2008 BMW models




The revised 2008 BMW F650GS (powered by a 800cc motor)
The revised 2008 BMW R1200GS
The revised 2008 BMW R1200GS Adventure

The all new 2008 BMW F800GS



The all new 2008 BMW G450X

2008 BMW X6 Sports Activity Coupe




BMW X6 Sports Activity Coupe 2008BMW will once again introduce a ground-breaking idea to the world and the creation of a new segment with the debut of its all-new X6 Sports Activity Coupe at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show in January. The all-new vehicle redefines the very notion of a coupe - with five doors and four sculpted seats, a higher ride and loads of cargo space. It defies coupe conventions in one jaw-dropping look, combining coupe agility and SAV versatility, taking the coupe to a higher level.

As the world's first Sports Activity Coupe, the BMW X6 will be available in two engine variants: the xDrive50i (4.4 V8 engine, 400 hp, 450 lb-ft torque) and the xDrive35i (3.0 inline six-cylinder engine, 300 hp, 300 lb-ft torque), both with Twin Turbo and direct injection. The BMW X6 offers unique features and performance ability in a combination unmatched by any other vehicle. The new BMW X6's design combines the sporting elegance of a large BMW Coupe with the powerful presence of a BMW X model.

The BMW X6 comes as standard with BMW's intelligent xDrive all-wheel-drive technology with electronic control for variable distribution of drive power between the front and rear axles, consistently adjusted to driving conditions at all times and in all situations.

BMW X6 Sports Activity CoupeFeatured for the first time as standard in the BMW X6, Dynamic Performance Control likewise ensures variable distribution of drive forces between the two rear wheels. Dynamic Performance Control incorporates an advanced computer control and an innovative rear differential incorporating two planetary gearsets and two clutch packs that enables the system to multiply torque on an individual rear wheel. The result is that Dynamic Performance Control can help steer the vehicle by directing torque to either of the rear wheels. Unique the world over, this cutting-edge technology is effective whether the driver is accelerating or decelerating and significantly enhances steering precision and, as a result, the agility of the vehicle at any speed. In fast corners with abrupt steering manoeuvres or with the driver suddenly releasing the gas pedal, Dynamic Performance Control serves to improve the stability of the entire vehicle, thus allowing the driver to safely enter and enjoy new dimensions of driving dynamics. Finally, on slippery or uneven surfaces, Dynamic Performance Control provides the further advantage of even safer and more stable traction.

The new V8 engine with Twin Turbo technology and direct gasoline injection, is likewise making its world debut in the BMW X6. Displacing 4.4 litres, this eight-cylinder with maximum engine output of 400 hp and peak torque of 450 lb-ft available over an unusually large range of engine speed from 1,800 to 4,500 rpm, is the most powerful engine ever seen in a BMW X Model.

BMW X6 Sports Activity Coupe 2008The new eight-cylinder is indeed truly impressive not only through its outstanding thrust and pulling force, but also through its compact dimensions. For this is the first eight-cylinder gasoline engine in the world to feature its turbocharger in the V-section between the two rows of cylinders.

Hence, the BMW Sports Activity Coupe is an absolutely exceptional vehicle also beyond the direct range of BMW X Model competitors, ensuring unparalleled performance in all situations, regardless of road and surface conditions.

2008 BMW 1 Series


  • Competes with: Audi TT, Mini Cooper S, Nissan 350Z
  • Looks like: A squished, less graceful 3 Series coupe
  • Drivetrain: 230-hp, 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder or 300-hp, twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder; manual or automatic; rear-wheel drive
  • Hits dealerships: Spring 2008

BMW's pint-sized 1 Series hits dealerships in spring 2008 in coupe form. Two versions will be offered initially: the 128i and 135i, both of which feature inline-six-cylinder power. A convertible version is also in the works.

BMW says the 1 Series was inspired by the company's legendary 2002 coupe, and it does share that model's blocky looks, with an upright grille and less-than-sleek C-pillars. The 128i's inline-six makes 230 horsepower, while the 135i uses a twin-turbo inline-six that kicks out 300 hp; with the twin-turbo engine, the 135i can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds. Both models are also available with an automatic transmission if you'd rather let the car do the shifting.

With the 1 Series, BMW promises a pure driving car without too much gadgetry getting in the way. However, iDrive is available with the navigation system. Standard features include a 60/40-split folding rear seat, six airbags and simulated leather upholstery; real leather is optional.

New Cars 2008

2008 Volvo XC90

2008 Volvo XC90 photo

2008 Volvo XC90 photo

The 2008 XC90 is a 4-door, up to 7-passenger luxury sport-utility, available in 3 trims, ranging from the 3.2 to the V8 Sport.

Upon introduction, the 3.2 is equipped with a standard 3.2-liter, I6, 235-horsepower engine that achieves 14-mpg in the city and 20-mpg on the highway. The V8 Sport is equipped with a standard 4.4-liter, V8, 311-horsepower engine that achieves 13-mpg in the city and 19-mpg on the highway. A 6-speed automatic transmission with overdrive is standard on both trims.


2008 Volvo XC70

2008 Volvo XC70 photo

2008 Volvo XC70 photo

The 2008 XC70 is a 4-door, up to 7-passenger luxury wagon, available in one trim only, the 3.2.

Upon introduction, the XC70 is equipped with a standard 3.2-liter, I6, 235-horsepower engine that achieves 15-mpg in the city and 22-mpg on the highway. A 6-speed automatic transmission with overdrive is standard.


2008 Volvo V70


2008 Volvo V70 photo

The 2008 V70 is a 4-door, 5-passenger luxury wagon, available in one trim only, the 3.2.

Upon introduction, the V70 is equipped with a standard 3.2-liter, I6, 235-horsepower engine that achieves 16-mpg in the city and 24-mpg on the highway. A 6-speed automatic transmission with overdrive is standard.


2008 Volvo V50

2008 Volvo V50 photo

2008 Volvo V50 photo

The 2008 V50 is a 4-door, 5-passenger wagon, available in 3 trims, ranging from the 2.4i to the T5 AWD.

Upon introduction, the 2.4i is equipped with a standard 2.4-liter, I5, 168-horsepower engine that achieves 20-mpg in the city and 28-mpg on the highway. The T5 AWD is equipped with a standard 2.5-liter, I5, 227-horsepower, turbo engine that achieves 18-mpg in the city and 26-mpg on the highway. A 5-speed automatic transmission is standard on both trims.


2008 Volvo S80

2008 Volvo S80 photo

2008 Volvo S80 photo

The 2008 S80 is a 4-door, 5-passenger luxury sedan, available in 3 trims, ranging from the 3.2 to the V8.

