Top 10 most powerful bikes of 2015

Based on independent, like-for-like tests

THERE’S always been a mysterious disconnect between the power figures quoted on spec sheets and the reality of the dyno room that makes comparing one bike to another based on manufacturers’ numbers an exercise in futility.

It’s not that there’s necessarily foul play at work, or even an attempt at one-upmanship between bike firms, but simply that there are so many variables when measuring power that significant discrepancies can sneak in unnoticed.

However, to gain certification to be sold in America, all bikes need to undergo a series of carefully-arranged tests, intended to measure exhaust emissions, that also result in perhaps the closest thing we’re likely to get to directly-comparable power figures.

At the end of last year we brought you a top 10 of the most powerful 2015 bikes to have undergone the US EPA tests at that time, but at that stage some significant newcomers, like Yamaha’s new R1, Ducati’s 1299 Panigale and the updated versions of Aprilia’s RSV4 and BMW’s S1000RR, still hadn’t been certified.

Now they have, so the ‘definitive’ list is finally available.

Before we dive in, please remember that these are figures for American-market models, which might in rare cases have a slightly different tune to their European counterparts. We’re not aware of any notable changes on the bikes in this list, but machines like Kawasaki’s ZX-10R – which is around 20bhp down on power in America thanks to a 2000rpm lower rev limit – might have made it to the top 10 if they had been tested in European form.

10. Yamaha R1 and R1M – 186.4bhp at 12,000rpm

Just a few months ago the entry point to this list was a mere 179bhp, allowing the almost-mythical Motus MST-R to slide in at number 10. Now we’re up at 186bhp for the R1 and it only just makes it. As well as pushing the Motus out, the 2015-spec Aprilia RSV4 and the old 1199 Ducati Panigale (both 181bhp) are displaced, along with that impressive old stager, the GSX-R1000 with 182.4bhp. Yamaha might have hoped to rank higher than this, given the huge investment in the R1. With no technical changes likely in the near future, its position in this top 10 may well be short lived as 2016’s new models start to emerge.

9. BMW S1000RR (and old-model HP4) – 190.4bhp at 12,500rpm

Back in November only the old-model HP4 derivative of the S1000RR could take a spot in the top 10. Now, the new-for-2015 base version exactly matches the outgoing HP4’s 190.4bhp output, giving it the number 9 spot. The same power last time around was enough for 6th, though.

8. Suzuki Hayabusa – 194.4bhp at 9500rpm

Since it’s a list derived from American figures, it’s worth mentioning that old adage “there’s no replacement for displacement” so beloved in the land of V8s. Remember, over here “1.8 litres” is the average size of a car engine. Over there, it’s the size of a Double Big Gulp cola. Suzuki’s Hayabusa might be only 1.3 litres (which, incidentally, is the size of a Super Big Gulp) but that extra 300cc that it holds over most of the bikes on this list certainly helps the old-stager when it comes to making power. 194.4bhp while meeting some tough emission regs is pretty impressive for a bike that hasn’t had significant changes in years.

7. Ducati 1199 Panigale R and Superleggera – 194.4bhp at 11,250rpm

The old 1199 Panigale might have slipped off the list but the made-for-homologation R version still makes it, along with the super-expensive Superleggera that shares the same engine spec. The same power as a Hayabusa from a V-twin that’s 100cc smaller is a remarkable achievement.

6. Ducati 1299 Panigale and Panigale S – 194.4bhp at 10,500rpm

Look what 100cc can do. Last time out, the base model 1199 Panigale managed ‘just’ 181bhp, but the 2015 replacement with a few extra cubes manages to get halfway up it thanks to a genuine 194.4bhp. And it comes a handy 750rpm lower than the same peak in the Superleggera or R versions.

5. MV Agusta F4, F4R, F4RR and F4RC – 197.1bhp at 13,600rpm

You’ve got to admire the achievement of MV Agusta in making the F4 engine so remarkably powerful, despite the fact that it’s just 998cc and the basic design isn’t exactly new anymore. In fact, there’s supposed to be a completely new four-cylinder engine coming for this range next year, so this might even be the motor’s swansong. How impressive is 197.1bhp on the official list? It’s the same as…

4. Kawasaki Ninja H2 – 197.1bhp at 11,000rpm

The H2 manages to precisely match its claimed 197bhp, which should come as no surprise since it’s effectively been restricted to that level. The track-only H2R reveals how much performance the same engine can unleash once it doesn’t have to meet emissions restrictions (it’s not road legal or emissions certified, so it’s not on this list.) Interestingly, the H2’s emissions performance is remarkably good, suggesting that perhaps superchargers are the way forward if we’re going to get greener bikes that still make plenty of power.

3. Yamaha V-Max – 197.4bhp at 9000rpm

It was in at number 2 last time around and now slides to number three, but there’s still no denying that the V4-engined V-Max is an impressive performer, thanks in part to the fact it’s got the biggest engine on this list at 1679cc. That’s reflected in the fact its power peak is at just 9000rpm, reflecting the huge torque advantage that it holds. If only it wasn’t so Titanically heavy.

2. Aprilia RSV4 RR, RSV4 RF (2016 model) – 198.5bhp at 13,000rpm

It’s funny that everyone refers to the latest superbikes as ‘200bhp’ bikes, but this list demonstrates just how hard that figure is to reach for a mere 1000cc engine. The Aprilia made ‘just’ 181bhp last time around, but the latest tweaks (on sale now but officially ‘2016’ changes) make a massive improvement. At 198.5bhp it’s the most powerful road-legal litre bike on sale in America at the moment, and probably holds the same title in Europe too. Shame so few people are buying them.

1. Kawasaki ZX-14R (ZZR1400) – 207.9bhp at 10,000rpm

It was number one last time around and stays there, without a serious challenge at least for the rest of this year. The ZX-14R, known as the ZZR1400 in Europe, might be a throwback in terms of thinking to the Blackbird/Busa/ZX-12R top speed war of the turn of the millennium, but there’s no doubting its effectiveness. Will Suzuki come out fighting with a new Hayabusa to beat it? Or does Kawasaki have an even more powerful ZZR in the wings to push its performance out of reach? Who knows. But at the moment it’s still the only standard production bike that owners can boast has more than 200bhp, and produce the evidence to back up that claim.