2008 Moto Guzzi Griso 8V
Four Extra Valves Deliver A Kick in the Pants!
Dear MO'ridians, I’m not going to wax lyrical about the beauty of the Como Lake this time and will instead get straight to the point. One proper stretch of the new Griso’s throttle cable in the first bit of clean road I've found was enough to convince me: The Messiah has arrived to Mandello, and how. This might not be the type of Messiah who’s going to solve all this world’s problems, hunger or war, but a Messiah nevertheless.
Guzzi fans all over the world can walk proud at last: What an engine! What a peach of an engine! This new 8V power-mill deserves a regal welcoming. The renewed Guzzi factory has been churning fine new models for the last three years (since the Aprilia and then Piaggio takeover), but they’ve often left me with a feeling of: "If only the motor had another 20 hp...." Childish, I know, but the agony over power is over then.
Guzzisti wont have to search for meek "aliens ate my sparkplugs" excuses from now on. The "otto valvole", i.e., eight-valve motor fills up a serious gap that had opened up throughout the years of Guzzi's offerings, a gap called powa'. Don't worry, there's a frame, suspension and plastic body parts and great forms attached to that engine too.
But when you read the 110-hp line in the spec sheet, first reaction is: “What? In a Guzzi? Must be a typo.” And yet, you can really feel those 110 horsies pushing you, no doubt about that. Even if this kind of power might cause Supersport riders to giggle, then in the context of a naked bike like the Griso, 110 horsies are a very satisfying herd. Not less important, this is the strongest motor Guzzi has ever mass-produced, and at last, Guzzi can face off other air-cooled 1200cc Twins like Ducati, BMW and Buell without blinking.
The recipe for obtaining this more than respectable power looks simple on paper. New cylinder heads have been grafted on top of the good old "big block" base, and these have four valves each. A "high camshaft" rather than a truly overhead one is positioned to the side of the combustion chamber and it operates the valves via tiny pushrods, pretty much like in the last generations of BMW Boxers.
In order to power these high cams, two chain drives run at the motor's rear, requiring heavily modified cases and new cylinders too, so this engine has no relation to the eight-valve 1000cc Daytona/Centauro motor of the mid-’90s. In order to let this new engine breathe well at high revs, enormous throttle bodies of 50mm diameter have been installed, but even more important is the all-new geometry of the combustion chambers.
The original two-valve design (still used in the Breva, Norge, etc.) had a very unfashionable 90-degree angle between valves, thus creating a very deep combustion chamber. This feature prevented Guzzi from pushing for high compression ratios and required hot cams and high revs to make power. With the new flattish chamber design, good squish areas could be built and the compression ratio could be raised to 11.1:1. And it works!
During my first miles as I am getting accustomed to the Griso 8V, it's the really good pull from down low that impresses. Not that the old engine was flat at this range, it's just that this one is so much better from 2000 rpm and on that I am tempted to compare it to an air-cooled Buell or Ducati, just sweeter. Even without pushing beyond 5000 revs, you can whisk along at a very fast rate and the throttle response is damn near perfect.
Before moving on to the "beyond 5000 revs" chapter, it might be worth reviewing the rest of the bike, no? Almost two years have passed since I was here for the launch of the then-new Griso 1100, and time has done only good to the design. Other than the new, bigger silencer with the upside down figure-8 tailpiece, there are no real design updates. But the Griso still looks amazingly horny.
Dottore Marabese, the Griso's designer did a really good job, and this creature is simply beautiful while having its very own personality. Considering this ultra fresh and original design was unveiled as a prototype some five years ago that's no mean feat. Aggressive looking from some angles, classic from others, there are sporty and Kustom Kulture hints thrown in as well, and it all results in a very sophisticated composition. In spite of the massive and impressive motor/gearbox/swingarm unit, the light and subtle bodywork enhances the visible frame tubes lines and entails the Griso with an airy feel.
Hop aboard, and a Guinness world-record-sized gas cap catches your attention while later you notice a quite different handlebar compared to the previous Griso. It's much more enduro-like in its bend, narrower and nearer, and it puts you in a more standard riding position. The Griso 1100's bar really stretched you into a sail-in-the-wind stance which wasn't that popular with some folks.
Danielle Toressan, Guzzi's PR officer, draws my attention to the flanks of the seat that have been narrowed too in order to let shorter-legged Italian dudes reach the ground easier. Not having such a problem, I actually didn't appreciate this last upgrade much as it reduced a bit the support for my sizeable bum.
Back to tech-speak, with 22 extra horsies compared to the 1100 Griso, brakes and suspension had to be upgraded too. The all-radial anchoring system is taken directly from the 1200 Sport, wavy discs included, while suspension is now fully adjustable.
As it usually happens with Guzzis, and regardless of mankind's march forward, the mechanical character of these machines requires some getting used to. At stoplights, the way the Griso rocks side to side while idling is almost grotesque – seems like the higher compression has exacerbated this trait. Sneak first gear in and there are clicks and clacks, a slight agricultural feel that to be fair, is not all that different than what you'd experience on a current Beemer or Buell. Guess Guzzis wouldn't be Guzzis if they were all smooth and quiet, eh? Touch the throttle, though, and if by magic the rocking disappears and power does flow down smoothly and in a very satisfying way, providing from down low a much healthier pull than that of Guzzi’s 1100 or even 1200 2-valve mills which were already a step up in drivability.
