2012 Honda NC700X/XD Motorcycle Test
We all know the feeling of being a kid in a candy store, staring at all the sweet options while knowing you can’t take it all home.
For most of us, selecting a motorcycle is a similar dilemma: practical vs. profiler, performance vs. comfort – there’s always a compromise. The new 2012 Honda NC700X takes a lot of the sting out of finding the middle ground with its liquid cooled 670cc parallel twin adventure bike.
In standard form, the bike’s clean sporty lines say action. With a minimal windscreen and fairing to weigh it down, the NC700X is ready to slip through freeway traffic, rappel the urban canyon, or slalom local mountain roads.
Add on the optional saddlebags, rear trunk, and tall windshield, and the bike becomes a nimble touring companion ready to tackle that mental list of road trips you’ve been accumulating. The forward-slanted engine and underseat fuel tank (what looks like a fuel tank is a huge storage space) create a low center of gravity, keeping the 474-pound bike feeling light at speed and easily handled at slow speeds.
Thanks to comfortable ergonomics and torquey low to mid-range power, the 2012 Honda NC700X is a friendly and enthusiastic ride. The seat height isn’t unreasonably tall for an adventure bike, though at 32.7 inches, and with no low seat option available, it will be off limits to some riders, particularly the new riders Honda is courting with this bike.
The upright seating stance and comfortably positioned footpegs and bars assure a relaxed ride, but are not incongruous with a confident, pace-pushing agenda.
The clutch action on the standard NC700X is smooth and light, and the foot shifter engages the six-speed transmission precisely. You’ll quickly find yourself shifting sooner than later as you bump against the surprisingly low 6400-rpm redline – the NC700X is geared low – but the fluid torquey delivery encourages spirited, though not explosive, riding. This low redline is not a coincidence.
Honda has traded high-rev power for low-end pull, realizing that most riders will not be pegging the rev limiter as they ride the NC700X, and probably never hit the rev limiter on the automatic transmission NC700XD. The upside is improved acceleration in real-life riding. This is a trend we expect other manufacturers to take note of.
The motor itself is quite smooth, except for a buzz that’s apparent at 4500 rpm, blurring the mirrors. Shifting or adjusting speed easily avoids that, though it would be better if Honda simply eliminated the vibration at that often-used rpm. Interestingly, with the NC700XD automatic transmission, the motor doesn’t settle at that rpm, so I suspect Honda is aware of that aspect of the NC’s motor.
As you wind into the hills, you’ll find yourself twisting the throttle a little more and leaning into the turns, letting the NC700X’s suspension handle changing directions and uneven surfaces. The Metzeler Roadtec Z8 tires stay securely connected to the asphalt and the bike tracks well through turns. Not easily put off by real world conditions, this is a reassuring attribute that keeps the fun factor high. Not quite as encouraging is the action at the front brake; initial bite from the single 320mm disc is a tad grabby, especially when not augmented with downshifting.
The standard NC700X is a conventional six-speed, manual transmission. The Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) version-the NC700XD- allows automatic shifting in two modes (Drive and Sport), while also providing a manual override via paddle shift buttons on the left hand grip. The plus (+) and minus (-) buttons are positioned just under your index finger and thumb, making for seamless movements (though there is a slight learning curve to remembering the obvious, + for upshifting, – to drop a gear). The weight penalty for this technology is about 30 pounds, but we think well worth it.
New riders—the group at which the DCT model is squarely aimed—will especially appreciate the Drive mode, as nothing fast happens here because the transmission upshifts early, limiting acceleration. Relieving the rider of worrying about the clutch and shift lever is particularly valuable when the multi-tasking of hand and foot controls, and monitoring traffic and road conditions, has not become second nature.
Seasoned riders looking for aggressive action will find the manual paddle shifters more useful than the Sport mode, which simply upshifts later. Acceleration is enhanced, as you don’t have to let off the throttle when upshifting-just hit the + button. It’s as good as having the sophisticated racing-focused quickshifters on superbikes, except that it’s even smoother. No, it doesn’t mean the NC700XD has superbike performance, but it does mean you get the most out of the motor.
We liked the paddle shifting on the VFR1200F (where the DCT technology debuted), and think it is a great feature on the NC700XD. While there is some time needed to acclimate yourself to the manual feature of the DCT system, it quickly becomes second nature to those welcome to change. Don’t worry if you happen to hit the wrong button-even if you accidently downshift during hard acceleration, the NC700DX’s computer won’t let anything untoward happen and the bike remains settled.
