Top 20 most powerful middleweights

Discounting anything of 998cc or more, these are the current horsepower kings based on independent tests

WE’VE used the endlessly-detailed emissions test figures from America’s Environmental Protection Agency before as a way to see beyond manufacturers’ claimed performance figures, and this time we’re focussing on middleweights.

Discounting anything with 998cc or more, and thereby eliminating all superbikes and big-engined sports tourers – ZZRs, Hayabusas and V-Maxes – leaves us with an intriguing combination of smaller, middleweight machines that rarely make headlines for their performance. The power figures that some are achieving during the EPA’s standardised test procedure are impressive, though.

It’s such a busy part of the market that we’re swapping our normal top 10 format for a top 20 to make sure all the key high-performance mid-sized machines are included.

20. Ducati Hypermotard 821 – 103.3bhp at 9,250rpm

Handily, our cut off just eliminates any bikes making less than 100bhp, and while the Hypermotard isn’t tuned for out-and-out power its relatively big 821cc engine puts it into the top 20 at 103.3bhp.

19. Suzuki GSX-S750 (GSR750) – 104.6bhp at 10,000rpm

We know it as the GSR750, but the American market GSX-S750 is the same thing. With a detuned GSX-R750 engine it’s not hard to hit 104.6bhp.

18. Honda VFR800 – 104.6bhp at 10,250rpm

Recent visual revamp aside, the underpinnings of the VFR are virtually pensionable, including much the same VTEC V4 and a chassis that dates back to that time when Honda decided that frames didn’t need to extend to the swingarm pivot (ie, CBR929RR etc). But 104bhp is still OK for an 800cc sports tourer.

17. Ducati Monster 821 – 105.9bhp at 9,250rpm

Perhaps it’s the different exhaust, but something gives the Monster 821 a fraction more power than the Hypermotard with the same engine. Again, it’s not tuned for outright performance, but for day-to-day riding few people could really say they need more.

16. Honda CBR600RR – 113bhp at 12,750rpm

It’s big jump from 17th to 16th, and now we’re hitting real sports bikes, with Honda’s legendary CBR600 bringing up the tail end of the fully-faired, 600cc four-cylinder market. Time for a new one yet, Honda?

15. Yamaha MT-09 (all versions) – 115.9bhp at 10,000rpm

The MT-09 might be nearer a litre than anything else on this list, but its engine is still small enough to qualify. Funnily enough, this all-rounder’s power is rarely a talking point but it’s worth mentioning that its performance is roughly on a par with that of the original-generation Fireblade. Not bad for a naked bike that’s supposed to be sensible.

14. Suzuki GSX-R600 – 119.4bhp at 12,400rpm

Like all the Japanese 600cc supersports machines, the GSX-R600 is getting a bit long in the tooth, but it’s hard to argue with a real 119bhp, since that puts its horsepower-per-litre on a par with the very best, near-200bhp 1000cc machines.

13. MV Agusta Rivale 800 – 123.4bhp at 12,000rpm

Once again, capacity comes to the fore with MV’s 800cc triple. Even detuned for the Rivale it easily makes this list.

12. MV Agusta Brutale 800 – 123.4bhp at 11,600rpm

Basically the same engine as the Rivale, the Brutale’s makes the same peak power but hits it 400rpm lower according to the EPA records.

11. Ducati Streetfighter 848 – 123.4bhp at 9,750rpm

It’s probably set for the chop soon, but the last Ducati to carry the old 848 engine is a reminder of how good it always was. Fortunately, the firm’s newer motors are better still, so whatever replaces the Streetfighter isn’t likely to be a step backwards.

Part 2

10. Yamaha R6 – 123.8bhp at 14,000rpm

A decade ago, the R6 claimed to be the first 600cc bike to achieve 120bhp and the 200bhp-per-litre mark. It hasn’t actually changed much since then, but now more than hits that mark.

9. Kawasaki ZX-6R – 124.3bhp at 13,500rpm

This is actually the old version of the ZX-6R, kept available purely to ensure that racers have a go-to 599cc four-cylinder Kawasaki and to ensure that it remains homologated for track use until a new model is developed – and nobody is expecting that to be very soon. For road riders, there’s a significantly improved 636cc version higher up the rankings.

8. Triumph Street Triple – 126.3bhp at 12,500rpm

Okay, so this is at odds with Triumph's claimed (UK) figure for the Street Triple of only 105bhp. It appears to be an anomaly and admittedly an incorrect positioning within the data. The Street Triple shares a single EPA emissions certification with another 675cc Triumph and the Agency seems to have assigned to both models the power figure for the second, more powerful machine, which is... 

7. Triumph Daytona 675 – 126.3bhp at 12,500rpm

...the Daytona 675, with an EPA power figure much closer to the one given by Triumph, which is 126bhp on the nose. The Dayton 675 and Street Triple share the same 'bottom-end, internals and crank,' according to a Triumph technician.  

6. MV Agusta F3 675 – 126.3bhp at 14,400rpm

The fact that the MV triple exactly matches the similarly-designed Triumph’s power figure might suggest that they’re similar. But the revs at which that power is achieve tell the other half of the story, and suggest that the British bike works its 675cc more effectively than the Italian one.

5. Kawasaki ZX-6R (636cc) – 129.3bhp at 13,500rpm

That extra 36cc might seem small, but it gives the ZX-6R a healthy power margin over its 599cc predecessor, not to mention all the other 600s on this list.

4. Ducati 899 Panigale – 136.8bhp at 10,750rpm

It really doesn’t seem long ago that 136bhp would have been enough to make for a seriously impressive 1000cc superbike. After all, it would have been enough to see off even the top versions of the old Ducati 916/996/998 range, and probably the 999 as well. But then again, the 899 isn’t that far from being 1000cc itself.

3: MV Agusta Brutale 800RR – 138.1bhp at 13,100rpm

Does anyone really need a bigger Brutale, if the 800 makes nearly 140bhp? The fact that the peak power is up at 13,100rpm might say ‘yes.’

2. MV Agusta F3 800 – 144.8bhp at 13,000rpm

There’s talk that Triumph is developing 800cc versions of the Daytona and Street Triple and if the British firm isn’t doing it, the performance of the F3 800 suggests it should be. Yes, we know the F3 has a few from-the-factory flaws, but a well-sorted Daytona with this sort of performance would surely be a winner.

1. Suzuki GSX-R750 – 147.5bhp at 12,200rpm

It’s one of those bikes that plenty of people swear by, and on its launch there were many who said the GSX-R750 was a better real-world machine than any 1000cc offering. These days its lacking in terms of technology, but a properly-sorted, modernised version would surely be an awesome option. But would enough people buy it to make it worthwhile? In the meantime, everyone who’s forgotten the GSX-R750 should go and remind themselves why it has become a legend.

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