Kawasaki USA and Canada are teasing the launch of two new motorcycles for Feb. 1, and though we don’t 100% know what they are, we can make some educated guesses.
The single teaser image on Kawasaki USA’s homepage depicts two Jet Skis and two motorcycles, all under covers with just the slightest bits visible.
At least one model is expected to be the 2023 Kawasaki H2 SX SE. Kawasaki Europe announced an updated version of the supercharged sport-tourer at EICMA, giving the H2 SX an automatic high beam, but it hasn’t been added to the U.S. lineup yet.
The Auto High Beam (AHB) uses sensors to detect the brightness of other vehicles and streetlights and automatically switches on the high beam as needed. The system operates only in darkness at speeds above 20 kph (12 mph) with the dimmer/passing switch set to high beam.
Despite the European announcement, the updated H2 SX SE has yet to be confirmed for North America. It’s likely the delay was caused by getting approval for the AHB under U.S. regulations, and we’ll have to see whether the technology will be allowed.
Motorcycle.com can confirm that the Ninja H2 SX SE will be coming to the U.S., AHB or not, thanks to vehicle identification number data submitted to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The documentation confirms the H2 SX SE, with the model code ZX1002R. NHTSA also has a manufacturer communication on its website dated Oct. 11, 2022, regarding instructions to activate Kawasaki’s KVCS software before delivery to customers. The bulletin lists multiple models, including a reference to a 2023 ZX1002R, further confirming the H2 SX SE.
As for the other bike, we have a few ideas. One possibility is that it could be one of Kawasaki’s new electric motorcycles, either the Z BEV or Ninja BEV. While we know both bikes will be coming for 2023, we have reason to believe neither bike will be part of the Feb. 1 announcement. For one, it seems highly unlikely that Kawasaki will announce one but not the other. With the H2 SX SE almost assured of one spot, we don’t believe either the Z BEV or Ninja BEV will take up the other.
The other clue is in the teaser image. Kawasaki USA has been using a similar image to tease new models for a few years now, so we know what to expect. The covers are typically placeholders Photoshopped over studio images of the models. While the designer clearly did a bit of touch-up to stretch the covers to fit each bike, the general shape of the folds are too similar to be real. Compare the new teaser image to one from 2021, and the similarities are clear.
While the covers are fake, Kawasaki is also careful to deliberately show enough of the actual bikes to give an indication of what they are. You can’t really see much of the motorcycle at the back, but there is enough of the front model to give us a few clues. We’ve brightened the image below for a better look.
Looking closely at the rear wheel, we spot a green stripe on the rim and part of a spoke. Kawasaki typically has some sort of striping on the rims of models with black cast wheels, and the green color is no surprise for the brand. The length of the stripe does tell us something, however. On most models, the stripe runs along almost the entire circumference of the rim, but for KRT Edition paint schemes, Kawasaki uses shorter stripes with longer black segments in between. This holds true, whether it’s the KRT edition of the Ninja 400 or the Ninja ZX-10R. This suggests that the bike in the front is a sportbike, and will be offered in KRT graphics like the Ninja 650 pictured below:
The spoke design in the teaser is also completely different from the BEV models’ wheels. Both the electric Z and Ninja prototypes are based their respective 400 models, using a similar chassis and styling. But because they are powered by a modest 11 kW (14.8 hp) motor, they share wheels with Kawasaki’s less powerful models, like the previous Ninja 300 and the Ninja 125 that is currently offered in Europe.
Though we can only see part of the wheel in the teaser, it’s clear at a glance that it resembles the design used on more powerful models, from the 400s up to the Z900.
And while it’s possible Kawasaki could swap out the wheels from the electric prototypes for the production model, it’s far more likely the wheels were chosen to fit the anticipated power output of the motorcycles.
We can probably rule out existing models like the Z400, Ninja 400, Ninja 650, Z650 and Z900, as they have all already been announced in the U.S. for 2023. Instead, we can expect a new model producing somewhere between the Ninja and Z400 models’ claimed 36 hp and the Z900’s claimed 92 hp, and likely a Ninja sportbike with KRT graphics. That leaves us with one intriguing possibility: a Ninja ZX-4R.
Enter the Ninja ZX-4R?
We know a ZX-4R is on the way, since we first broke the news of a 399cc Inline-Four appearing in 2023 vehicle identification number (VIN) submissions submitted to NHTSA. Could we finally see it surface on Feb. 1?
Though we aren’t 100% sure what the Ninja ZX-4R will look like, there’s a good bet it will closely resemble the Indonesian-market ZX-25R and ZX-25RR (pictured below). The 250cc Inline-Four powering the ZX-25R claims an output of 51 hp at 15,500 rpm, which is a few horses more than the Parallel-Twin Ninja 400, hence the similar wheels. A 399cc version of the same Inline-Four would be even more powerful, but still well within the range that would require the same wheel spoke design.
The VIN submissions indicate two versions of the ZX-4R. Unlike the Indonesian models, we don’t anticipate a ZX-4RR model, but rather separate ABS and non-ABS versions. The ZX-25RR isn’t significantly different from the ZX-25R, with the extra R adding a TFT display, higher-end suspension and KRT graphics. Kawasaki will already have a narrow target range to price the ZX-4R between its existing models; it makes more sense for the U.S. market to make one model with a choice of ABS.
We’re going to need more evidence before we can 100% confirm the ZX-4R is coming on Feb. 1. What gives us pause is that the teasers have only been released on Kawasaki’s American and Canadian sites, and a new model as significant as a ZX-4R would probably be teased in several markets as well. There are still about 20 days before the reveal, so those international teasers may still come. At the moment, however, we’re not completely convinced, though the ZX-4R remains our prime candidate to join the Ninja H2 SX SE.
We’ll know for certain on Feb. 1, but expect Kawasaki to slowly release more teasers in the weeks ahead.
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