2017 Honda Fireblade – Australian Launch | Bike Tests | Latest Tests | Top Sellers in Australia
2017 Honda Fireblade – Honda fans have had to wait a hell of a long time for this bike, but it’s been worth it. The sharpest Blade yet has now landed Down Under, and with it the world order looks set to be restored.
It’s true that since Carlos Checa rode the Hannspree-coloured 2008 CBR1000RR to double victory at Miller Motorsports Park in the USA, Honda has had a lean time on the racetrack with only the brilliance of Jonathon Rea giving some hope – before he defected to Kawasaki. The bike has remained relatively unchanged over those years with only minor updates. Now it’s back to the future for big red.
This Blade retains its good manners with a frame, swingarm and rear linkage of similar dimensions to the outgoing model. Appearances are deceiving though, as each of these components has been modified internally with different wall thicknesses to change the flex characteristics, making the bike easier to ride for longer and giving better tyre wear.
I did 60 laps of Phillip Island at the launch and can attest to the improvement gained in the almost identical chassis set-up. My old body would normally never consider that many laps in a day, but the Blade did all the work for me. Its light handling shone through, and there was none of the bucking and wallowing that I remember from my old days racing the ’07 under-tail pipe model.
Another major improvement is power. Most Fireblade owners in the past would have had to back away from a head-to-head speed confrontation with other superbikes due to a lack of ponies. Although the new 2017 engine is heavily based on the old one, it’s been internally uprated to give a higher rpm ceiling and more power. Honda isn’t claiming the magical 200hp (or 150kW) figure like some of its rivals, but it’s a hell of a lot faster than last year’s SP which won the Australian Superbike Championship. There was enough power on tap for Crankt Protein ASBK riders Troy Herfoss and Bryan Staring to be salivating after their first outing – they said that this bike in standard form was faster than their current superbike-spec old models.
In the CBR world electronics have been non-existent over the years, but that’s all changed now. The company that makes some of the most sophisticated electronic gizmos in the world has waved its wand over the Blade and blessed it with the full biscuit. There’s torque control, engine brake control and a plethora of power maps to fiddle with. There are three predetermined maps and two independently adjustable ones that you can set up as you please. I found that there was a big difference between all the settings, giving riders a massive choice of options.
Finally, the new fly-by-wire system is a huge leap forward from the throttle cables fitted to last year’s bike, and throwing those cables away is what really brings the Blade up to date and into the modern world.
If you are a Honda fan or in the market for a cutting-edge sportsbike, the new Blade is now back on the table as a real contender. The standard RR model weighs in at 196kg wet with ABS and all its bells and whistles. Of course, if that’s not enough there is the SP version or even the ultra-exotic SP2 version to really wow your friends. The standard bike comes in at $22,499 (+ ORC), which puts it in the same price bracket as its 1000cc superbikes rivals.
Look out for a full test in AMCN.
By Steve Martin