Why we’re all underestimating the Kawasaki H2 – John Slavin

h28When the first teasers of the Kawasaki H2R emerged everyone went a bit mental. It’s easy to see why, really – it’s supercharged and it has actual wings. But lips remained sealed when it came to its power output and performance figures.

Later, when Kawasaki revealed the track-only model’s peak power figure of 300hp, it seemed like all our crazy, lofty expectations would be successfully met. Maybe the road-legal H2 would get 250hp? Even 220 would make it insane.

Turns out the production-ready H2 will ‘only’ have a power output of 200hp, or up to 210hp with the effects of ram-air. That’s still a massive amount of power, of course – but compared to the latest BMW S1000RR and Ducati 1299 Panigale it’s… well. Less. And the H2 costs rather a lot more than those too.

It’s also heavy at 238kg – an S1000RR weighs 204kg and a Hayabusa weighs 265kg for some context. There is that supercharger, though – so surely peak torque is massive enough to stop the planet? Well… no. It’s 98.5lb-ft. Again, that’s less than a 1299 Panigale.

So it’s understandable that the various comment sections across the web are filled with people wondering what the point is.

In the world of cars, forced induction isn’t just meant to make you go fast any more, it’s designed to give you access to torque lower down the rev range. This is for the boring purpose of improving fuel economy, since you have to work the engine less to get more out of it.

h24“So what?” you all ask in chorus. Well at this stage we can only speculate, but what it likely means for the H2 is mind-bending acceleration. A supercharger works from idle speed and keeps working until you get scared and chicken out. None of that laggy, spooling up nonsense you get with a turbo.

That means most of the not insubstantial torque output should be available almost whenever you want it, regardless of gear. Torque peaks at 10,500rpm, but that’s irrelevant in the grand scheme of things if 90 per cent of it is available at 2000rpm.

In practice it means that exit speeds from corners should be huge even if you’re an oaf – wind on the throttle, let the supercharger and the electrics do their jobs and go incredibly fast. On the road it will make overtaking and licence-losing about as simple as snapping your fingers.

This is, of course, speculative. If there is an official power and torque graph out there we can’t find it – but based on these assumptions the torque curve should be fairly flat. Unfortunately for Kawasaki that’s not something that can be easily explained in an era of headline-grabbing numbers.

We’ll find out how the H2 and H2R perform in due course, anyway. The press launch is happening in the next few days and sales start in March from £22,000. Chequebooks out…

Check out more from respected motoring journo, John Slavin: @john_slavin