2015 Kawasaki Ninja H2 First Look Review From EICMA

Team Green Reveals Its Street-Legal, 207-Horsepower Supercharged Superbike at EICMA 2014

After blowing the lid off the superbike segment a few weeks ago at Intermot with its radical, supercharged, 300-horsepower H2R track racer, Kawasaki hinted that a street-legal, production version would follow soon. As anticipated, Kawasaki has revealed that production version, called the H2, at this year’s EICMA expo in Milan. We just watched that reveal first-hand and we’re happy to report that all of the H2R’s signature technology—including the super-compact centrifugal supercharger said here to produce 207 horsepower and 103 pound-feet of torque—remains intact. Finally we have some hard details regarding Kawasaki’s latest superbike technology, as well as a price for this new bike, which has been set at $25,000—a downright bargain compared to the $64,000 H2R.

The H2 shape is nearly identical to the H2R, with two key differences—the downforce-producing winglets have been deleted from the side fairings (though airfoil cross sections remain on the mirror stems) and a singular, center-mounted LED headlamp has been inserted between the dual ram-air inlets at the front of the fairing. The shape of the fairing and tailsection remain essentially identical, and maintain the same “flat” attitude in contrast to the forward-sloping angles more prevalent on other sportbikes—this flat attitude aids in ultra-high-speed stability, Kawasaki says. Even the color scheme—elegant, black chrome bodywork produced using actual silver ions and a reducing agent, complemented by a striking metallic green trellis frame—remains the same. A solo seat is the only option—acceleration this intense is best experienced alone.

Though leaked patent documents showed a two-speed supercharger drive, the production H2 uses a combination chain and planetary gear drive to turn the 2.7-inch, 12-blade impeller at a constant 9.2 times the crankshaft speed, spinning as fast as 130,000 rpm to force-feed cool, fresh air into a rigid aluminum intake plenum. Composite exhaust valves made from Inconel (an extremely heat-resistant alloy) and heat-resistant steel handle the elevated exhaust temps produced by supercharging; cast, flat-crown pistons, a lower, 8.5:1 compression ratio, and oversized big-end bearings are among the many changes to help the 998cc inline four withstand the added stresses produced by supercharging. A single exhaust silencer on the right side, combined with an under-engine pre-chamber, replaces the race-type open exhaust of the H2R.

Sophisticated electronic rider aids are necessary to control this outrageous engine output. Ride-by-wire throttle activation cooperates with KTRC traction control to provide 3 modes of slip abatement, and each mode further provides three levels of sensitivity that can be adjusted on the fly, for a total of nine possible traction control settings (plus off). An additional Rain mode not only maximizes slip intervention, but also reduces power output to less than 50 percent with gentle throttle response. Three-mode Kawasaki Launch Control (KLCM) helps the rider put all that horsepower down, Engine Brake Control (KEBC) reduces torque effect, and KIBS intelligent antilock braking, identical to what’s presently available on the ZX-10R, keeps tabs on the massively powerful Brembo monoblock calipers with 330mm discs. Finally, a quick shifter and Ohlins electronic steering damper are both standard equipment.

The trellis frame was chosen in part because the open design helps better dissipate engine heat and also leaves more room to package the supercharger and its associated plumbing and componentry. A single-sided swingarm was selected partially to allow the muffler to tuck closer to the bike’s centerline, to improve cornering clearance. Said swingarm mounts to plate attached directly to the back of the engine—as does the KYB-made monoshock—eliminating the need for mainframe cross bracing, further reducing weight (though claimed curb weight of 524 pounds is hardly light). The fork is the all-new AOS-II from KYB, based on the company’s Air-Oil Separate motocross racing fork. This is the first use of an air-spring fork on an on-road motorcycle, and Kawasaki touts exceptionally smooth action as the primary benefit of this design.

This is just a brief description of this amazing performance motorcycle—the introductory press release is over 18 pages long! Suffice to say that Kawasaki has broken significant new ground with the first supercharged production motorcycle, and we’re excited to dive in deeper and learn more about it—especially when it comes time for the first road test.