Upon introduction, the 3.2 is equipped with a standard 3.2-liter, I6, 235-horsepower engine that achieves 16-mpg in the city and 24-mpg on the highway. The V8 is equipped with a standard 4.4-liter, V8, 311-horsepower engine that achieves 15-mpg in the city and 23-mpg on the highway. A 6-speed automatic transmission with overdrive is standard on both trims.


2008 Volvo S60

2008 Volvo S60 photo

2008 Volvo S60 photo

The 2008 S60 is a 4-door, 5-passenger luxury sedan, or luxury sports sedan, available in 3 trims, ranging from the 2.5T to the T5.

Upon introduction, the 2.5T is equipped with a standard 2.5-liter, I5, 208-horsepower, turbo engine that achieves 19-mpg in the city and 27-mpg on the highway. The T5 is equipped with a standard 2.4-liter, I5, 257-horsepower, turbo engine that achieves 18-mpg in the city and 26-mpg on the highway. A 5-speed automatic transmission is standard on both trims.




2008 Volvo S40

2008 Volvo S40 photo

2008 Volvo S40 photo

The 2008 S40 is a 4-door, 5-passenger sports sedan, available in 3 trims, ranging from the 2.4i to the T5 AWD.

Upon introduction, the 2.4i is equipped with a standard 2.4-liter, I5, 168-horsepower engine that achieves 20-mpg in the city and 28-mpg on the highway. A 5-speed manual transmission with overdrive is standard, and a 5-speed automatic transmission is optional. The T5 AWD is equipped with a standard 2.5-liter, I5, 227-horsepower, turbo engine that achieves 18-mpg in the city and 26-mpg on the highway. A 5-speed automatic transmission is standard.




2008 Volvo C70

2008 Volvo C70 photo

The 2008 C70 is a 2-door, 4-passenger convertible, available in one trim only, the T5.

Upon introduction, the C70 is equipped with a standard 2.5-liter, I5, 227-horsepower, turbo engine that achieves 18-mpg in the city and 27-mpg on the highway. A 6-speed manual transmission with overdrive is standard, and a 5-speed automatic transmission is optional.


2008 Volvo C30

2008 Volvo C30 photo

2008 Volvo C30 photo

The 2008 C30 is a 2-door, 4-passenger sports coupe, available in two trims, the T5 Version 1.0 and the T5 Version 2.0.

Upon introduction, both trims are equipped with a standard 2.5-liter, I5, 227-horsepower, turbo engine that achieves 19-mpg in the city and 28-mpg on the highway. A 6-speed manual transmission with overdrive is standard, and a 5-speed automatic transmission is optional.


2008 Volkswagen Touareg 2

2008 Volkswagen Touareg 2 photo

2008 Volkswagen Touareg 2 photo

The 2008 Touareg 2 is a 4-door, 5-passenger luxury sport-utility, available in 3 trims, ranging from the VR6 FSI to the V10 TDI.

Upon introduction, the VR6 FSI is equipped with a standard 3.6-liter, V6, 280-horsepower engine that achieves 14-mpg in the city and 19-mpg on the highway. The V10 TDI is equipped with a standard 5.0-liter, V10, 310-horsepower, turbo, diesel engine that achieves 15-mpg in the city and 20-mpg on the highway. A 6-speed automatic transmission with overdrive is standard on both trims.


Citaro Hybrid Bus Wins 2008 DEKRA Environmental Award




citaro-blutec.jpg

The Citaro bus, developed by Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz division, is pretty high-tech as far as urban buses go. It's a series-hybrid, meaning that the diesel engine generates electricity instead of mechanically driving the wheels. This design means that in the future it would be relatively easy to replace the engine with a hydrogen fuel cell, thus making the bus completely zero emissions at the source. But even without a fuel cell, the specifications are pretty good.

citaro-blutec2.jpg

For now, the main power source is a downsized 4-cylinder, Euro 4 compliant, diesel engine of 4.8 liters producing 218 horsepower (160 kW) at 3,200 rpm. "This replaces the 12-liter in-line six-cylinder engine of conventional articulated buses. As a result, the engine weight is reduced from around 1,000 kg (2,200 pounds) to 450 kg (992 pounds) or so. [...] The hybrid-drive Citaro also dispenses with a conventional automatic transmission, resulting in further weight savings and improved efficiency. The downsizing of the drivetrain components means that the weight penalty of the Citaro hybrid bus over a conventional diesel-powered articulated bus is only around one tonne." (!)

citaro-blutec3.jpg

The electricity generated by the diesel engine and regenerative braking is stored in a lithium-ion battery located on the roof. It has a 19.4 kWh capacity, and drives four 80 kW electric wheel hub motors on the center and rear axles of the vehicle (total output: 320 kW).

2006 Honda 599

Let's call it an exotic for the masses. An Italian design statement you can leave in the rain. Italian? But isn't that "Honda" on the tank? How can it be Italian?

Well, it turns out that Honda operates a factory in Italy, building dirtbikes, scooters, and the 599, also known as the "Hornet" in Europe. It's significant that it's made in Italy, because that affects the motorcycle's design and how it's received by Americans. According to Honda, it's the most popular street motorcycle sold in the EU, but here in the USA, the total sales will hardly be a drop in the bucket. It's a stylish, European motorcycle that handles great, is reliable as an ethnic joke at a Klan rally, and is cheaper than most other European street bikes, but Honda seems to have low expectations for the redesigned bike.

What price beauty? $7,399.

What price beauty? $7,399.

New instruments and a teeny-weeny bikini fairing are two new features for 2006.

New instruments and a teeny-weeny bikini fairing are two new features for 2006.

To help you understand why, we'll take a tech tour of the 599. We covered the bike in depth in 2004 during our middleweight standards comparison, but I'll recap a bit. At the heart of it is a truly wonderful powerplant, the 16-valve, water-cooled dual-cam inline-four 599cc motor from the F2/F3 series motorcycle. The motor makes a healthy 86 hp (2004 model) at the back wheel, breathing through a quartet of good `ol fashioned 34mm flat-slide CV carburetors like Mom used to make.

A six-speed gearbox and cable clutch complete that package. The motor is bolted into a steel-tube chassis with a large backbone. There's a steel swingarm bolted directly to a rear shock, and up front is a new inverted-fork front end. Triple-disc brakes and calipers you might recognize if you owned an F2 or F3 bring you to a stop. Aside from that, you get a 4.1-gallon gas tank, a seat, some instruments... and not much else. It's a simple, elemental motorcycle, what used to be called a UJM. *Claimed* dry weight is 404 pounds. Bene.It was an amazing fall day in Torrance, so John Seidel, Honda USA's assistant motorcycle press manager, gave us just a quick briefing on what was different about the new 599 before we set out for some riding in Malibu's canyons with development rider and champion roadracer Doug Toland.

