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Stealth Ninja

The supercharged Kawasaki Ninja H2 redefines acceleration

There is a memorable scene in the popular television series Top Gear, where a visibly excited Jeremy Clarkson, the ex-presenter of the motoring show, gets his face flattened by the sheer acceleration of the Ariel Atom - an open-air, road-legal track car capable of the century sprint in 2.9 seconds - as the car's supercharged engine whirs in the background.

If the show had been about motorbikes, the machine in question would no doubt have been the Kawasaki Ninja H2 - the first production bike fitted with a supercharger.

Kawasaki's objective was straightforward: Create a motorcycle that would leave all other superbikes in its dust over a straight-line sprint.

To achieve this, the company sought help from its heavy industries department, calling upon its gas-turbine experts to develop a suitable supercharger and its aerospace experts to help with the two-wheeler's aerodynamics.

The result is a bike that looks like nothing else on the road. The quality and level of fit and finish have to be seen to be believed.

  • SPECS / KAWASAKI NINJA H2

  • Price: $55,000 with COE and insurance

    Engine: 998cc 16-valve inline-4 supercharged

    Transmission: Six-speed manual with quickshifter

    Power: 207bhp at 11,000rpm

    Torque: 133Nm at 10,500rpm

    0-100kmh: 2.5 seconds

    Top speed: 296kmh (electronically limited)

    Fuel consumption: 8.3 litres/100km

    Agent: Evershine Auto

The stunning mirror-finish black paintwork, for instance, is applied by hand and has twice the number of coats as most other bikes.

A compact supercharger sits behind the H2's 998cc inline-4 and it can spin up to a mind-boggling 130,000rpm. With ram-air, the H2 produces 207bhp at full chat. That is roughly the same power as a Toyota GT86 coupe, except in a package that weighs just 238kg.

The H2's performance figures speak for themselves.

While the 0-100kmh time of 2.5 seconds and electronically limited top speed of 296kmh are nothing to shout about in the world of superbikes, it is how the bike gets there that grabs headlines.

The H2 reaches maximum velocity in an almost unbelievable 10.9 seconds, needing just 900m of tarmac to get there.

As a comparison, the 1,200bhp Bugatti Veyron Super Sport - one of the fastest cars in the world - takes 14.9 seconds to reach 300kmh.

The H2's brutal mid-range is where it differentiates itself from other superbikes.

Hit 6,000rpm and, with the supercharger spooled up, the bike takes off towards the horizon with such ferocity that it numbs your mind for a second or two.

It pulls as hard in third gear and all the way to sixth as a regular superbike does in its first two gears.

The bike's quickshifter - which allows for upshifts without the clutch - makes the acceleration savage and relentless.

All one can do is hang on for dear life, find the next empty stretch of road and repeat the whole process again.

Adding to this addictive sensation is the constant whirring of the supercharger and the whistling of the wastegate when one blips the throttle.

Nothing else feels quite like it, which makes the riding experience so utterly exciting and one of a kind.

The H2 does suffer a little when the straight and narrow ends.

Its weight - about 40kg more than an all-out superbike - limits its agility when you start to chuck it around a bit.

Traction control, anti-lock brakes and launch-and-wheelie control are in place should one's ambition outweigh one's talent.

Even with these electronic gubbins in place, the H2 is not meant for novices.

The riding position is too aggressive for daily use and the snatchy fuelling, coupled with the bike's immense power, require a brave and masterful hand to tame.

But get it right, and the H2 is by far the most exhilarating and rewarding motorcycle out there.

If you think the H2 is too docile, however, there is a track-only version called the H2R, which produces a whopping 326bhp.

Only professional racers and daredevils need apply in this case.

•The writer is a contributor to Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2015, with the headline 'Stealth Ninja'. Print Edition | Subscribe