either.
  • SUPERCHARGER! It simply isn’t done, sir. The Big Four all dabbled in turbocharging decades ago, but nobody’s had the gallstones to build a forced-induction production motorcycle again until this one. It’s about time.
  • More power: 171 rear-wheel horses on our dyno is a sizable stable, and every one of those ponies is beautifully saddle-broken and well-behaved. Also, for the truly never satisfied, it looks like the SX could blow right through the 180-hp barrier with a bit of tuning between 10 and 12,000 rpm, for special, limited engagements on salt flats and abandoned airstrips.
  • Suspension of disbelief: I thought it was Öhlins, so plush and controlled was the ride, but it’s KYB. And it’s not just the best-tuned suspension Kawasaki’s ever done, it’s some of the best suspension we’ve ever ridden period.
  • Cruise Control. The first Kawasaki sport bike so equipped. Don’t leave home without it. (Also ABS, IMU-controlled traction control, TFT display on the SE model, etc…)
  • Dog-ring gearbox shifts surely and shweetly, and plumping for the SE version also gets you an up/down autoshifter that’s the next best thing to having a full automatic transmission.
  • Rivermark. Kawasaki hasn’t affixed this special symbol to any of its motorcycles since its earliest models from the `60s. Everything about the H2 is a cut above Kawasaki’s normal level of quality, fit and finish – which is pretty damn high to begin with.
  • You can actually get one. Unlike the H2 and H2R, which required planning ahead and putting down a large deposit, it looks like you can stroll into many Kawasaki dealers and pick up an H2SX or SX SE for list price.


  • The sneaky way in which this bike builds speed will often have you surprised when you look down and see how fast you’re motoring. You’ll be needing some sort of radar detector or many relatives in police departments.
  • The seat’s slightly crowned shape isn’t a favorite of a couple of narrow, thin butts we interviewed.
  • Some are bummed that not only are the bags an extra-cost option, but they’re the same ones Kawasaki uses on its more pedestrian Ninja and Versys 1000s. As for me, any bags are better than none, and these work great and use the ignition key.
  • Well, some people just don’t want a green motorcycle, which the SX SE is. And some don’t want a black motorcycle, which is the only flavor for the base model SX. To me, the SE is Emerald City, and I just want to put on my ruby slippers and ride there every day.
  • $22k for the H2 SXSE and $19k seem like a lot of money for a Kawasaki. Yes, it’s true, but for all the HOTS listed above, I think we need to recalibrate our purse strings and understand that these go toe to toe with premium motorcycles from Europe. In fact, some would say (me) that these Kawasakis outdo premium motorcycles from Europe. They’re also much less expensive than the original H2 and H2R.
  • The most serious NOUGHT is that in spite of its bargain pricing, many of us including yours truly, probably can’t justify such an expensive bodice-ripper of a motorcycle. That’s really a HOT, though, because you know that now Kawasaki has this supercharger thing down, we’re going to be seeing it on other slightly more practical green bikes to come. Some of them may not even be green. Cheers!
John Burns
John Burns

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5 of 40 comments
  • Matt Howerton Matt Howerton on May 01, 2018

    Nice bike, cool technology. Now let's see the 100 rear wheel horsepower supercharged small bore that weighs under 350lbs wet and comes in well under $10k. Doable?

    • See 2 previous
    • Spiff Spiff on May 02, 2018

      I hope you're right.

  • Jeremy D Jeremy D on Jul 29, 2018

    Great, concise write-up. Well-done. I'm glad to hear that Kawasaki CAN raise their build quality, when they want to. They may be better than the Europeans, but that is not the target they want to shoot for. They need to aim high: Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki.