As satisfying as the RC8R's engine performance undoubtedly is, it's difficult not to get excited about its fantastic handling. Even with the increased power, you can position the KTM almost at will in all areas of a turn, making it seem smaller than it really is. Its overall agility is unrivalled by the V-twin opposition, with less effort required for steering inputs, and I doubt the RC8R will have much to fear in the tight stuff from any four-cylinder superbike contender. The fully adjustable WP suspension is literally almost infinitely variable, and the RC8R can be set up to suit practically any rider's weight, riding style, or stature.
There really is little to complain about on the new KTM, but if we're getting picky I still think the digital dash whose various displays are accessed via your left forefinger on the Mode button on the front portion of the left clip-on switchgear is a triumph of design over legibility. While the large digital speedometer reading is easy to pick up, the bar-graph tachometer across the top is much less so, and there's too much data on the screen to take in when you're really going for it, not helped by the script and the unit itself being too small. Plus, the two things you'd really like to know are still missing from it: there's no fuel gauge, and no gear indicator, especially with such a smooth, linear power delivery and flat torque curve that can be so deceptive. These oversights from the RC8 should have been corrected on the new bike.
Of course, there are still numerous neat detail touches on the RC8. These include the quick-change rear wheel system worthy of an endurance racer, all that ergonomic adjustment to help you find the ideal riding position, the high- and low-speed compression damping on the WP shock, the eccentric ride height adjuster, the built-in tank sliders that come standard, the quick on/off passenger seatpad and footrest hangers, the equally easy-off mirrors, the detachable rear license plate hanger, the grippy footpegs, the ultra-distinctive lights front and rear; just look at it closely and you'll find more. It's bling that delivers--form matched by function, all wrapped up in the most individual of styling packages--all with a really rewarding step up in performance compared to its predecessor. And KTM's build quality seems to have taken another step up with the RC8R, which if it were from an Italian manufacturer would have everyone raving about how superlative Latin design is, and how sexy all those trick components are. Well, Austria is Italy's northern neighbor, after all.
'09 KTM RC8R
Type: Liquid-cooled, 75-degree DOHC 4-stroke V-twin
Bore x stroke: 105 x 69mm
Compression ratio: 13.5:1
Induction: Keihin electronic fuel injection, 52mm throttle bodies, single injector/cyl.
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa
Rear tire: 190/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa
Rake/trail: 23.3 deg./3.8 in. (97mm)
Wheelbase: 56.3 in. (1430mm)
Fuel capacity: 4.3 gal. (16.5L)
Claimed wet weight: 401 lb. (182kg), all fluids except fuel