Where did the machine go in 2005? I had assumed lack of interest in the 2004 599 led Honda to discontinue it for 2005, but John assured us it was too late to bring in the revamped 599 in for 2005, so it was held back a bit for release as a 2006 model.

The first big change you'll want to know about is the price. At $7,099, the 2004 599 was $500 more than the sophisticated Triumph Speed Four and a whopping grand more than the almost-as-fast but better-handling SV 650. Honda solved this by adding another $300 to the sticker. John reacted to our shocked gasps by giggling nervously a bit when he told us, but making stuff in Europe is apparently expensive. "[The price] is what it is. We can't bring anything in that we'll lose money on." The high price is probably what will keep Honda from shipping more than a few bikes to each of Honda's 1200 US dealers.

Upside-down cartridge forks don't take away from the light, slim appearance of the bike.

Upside-down cartridge forks don't take away from the light, slim appearance of the bike.

Who's Buying UJMs, Anyway?

We've all read it and heard it a thousand times, haven't we? "If they would only build a comfortable bike with decent power and a nice, simple look, they'd sell `em by the millions." It seems that American motorcycle consumers have been clamoring for new Universal Japanese Motorcycles (UJMs) for years.

Too bad that when standard bikes are offered here they sell about as well as garlic fries at a vampire convention. Of the million-plus motorcycles sold in the USA annually, only a small percentage -- probably less than 10%, although neither the Motorcycle Industry Council nor the OEMs will give exact figures -- are standards. A standard motorcycle, despite its simple and humble appearance, still requires the same laborious, expensive process any other model needs to be introduced and sold in the USA, from noise and emissions testing to producing microfiche and American English service and owner's manuals ("What the heck is a spanner, Verne?") to stocking spare parts for 20 years. It's a lot of work for a small profit, which explains the relative lack of standard motorcycles available from the manufacturers.

So why bring them in at all? Well, even though most US buyers want cruisers or hard-core sportbikes there's still a solid, if small group of folks who clamor for -- and actually buy -- lightweight sporting standards. Suzuki's SV650 is a great example, and Kawasaki is selling modest numbers of their not-so-bad Z750S.

Even though they expect only mild interest and success with a model like the 599, Honda still wants to offer it to US buyers as a smaller alternative to the larger 919 and just because influential employee/enthusiasts like John Seidell and Doug Toland think it's a fun product. Ex-roadracing champion Toland calls the 599 "the ultimate city scalpel", and Seidell kept referring to the bike's "fun factor."

Honda could take the safe way out and just offer what they know will be smashing sales successes, but according to Seidell, "Honda follows its own trail on some of these things, and we understand that the best-selling bike in Europe isn't going to be the best-selling bike here in the States."

Hey, at least we get glossy paint for the extra $300.

Hey, at least we get glossy paint for the extra $300.

Keeping it light and simple means no linkage, which means a harsher, less controlled ride than a machine with more sophisticated suspension.

Keeping it light and simple means no linkage, which means a harsher, less controlled ride than a machine with more sophisticated suspension.

It seems that offering a broad product line, even if some products don't sell so well is a good way to keep us walking into dealerships. A 599 appeals to a lot of people, according to Seidell: "The demographics that have bought this bike are really broad -- everyone from women and first-time buyers to the enthusiast, including a guy in Texas who races his."

Suzuki only brought in a few of their new DRZ-based Super Moto bikes, but they doubtlessly brought many more customers in to showrooms than they actually sold.

No matter how popular cruisers and sportbikes are, standard motorcycles will always be available to US buyers, even if the numbers are small. The presence of enthusiastic employees in the industry ensures a steady supply of fun, interesting machines, as long as a minimal number continue to be purchased.

"95% of prospective 599 buyers don't want to twiddle with adjusters and prefer that Honda set it up right for a broad range of riders and then leave it alone."

Other than those extra three Ben Franklins, most of the 599 is the same except for the front end. A big, beefy HMAS cartridge fork now gives the 599 a more filled-in look and similar internals to the 600 RR for a smoother, more compliant ride. A rival website's representative complained a bit about the lack of adjustment on the fork, but John reminded us that 95% of prospective 599 buyers don't want to twiddle with adjusters and prefer that Honda set it up right for a broad range of riders and then leave it alone.

The last big change is the instruments and fairing. For 2006, the instrument panel leaps onto the digital speedometer bandwagon, with extra-large digits so the police can see your speedometer from a helicopter. There is also a programmable countdown odometer, a digital fuel gauge, temperature gauge and a clock. The fairing is about the size of a Pop Tart but looks pretty stylish. And speaking of style, Honda is at least giving you glossy paint for the extra $300. Matte black paint is so 2002, don't you think?

Stepping outside to examine the new bikes, we can see that allowing Italians to build Hondas doesn't take away from that legendary Honda fit and finish. The paint is deep and glossy, hoses and wiring are covered and tucked away, and trim covers tastefully make the naked bike look finished and sleek. The new fairing is color-matched and hides the blocky instrument cluster well.

"Olive Oyl on a unicycle would be hard-pressed to get through narrower gaps in traffic than this little black beauty."

If you've ever ridden or owned a CBR600F2 or F3, the sound that comes from below the tank when you hit the starter should be familiar. It starts up without choke and settles into a perfect, smooth idle. The clutch and gearbox are smooth and effortless, if a bit vintage-feeling. Carburetion is just right. The motor revs quickly and pulls from as low as 3,000 RPM.

The 599 is a "city scalpel" designed for the crowded streets and highways of European cities, and with congestion in LA approaching European standards, that's a good thing.

At an urban pace, the 599 is a great tool. It feels like a much smaller, lighter bike than it is, with a low seat and narrow tank. In fact, it feels like a Ducati Monster 620 with a smooth, powerful motor and more balanced handling. Carving and weaving through traffic jams is as easy as a casual glance. Olive Oyl on a unicycle would be hard-pressed to get through narrower gaps in traffic than this little black beauty. If you can't lane-split in your state legally, contact your AMA rep and ask her why.

The 31.1-inch seat is actually lower than it sounds, as it is narrow at the front and deeply scooped. Shorter riders, especially the ladies, would do themselves a disservice not to consider at least sitting on a 599 saddle. Comfort-wise, it's OK for an hour or two, but angled down towards the tank, which is uncomfortable for my lower back after a while. Fortunately, the seat is big enough to slide around on and find an accommodating position. For the passenger portion, a grippier materiel on the pillion portion keeps your partner from getting too familiar when it is time to stop.

