Charm of third-gen Moto Guzzi V7 even more discreet
In The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Luis Bunuel's excellent satire of the middle-class, the film-maker positions the actors sitting around a table, conversing freely with each other while sitting on toilets. Every so often, one of the characters will stand up, excuse themselves, and retire to a tiny room to woof down some food.
What's this got to do with Moto Guzzi's latest V7 range? Well, it contains a quartet of motorcycle models that are as left-field as that scene in the movie. And they have a charm that is definitely discreet. By that I mean that their capacity to impart riding pleasure is far from obvious upon first encounter.
It has always been thus with the V7 since it began to be based upon Guzzi's long-running "small block" engine, three generations and eight years ago. The "50th Anniverso" model added to the usual suspects this year – the Stone, the Special, and the Racer – celebrates the original V7 of 1967, which used a bigger blocked engine and grew into the fabulous and much revered V7 Sport in 1971. That bike was hailed as "the original Italian superbike" as it preceded Ducati's first supersports models by a couple of years.
As cockle-warming as this tenuous link to the distant past is to remember, the more relevant part of the current V7 story began in the 21st Century. For that's when Guzzi resurrected the name, using the venerable small-block engine housed in an historic Lino Tonti-designed half-cradle frame as its platform for a range of twin-shocked retro models.
The only real connection of these 750cc bikes to the hallowed V7 Sport was their engine capacity and a shapely tank design that mimicked that of the ancestral Guzzi sportster. But that homage to the past has really paid dividends for the eagle brand. Guzzi quite possibly would have been mothballed by owner Piaggio had the preceding small-block V7s not been so successful.
The new V7 III Special reviewed here therefore is part of the next step towards securing the future of the historic Mandello del Lario factory, located on the shores of Lake Como, where Moto Guzzi has been building bikes in the same place for longer that any other manufacturer. And although this Special looks a bike built using the same template as the first- and second-gen V7s, there are plenty of changes beneath the bodywork to justify Guzzi's hailing of a new generation.
For starters, the engine has been dragged not only into this decade, but the next one as well, through its new-found compliance with Euro 4 emission standards.
While it was at it, Guzzi gave it a redesign from top to bottom. Out go the "Heron heads" with the heavy pistons required for casting the combustion chambers inside their crowns, replaced by more conventional heads with combustion chambers in situ. At the bottom end, there's stronger new crankcases, housing a lighter crankshaft, and Guzzi is crowing about a significant reduction in pumping losses and friction.
The trademark single-plate clutch of the marque has been enlarged, and while the six-speed gearbox carries over from the V7 II, a lower first gear enhances take-offs, while a higher sixth adds a more relaxed persona when cruising on the open road.
Power output increases by 10 per cent, but don't get too excited, as this is still an air-cooled pushrod twin with two valves-per-cylinder that we're talking about. Maximum output is a heady 52bhp (38.7kW), a worthy increase of eight more horses, but the real victory is found in the increased ride-ability of the V7 across the entire rev range.
For it now starts more readily, settles into a flawless idle speed from cold, and staunchly refuses to stall upon taking off. These are big wins compared to past V7s, but the biggest one of all is the boost in riding force felt across the entire engine speed range. A V7 has always been a bike with an easy-riding personality, but the third iteration of the breed take it to the next level. It's also even easier on fuel, enhancing the ownership experience along with the shaft final drive.
That's all despite the engine being comprehensively strangled by the new exhaust system. There's plenty of horsepower waiting to be released within with a little, ahem, exhaust tampering. Plenty of thump too, as the sound the new V7 III makes is a little too socially acceptable.
Further dynamic victories can be found on the chassis front. The frame has been reinforced at the front, bringing extra rigidity, and adding steering agility along with an increase in the rake of the carry-over front forks. Longer new Kayaba rear shocks also quicken the steering without the bike feeling nervous, and it is even more of a delight to chuck around than previously. Be warned that it will run out of cornering clearance as the edges of the cross-ply Pirelli Sport Demon tyres approach, and that hitting big bumps mid-corner with that basic front fork can lead to a sudden modification of the chosen line through the corner.
Finishing the bike off are the improved ergos. The more comfy seat is sited lower at 770mm high, the mirrors are spread wider for better rear views, and the feet of both bike occupants are placed in more natural-feeling sites. Best of all, the bike still costs $15,990, which positions it directly against its fiercest rival, the Triumph Bonneville Street Twin. So, Brit or Italian? Shaft or chain? V-twin or parallel-twin? Either way, you'll get a discreetly-charming easy-rider that'll always put a smile on your face.