The supercharged Kawasaki H2 redefines acceleration.
AS if motorcycles aren’t fast enough, Kawasaki decided to fit a supercharger on one of theirs. The brief was simple: Create a motorcycle that would leave all other superbikes in the dust in a straight line. To achieve this, Kawasaki sought help from its heavyindustries division, calling upon its gas turbine department to develop the supercharger, and aerospace expertise to hone the bike’s aerodynamics. No expense was spared. The result is a bike that looks like the lovechild of a Decepticon and a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. However, the H2’s quality and level of fit and finish have to be seen to be believed. The stunning black paintwork, for instance, is applied by hand, and has two layers of clearcoat instead of one. The compact supercharger sits behind the 998cc inline-4 and can spin up to a mind-blogging 130,000rpm. With ram-air, this Kawasaki produces an incredible 207bhp at full chat. That’s roughly the same as a Toyota 86, except in a package that weighs just 238kg.
The bike’s performance figures speak for themselves. While its 0-100km/h time of 2.5 seconds and electronically limited top speed of 296km/h are nothing to shout about (in biking terms), it’s how quickly this Kawasaki gets there that grabs headlines. The H2 reaches maximum velocity in a hardly believable 10.9 seconds, needing just 900m to get there. As a comparison, the 1200bhp Bugatti Veyron Super Sport takes a “leisurely” 14.9 seconds to reach 300km/h. The H2’s brutal midrange is where it diff erentiates itself from other superbikes.
At 6000rpm and with the supercharger spooled up, the bike takes off towards the horizon with such ferocity, it takes my mind some time to comprehend what just hit me. It pulls as hard in third gear all the way to sixth as a regular superbike does in its first two gears. The bike’s quickshifter (which allows upshifts without the clutch) makes the acceleration both savage and relentless. To stop the rider from literally flying off , hip-supporting pads flank the rear of the seat. All I can do is slide my bottom into it, twist the throttle, hang on for dear life, find the next empty stretch of road and repeat the procedure. Adding to this addictive sensation is the constant whirring of the supercharger and the whistling of the wastegate when I blip the throttle.
No other motorcycle feels and sounds quite like it, which makes the riding experience so utterly exciting and one of a kind. Even in the midst of the H2’s ferocity, the engine is as smooth and vibration-free at 11,000rpm as it is at 2000rpm. It pulls cleanly from almost no revs in top gear, and is so torquey and flexible that it feels almost impossible to exit a corner in a wrong gear because of all that punch. The bike does suff er a little when cornering – its weight (about 40kg more than that of a 1000cc superbike) limits its agility when I start to chuck it around a bit. Braking duties are handled by a pair of massive 330mm Brembo monobloc callipers up front, which have huge bite. But even they struggle at times to slow 238kg of mass travelling at breakneck speeds.
The Ninja won’t be as sharp and precise as a purebred superbike on a racetrack, but I reckon you’ll be having the most fun pulverising your friends and waving goodbye to them on the straights. Should your ambition and ego outweigh your talents, this Kawasaki has traction control, ABS, launch and wheelie control to help keep riders in one piece. But even with these electronic nannies, the H2 isn’t meant for novice riders. The riding position is too aggressive for daily use, and the snatchy fuelling – coupled with the bike’s immense power – requires a brave and masterful hand to tame. But get it right and this machine is by far the most exhilarating and rewarding motorcycle out there today. If you think the H2 is too docile, however, there is a track-only version called the H2R, which produces a whopping 326bhp. But judging from this “slower” Ninja, you’d have to be an absolute nutter to try it.