Stopping is easy, thanks to large, 296mm brake discs on the front wheel. Lever travel is short, and one-fingered squeezes were sufficient most of the time. The feel was surprisingly good, despite the old two-piston calipers that look just like the ones from the 1991 CBR600F2.

The feedback from the rubber lines was much less mushy than usual, and we asked development rider Doug Toland why Honda didn't use steel-braided brake lines like the European manufacturers do. He told us that Honda could spec rubber lines with as much rigidity as steel lines, and that the extra expense wasn't worth the small benefit the steel lines provide anyway. However, we couldn't help but notice the $30,000+ Rune parked next to it had lots and lots of steel-braided brake lines. Even at $7,399, Honda pinches pennies.

At freeway speeds, the little bike cruises along very agreeably. At 80 MPH the almost invisible flyscreen deflects enough wind to make the ride tolerable, and the motor is just a little bit buzzy in sixth gear with 6,000 RPM on the tachometer. The bike responds nicely when I call on it to pass slower traffic, and I feel almost confident lane-splitting behind Doug Toland and the motorjournalist known as Duke Danger at completely insane speeds.

The 599 works great on twisty roads, with a high "fun factor" in the 60-80 mph speeds we spend most of our time riding at.

The 599 works great on twisty roads, with a high "fun factor" in the 60-80 mph speeds we spend most of our time riding at.

A sunny day, a simple, lightweight bike... what more could you possible want?

A sunny day, a simple, lightweight bike... what more could you possible want?

After fighting traffic for what seems like hours, we are in the native habitat of the Southern Californian Motojournalist, the winding canyon roads in the Malibu Mountains. John kept mentioning the bike's "fun factor", so I put it to the test.

The 599 loves bumpy, twisty roads. The wide bars and upright position make it easier to ride motocross-style, and I give up hanging off like a roadracer after I realize it's probably slowing me down.

Just grip the tank with your knees, weight the inside peg a bit, shove on the bars and wheee! Suddenly the pegs are near-scraping, the horizon is tilted, and you're going through turns as fast as you would on anything.

The two-piston brake calipers are adequate, if not sensational, and the front end lets you feel the well-damped wheel as it tracks over the bumps, ruts, divots, whoops and chuckholes that posh Malibu residents put up with. I wonder if they had Martha Stewart come and drive an overloaded cement mixer up and down the canyons to give their roads a fashionable "distressed" look.

The only place the 599 lets you down is with the rear shock. The steel swingarm overwhelms the linkage-less rear suspender and bounces the back wheel off the ground over big bumps, sapping a bit of confidence. It's not ideal, especially when you consider the CBRs from which the 599 descended had a linkage almost 20 years ago.

For a premium-priced middleweight standard, I'd expect to see a linkage and adjustable suspension from a company like Honda. However, the bike is light enough and easy enough to handle that only a crybaby like me really seems to care.

After lunch, we rocket back down the 405 freeway, flying in between 33 1/3 RPM traffic at 78 RPM. As I chase a champion roadracer thrugh the 405's permanent trafficjam much faster than I usually ride between stopped and slow traffic, I realize the brilliance of the 599. After just a few hours and less than 100 miles, I feel like I've been riding it for years.

That's what's great about the little Italian-Japanese (or is it Japanese-Italian?) machine. Even with simple, low-tech components and much less power than the top-of-the-line 600s, the 599 feels instantly familiar, giving you confidence and lots of grins. If I owned one, I wouldn't change a thing.

Everybody who rides the bike loves it, but for $7,399 I think this Honda is about 20% overpriced. It just doesn't offer the sophistication, performance or slick components that a motorcycle over $7,000 should. That doesn't mean the lucky few thousand Americans that buy this bike in 2006 are getting ripped off, just that they appreciate the features andP1010017 styling the bike offers. The 2006 facelift did give it some useful features and added to the fun factor and good handling. But until the 599 is priced the way a bike in this class should be priced, it will be relegated to Honda's cult closet with the Hawk and CB-1.

2006 599 Specifications
** Specs Provided By Honda **
Engine
Model: CB600F
Engine Type: 599cc liquid-cooled inline four-cylinder
Bore and Stroke: 65mm x 45.2mm
Compression Ratio: 12.0:1
Valve Train: DOHC; four valves per cylinder
Carburetion: Four 34mm slanted flat-slide CV
Ignition: Computer-controlled digital with electronic advance
Transmission: Six-speed
Final Drive: #525 O-ring-sealed chain
Suspension
Front: 41mm inverted fork; 4.7 inches travel
Rear: Single shock with seven-position spring preload adjustability; 5.0 inches travel
Brakes
Front: Dual full-floating 296mm discs with twin-piston calipers
Rear: Single 220mm disc with single-piston caliper
Tires
Front: 120/70ZR-17 radial
Rear: 180/55ZR-17 radial
Wheelbase: 56.1 inches
Rake (Caster Angle): 25.5°
Trail: 96mm (3.8 inches)
Seat Height: 31.1 inches
Dry Weight: 404 pounds
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gallons
Color: Metallic Black
Meets current CARB and EPA standards.

2007 CBF1000 First Ride Report

But somehow, regardless of their big jugs, the liter-sized strippers have failed to appeal and you'd better not try comparing Italian market sales figures for the 599 to those of the 919; it'll be downright embarrassing.

The big four have noticed this scandalous injustice a while ago and are trying to address the situation.

Moto-bliss or moto-blah?

Moto-bliss or moto-blah?

Yes, it's the CBR1000RR motor, at least in spirit.

Yes, it's the CBR1000RR motor, at least in spirit.

Yamaha has pushed the lovely FZ-1 towards the ragged edge this year with an aluminum frame, bizarre-ish design and extreme engine tuning, and Kawasaki is following the same route for 2007 with the new version of the Z1000. Both companies seem eager to transform their do-it-all giants into extreme "naked-sports" thingies. Someone in Honda must have thought that redemption for liter nakeds might be found elsewhere then, at the opposite end of the scale. Instead of chasing the city racers and wheelie hooligans, why not go for the mature boys, the once-in-a-while tourers with a family and a mortgage?

Cast a look at the new CBF1000 and you'll understand immediately that a weekend in its company will be more a "let's hold hands" type of thing rather than a sweaty and steamy affair.

Honda product planners seemingly drew their inspiration from the discreet success of the Europe-only CBF600, a cute mid-weight touring naked of sorts and have morphed the 919 into a much more sedate type of tool.

Look behind the half fairing and you'll indeed find the same basic rectangular steel backbone tube frame of the 599/919.