And yet, the spec sheet numbers or anything I've read about this new motor couldn't prepare me to what happens when you hit 5000-5500 rpm. The new-school big-block-based motor starts to bark like a scalded dog, pulling madly to 8000 and accelerating the Griso in almost violent fashion. My eyes catch a glimpse of the rev meter's needle flying about, my bum feels the trust, my arms tense but still, deep inside I can't believe it's a Guzzi. Where's this and where's my old, lazy and long-legged Le Mans III?
According to the specs, overall gearing seems to have grown compared to the 1100 Griso but still is on the short side of short, and through the frantic acceleration I find myself booting the gears in a very un-Guzzi-like, rapid-fire fashion. The hike in power at top end is so steep that with this shortish gearing, at 100 mph in top gear, the pull actually seems to grow stronger, and seconds later my neck muscles have to fight against the 120-mph air blast. Therefore, any "what she'll do?" checks became irrelevant quite quickly. I have little doubt that the Griso could do, un-faired as it is, 130-140 mph, but it's a totally unpractical proposition.
When the time to slow down a bit came about, the wavy rotors and fully radial Brembo set up did an excellent job. There's plenty of power and braking feel in there for road use.
But a super-power Guzzi is not all flowers and roses, as it turns out. Main issue with dealing with this high-revving powerful 8V mill is that the classic engine still has got a car-type clutch and flywheel that have notable inertia. When you shut down the throttle for an upshift, revs don't drop so fast, and if you are really hurrying things there'll be a serious kick forward. Upshifting clutchless, Japanese-style, made things only worse. While on straight bits it wasn't much of an issue, it become one when the going went twisty.
As I left the Autostrada to tackle some fine roads in Brianza, it was actually the only fly on the ointment, as the Griso's frame more than proved its worth and sporty capability to deal with the extra 20 ponies. Just like I've noticed in the previous 1100 version, the Griso is one mean handler and a good companion for spirited mountain rides. Looks like even now, after the Piaggio takeover, Aprilia road testers are still involved in development in Guzzi and it shows.
Even with the slightly narrower bars, the 8V is downright flickable, steering is light and when the things settles down to low carving mode, it really hustles around turns, just like a good streetfighter should. You'd have to be trying really, really hard to find any ground clearance problems on the street. Even if the sticky Metzeler Sportecs supply very high levels of grip, footpegs seem to be placed rather high – just make sure that you do place the balls of your feet on the pegs as otherwise you'll be grinding plenty of sole material.
Back to quicker sweepers, now that there's an engine that hauls ass and can whisk you into them at 100 mph with ease, the light feel at the front end doesn't inspire absolute confidence. The Griso is sure sporty but can't really go head to head in that sense with tools with true race pedigree like the S4R and Tuono. In really fast going (by naked standards), the adjustable suspension that worked so fine in the slower stuff requires adding a few clicks of rebound to keep everything in better control.
At the other end of the flying envelope, namely city cruising, the Griso shows its cool-dude side. The grunty engine has also a sweet delivery when you need it, and the whole operation of the bike is years ahead in smoothness compared to Guzzis of yore. One evening my girlfriend hopped on for a ride on the back and, considering that the passenger doesn't have much to hold on, I took it real easy. In stop-and-go traffic, the clutch lever gets a bit heavy after a while, and the rear end is not happiest when dealing with speed bumps, but that's about it for obvious problems.
The Griso is an excellent platform showoff in town, and the amount of "Che figo!" remarks the bike gets (what a beauty!) was comparable to what I heard when strolling around town on the MV Brutale. Yes, in real life, it's that finger-licking good. I parked the Griso next to Milan's art film center, and while we waited for a screening of Antonioni's "Il Grido" to begin, I spotted quite a few souls doing rounds around the Griso for minutes on end. The day after, at work, the Griso again gets its share of admiring looks from my young colleagues.
Why is this bike so remarkable? Even if Guzzi is slowly picking up from the doldrums, one look at the demographics of the crowd at the last World Guzzi rally was enough to understand that the brand is still perceived as older guy's territory. The Griso is one of the bikes that could change (or might be already changing) that perception. With that seriously exciting engine pumping underneath, there's now real he-man substance to satisfy not just older Euro-poseurs, but also younger and harder riders too.
I’ve got to admit, I loved the thing, but even more than that, it made really excited about the shape of things to come from Mandello. The MGS 01 had too complex an engine to be put into mass production, but with this new mill available, a real Sport or Sport-Sport-Touring Guzzi can't be such a remote idea.
In the meantime we have this fine, special, do-it-all Griso 8V to play with, and it's one hell of a reason to party.
|Specifications: 2008 Moto Guzzi Griso 8V|
Bore and stroke
|4 Four-stroke, 90-degree V-Twin|
95.0mm x 81.2mm
Air and oil
Magneti-Marelli multipoint sequential electronic injection
Stainless-steel, two-into-one with catalyzer, Euro 3 compliant
108.4 hp at 7,500 rpm (claimed)
79.7 ft-lbs at 6,400 rpm (claimed)
6-speed, shaft drive
|Tubular twin-cradle, high-tensile steel|
43mm inverted, fully adjustable (34-degree rake)
Remote reservoir single shock,
4.25 inches (108mm)
61.2 inches (1554mm)
489 lbs (claimed)
31.5 inches (800mm)
90 inches (2260mm)
32.7 inches (830mm)
42.1 inches (1070mm)
4.41 gallons (16.7 liters)
Twin 320mm wave rotors with 4-piston radial-mount calipers
Single 282mm rotor with 2-piston caliper