2012 Honda NC700X Preview - Motorcycle.com

Kevin Duke
by Kevin Duke

American Honda has finally relented and decided to import its most recent all-new model, first seen at last fall’s EICMA show in Milan. Unveiled today at the New York International Motorcycle Show, the NC700X is a multi-purpose, versatile machine with a big emphasis on utility, perfectly timed for today’s tight economic climate.

Most impressive is the NC700X’s price, starting at an incredibly low $6999! For perspective, consider the NC-X’s most obvious competitor: Kawasaki’s Versys. It retails for an extra $900.

Like the Versys, NC700X wears an adventurish costume that hints at off-road capability but doesn’t quite fulfill it. Both share a similar powerplant, a parallel-Twin engine. In the case of the Honda, it’s an all-new mill displacing 670cc and slanted forward radically (62 degrees) to free up storage space under the NC’s faux gas tank.

American Honda has decided to import the stylish and utility-driven NC700X to our shores.

The standard NC carries a conventional 6-speed manual transmission transmitting power via a chain final drive. However, Honda is offering a second-generation dual-clutch semi-automatic transmission as an optional upgrade. Like the DCT first seen on the ambitious 2010 VFR1200, the NC700 uses two hydraulically controlled clutches to automatically pull away from a stop and to seamlessly deliver gear shifts, but this one is lighter and more compact. A rider has a choice of three modes: D for regular use; S for sport riding; and MT for full manual gearshift control via bar-mounted toggles.

The NC’s powertrain is also the core for two other 2012 Hondas, the Integra scooter/motorcycle hybrid and the standard-styled NC700S, but neither of those will be making the trip from Japan to our shores. All share a 270-degree firing interval that mimics a V-Twin feel and use a biaxial counterbalancer to quell vibes inherent from a parallel-Twin. Four valves per cylinder are activated by a single camshaft, and fuel is delivered by EFI through just one 36mm downdraft throttle body.

The architecture of the parallel-Twin engine is key to the layout of the NC700X.

The engine’s long-stroke, undersquare (73 x 80mm bore/stroke) design and mild tuning emphasize efficiency rather than high performance. Honda claims a peak of 51 hp at a modest 6250 rpm rated at the crankshaft, which will likely translate into about 45 horses at its 160/60-17 rear tire. The Versys cranks out a relatively whopping 60 fillies. The NC’s torque rating of 45.7 ft-lb. at a low 4750 rpm is more impressive, promising a broad and linear powerband. Honda claims the NC700X gets a remarkable 63.5 mpg, which may translate into a range of up to 235 miles from its 3.7-gallon fuel cell.

Along with slightly more power than the NC700S, the 700X also has more than 1 inch greater suspension travel, a generous 6.0 inches from the 41mm conventional fork and 5.9 inches from the preload-adjustable rear shock. The long-travel suspension vaults the seat height from 31.1 inches to 32.7.

The NC700X is purported to be quite agile despite moderate chassis geometry of a 27.0-degree rake, 4.3 inches of trail and a 60.6-inch wheelbase. Its nimbleness is credited to its low center of gravity and mass centralization created by its inclined engine, diamond-shaped steel frame and underseat fuel tank. Its full-up curb weight is a reasonable 472 pounds. Add another 33 pounds for the DCT version that includes antilock brakes. DCT and ABS come at a premium however, bumping up the price by two grand to $8999.

Despite its tall suspension, the NC700X looks remarkably compact.

Braking is supplied by a 320mm rotor up front and a 240mm disc in back. Ordering the DCT is the only way to get ABS in America, which upgrades the 2-piston front caliper with and extra piston for the Combined ABS setup that allows some front brake pressure applied by the rear brake pedal.

Honda has designed the NC700s to be easy to live with, especially for urban types who want a versatile commuter. Its lockable, 21-liter storage area under the ersatz fuel tank can carry lunch for 10 or a full-face helmet, and it can be augmented by optional saddlebags and a tail trunk. Other optional equipment includes heated grips, wind-deflector kits, a 12-volt socket and centerstand.

Taking a cue from Aprilia’s Mana, the NC700X has a large storage compartment where a fuel tank would normally reside.

The 700X’s ergonomics are described as “open and roomy,” comfortable for city strafing or mile-munching touring, and its small windscreen and beak-ish upper fairing should deliver a welcome respite from wind and weather. A compact digital gauge pack provides instrumentation. Honda describes the Multistrada-esque styling as having “the look of an urban-assault commuter as well as a country road explorer.” Passengers appear to be welcome, as the NC has a decently sized pillion pad and large grab rails.

“Whether you’re new to the sport, a longtime rider or just getting back into the riding scene,” says Honda, “the NC700X offers the comfort, ease of use and practicality of an everyday motorcycle that’s also surprisingly affordable.”

So, although Kawasaki’s Versys hasn’t sold in big numbers here in America, Honda is taking the chance on the similarly themed NC700X that brings a greater emphasis on utility along with Honda’s vaunted reputation for building great motorcycles. The Versys is sportier, lighter and more powerful, but its price is considerably higher. Anyone smell a shootout brewing…?

Can Honda’s appeal to civility and utility at a modest price reel in American consumers?

Related Reading
EICMA 2011: Honda NC700X Unveiled
2012 Honda NC700X and NC700S Debut in Canada – MSRP Expected to be "Under $9000" [Video]
Honda NC700S and NC700X Coming to Canada – US Availability Still Uncertain
EICMA 2011: Honda NC700S Breaks Cover
EICMA 2011 Preview: 2012 Honda Integra Specs Released
2012 Honda Integra Announced; All-New 670cc engine with Dual Clutch Transmission
EICMA 2011: Milan Motorcycle Show

Kevin Duke
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