Liter-class superbikes have literally become race bikes with plates on them - and the latest generation CBR 1000RR is no exception. Though street legal, it is clearly designed for the track - a focused machine with few, if any, compromises to water the experience down.

To go faster, you need to be more powerful - or lighter. The '08 CBR is both. About 5.5 pounds were dropped from the frame (made of four die-cast main sections, each of them hogged out to keep the pounds down) while the revised DOHC four is also about 5 pounds lighter than before - as well as more compact, due to a new design cylinder head/valvetrain layout.

Another two-plus pounds were shed by going with new-design rims and a revised front brake system - which now uses four less attachment points than before. Honda engineers say this change also improves steering response, in addition toreducing the bike's unsprung mass.

The steering damper is also a new design (it's hidden beneath the fuel tank now) that's more compact and weighs a few ounces less than previously. Equally important, the damper increases triple clamp offset by some 2.5 mm - which gives reduced trail and thus quicker steering response.

Even the battery has been downsized - a change made possible by the addition of a new-design high-torque starter that doesn't require as much juice as before to kick the big four to life.

All told, the new CBR is about 17 pounds lighter than the previous generation CBR l - a huge difference on the street or track.

The '08 CBR's inline four has a service ceiling of 13,000-plus RPM, courtesy of a 1.4 mm shorter stroke. The block doesn't use sleeves - so overall width can be the same, even with increases in displacement. Honda engineers also reconfigured the design/positioning of the cylinder head and cams/valvetrain to lower the center of mass, another MotoGP-inspired tweak to extract every last bit of potential speed and handling from this thing.

Interesting stylistic (and functional) features include a new 4-2-1 exhaust with both electronic and pressure controlled valves to modulate backpressure as you go. The can is a triple chamber design that arches up like an artillery piece just ahead of the rear caliper; it is aerodynamically tucked flat against the right side of the bike - allowing impressive lean angles as well as a low drag coefficient at the 170-plus speeds this bike is capable of delivering.

After coming up short - on the street and the track - against Gixxers and ZX-10s - the new CBR is back in fighting trim.

MSRP is $11,599

Other colors will be offered - but Honda Red is what you'll want!