Honda CB 350 RS road test review: Better than H'Ness
Honda's new weapon in the 350 cc segment was unleashed recently and oh boy, it does look intimidating, especially the flashy Red and Yellow/Black paint schemes it adorns. Well, basically it is the H'Ness/Highness' technical cousin which comes based on the same engine, platform and everything else. The only difference is the use of different panels, wheels and several other changes which come together to make the CB 350 RS slightly more desirable than its authentic retro counterpart.
What separates it from Highness?
For starters, the CB 350 RS has been designed to attract a slightly different set of buyers. While the Highness aims for the riders looking to buy an authentic retro cruiser, the CB 350 RS targets a slightly younger, more enthusiastic audience. It sets itself apart with the use of two different paint schemes which do all the magic. Personally, I couldn't make my mind on which one is better as both seem equally enticing to look at.
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Moving on, the CB 350 RS has received some other significant updates which contribute to giving it a different character altogether. Basically, the majority of the chrome components seen on the Highness now come in black. There is new outer housing for the front headlamp, new shock shoes, a belly protector underneath, new side panels, and a completely overhauled rear-end. The new LED tail light along with the rear grab handle catch instant attention on the RS. Also, the fresh tuck-in seat gels well with the overall appeal of the bike. All these elements combine to make the RS a sportier and more charged-up model.
Short on features:
Even though it is a bit costlier than the Highness, it misses out on some of the features offered on DLX Pro variant. There is no Smart Voice Control feature on the RS, in addition to that there's also no USB support to charge your smartphones on the go. Honda also said that while the latter can be added externally as an optional purchase, there is no option for the former feature even when you've got extra bucks lying around. But a reminder, you'll need a Bluetooth-enabled helmet to use Honda's Smart Voice Control feature and if you don't have that, it is truly of no use and most of the buyers also don't find itvery resourceful.
Heavy on performance:
The RS basically gets the same engine, transmission, frame and everything. So it is supposed to ride like the Highness right? Surprisingly, it doesn't. I also visited my review of the Highness to compare how the RS feels against its technical twin to have a greater sense of things.
To my surprise, the RS felt improved upon everything that wasn't right with the Highness (initial lot). There is absolutely no update on the powertrain or transmission, yet, the test unit felt quicker and light-footed. In gear or roll-on acceleration felt snappier but the difference was minor.
As expected, there are no vibrations on the motorcycle, irrespective of the speeds you are doing and the last gear will easily take you to triple-digit speeds without running out of steam. You can also easily cruise at around 80-100 kmph in the last gear and the bike feels stable and at ease while doing so. On top of that, the exhaust pops and crackles beautifully while downshifting to the initial gears (occasionally), which really fills up the soul with joy.
The wheels of the bike are smaller than the Highness, in addition, they are also shod with different rubber sets. There is a wider 150 mm section tyre sitting at the rear wheel which really makes quite a significant difference. Improved road manners of the RS over Highness really justifies its name tag - 'Road Sailing' and it is indeed fun to ride fast around the corners and twisties. Albeit, don't expect Ducati Scrambler-like performance on turns but in its zone, it is indeed at the top.
As I mentioned in the previous review of the Highness, braking is one of its strongest points and it's the same case with the RS as well. The reason why braking feels impressive is because some of its key rivals actually have pathetic brakes, and none of the regular updates have managed to sort out this key issue. On the other hand, take Highness or RS, both feature impressive braking.
Can it off-road?
A belly protector plate and block pattern tyres don't necessarily mean that it can be taken off the road. It is almost like going jogging in your bathroom slippers. Well you can, but should you?
Bits like low suspension travel, rear set pegs, shorter handlebar make it not suitable for your adventure riding. Stiffness from the front suspension (which is tuned for tarmac) will punish your soul if you are in the mood for hitting the trails.
The final words:
Honda's new CB 350 RS is more like a H'Ness CB 350 wearing more trendy clothes. But that's not quite apt to put it that way; it is more than that. It is an improved version of the H'Ness which does not just look cool but also rides better. RS is made for the road and that is exactly where it belongs. Even though it has been made to appeal like a Scrambler, it can't go off-road but will be happy to serve you while daily cruising and occasional long trips.