Honda didn't try to re-cycle too many parts in creating the CBF1000 (the seat unit looks too familiar though); it's more as if the bodywork of the CBF600 was simply scaled up by 10% by the 3D CAD software. Compared to its smaller brother, the main differences that stick out are the strange, arc-shaped, silver-painted side panels and the use of nothing less than the latest version of the CBR1000RR mill to propel the thing.

"It's more as if the bodywork of the CBF600 was simply scaled up by 10%..."

...this four-cylinder mill could teach some big twins the meaning of "low-down pull".

...this four-cylinder mill could teach some big twins the meaning of "low-down pull".

The engine choice is a bit bizarre to say the least. From the 174 claimed hp in the RR, the unit has been detuned to... 96 hp in the CBF1000.

That means a good 78 HP have been chopped for "better midrange response". I can't think of a reason as to why Honda would decide to use this engine when they already had good torque producers in the shape of the previous 954 Fireblade mill or the 1100 motor of the Super Blackbird. Why they used a power unit with a relatively extreme bore and stroke ratio is beyond me. Maybe this is paving the road for the new 1000 version of the 919, a bike that will surely come pretty soon.

Till that one arrives, it's the CBF1000 that we are dealing with. By the sound of it you might be tempted to see it as a contender to the new half-faired FZ-1 tested in MO's 2006 naked comparo, but in reality the two are aimed at very different folks. The FZ-1 is all about sharp angles, tight lines and complex syntax while the CBF offers smooth classic lines, soft curves and a plain-Jane composition of its components. The final result is indeed a close cousin to the groovy and well-proportioned CBF600, just not as well groomed in my opinion. I think that the most offending element in the CBF1000's design is that odd, arc-shaped side panel that's stuck smack in the middle of the bike, a rather boring focal point.

Closer examination of the CBF1000 helps to clarify Honda's intentions even more. There's a standard fork with no adjustments, a pair of simple two-piston brake calipers of the floating type, a rear 160-section tire (even the 599 has a 180), and an all-analog instrument panel with no LCD in sight. Hello? Honda? It's the year 2006, remember?

The finishing and detailing level doesn't impress either. So then, we have a sort of budget 1000cc tool which means that in Europe, it's priced a good 15% cheaper than the half faired FZ-1 and that's not small change. OK, the picture is becoming clearer now, yet in my humble opinion, with exactly the same budget, a much more captivating design could have been achieved. A Honda technician catches me casting dubious looks at the CBF1000 before leaving and voluntarily adds: "What do you expect? It's been styled in Honda's German studio." Aha! That would explain.

The aesthetics complaint chapter ends a few minutes into the ride. De-tuned the engine might be, a puppy dog, a pussycat, call it as you like but I've yet to experience such an elastic response and so much user friendliness from a liter tool. With an extreme starting point such as the CBR1000RR mill, textbooks say it shouldn't be so, but smaller throttle bodies and a host of other mods have turned the fire-breathing Fireblade powerplant into a refined unit that purrs happily from what feels like zero RPM.

A close look at the CBF's torque curve published by one of the local mags shows that from a silly 3,000 RPM and up the power unit supplies 61.4 foot pounds of torque and never dips under this figure till 8,000 RPM, climbing to a 68.7 foot-pound peak at 6,500 RPM. And that curve doesn't lie. It's kind of usual to attach the expression "pulls from any revs" to big twins, but this four-cylinder mill could teach some big twins the meaning of "low-down pull".

"When the road gets kinky, the wonderfully grunty motor remains a big source of satisfaction and pull."

When I took the bike from Honda, one mechanic suggested I try starting from standstill in sixth gear. "Do it gently and you'll see it manages". Well, I didn't go that far; I didn't feel like being left stranded with a fried clutch in case it didn't work as planned. But I did try the trick in fourth gear and, by golly, it does pull away! I also let the revs drop to 1,500 in sixth and the CBF gathered itself together without any of the shaking power pulsing and drama that you'd find in, say, a Ducati 1000 at such revs. So then, it turns out that leaving aside the new FJR 1300, this CBF1000 is the closest thing to riding an automatic bike that I've ever tried. On secondary roads that are free of dead-slow hairpins, you can pretty much leave the thing in sixth and forget about shifting.

The relaxed attitude is also displayed in the pilot's environment. It's not as plush as that of a GoldWing to be sure, yet it's still very comfy. There's an ultra-soft seat, a very natural bend in the handlebars, a total lack of vibes and the fairing protects well till 80-85 mph (though not beyond). Considering the budget nature of the CBF1000 there is also a surprising feature in the form of seat height adjustability (with an Allen key) but I didn't have the chance to try that.

So this CBF isn't really a tourer or sport tourer but rather a standard comfy roadster with a half fairing. OK then, doesn't that mean that it should also be a good back road scratcher? Isn't that part of the charm of these high-bar, simple-to-ride tools?

When the road gets kinky, the wonderfully grunty motor remains a big source of satisfaction and pull, but the rest of the package doesn't leave a clear impression. Yep, there's plenty of oomph to drive you out of turns and thankfully, the highish handlebars do help while throwing the CBF around with abandon but there are limits to the idyll too.

"This nice-guy attitude has some limits."

The extra leverage is really needed as Honda engineers put more attention to stability rather than flickability on this one.

Up to 80-90 percent on the speed scale, the CBF1000 does behave itself, supplying a semi-sporty experience, but don't get too serious about getting your adrenaline fix with this one. Pile on the coals and the 160-section rear tire starts to move around.

Slam on the brakes with authority and the fork consumes its entire available stroke in one big gulp without a hint of guilt or remorse.

The progressively-linked rear shock copes rather well with the increased demands but it's the single-backbone frame that at a certain point cries "enough is enough". The well-behaved motor also tries to tell you that torque is torque but still, power is power. What I mean is that plenty of drive at 4,000 or 5,000 RPM is a nice thing to have but when riding above semi-fast speeds, you don't spend much time at those kinds of revs and the lack of kick higher up the range is missed.

'I can't think of an easier liter bike to ride to work with on a daily basis...'

In reality, after 8,000 revs there's a serious drop in power so that you don't even feel tempted to try and bump into the rev limiter and simply hook up the next gear. I must add that knowing about the 12,000 RPM redline potential of this very engine in its Fireblade incarnation left me with mixed feelings about the limited rev range of this otherwise fine unit.

Considering the budget calipers mounted, the braking power was rather good, but also brought to light a strange problem. The top half of the fairing ends in two sharp corners that are positioned exactly in front of the rider's knees. When braking hard, unless I was making a conscious effort to brace myself on the gas tank my knees often met the offending corners. Ouch!

