Kawasaki H2 SX SE

Kawasaki H2 SX SE + – First Ride Review

Kawasaki’s plainly ludicrous supercharged H2 gets a shirt and tie and tries to be somewhat presentable… The Kawasaki H2 SX SE +.

Earlier in the year, I tested what I can only describe as the most clinically insane motorcycle on the market today in the Kawasaki Z H2 naked bike. I came away from that test quite convinced it was too much bike (at least for me) despite my love of horsepower and the stupid things you can do with it. Fast forward six months and I’ve just given back the Kawasaki H2 SX SE +, which conversely I can describe as one of the very best motorcycles on the market today. Confused? Yeah, me too.

Kawasaki H2 SX SE

The Kawasaki H2 SX SE + is a full fairing and bags version of the Z H2, with a few geometry and mapping changes to calm things down. It’s like the Z H2’s dad — he was a party animal back in the day but now he runs a business and wears a tie. However, there are still teeth when you need them. The SX’s supercharged inline four-cylinder engine pumps out close to 170 hp at the wheel, with torque a stout 86 lb-ft. That means more than enough go for any type of riding situation, but the manner in which it is delivered is more metered, more considered than the Z H2 could ever be. 

Kick the SX in the balls and you better hang on, because a supercharged superbike is nuts by definition, even if it’s lugged with massive side cases. But there’s a strange phenomenon at play with the SX in that it doesn’t actually feel that fast. It is that fast, but the manner in which it conveys speed to the rider is not as mind-warping as you might believe. Part of this is down to the longer wheelbase and shorter seat height over the naked bike Z, and the all-encompassing bodywork. At speed on the freeway, the SX is a stable green bullet. It slices through the air with such ease and soaks up so much of the road corrugations via the new semi-active KYB suspension that it can make the ride as relaxing or mental as you like. 

Kawasaki H2 SX SE

With a claimed wet weight of 577 pounds, this is no featherweight, but the motorcycle hides its girth extremely well. You’ll feel the weight if you get sloppy with your riding and slap the SX into corners like a 600, jamming on the Brembo four-piston monobloc Stylema calipers with abandon, but treat the SX like a two-wheeled version of the BMW M7 and you’ll get far more out of the ride. 

This is a luxury ride from Kawasaki, reflected in the eye-catching $25,500 MSRP price tag. It’s the kind of cash you could expect to pay for a Ducati superbike or a fully race-prepped ZX-10RR, but the quality in the finish from the self-healing metallic flake paint to the visceral nature of the motor and the poise of the chassis thanks to the electric KYB suspension warrants such money. 

Of course, there are multiple, programmable riding modes and adjustable levels of suspension stiffness you can play with, plus cruise control, up and down quickshifter, cornering ABS and cornering lights, LED main beams and you can pair your phone with the dash so you can see who’s ringing and not pick up.

Unfortunately, the screen is unadjustable, which isn’t as big a problem for me because for once this is a screen height and shape that directs the wind over my helmet instead of into it. Another downer is the indicators are not self-canceling. Both these problems should not exist on a bike costing this much, but there were bound to be a few flaws somewhere. 

Kawasaki H2 SX SE

Overall, though, the H2 SX SE+ is a hell of a bike. It’s got way more character than the Concours and it’s comfier than the ZX-14 ever could be, making it the big daddy as far as Kawasaki sport touring bikes go in my book.

Kawasaki H2 SX SE

It was a sad day when I gave this one back to Kawasaki, I can tell you that.

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