Ride Quality & Brakes
The SP comes with clever semi-active Öhlins suspension. The system is so simple to use and can be adjusted in four main settings: General, Brake, Corner and Acceleration. Within each of these categories displayed on the full colour dash you can change to plus 5 or minus 5.
For example if you want improved braking support you add, if you require better acceleration add again. Or if you want less, then simply select less – and if you muck it up completely, you can revert to the standard Honda settings.
Corner mode helps the bike through fast direction changes; again you can go plus and minus. You can change these settings whilst on road or track without having to stop.
And for those who still want to adjust conventional compression and re-bound, Honda have created three standard modes; M1 Track, M2 Winding and M3 Street. You can add and reduce compression and rebound in 5% increments, and again there is a default setting if you get it wrong.
But if you’re in the manual mode the suspension is more conventional and not semi-active, but can be changed electronically on the move by the rider.
Rake and trail are 23°/96mm but the hollow die-cast twin-spar aluminium frame’s rigidity balance has been significantly adjusted to improve steering response, feel and stability. The frame walls have been thinned to deliver a 500g weight saving, rigidity is unchanged, the frame is 10% more flexible compared to the old model.
FireBlade SP2 goes and stops like it should
Frame, swingarm and Ohlins semi-active suspension is identical to the SP, but the lightweight forged aluminium Marchesini wheels make all the difference to agility and steering lightness on the road and track.
The SP2 goes and stops like it should, doesn’t miss gears, goes like stink and handles like Blades always have. It’s pointy, but stable and has more than a feel of RCV DNA coursing through its veins. The low screen and high pegs take their toll on a tall rider s eventually, but the SP2 is so refined, smooth and light the cockpit is an easy place to be for hours on end.
The standard Blade and SP share an identical engine. To seek out every last ounce of performance the Honda engineers have had to work overtime. The result is an additional 11bhp compared to the outgoing model, the loss of 2kg and raised rev ceiling to 13,000rpm, 750rpm higher than previously.
Peak power is now a claimed 189bhp @ 12,500rpm, with peak torque of 81.79ftlb @ 10,500rpm. Bore and stroke remain at 76 x 55.1mm, but the compression ratio is up from 12.3:1 to 13:1.
The 2017 Blade is the first inline four-cylinder engine from Honda to use a Throttle by Wire control and is driven by an Acceleration Position Sensor integrated into the right handlebar switchgear.
FireBlade SP2 motor’s top end is more robust
The 189bhp, 999cc inline four-cylinder motor is based on the SP and base model and has the same power, but the motor’s top end is more robust, ready for tuning. It has stronger pistons, more room in the cylinder head for high-lift cams (à la ZX-0RR), revised shape and angle intake valves (1mm bigger) and exhaust valves (1.5mm bigger), elongated spark plugs and like the RCV213V MotoGP machine, a new water jacket wraps itself around the reshaped combustion chambers.
Free-revving and packed with lots of usable grunt and power the SP2 may not have headline-grabbing bhp figures, but its power-to-weight ratio is formidable. But a loud standard exhaust means you’ll only be welcome on the noisiest of trackdays.
Road bikes are completely different to competition machines, of course, so some of the problems plagued by Honda’s high-profile racers at the beginning of their development don’t live here. Gear changes are crisp and throttle response consistent and predictable.
Build Quality & Reliability
The build quality and finish reflects the relatively high price tag. Take the very clever clocks, for example. Like the RC213V-S, the Fireblade uses a full-colour TFT liquid crystal dash that automatically adjusts to ambient light and features three display modes; Street, Circuit and Mechanic – so you can choose what you see.
Street mode displays riding modes, plus the settings for Power, HSTC, Selectable Engine Brake and Suspension. The on-board computer calculates instantaneous and average fuel economy, trip fuel consumption, average speed and time after last ignition plus remaining fuel after RES light and more.
Circuit mode adds a lap timer, number of laps and difference from the best lap, while Mechanic mode displays the digital tacho, gear position, grip angle, coolant temperature and battery voltage.
FireBlade SP2 is topped-off with that classy HRC paintjob
Build quality and attention to detail is flawless, as you’d expect from a flagship Honda sportsbike and it’s all topped-off with that classy HRC paintjob. The Blade has been around long enough now for mechanical problems to have been ironed out, so don’t expect any nasty surprises.
Insurance, running costs & value
At £19,125 Honda was asking for a big some of money for the most advanced Blade ever.
The exclusive SP2 only cost two grand more than the standard SP, but it could arguably be more special, in the spirit of the homologation superbike specials of the late 80s and 90s. But Honda have thrown the kitchen sink at it anyway, so what more could you actually want?
Semi-active suspension comes as standard on the SP. Additionally over the standard model there’s also a quickshifter/autoblipper as standard, and Brembo radial calipers replace the Tokico items on the stock bike.
The fuel tank is still 16 litres, but for the SP it’s constructed in titanium (rather than steel) saving a further 1kg. The now old Blade was lacking any rider aids but Honda has rectified this with a bucket load of electronics to aid the rider on the road and race track. As with many other models on the market, information is gathered from a five axis IMU which measures exactly what the bike is doing.
The IMU works in partnership with the 9-level Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC) which precisely manages rear wheel traction via the FI-ECU and Throttle By Wire (TBW). The new Bosch ABS braking (also managed by the IMU) offers Rear Lift Control (RLC) and Wheelie Control.
On paper this is an impressive array of rider aids, but there is more: There are three rider modes, five levels of power delivery, three levels of wheelie control and three levels of engine braking.
FireBlade SP2 has the same generous level of equipment as the SP
Honda’s ‘Torque Control’, fitted to the whole Blade range, trims power when you slide or wheelie on the road. It activates once and then releases its electronic grip, assuming the rider would have let off too. That’s fine for the road, but means on the track you can’t ‘lean’ on the electronics like you can with the best traction and wheelie control systems.
You get around this by fitting sticky tyres, so you don’t set the electronics off in the first place, or turn the Torque Control right down, or off.
Lightweight wheels aside the SP2 has the same generous level of equipment as the SP, so there’s Ohlins, Brembo, torque, traction and engine braking control, an up/down quickshifter and riding modes.