Following up on our initial ride report, we wanted to provide readers a more thorough review and technical introduction to the all-new Honda CBR650F.
Honda knows inline, four-cylinder engine designs as well as anyone with a heritage that extends back decades. The 649cc inline four, DOHC, fuel injected engine found in the CBR650F is entirely new and purpose built by Honda for this model. Honda’s goal was good peak horsepower that exceeds that offered by singles and twins in the mid-displacement category, together with a very broad powerband offering excellent usability on the street. The engine displacement is nearly 10% larger than supersport engines, further adding to the low rpm performance.
A six-speed transmission drives power to the fat, 180 section rear tire. Both the front and rear tires are 17″, accepting modern sportbike radial designs. We tested on excellent Dunlops.
The main frame is a perimeter steel design, with a shapely aluminum swingarm out back. Curb weight, with the 4.5 gallon fuel tank full is 461 pounds. Identical to the wet weight of Kawasaki’s 650 twin that holds slightly less fuel.
Honda worked hard at centralizing the mass of the bike, and it feels light when you pick it off the side stand, and ride it. The ergonomics are a compromise between aggressive sportbike and bolt upright dual sport. Because the rider sits very close to the steering head (part of Honda’s mass centralization efforts), the seating position seems more upright than it really is. The reach to the bars is easy.
The seat height is 31.9 inches, not particularly short, but the narrow mid-section makes reaching the ground relatively easy. A short, female journalist at the launch seemed to have little trouble in this regard.
The largely non-adjustable suspension includes a 41 mm fork, and a single shock with stepped preload adjustability. The CBR650F has some serious braking power from dual 320 mm front discs and a single 240 mm rear disc. The front discs are squeezed by two-piston calipers.
Honda designed a unique dash for this new model that includes two large LCDs, that incorporate a speedometer, digital tach, clock, trip meter and fuel gauge. Legibility was excellent … notably better than some of the other digital instrument panels we have seen lately. Even the digital tach provided excellent contrast, and could be quickly read.
The styling of the bodywork impressed us, as did the beautiful solid color paint finishes. This is a very attractive motorcycle that sacrifices nothing aesthetically in comparison to most modern sports machines. Honda even went to the trouble of creating a window in the fairing to see the beautiful exhaust header tubes that are purposely reminiscent of the 1974 CB400 four-cylinder machine. The shapely design of the aluminum-extruded swingarm, as well as the thin-gauge multi-spoke wheels and petal discs give the whole machine a decidedly upscale appearance.
We were immediately impressed with the engine performance. A modern 649cc, fuel-injected, inline four promises pretty good punch, and the Honda delivers, but it was the flexibility of the power delivery that really surprised us.
Pulling smartly from as low as 4,000 rpm, the CBR650F has excellent around-town performance and manners. The fuel injection is very well calibrated, so throttle response never surprises you. Overall, this mill is smooth, predictable and potent.
Of course, it does trade the top end rush you would get from a 600cc supersport, but it continues to pull all the way to 11,000 rpm, allowing you to frequently hold a single gear from corner exit to corner entry … a rarity for a pure supersport.
There is some mild buzzing from the engine at high RPMs, but we would say the engine is generally smoother than most inline fours, and vibration was never an issue during our test. The mirrors remain vibration free, for the most part, and provide a good view rearward.
In our experience, Honda tunes non-adjustable forks better than anyone (such as on earlier VFRs and Interceptors) and the front fork on the CBR650F features excellent damping. At 200 pounds, our test rider is heavier and faster than most potential purchasers of this model, but the fork did everything from absorb everyday road irregularities to handling very aggressive canyon carving duties. Hard on the brakes entering corners while riding with a fast group, the front fork stayed up in the stroke quite well, and filtered good feedback from the front contact patch.
The rear shock is also versatile enough that we made one small change, increasing the spring preload one notch (from position 2 to position 3) to compensate for the weight of our test rider and make the bike steer more neutrally through corners.
As we said, the ergonomics are a compromise between hardcore sport and bolt upright, but they worked well over the 100 miles, or so, of our test. Seat comfort was very good, and both the rider and passenger seat are clearly more plush than seats typically found on pure sport bikes.
The six-speed transmission shifted without issue throughout our test, and the gear spread appeared to compliment the flexible engine well. We did not test fuel economy, but the fuel gauge seemed to move pretty slowly, and we expect Honda incorporated excellent fuel economy into this brand new engine design. Honda is not currently offering an estimated fuel economy figure for the CBR650F.
This is a bike that you could do pretty much anything on, from commuting to touring to canyon strafing. The handling is easy and predictable and the engine is smooth with performance that will satisfy most novices and experts who are looking for an all-around mount. Honda says crank horsepower should be in the mid 80s, and our seat-of-the-pants dyno does not doubt it. This will put peak horsepower well north of competing twins, if a good step below pure supersport machines.
We were really impressed with the braking performance, which was quite powerful and controllable. For a “budget” model, we could not expect more.
Wind protection was adequate, but could be better for long-distance riding or touring. The windscreen is low, and wind hits an average size rider in the upper chest area.
At $8,499 for the non-ABS models, we think the CBR650F represents good value. At roughly $3,000 less than 600cc supersport models, you give up peak engine performance and higher grade adjustable suspension in exchange for improved comfort, practicality and engine performance at street rpm levels. You also get a very modern, attractive design that will mix well in supersport/superbike company. The ABS model (Matte Black only) is $8,999 MSRP. All three available colors are pictured in this article. We wish Honda had offered ABS with all of the color options.
For additional details and specifications, visit Honda’s web site.