Lifting its name from Kawasaki’s outlandish two-stroke, three-cylinder H2 (a.k.a. Mach IV)—1972′s hardest-accelerating bike—the modern H2 takes a different engineering approach. Its 998cc four-stroke inline-four uses supercharging for ultra-high rpm performance; on the CW dyno, it hammered out 189.8 hp at 11,100 rpm. Stuffing more than 35 psi of boost into an engine is the sort of enterprise usually reserved for drag racers and Bonneville speed-record types. To win this game, Kawasaki turned to Kawasaki Heavy Industries’ aerospace and gas-turbine divisions for help developing the technology.
Instead of the typical aluminum perimeter frame, the H2 features an unusual (for Japanese superbikes) steel trellis frame painted in Kawasaki’s trademark Lime Green. Other trickery includes a six-speed “dog-ring” gearbox, in which only the engagement rings (and not the gears) slide, allowing quicker shifts, an air/oil separate KYB fork and Öhlins shock, and top-shelf production Brembo brakes. A sophisticated Bosch inertial measurement unit (IMU) feeds an arsenal of onboard electronic rider aids. For 11 percent more, the H2 Carbon features a featherweight carbon-fiber upper cowl and silver-mirror matte paint.
Likes: Totally over-the-top engineering and performance
Dislikes: Totally over-the-top styling and pricing
Verdict: When too much is just (barely) enough