World First Test: Kawasaki Ninja H2
“The power and torque are immense – it’ll eat every other road bike for breakfast”
It’s not just one of the most talked about bikes of 2015, it’s one of the most important bikes of our generation. Kawasaki’s Ninja H2 road bike, and especially the even more visceral H2R track version, boast astonishing power figures from their supercharged 998c in-line four motors. And then there are the claims about the unique way in which all that power finds its way to the back wheel, smearing its force all over the tarmac like no other bike you can buy. But can the H2 really deliver on Kawasaki’s promises?
As the supercharged motor barks into life you already know there’s something different going on beneath the minimalist fairings. Blip the throttle and the supercharger whirs as the induction pressure sucks the landscape towards its nose, along with every curious human within its vicinity. It sounds like nothing else on the road; and even before I left pit lane I was falling for Kawasaki’s new H2.
I don’t think I’ll forget the first time I wound back the throttle anytime soon. In second gear the instant surge of power was vicious, the front immediately lifting as the tide of seemingly endless torque and power combined to fire me at the horizon. The traction control was working overtime as I tapped the quickshifter for third gear and felt no tail-off in its brutal aggression. Exiting turn two I threw fourth at it, and still it surged – and I wasn’t even using full throttle yet.
The acceleration is so strong in third, fourth and fifth gear. Think ZZR1400 and more. The massive kick of torque feels like you’ve just picked up a 200mph tail wind. By the second lap I was already seeing an indicated 290kph (180mph) at the end of the 1km main straight, before shutting off and bathing in the sound of the supercharger unloading on the overrun. It’s a unique experience, and I like the fact that it snarls back at me and isn’t effortless to ride.
Even short-shifting between corners delivers incredible drive. It’s like nothing else you can buy, especially in third and fourth gear where you’d expect the brutality to wane a little – but it doesn’t. It’ll eat every other road bike for breakfast in these two gears. Never challenge an H2 rider to a roll-on shoot-out, unless you’re on an H2R.
But you soon realise you can lean on the excellent traction control and let the clever electronics work out the available grip. Get the bike buried into the turn, clip the apex, stand it up on the exit and hold on tight as the rear breaks traction by a few inches, in third, fourth and even fifth.
Gadget fans will love the three different launch controls, quick-shifter, and engine brake assist – which can be deactivated if you wish, while the ABS is always on. The brakes on the H2 are identical to the H2R, huge Brembo radial items with massive twin semi floating 330mm discs. I was worried they may start to fade, repeatedly stopping 238kg from 190mph, but they remained consistently impressive.
I’d guess a ZX-10R would actually lap faster than a H2 (depending on the track), and the ZX-10R would stop and change direction faster thanks to being lighter. You could probably carry more corner speed, too. But the new H2 certainly is more superbike than ZZR1400, and you only notice the weight on fast direction changes.
It looks awesome, and sounds incredible. The level of finish and quality on the H2 is some of the highest I’ve ever seen on a production road bike. If you want to chase lap times get a ZX-10R, but if you want one of the most exciting road bikes ever built – this is it.
Read MCN’s full 16-page Kawasaki H2 & H2R launch special in the March 11 edition.
2015 Kawasaki Ninja H2, £22,000
Engine 998cc supercharged inline four
Frame Steel high tensile trellis
Power 200bhp (210 with ram air) @11,000rpm
Torque 98.1ftlb @ 10,500rpm
Kerb Weight 238kg
Seat height 825mm
(Pictures by Double Red)