First came the CB1000R; we found it a sharp alternative in the naked class between modern and retro. Then came the CB300R, and we were excited to see Honda push its “Neo Sports Café” throughout the lineup. And, now, CB650R makes three. The third entry in the line is a middleweight option seeking to battle in a crowded, and competitive, segment.
The CB650R replaces the competent but dowdy-looking CB650F. With the transition, the CB650R transforms into a neo-retro stunner, with sharp lines, upgraded components, refined quality, and a clear relationship between its larger CB1000R and smaller CB300R siblings.
One thing’s for certain: It’s a looker. The CB650R’s Neo Sports Café style features Honda’s signature compact “trapezoid” proportion of short, stubby tail and short-overhang headlight, complemented by a long fuel tank that also houses the ignition.
The round LED headlight is based on that of the CB1000R, and the rest of the lighting is also LED. The LCD instruments are also new, and is a minimal dash with Shift Up, Gear Position, and Peak Hold indicators.
The riding position is more aggressive than the CB650F. The handlebar is moved 0.5 inch forward and 0.3 inch down, with footpeg position moved rearward 0.3 inch back and 0.2 inch higher. Seat height is the same at 31.9 inches.
The CB650R features a claimed lighter and stronger chassis. The steel-diamond frame has pressed (rather than forged) swingarm pivot plates; it weighs 4.2 pounds, and its twin-spar design is stiffer around the headstock and more flexible in the spar sections which Honda designed for more feedback. Curb weight is 447 pounds wet for the ABS version—11.6 pounds lighter than the CB650F.
The CB650F’s conventional front suspension is replaced by an inverted 41mm Showa Separate Function Fork (SFF). The fork is held by a revised, forged-aluminum bottom triple clamp. Both fork and shock are adjustable for seven-stage preload.
Unbranded four-piston radial-mount front brake calipers operate with 310mm floating rotors, and are paired with a single-piston rear caliper and 240mm rotor. ABS is optional. The cast aluminum wheels are a brand-new, and lighter by 0.097 and 1.2 pounds front and rear.
With the powerplant, Honda aimed to “create the purest, most enjoyable midsized four-cylinder performance possible.” That means, for one, the power is up. The 649cc, DOHC, 16-valve engine is claimed to deliver 5 percent more power above 10,000 rpm. Peak power arrives at 12,000 rpm (1,000 more rpm than before), and peak torque is delivered at 8,500 rpm. The extra power was accomplished with more revs, higher compression ratio (from 11.4:1 to 11.6:1), and revised combustion-chamber shape. The valve train is also reinforced and valve timing revised, with new iridium spark plugs as well.
There are also features to reduce heat and friction: Asymmetric piston skirts minimize bore contact, ferrous spines on the outer surface of the cylinder sleeves reduce oil consumption, and a silent SV cam chain uses a vanadium coating on its pins to reduce friction. Internal water channeling from the cylinder head to the cylinders allows for the removal of extra water hoses.
There are new twin air ducts on either side of the fuel tank to feed a larger volume of air, producing more intake volume. The exhaust features a larger bore muffler—from 1.4 to 1.5 inches internally—to move more exhaust and create more volume as well.
An assist/slipper clutch is a new addition, and Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC) manages rear-wheel traction. This feature can be disabled.
No word on price or availability, but Honda looks like it has a very competitive entry in the middleweight segment on its hands. In a field that has largely abandoned the four-cylinder engine, Honda now finds itself with a unique engine option in a field of twins. The components are upgraded, and there’s a fair amount of electronics as well. This may be the sleeper hit among riders and fans.