2012 Japanese Superbike Shootout - Video

New upgrades shuffle the rankings and bring up the question: To TC or not TC?

Where’s the video? Actually we decided to produce two of ’em! The next page discusses street testing, while Page 3 centers around track testing, so make sure you check out both. –Ed

It has been a couple years since we last did a Japanese literbike shootout, because, frankly, the field has been quite stagnant for a while (save for Kawasaki’s total revamp of the ZX-10R last year). It took them another year, but Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha have all tweaked their respective contenders for 2012 – the CBR1000RR, GSX-R1000 and YZF-R1, have significant changes, while Kawasaki returns for 2012 with the same traction-control-equipped machine it introduced last year, confident of its chances.

Having ridden all of the players at their respective intros, we knew it was time to once again pit them against one another for Japanese literbike supremacy. Read the respective stories for details on the upgrades, because here we’re evaluating how they compare to one another. With the CBR’s improved suspension, the GSX-R’s re-worked engine and upgraded brakes, and the addition of traction control to the YZF-R1, the ZX-10R has some stiff competition this year.

2012 Literbike Shootout Street

If hype is all that’s needed to win shootout comparisons, Ducati’s new 1199 Panigale would have this in the bag. We’re out to prove that this year’s literbike field is closer than most would think. Welcome to Motorcycle.com’s 2012 literbike shootout, Part One.

Instead of a mega test with every contender, we decided to split the shootouts, first with the four Japanese literbikes, followed by a separate test with the Euro brands. The winners will face off in a head-to-head battle in part three.

2012 Literbike Shootout Street

All four motorcycles in this test are extremely comparable in price, varying only slightly from the $13,799 GSX-R1000, $13,800 CBR1000RR, $13,990 YZF-R1 ($14,490 for the World 50th anniversary color scheme), to the $13,999 ZX-10R. With virtually identical price tags, each machine still exhibits its own unique personality. Looking at the dyno charts, the Kawasaki has the others beat in terms of peak horsepower, but look closer and you’ll notice it suffers compared to the Suzuki and Honda under 10,000 rpm. So, too, the Yamaha.

2012 Japanese Superbike Shootout horsepower dyno

Based on that information, the new Suzuki looks to have the healthiest engine. Compared to the last Gixxer Thou we tested, the 2012 version has a generous bump in power from 5000 to 8500 rpm and leads to impressive figures up top (156.3 hp). Dyno jockeys might lay claim to the Kawasaki owning this test with its 160.5 peak hp, but its midrange output is weaker than all but the Yamaha.

Meanwhile, the Honda and Yamaha each plateau around the 10,000-rpm mark, peaking with 145 hp, more or less. But the way they get there is completely different. The R1 delivers best-in-class power below 4500 rpm before notably sagging while the CBR comes on strong and turns the tables – at 6000 revs, the Honda has nearly a 20-horse advantage over the Yamaha and nearly matches the stout Gixxer as most robust in the middle revs. Although Honda claims no changes to the CBR’s engine, our dyno testing revealed a hole filled in from 3500 to 4500 rpm and a slight decrease in power above 10,000 rpm.

2012 Japanese Superbike Shootout torque dyno

As usual, we took each bike to the roads of Southern California, equipped with the OE tires. We logged freeway miles, city miles, and canyon miles to get a feel for each machine. To really put them to the test, we fitted each with Pirelli Rosso Corsa tires and took them to the Streets of Willow Springs racetrack, joining our friends from Motoyard to see how they handled in an environment free of speed limits.

Once the riding was over, we tallied our scores and came up with a winner. Read on to see how we felt about each bike, both on the street and at the track.

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