Bad cell phone shots of the 2012 Honda CBR1000RR leaked last month. But, here's the real deal; 62 high-res studio shots of the lightly updated model. "Lightly updated," you ask? Same frame, same engine (it's supposedly a bit smoother now) and similar styling from the new fairing. The big differences appear to be in the wheels, which are now a more rigid 12-spoke design, and the suspension, which adopts Showa Big Piston Forks at the front and an all-new rear setup Honda's calling "Balance Free Rear Cushion." Supposed to increase damping ability and improve traction, we'll take a deeper look at that in a few minutes. The big news is more what the new CBR doesn't have: it doesn't have more power than its rivals, it doesn't weigh less and it doesn't use any electronic performance aids such as traction control.

Click here to see how the CBR stacks up to superbike rivals like the Ducati 1199.

Update: two videos added.

That lack of TC is indicative of how hard this new Honda is going to find it to compete in the swollen liter bike market. The BMW S1000RR, Aprilia RSV4, MV Agusta F4, Kawasaki ZX-10R and Ducati 1199 all use it, effectively making it the liter bike equivalent of those “you have to be this tall to ride this ride” signs. All those bikes also make substantially more power than the 175bhp Honda. Most notably, the ZX-10R, which is priced at $1 cheaper than the new Honda, makes 197bhp and weighs 26lbs less than the ‘Blade.

In the absence of headline grabbing power, unprecedented light weight or even a similar TC system to its competitors, we struggle to see what unique selling point this new CBR hopes to capitalize on. It’s not as if Honda can still fall back on its traditional ease-of-use and perceived quality as it did in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, the S1000RR already has that accessibility and perception sewn up.

Availability: December 2011; MSRP: $13,800 (standard model), $14,800 (C-ABS model).


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