When you create the largest V-Twin manufactured in Europe and have placed it in a pair of cruisers that have garnered favorable reviews – one of which was named the Motorcycle.com Best Cruiser of 2013 – the natural thing for a motorcycle company to consider is how else can the stable of motorcycles based on this DNA be enlarged.
For 2016, Moto Guzzi has added two new models built upon the successful California 1400 platform. Though they are almost entirely based on the California, you won’t find any mention of the familial relationship in their names. One model, the 2016 Eldorado, marks the rebirth of the name of a 1970s-era Moto Guzzi that was once quite popular with the California Highway Patrol and other law-enforcement agencies, will be covered in a future review. Instead, we’re going in the opposite direction, away from classic styling and into a new realm for Moto Guzzi, the urban muscle cruiser. Shorn of the chrome and color of the typical cruiser, the Audace comes from, as the media introduction to the motorcycle put it, Moto Guzzi’s “dark soul.” Here, Moto Guzzi hopes to grow a relatively new branch on its family tree, a branch only recently created by the Moto Guzzi V7 II Stone and the Dark Rider accessories designed for the V7.
When looking at the Audace for the the first time, one gets the impression of something quite familiar yet very different. Clearly a Moto Guzzi with the large jugs jutting out from under the tank in all their transverse-mounted 90° V-Twin glory, the Audace’s lines are the same as the previous California models, but the details are different. A black, 18-in. 24-spoke cast aluminum front wheel sports a 130/70-R18 tire which is, in turn, graced with an abbreviated carbon fiber fender. The fork is free of stanchion covers while a black circular headlight with a chrome rim lightens the triple clamp area when compared to other members of the California family. Atop the triple clamp, the circular instrument cluster is blacked out, save a chrome rim that matches the headlight’s.
Rather than use a chrome, pulled-back handlebar similar to those on the other Moto Guzzi 1400s, the Audace gets a wide, semi-gloss black powder-coated drag bar. Even the mirrors are black – a theme that is carried over for all but a select few metal pieces on the motorcycle. While the dual exhaust pipes carry the familiar California lines, the slash-cut mufflers end at the rear axle, as opposed to extending to the trailing edge of the tire. The low-cut saddle features a 29.1-in. seat height (a 28.3 in. option is available) while the pillion pad is removable to provide a clean solo saddle stance. The seat’s red stitching offers the only color highlight on the Audace other than the red Moto Guzzi logo on the wheels.
The low-slung saddle combines with the drag bar and forward-mounted pegs to create an in-your-face riding position that is reminiscent, though nowhere near as exaggerated as that of the Harley-Davidson V-Rod. While Moto Guzzi claims that this is in an effort to appeal to younger riders, there are enough Boomers and Boomer offspring who like the image that this riding position conveys to make the Audace popular with a wide swath of riders. Regardless, the feet and arms forward riding position puts the rider in a prime posture for straight-line acceleration.
Guzzi’s 1400 mill has always had a burly power delivery. Armed with a pair of 104 x 81.2mm cylinders, producing a flat torque curve that delivers over 80 lb-ft. of twisting force from 2,000 rpm to just shy of 6,000 rpm and a claimed peak of 89.2 lb-ft. at 3000 rpm, the Audace will charge forward with authority when the rider pulls its tail. Although the heavy flywheel makes the engine’s rpm climb slower than a lighter one would, the extra rotating mass makes for a bike that is able to handle at low rpm like when pulling away from a stop or negotiating parking-lot speed maneuvers. In fact, the rotating mass causes the engine to feel like it’s continuing to run for a moment after the ignition is switched off.
While mechanically the same, with one exception, to the California 1400’s engine, the Audace features one change that affects its operation on several levels. Hanging below and just forward of the left cylinder, a secondary air system injects air into the exhaust side of the cylinder heads to help the engine become the first Moto Guzzi to achieve Euro 4 emissions classification. While the goal was improved emissions without any loss of power, the EFI’s updates also affected one problem I noted on my review of the 2015 California 1400 Touring, namely abrupt transitions from on-to-off and off-to-on throttle in some situations.
Since the 1400 engine features ride-by-wire (RbW), it has three on-the-fly, rider adjustable engine maps: Veloce, Turismo, and Pioggia. In Veloce mode, the map delivers the torque more forcefully and increases the engine braking effect. Turismo focuses on rider comfort by softening both the power delivery and engine braking while not reducing the peak power. Pioggia, referred to as “safety” by Moto Guzzi reps, is what is usually considered the rain mode, featuring reduced power and engine braking.
Last year, my thoughts on the California’s engine maps were that Veloce’s throttle response was snappier but exhibited the abruptness that plagues some RbW systems. Additionally, the amount of acceleration did not directly match the movement of the wrist. With no peak power penalty and only a softened power delivery, Turismo mode provided the smoothest, most enjoyable throttle control.
