Review: 2015 Kawasaki H2

Review: 2015 Kawasaki H2
 

At last, the wait was over. Our turn had come, the two days on the calendar marked The Bike Show had arrived. The calendar in question is hanging in the workshop of Kawasaki South Africa, next to the bike whose destiny it controls. The H2 is a new kind of super bike, a bike designed to thrill with its performance, but also a bike that isn’t eligible for racing. The capacity may be right for a world super bike grid, but this 998cc in line four cylinder engine has a different agenda. Forget the rules, bring the power. A different kind of power. A force that is as brutally relentless as it is readily available. Forced induction is the key here, as Kawasaki has brought us turbine expertise from its heavy industries empire in the form of a supercharger – the first time one has appeared on a standard production motorcycle.

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Our usual modus operandi would have seen us head off to a circuit, you simply can’t explore the abilities of a super bike like this on the open road: 200km/h knee down exploration needs the safe confines of a proper track, but Kawasaki SA had specifically forbidden that option. Too risky it seems, which is a shame because the nearest decent corners are 300km away and we didn’t have the time. The powers that be decided that we can have this significant new model for a grand total of just two days. By the time I’d signed all the forms and hit the road we had barely 30 hours to get a feel for what appears, at first glance at least, a game changer. This is performance art that begins the moment you lay eyes on it. Whether it’s for the first, or the 101st time, the H2 grabs your eyeballs and holds their gaze unlike any other bike. The newly developed paint that uses silver in the production process means the hues subtly change as you move around it, shape shifting from Darth Vader to a demonic Manga character before your very eyes.

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Understandably, it draws a crowd. Many members of that crowd will be as pleased as you are by the fluttering sound of the supercharger as you pointlessly rev away, accompanied only by one of your stupidest, cheesiest grins. After impressing on lookers with the noise and drama of the world’s first production bike with a supercharger, it’s now time to impress yourself. Nothing you’ve ever ridden will prepare you for the onslaught which you are about to experience. The throttle response is a bit fluffy at lower rpm, and there’s a definite hesitation when you feed in the gas before the avalanche of power is unleashed. Rolling on and off the throttle can also provoke a little hiccup in the delivery, an irritation that would normally wind me up into full whingeing mode. That and the H2’s rather too frequent stalls as you come to a halt. Imperfections for sure, but all forgiven unconditionally the first time you crack the twist grip with purpose.

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No matter how experienced a biker you may be, you are going to be taken by surprise. In a good way. I’ve been trying to explain how this revolutionary supercharged engine feels to the many people who’ve demanded answers to the obvious question: is it fast? Unless you’ve ridden a 1 000cc super bike or sampled the delights of something like a Bugatti Veyron, you’re simply not going to be able to imagine how hard this machine can throw you at the horizon. Car up to 300km/h, this much has been tested and filmed on many occasions. I’ve done such runs myself, and no matter how familiar I am with what these bikes are capable of, it’s impossible not to be mesmerised by the acceleration. Above 8 000rpm, when the engine is really spinning and working properly, a modern naturally aspirated super bike is one of the most impressive machines, of any kind, on the planet.

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Kawasaki’s H2 manages to deliver that same sensation throughout the rev range. From anywhere just above tick over to the redline some 12 000rpm later, the H2 provides a form of transport that is the closest mankind has yet come to teleportation. I strongly recommend that you sell any unnecessary family members or body parts so that you, too, may experience the slightly disorienting sensation brought on by finding yourself in a 240km/h breeze only 10 seconds or so after shutting your visor. The peak horsepower and torque figures actually aren’t that impressive, in fact they’re pretty much par for the normally aspirated course. But figures can be misleading, and these most certainly are. On paper, it makes the same power in a package that weighs considerably more than your average race track replica. But just the one ride will tell you all you need to know: specifications be damned, this is the fastest accelerating bike on the planet (at least on the 1 600m high bit of the planet we live on).

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Having recently spent time with BMW’s S 1000 RR and Yamaha’s new R1, I can tell you, quite categorically, that they will be quicker around a circuit. It’s here that their razor sharp chassis and light weight make themselves felt. But back in the real world, the Kawasaki surely reigns supreme. That monster of an engine is paired with a tubular steel frame (looks great, better for cooling the super charger as is the lack of a full fairing) and a hulking great single side swing arm that provides an uncannily stable platform for battering the laws of physics. An electronic steering damper, traction control and ABS are the main electronic aids, and though they may not operate with the finesse of some of the competition, they do an admirable job of keeping this ballistic beast planted and controllable. Kawasaki’s H2 isn’t just a bike, it’s an event. Preceded by a huge amount of hype, I was almost tired of the H2 before I’d even set eyes on one. Happily, the wait has been more than worth it. If you’ve got R320000, I defy you to find a more exciting way of spending it.

The Facts: 2015 Kawasaki H2
Engine: 998cc 4-cylinder
Power: 147kW
Curb weight: 237kg
Transmission: 6-speed
Fuel tank: 17 litres
Price: R320 000
Rating: ★★★★

Mat Durrans