Oh, what a time to be a motorcyclist. Traction control, ABS, ride modes—the tech race has continued to move forward at a breakneck pace. But now even these aids have become commonplace, just boxes to be ticked on the spec sheet. Look at the spec sheet on the 2018 Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX SE, however, and there is a single word that leaps off the page for those who have a thirst for acceleration: supercharged.
We'll put it right out there: This Ninja sport-tourer has a rush of acceleration that is unmatched in the segment, and rarely matched by a motorcycle of any type. The H2 SX SE covered the quarter-mile in just 10.04 seconds, crossing the line at an absurd 144 mph. Zero-to-60 happens in 2.98 seconds and the H2 SX will reach 100 mph 2.39 seconds later. Then there is the whine, chuff, and whiffle that come from the intake as the supercharger spins at 9.2 times the speed of the crankshaft to make, maintain, or dump excess boost. It's a soundtrack you won't get on any other hard-bag-equipped motorcycle. But there is also a plenty of Dr. Jekyll to complement the supercharger's Mr. Hyde. Down low and around town the H2 SX SE is civilized—easy to ride. For all this, thank the 998cc inline-four's 166 hp and massive plateau of torque that culminates in an 89-pound-foot peak, with butter smooth curves recorded on the CW dyno.
It’s got bonkers straight-line performance, but it also performs when the road bends. While the 594-pound wet weight can be felt hustling through cornering transitions, the chassis is rock solid once the bike is leaned over on the sides of the tires. Stability should be expected from a beast this long and low, but it also tightens up the cornering line and changes trajectory easily. Feedback from the manually adjustable KYB suspension and tubular-steel trellis frame lets you know what the front and rear Battlax S21 tires are doing at all angles and speeds. The H2 SX SE is highly capable of covering ground, no matter the topography.
Of course the requisite sport-touring bits are there: cruise control, heated grips, hard bags, and an informative dash. All well and good, but let’s be clear: None of that matters as the supercharger spools to 110,000 rpm and the front tire skips and skims the tarmac at 100-yard intervals, smearing your peripheral vision. Intoxicating. It absolutely is Cycle World’s Best Open-Class Streetbike for 2018.