For the past decade or so, we have been promised a V4 superbike from Honda – one that’s been based off the Japanese manufacturer’s MotoGP program. The Honda RC213V-S is perhaps our closest realization of that promise, though the $184,000 price tag was considerably more than many envisioned.
Now the rumors are rife again, with a V4-powered superbike said to be coming our way for the 2017 model year, in parallel of course with a new inline-four powered CBR1000RR as well.
Like the rumors of old, this current excitement comes from the insatiably minds at MCN, and while there is certainly evidence for the rumor, when you drill down into the facts, Honda’s plan is far from certain.
What we do know is that a new Honda CBR1000RR will debut for the 2017 model year. It will feature traction control and other electronic packages, and make more horsepower than the current edition. This information is painfully obvious, of course, as it is what Honda has to deliver in order to stay relevant.
However, the real story that MCN is hyping is that Honda is considering other sport bike options as well, namely a V4 project.
Whether that model will be brand new Honda RVF1000R or a watered down version of the Honda RC213V-S (which was a watered down version of the Honda RCV1000R, which itself was a watered down version of the Honda RC213V race bike) remains to be seen, and very much up for debate at Honda, apparently.
MCN quotes Honda’s head of R&D, Tetsuo Suzuki as saying the following:
“The three options open to us include a new replacement for the Fireblade, the RVF1000 you have mentioned and also a cheaper version of the RC213V-S. We will be studying all three in parallel and all are under serious consideration, but it is likely there will be one or perhaps two of the three options made for production.”
As you can see, the future of Honda’s superbike is far from certain. However, there exists some interesting takeaways from this news.
First, the news shows us that Honda is considering a move away from a inline-four superbike for consumers. Second, it shows us that Honda is considering a dual-approach to its superbike offering, with separate bikes aimed at street and track enthusiasts.
The prior is interesting only in that it would add some diversity to the Japanese superbike landscape, which is exclusively dominated by inline-four powered machines.
The latter points is a much more interesting prospect though, as it is similar to Yamaha’s approach with the YZF-R1, which sees three versions of the machine built for the public: the Yamaha YZF-R1S is built for street riders, while the Yamaha YZF-R1M is supposed to be the ideal track bike. The “regular” Yamaha YZF-R1 sits somewhere in the middle.
Honda says that it wants to keep the “CBR” brand a street bike brand, first. This then could leave room for Honda to make a more track-focused motorcycle out of the “RVF” brand, a model that is likely to be a homologation special, and be the machine the company campaigns in the World Superbike Championship.
Honda certainly has a history of this strategy, and it has brought us highly collectible machines like the RC-30 and RC-45. Two-wheeled speed freaks should rejoice at this prospect.
There is a fly in the ointment though, in fact, there are two of them. First, this is the same motorcycle brand that perpetuated the idea that the sport bike market was dead, and thus has sold us essentially the same machine for the past nine years.
It seems strange now that Honda would think that the market could support not only a new CBR1000RR, but then double-down with a V4-powered “RVF” model as well.
Weirder things have happened – I mean, I have seen a polar bear ride a tricycle – but the logic here goes against everything Big Red has been telling us…for as long as we can remember.
Second and perhaps the stickier issue is the time it takes to develop a new model, which is typically around three to five years for most OEMs.
If Honda is still unsure of what its plans are for 2017, here at the conclusion of 2015, it seems dubious that a new model could be developed on such a short timeframe.
Of course, Honda has certainly had more than enough time to chew on a new superbike design, not to mention conceive whatever iteration the company could think of – nine years is a long time in the motorcycle industry, after all.
The other answer is in the Honda RC213V-S, as a derivative model of that machine would take considerably less time to design for manufacturing, as much of the work has already been accomplished in the RC213V MotoGP program and RC213V-S collector bike program.
The question then is whether the market wants another RC213V-S type of machine. The working class pushback on the model would suggest no, however the 1% purchased the RC213V-S with vigor, selling out the machine almost immediately.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. As Fox Mulder is fond of saying, I want to believe.