Since we're talking `bout braking, it might be worth noting that I've been riding the standard version of the CBF1000 but there's also an ABS-CBS version with linked anti lock brakes. The CBF1000ST model is equipped with higher-spec Brembo calipers and some of my colleagues reported improved braking power. On top of the sophisticated brakes, the ST version comes with original hard luggage, adding about 10% to the basic model's price.

Back in town, the tables are turned back again. The CBF1000 simply shines here and that's no mean feat for a 1000 tool in the narrow city streets.

Yossef cursing less than usual.

Yossef cursing less than usual.

I can't think of an easier liter bike to ride to work with on a daily basis except maybe -- just maybe -- the GT1000 I road tested not long ago. The drivers around me are nervous, the weather is extra hot but the CBF maintains its millennium nirvana. The reduced fairing lowers of the CBF let the heat disperse with ease, the seat is still comfy regardless of the massive sweating, all the levers and controls remain buttery smooth and I must admit that I am cursing less than usual inside my boiling helmet considering the heavy heat.

The CBF1000 seems to have a calming effect of sorts.Whether that's good or bad is a matter of taste and personality but on the cobblestone-paved streets I find myself quite happy with the softish springing and damping rates chosen by Honda's test riders for the CBF.It's just too easy to blame and disdain the CBF for not being all sorts of things. Like not being a proper contender to the aforementioned FZ-1 or Z1000 or for not having a more inspiring design or color schemes. But then, it seems like Honda never planned a glittering rock star status for their cute CBF1000.

Moving over to the half-full side of the glass, it's just as easy to praise the fact that together with the SV1000, it's the world's cheapest liter tool. Or that it's almost an up-to-date water-cooled Bandit 1200 rather than a road-burning streetfighter.

The model is not headed to the US this year but seen in a European context, the CBF1000 could be a great and un-intimidating step up the displacement ladder for somebody who's growing out of a 599 or FZ6. Seen as such, the CBF1000 has a rationale behind it, a rationale that can speak volumes to the 40-50 something born-again bikers that are so numerous these days across the pond. It's an easy to live with on a daily basis, 1000cc roadster that could also take you on a comfy weekend-long two-up trip. Does this sound just too serene and relaxed?

Honda seems to believe that the market for this kind of tool and attitude exists and how. I wouldn't be surprised if a year from now, Honda ends up selling more CBFs than the competition sells flashy FZ-1s or Z1000s.


2007 Honda CBF1000 (ED-type)

** Specs courtesy of Honda **
Engine
Type Liquid-cooled 4-stroke 16-valve DOHC inline-4
Displacement 998cm3
Bore x Stroke 75 x 56.5mm
Compression Ratio 11: 1
*Claimed* Max. Power Output 72kW/8,000min-1 (95/1/EC)
*Claimed* Max. Torque 97Nm/6,500min-1 (95/1/EC)
Idling Speed 1,200min-1
Oil Capacity 3.6litres
Fuel System
Carburation PGM-FI electronic fuel injection
Throttle Bore 36mm
Aircleaner Dry, cartridge-type paper filter
Fuel Tank Capacity 19litres (including 4-litre LCD-indicated reserve)
Electrical System
Ignition System Computer-controlled digital transistorised with electronic advance
Ignition Timing 5° BTDC (idle) ~ 45° BTDC (7,500min-1)
Sparkplug Type CR8EH-9 (NGK); U24FER9 (ND)
Starter Electric
Battery Capacity 12V/8.6AH
ACG Output 330W
Headlight 12V, 55W x 1 (low)/55W x 2 (high)
Drivetrain
Clutch Wet, multiplate with coil springs
Clutch Operation Hydraulic
Transmission Type 6-speed
Primary Reduction 1.604 (77/48)
Gear Ratios 1 2.714 (38/14)

2 1.941 (33/17)

3 1.579 (30/19)

4 1.363 (30/22)

5 1.217 (28/23)

6 1.115 (29/26)
Final Reduction 2.687 (43/16)
Final Drive #530 O-ring sealed chain
Frame
Type Mono-backbone; rectangular-section steel tube
Chassis
Dimensions (LxWxH) 2,176 x 827 x 1,175mm
Wheelbase 1,483mm
Caster Angle 26°
Trail 110mm
Turning Radius 2.8m
Seat Height 795mm (+/-15mm)
Ground Clearance 130mm
*Claimed* Dry Weight 220kg , *228kg
Kerb Weight 242kg (F: 118kg; R: 124kg), *250kg (F: 120kg; R: 130kg)
Max. Carrying Capacity 195kg
Loaded Weight 242kg, *250kg
Suspension
Front 41mm cartridge-type telescopic fork, 120mm axle travel
Rear Pro-Link with gas-charged HMAS damper, 120mm axle travel
Wheels
Front Hollow-section 6-spoke cast aluminium
Rear Hollow-section 6-spoke cast aluminium
Rim Size Front 17M/C x MT3.5
Rim Size Rear 17M/C x MT5
Tyre Size Front 120/70-ZR17M/C (58W)
Tyre Size Rear 160/60-ZR17M/C (69W)
Tyre Pressure Front 250kPa

Rear 290kPa
Brakes
Front 296 x 4.5mm dual hydraulic disc with 4-piston (*Combined 3-piston) callipers, floating rotors (*ABS) and sintered metal pads
Rear 240 x 6mm hydraulic disc with single-piston (*3-piston) calliper (*ABS) and sintered metal pads
* ABS version All specifications are provisional and subject to change without notice.

2009 Ducati Monster 696 Review




There I was in the midst of it, decked in my finest T-shirt damp with 16 hours of travel perspiration, cargo shorts, year-old cross-trainers, four bags of gear in tow and late for dinner. Thanks for that, British Airways!

All I kept thinking to myself, as I tried to blend in like a cat at a dog show was, "I guess Italians and Spaniards really are that good looking." That, and how important a humble little air-cooled two-valve roadster must be to Ducati.

For all the glitz, glam and exposure Ducati's renowned 1098 and its variants have received in the past year and a half, you could almost lose sight of the fact that the Bologna, Italy, bike maker has any other products. Accolades from prestigious motopublications to the average Ducatisti heaped upon the brilliant Twin are deserved; it is a machine that has ratcheted Ducati's name up to the stratosphere on the scale of all things desirable. A home in the South of France, private jet, fine wines, beautiful spouse, exotic automobiles, admiration by those we admire, high-performance Ducati sportbike. Yes, a bright red Duc 1098 (or Desmosedici!) is right at home in that imaginary life.

2009 Ducati Monster 696. It comes with the pillion cover and little flyscreen as standard in the States. MSRP will be $8775.

2009 Ducati Monster 696. It comes with the pillion cover and little flyscreen as standard in the States. MSRP will be $8775.

