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The performance of modern literbikes may be intoxicatingly fabulous, but we were becoming a little bored in recent shootouts by having to resort to splitting hairs among the Big Four's similarly spec'd 1000cc sportbikes. Yamaha gave us a taste of something different last year with the crossplane-crankshaft version of the R1, but it has a small power number and a large weight number, so it wasn't the game-changer we hoped would shake up the literbike pecking order. We began to feel a yawn coming on.

And that's why we're glad 2010 has rolled around, as it sees the introduction of two totally new four-cylinder superbike contenders. Aprilia comes to the party with the first liter-sized V-Four sportbike, while the tech-heavy Germans at BMW present the most powerful production literbike ever, the S1000RR.

At the end of 2009 we started the ball rolling early for our 2010 literbike showdown, pitting a trio of Euro superbikes – all of which are powered by some variant of the Vee engine configuration – against one another. The Aprilia RSV4 Factory came out as our fave over the Italian Stallion Ducati 1198S and KTM's formidable and refreshingly different RC8R.

At the end of the Euro literbike mêlée we stated our intent to take the V-4 Aprilia, winner of Phase 1 of the Literbike Shootout, and pair it up to the champ of the inline-Four combatants (Phase 2) for what would have ultimately been a three-part, best of the best-type series.

However, the anticipation was killing us, and when we were able to pop loose an RSV4 sooner than expected, we tossed our projected plan out the window.

So we threw our Vee-engine winner, the exotic RSV4 Aprilia, into the inline-Four battle. The Suzuki GSX-R1000 and Yamaha R1 remain unchanged for 2010, and since they didn't win last year, there was no reason to expect a different result this time around.

Honda's CBR1000RR took our literbike crown two years running and received some subtle tweaks for 2010 you should read about here, so it got an automatic invite.

Kawasaki's ZX-10R also did well in our previous shootout, plus it received several updates for 2010 including new bodywork and a slicker-shifting transmission. Get the lowdown by reading this review.

Meanwhile, the biggest news in inline-Four sportbikes is undoubtedly BMW’s new S1000RR. After sampling the uber-powerful S1000 on its own at its press launch in Portugal, we were anxious to ride it in the company of its peers to find out how the German machine stacks up.

More: 2010 Literbike Shootout: RSV4 R vs S1000RR vs CBR1000RR vs ZX-10R on
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