Facing greater threats than ever in the superbike segment, KTM struck back with the 2012 RC8R, now the lone RC8 model in the Austrian manufacturer's lineup. The recipe has been perfected, much to the delight of track day enthusiasts.
The latest enhancements include a revised engine with a new crankshaft that generates no less than 175 horsepower and 93.7 lb-ft of torque. It also delivers more low-end grunt and more flexible performance than in 2010.
Improved ergonomics contribute to superior comfort, while the upgraded suspension components and clever mass centralization make for even more agility than the outgoing model.
I had the opportunity to test ride the road-going 2012 KTM RC8R (the company also offer a race kit) at Autodrome St. Eustache along with Eric Moffette, a former superbike racer who now owns the ASM advanced riding school.
Mature and foxy
Truth be told, the RC8R has really come of age with this latest evolution. Once stripped of its taillight, turn signals and mirrors, there's no doubt that it ranks among the raciest superbikes in the world. Material selection conveys a strong sense of quality and racing pedigree. The biggest surprise on the 2012 KTM RC8R may be the super-friendly riding position, with adjustable footpegs, handlebars, levers and tail section.
On the track, the instrument panel is still a bit hard to read and engine vibrations, although more subtle than before, can still be felt. After the initial warm-up, I discovered a sharp, agile machine that rivals most 600s. At the same time, it felt pretty relaxed for a superbike of this calibre.
The lightweight and lively chassis of the 2012 KTM RC8R dissects corners with surgical precision, changing directions and leaning over the apex in impressive fashion for a production bike. My only complaint with regard to on-track dynamics is the engine brake control system that acts up upon entering corners and adds unpredictability to the process. It might have been an isolated problem, though, one that will easily be fixed by reprogramming the ECU.
Pleasant and charismatic, but…
|The 2012 KTM RC8R dissects corners with surgical precision, changing directions and leaning over the apex in impressive fashion for a production bike. (Photo: France Ouellet)
New pleasures await riders of the 2012 KTM RC8R. The company's V-twin engine is a steady, competent worker, but it makes it kind of hard to feel its glorious output, unlike a Japanese four-banger. There's just not enough gusto at higher revs, which forces you to upshift sooner to get the desired punch.
Actually, I felt like the engine was under-revving, which sounds ridiculous since it already produces more torque at around 4,500 rpm than most competitors including the new twin-cylinder Ducati 1199 Panigale
. With the 2012 KTM RC8R, you have to forget about full-power thrills and instead savour its playful character and extreme precision.
Responsive and balanced
|The company's V-twin engine is a steady, competent worker, but it makes it kind of hard to feel its glorious output, unlike a Japanese four-banger. (Photo: France Ouellet)
Riding this Austrian superbike is always a treat, even after several laps. The half-handlebars could certainly drop a bit lower, but I quickly got used to it. Make no mistake: The 2012 KTM RC8R's chassis performed flawlessly throughout our entire session on the track.
The front end is sharp and responsive, the brakes are powerful and easy to modulate, and the bike doesn't lack grip or stability at all when shooting out of corners. Let's not overlook the fully adjustable, high-quality inverted front fork and single rear shock from WP, which are ready to hit the track right out of the factory. The way it all comes together is hard to beat.
Sexy as hell, the one-of-a-kind 2012 KTM RC8R delivered efficient performance and showed plenty of great character on my watch. It builds on last year's improvements and continues to offer the most entertaining chassis in its class.
Improved transmission on par with the segment's best
Hard to feel the engine's power at higher revs
Half-handlebars are more suited for the road than the track