Alas, we're quick to forget the little guy. The glory-grabbing superbikes from Ducati owe much to the sustainability of the Monster line, now 17 years after it was first seen. Ducati knows this. They know it to the point that opening night of the world press introduction for the 2009 Monster 696 in Barcelona was a gala dinner at the Museu D'Art Contemporani De Barcelona, replete with local dignitaries including Italy's ambassador to Spain and all the Ducati chieftains.

Before I sheepishly sneaked away from the dinner table, averting my gaze when any impeccably groomed, tan-skinned persons passed by for fear of them recognizing me the following day by my pauper's toggery, I noted various trademark components of the new bike, large and small, were displayed like the art that many consider them to be. The Monster, it was everywhere.

Though the most recent iteration of the tiniest Monster, the 695, is only two years old, comparing the 695 visually to the 696 makes the former look years older than it is. The round headlamp, uninspired mirrors, trellis subframe hidden mostly from view, traditional and traditionally placed exhaust cans, simple instrument cluster, vanilla indicators and taillight and box-section swingarm, to name a few pieces, simply make the 695, however functional it may be, look unattractive when pitted next to its replacement. The new little Monster is as much an exercise in styling as it is a general improvement.

Pete, arriving late to the gala dinner opening night thanks to British Airways, was not dressed like so many of the sharp execs and dignitaries. No, Pete came to the dinner looking like a Venice Beach slacker.

Pete, arriving late to the gala dinner opening night thanks to British Airways, was not dressed like so many of the sharp execs and dignitaries. No, Pete came to the dinner looking like a Venice Beach slacker.

Il nuovo Monster 696: l'inizio di una nuova era!

The 696’s simplified trellis main section is meatier (same stock as the 1098R) and now joins with a cast-aluminum subframe that blends so well that the eye can be fooled into thinking no subframe exists. A new hefty swingarm and unique footpeg hanger complete the package.

All three pieces of the chassis are new for the 696 and are the heart and soul of the excellent handling of the newest Monster.

All three pieces of the chassis are new for the 696 and are the heart and soul of the excellent handling of the newest Monster.

The heart of the Monster. A number of internal changes to the mill result in a claimed 80 hp and 51 ft-lbs, up by 7 and 6 respectively over the 695.

The heart of the Monster. A number of internal changes to the mill result in a claimed 80 hp and 51 ft-lbs, up by 7 and 6 respectively over the 695.

Overall dimensions remain largely the same save for a minute 4/10ths of an inch increase in the wheelbase (56.7 vs. 57.1); rake and trail are still 24-degrees and 96mm, respectively. One figure that hasn't changed is the rider-friendly 30.3-inch saddle height. Combined with a fuel tank reshaped for narrowness where it meets the seat, the rider triangle has only become friendlier and should be very endearing to the ladies with its easy reach to the bars. Despite a tighter design, cramped never came to mind on my two separate ride outings. It was equally as cozy droning the freeway as it was hustling through the tight mountain passes. Lest I'm accused of not being impartial, some taller riders, say those well over 6 feet, may feel a tad confined.

Still serving as a stressed member in the frame is a revised L-Twin engine that, oddly, retains identical bore and stroke (88 x 57.2mm) from the 695. Go figure on 696; must be one more way to disassociate the bikes. A reshaped cylinder and head, similar to those on the Multistrada and Hypermotard, optimizes flow to new ports. Further refinements see the camshaft's bearing surface directly in the new head. Get rid of actual bearings and you get rid of weight while simplifying design. Let's hope the baby of durability doesn't go out with the bath water of simplicity. Larger valves (Int. 43 to 44mm, Exh. 38 to 38.5mm) with higher lift (Int. 10.8 to 11.2mm, Exh. 10.3 to 10.8mm) are thrown in the mix. Cooling fins created in a new casting process have been reshaped, moved closer together and increased in number for improved, well, cooling. New side and belt covers finish off engine updates.

All these changes combine to give the 696 a marginally increased compression ratio (10.7 vs 10.5:1) and a claimed 80 hp at 9000 rpm with just under 51 ft-lbs of torque at 7750 rpm; a 500 and 1,000 rpm increase, respectively. Taking those digits at face value means the new Duc is good for 7 additional horsepower and roughly 6 more ft-lbs over the 695.

Thanks to the myriad of changes to engine internals for lightness sake, the 695cc powerplant spins up quickly and effortlessly. Power and torque are ready and willing down low with very linear Twin power up to approximately 4k where my seat-o’-the-pants dyno detected a soft spot lasting just about 500 rpm. Crest this zone and it's power on till well past 10,000 rpm. Happiest times are had, however, as you meter the throttle between 6-8500 rpm, slinging the little naked corner to corner, gleefully hunting bigger and, theoretically, faster bikes.

Monster Chronology

1992: The 900 Monster is presented for the first time at the Cologne Motorshow.

1992 Ducati Monster 900.

1992 Ducati Monster 900.

1993: The 904cc Monster with Desmodue engine (2-valve, air-cooled) is put into production.

1995: The Monster family expands with the introduction of the smaller 600cc model.

1996: The family is further expanded with the arrival of the 750cc model.

1998: The introduction of the Monster 600 Dark, Monster 900 Cromo and Monster 900 S.

2000: Technology and styling continue to develop. The latest arrival is the Monster 900 with EFI, and the styling of the entire range is updated.

2001: The evolution of sports models continues with the introduction of the Monster S4 with 916cc Desmoquattro engine and completely new running gear.

2002: EFI is introduced on the smaller models; the entry-level model now has a larger 618cc engine. All models benefit from the new running gear used on the S4.

2003: The Monster 800 and Monster 1000 are introduced, the latter equipped with the new Dual Spark engine.

2004: The flagship of the Monster range is introduced: the S4R with 996cc engine, single-side swingarm and totally revised styling and technology.

2005: The family grows with the arrival of the S2R powered by the 800cc Desmodue engine.

2006: The Monster S2R with 992cc engine is born. In addition, an authentic, no-compromise bike is introduced, the Monster S4R S Testastretta, a true naked Superbike with all the power and grunt of the Desmodromic "Testastretta" engine.

2007: The Monster family adds the new S4R Testastretta to its already impressive line-up. This new model is powered by the 130-hp Testastretta, deep-sump,L-Twin engine, previously powering only the top of the range S4R S. Another newcomer is the Monster 695 which replaces the entry-level 620.

2008: The Monster 696 is born.

One carry-over from the 695 is Ducati's APTC (Adler Power Torque Clutch). Put simply, a slipper clutch. This little number works incredibly well, even better than a number of back-torque limiting clutches I've sampled on sportbikes with much bigger numbers: horsepower, torque and MSRP. Clutch action at the lever was feathery-light, albeit with a long throw that necessitates slipping the clutch from stops. As for the slipper, only once was I able to get the slightest wiggle from the back end after an aggressive three-gear downshift. Otherwise its action was virtually imperceptible and thereby brilliant!

