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Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade
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New Honda Fireblade still on top after 20 years

By Trevor Franklin -

First rides & tests

 03 December 2011 12:00

Honda’s legendary Fireblade is 20-years-old and while the weight, shape and engine capacity in fact everything about it has changed since Tadao Baba’s rule-changing 1992 original, the fact that Honda has retained the Fireblade moniker for its ultimate superbike proves just how important this model is to the Big H. Oh, and so does the impressive sales figure of 445,208 Fireblades sold up until 11 November 2011.

In celebration of this milestone, Honda’s latest, updated, 2012 version is tagged ‘20th Anniversary’ and wears discrete decals to match. By way of tribute, MCN looks back over 20 years of the Blade in this week’s issue but to see how this latest, updated version measures up, we got a world first ride at the twisting, undulating, blind crest-laden Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, more commonly known as Portimao. A near perfect launch pad for what should be the near perfect Honda Fireblade…

For the past three years Honda’s CBR1000RR has remained at the top of the 1000cc superbike sales charts despite the lack of class-leading power or headline-grabbing electronics. So why? Simple: the Blade is the complete package of good looks, usable power, speed and superb safety with the 2009 introduction of C-ABS (Combined- Anti Lock Braking System).

So if you were expecting that recipe to change for 2012 think again. No, there’s no more power or torque from the Honda’s 999.8cc engine. BMW and Kawasaki have been left to slug it out in the power battlefield. This leaves the Blade to rest on its polished laurels. 175bhp isn’t to be sneezed at and I haven’t met a Blade owner that has complained about lack of power for the road.

What the 2012 Blade has been given is a revised fuel injection system. Where the old model was alleged to have a slight hesitancy with small throttle openings, according to Honda this has been banished and fuel consumption has been improved by 10%.

This is immediately borne out in our test (well, at least the throttle response bit). Every opening of the twistgrip, regardless of speed, gear selection or revs, is felt as smooth drive. Of course the in-line four lump chunders in protest in sixth gear at 40mph, but it still pulls itself out of the mire to cut loose with its claimed 175.7bhp. Where the new injection settings prove their greatest worth is corner exits.

Read the full, world first, test in this week’s issue of MCN (30 November), on sale now. Don’t miss out on the latest news – subscribe to MCN from just £1 per issue.