Of the NC700XD’s three riding modes, though, Sport may ultimately log the most miles. There will always be a time when a clutch-free ride—that shifts in the sweet spot—can be appreciated, whether you find yourself in traffic, or you’re enjoying the scenery. Having the option to let the NC700XD take over this detail is welcome.
The DCT version of the NC700X features Combined ABS. When the brake pedal is engaged, one of the three calipers from the front brake is simultaneously activated. Ironically, the Combined Braking lessens the need for ABS and it makes the braking more effective and balanced.Unless you make a huge error, find yourself in an unexpected emergency situation, or you’re on wet/oily/sandy pavement, you’ll probably never even feel the ABS kick in.
Gassing up the NC700X is something like a scooter. Turn the ignition key in one direction and the hinged seat releases and you pull up to reveal the gas cap. Turn the key in the other direction and the “tank” compartment opens, so you can get to your wallet or any other necessities you want handy. An optional 12-volt outlet is available inside the compartment, so your phone can stay charged at 100%.
At a claimed 64 mpg for the standard version (61 mpg for the DCT), the 3.7-gallon NC700X theoretically has a 200+ mile range (we haven’t yet tested this), making it a terrific candidate for touring. A plethora of Honda Genuine Accessories was designed concurrently with the NC700X, and it shows in the crisp fit and style. From the easily removed rear trunk capable of holding two helmets, to the 29-liter saddlebags (capacity of each), combined with the “tank” compartment large enough to hold most helmets, the NC700X can carry quite a load.
Additional accessories include tall windscreen, heated grips, a center stand, foot deflector kit, saddlebag panel kit, front side cowl panel, lower cowl deflectors, fairing air deflectors, and light bar.
We were disappointed to see the earlier NT700V disappear so quickly. It was a fun sport-touring bike in the same displacement class as the new 2012 NC700X, and had similar storage capability via integrated saddlebags. However, the NC700X has added versatility via optional removable bags and the ‘tank’ storage compartment, and the new technology of the NC700XD makes the NT’s loss but a memory.
The 2012 Honda NC700X and NC700XD are stylish motorcycles with capabilities that will have great appeal for newer riders, while offering quite a bit of utility for more experienced riders who have a strong sense of exactly how much motorcycle they require. As an added enticement for the budget-conscious, the MSRP for the standard NC700X is $6999.
2012 Honda NC700X and NC700XD with Automatic Dual Clutch Transmission and Combined ABS Specs:
- Engine Type: 670cc liquid-cooled parallel twin
- Bore and Stroke: 73mm x 80mm
- Compression ratio: 10.7:1
- Valve Train: SOHC; four valves per cylinder
- Induction: PGM-FI with 36mm throttle body
- Ignition: Digital transistorized with electronic advance
- Transmission: Six-speed (NC700X) / Automatic six-speed with two modes and a manual mode (NC700XD)
- Final Drive: Chain
- Front: 41mm fork; 5.4 inches travel
- Rear: Pro-Link; 5.9 inches travel
- Front: Single 320mm disc with two-piston caliper (NC700X) / Single 320mm disc with three-piston caliper; Combined ABS (NC700XD)
- Rear: Single 240mm disc with single-piston caliper (NC700X) / Single 240mm disc with single-piston caliper; Combined ABS (NC700XD)
- Front: Metzeler Roadtec Z8 120/70ZR17 radial
- Rear: Metzeler Roadtec 160/60ZR17 radial
- Wheelbase: 60.6 inches
- Rake: 27.0°
- Trail: 4.3 inches
- Seat Height: 32.7 inches
- Fuel Capacity: 3.7 gallons
- Estimated Fuel Economy**: 64 MPG (NC700X) / 61 MPG (NC700XD)
- Color: Light Silver Metallic
- Curb Weight*: 474 pounds (NC700X) / 505 pounds (NC700XD)
- Color Available: Light Silver Metallic
- MSRPs: NC700X, $6999; NC700XD, $8999. Saddlebags, $599 (plus $199 Saddlebag Support Bracket). Top Box, $299 (plus $149 rear carrier).
*Includes all standard equipment, required fluids and full tank of fuel-ready to ride.
**Honda’s fuel-economy estimates are based on EPA exhaust emission measurement test procedures and are intended for comparison purposes only.
Meets current CARB and EPA standards.
Stock photography by Kevin Wing
Helmet: Shoei RF-1100 Chroma
Jacket: Tour Master Transition
Gloves: Tour Master Summer Elite 2
Pants: Tour Master Quest
Boots: Tour Master Solution 2.0 WP Road