Since gear ratios in the 6-speed box are unchanged we know that gearing is way too tall; thankfully the healthy amount of torque becomes usable as low as 2700-3000 rpm and is capable of overcoming the gearing deficit. A quick inquiry to the Ducati N.A. public relations good guy, John Paolo Canton, revealed that tall gearing is utilized to meet those pesky E3 standards.

When Editor Duke tested the 695 in late summer last year he commented that fueling was... Ah, let's just quote him. "[The] fuel mapping needs a compass." A man of few words, that Duke guy. Perhaps then the switch from Marelli to Siemens EFI spraying into the same 45mm T-bodies on the 696 has made a difference, as I found throttle response nearly flawless with only the slightest sputter at very low rpm. Beyond this, throttle response was as close to instant as you would want and fueling was smooth.

Spanish art in the background, Italian art in the foreground.

Spanish art in the background, Italian art in the foreground.

Another easy cue to the bike's redesign is the dual high-mount exhaust. The headers now snake up and behind the rear cylinder joining for a heartbeat in a short section of tube only to separate again into two canisters tucked just to the outside edge of the tailsection. This, says Ducati materials, helps keep heat away from the rider, aids torque and horsepower and keeps the area near the footpegs clutter-free so they (the pegs) can be closer together with the net effect being a trimmer bike at the center.

Speaking of trim, the 696 has an all-new fuel "tank." What you see ain't exactly what you get here. The plastic, or nylon resin, or whatever high-quality material that the faux tank is made from is 20mm shorter fore and aft than the previous model's tank resulting in what feels like a lower seat. The benefits, if not obvious, equal a shorter reach to the bars with a shape that welcomes shorter riders. Underneath the plastic you'll find the fuel cell with the airbox just fore of it. Because of the new location of each, both have their capacities increased by about one liter (3.8 gallons for fuel and 2.6 gallon airbox). What's really slick about this new arrangement is that both halves of the false tank can be removed, either for damage repair, or merely for you styling needs. Tired of the color scheme? Unbolt old, bolt-on new: voila! The astute reader will note one more nuance on the tank. The forward and upper portion has two small, screened cutouts that serve as intakes to the airbox while allowing the switchgear room to move at full steering lock that's increased to 64 degrees.

More standouts, some very important, include an LED taillight, an all-new ultra-compact "triple parabola" headlamp and single instrument (DDA) Ducati Data Analyzer-ready that "continues the tradition of all Ducati’s latest-generation hypersport models". At a glance, the digital tach is easily read and all info is toggled from one switch on the left switchgear. Unfortunately, it seems one thing hasn't changed for Ducati: the lack of an indicated redline.

Here's how the false fuel tank can be disassembled for damage repair, or even to change the color of the tank if you wish.

Here's how the false fuel tank can be disassembled for damage repair, or even to change the color of the tank if you wish.

City slick, canyon swift

For all my time as a motorcycle messenger in Los Angeles, I'm not sure I could fare successfully on my own in Barcelona's (everybody with me now, say it in Catalonian, Barthelona!) typically European surface streets. The lack of grid-like intersections, single-colored street markings and generally confusing interchanges, as much as it pains me to say this, had me frazzled. My cool exterior was blown, but not the Monster's. The new 696 is entirely at home and adept at city environs as much as it is on the highways or canyon roads. Its slim center and 15-pound claimed dry-weight savings (370 lbs vs. 355 lbs) makes dealing with stop-and-go traffic a simple chore, as putting your foot down at lights, or wherever, is a breeze.

After a few hairy urban moments our ride led us to the hills just outside of the former Olympic host city and soon we were in much more comfortable territory for me: undulating, tight passes. The compactness that creates a city-friendly mount also contributes to an absolutely brilliant canyon-carver. The 696's wide bars and narrow waist make transitioning from corner to corner nothing but a bunch of giggles as you search deeper and deeper into the bike's robust powerband, each turn coming a little quicker. The stout trellis-subframe-swingarm combo translates into an incredibly stable ride. This, along with the user-friendly engine, I can immediately proclaim to be a key characteristic of the new Monster.

Aiding the great chassis are new 43mm inverted Showa fork and a Sachs shock. I found nothing derogatory to say about the pairing of suspenders so wonderfully matched to the chassis.

Braking componentry is equally as new and nearly as wonderful. Twin rotors (riding on Marchesini wheels of the same size as last year) grew by 20mm to 320mm; and instead of the same pair of dual-piston clampers from last year, the 696 receives a powerful set of radial-mount four-pot Brembos. Maybe different pad material might improve feel a little more on what are otherwise highly-capable brakes. But, hey, I'm a critic! Or is it cynic?

We don't live in a perfect world, and some would say, however trifle the complaints, the 696 isn't perfect. The mirrors, stylish though they are, aren't very functional. The field of view is too restricted, they're a bit buzzy and look to be cheap, plastic-y pieces. And though I didn't have an issue with the reach to the brake and clutch levers, I could be convinced that their lack of adjustability seems insensitive considering this Monster is clearly in the arena of many female riders who often have smaller hands than their dude counterparts. Additionally, thinking of lady passengers this time, the heat shield on the new exhaust cans is almost non-existent, potentially making for one unhappy guest.

You'll be smiling too if you're buzzin' around on the new Monster 696, 'cause the ladies like 'em!

You'll be smiling too if you're buzzin' around on the new Monster 696, 'cause the ladies like 'em!

"It's a Monster!"

Like Giulio Malagoli, the Monster's lead engineer, said of his creation, "Isa one hundreda percenta Ducati. For sure-a it'sa Monster."

Ducati knows what butters its exotic bike bread, and for you, Monster fan, they've created the new 696 in a sharp new package. The improvements to the chassis, suspension and braking are complemented by a smartly revised mill, with the bike's looks and accouterments as most delicious icing on the cake.

If you're an experienced rider looking for a multi-tool ball-of-fun with loads of character, or a new or shorter rider, or a long-time devotee of this line of minimalist Italian bikes, be sure to get your deposit in soon, as my guess is that they'll be flyin' out the door faster than free cheese. Hopefully you’re the patient type, though, as the bike isn't slated to appear in the U.S. until June-ish '08 as a 2009 model. The 695 will complete its full production run during that time, so there'll be some overlap for awhile. When the 696 does hit American dealers, we'll be getting the model with pillion cover and little flyscreen as standard, all for $8775.

Look out, SV650 lovers. Those willing to pay will be ready to play!