Well, that was then, and this is now. The Audace suffers from none of those maladies. The improvement was so great that, aside from a few stints to test Turismo mode, I left the map set to Veloce for my entire ride. Once again, however, Mother Nature didn’t provide any rain to test Pioggia mode. The three traction control settings (plus off) range from least intrusive (1) to moderately intrusive (2) to rain (3). During spirited riding, the TC only intervened during deliberate attempts to activate it, such as aggressive launches or abrupt throttle application in gravel/sand. In each case, TC worked as advertised. While some may wonder why a cruiser – even a muscle cruiser – would warrant TC, I think it is a good tool to have available in situations where traction could be lost.
Several times at the beginning of the first day’s ride, I detected the smell of clutch plates after some aggressive sprints from stops by our group and another journo’s burnout attempt. We were riding low-mileage test units, so perhaps the friction material hadn’t yet fully bedded in, but we’ve inhaled that smell before when thrashing a California stateside. For me, the clutch work without a hiccup in normal use, and I didn’t smell burning plates later in the day or the next.
The visit to Moto Guzzi’s factory in Mandello Del Lario, Italy, was an eye-opening experience and not just because of the opportunity to see the facility that has produced so many motorcycles. Seeing the environment from which generations of Guzzis have sprung, only deepened my affection for the brand. The Lake Como region of Italy is known for its beauty, making it popular among tourists. However, it is the undulating asphalt that motorcyclists will probably love even more than the area’s natural beauty. Over two days of riding, I sampled all that the region had to offer. The Audace excelled wending its way up to and down from the mountain heights. It loped along in each town’s traffic. It looked ready to pounce as it sat parked while we consumed yet another espresso. (Hint: If you want to consume espresso like an Italian, mix in a healthy amount of sugar and toss it back. Sipping espresso will mark you as a tourist – and probably an uncultured American.)
Although the Audace, with its drag bar, looks like it was designed for only the straight lines of the urban grand prix, Moto Guzzi augmented its cornering abilities compared to its California ancestry. A 0.3-in. increase in the dual shocks’ stroke combined with the use of footpegs rather than floorboards, gives the Audace three more degrees of lean angle. While cornering clearance is still in the realm of cruisers, the additional lean is noticeable – and appreciated. The chassis is otherwise unchanged from the previous generation.
As with the previous California models I’ve tested, the Audace’s suspension works well in its appointed duties. Riding over a variety of surfaces, ranging from glassy-smooth to broken and bumpy, the sporty yet firm ride doesn’t transmit excessive jolts to the rider, while still keeping the chassis stable. The steering requires noticeably more effort than previous 1400s – even though the rake is the same 32° and the trail is, surprisingly, 0.4 in. shorter at 5.7 in. The 18-in. front wheel and the flat drag bar are responsible for this, but with the application of some muscle, the Audace can be hustled through a series of corners at a respectable clip.
However, the numerous switchbacks encountered in the mountains were made more challenging by the wide drag bar and the awkward position in which it places the rider’s hands. Similarly, tight, low-speed turns in parking lots or making a U-turns force the rider to reach a long way to the outside grip. This will be even more of an issue with those who are smaller than my 5-foot, 11-inch frame. Additionally, on longer sessions in the saddle, the wide space between the grips plus the forward lean conspired to make the Audace more tiring than the Eldorado with its pulled back bar. When discussing the Audace with other journalists at stops, the drag bar generated the most heat.
The brakes, on the other hand, deserve nothing but praise. The dual 320mm stainless front discs and their Brembo four-piston calipers offer exceptional feel and power – which is a good thing when one considers that the Audace weighs in the neighborhood of 700 lbs. Even in the most aggressive of braking, the standard ABS only interceded when I deliberately hammered the binders to trigger the system.
If you look closely at the riding photos in this article, you’ll notice an iPhone mounted to the handlebar. Moto Guzzi has stepped into the smartphone age by creating an iOS/Android app that links to the Audace via Bluetooth. Although it doesn’t let the rider alter the bike’s settings, it does provide a virtual instrument panel for relaying a ton of information to the rider while out on the road. The app’s riding mode displays five user-selectable data streams, including speedometer and tachometer, engine power and torque, instant and average fuel consumption, average speed and battery voltage, and longitudinal acceleration. Additionally, the phone can be programed to act as a shift light or an indicator that the TC has interceded.
Since smartphones contain GPS sensors, the app can also act as a map and provide other navigational convenience features. For example, when the Audace goes on reserve, the app automatically locates and displays the closest gas stations. Also, the app remembers the location where the bike was shut down, making it possible to find it when parked in a crowded or unfamiliar place. In a nod to Aprilia, Moto Guzzi’s sister manufacturer, and the Caponord, the app will display the distance to Mandello Del Lario.
Perhaps the most compelling feature of the app is its data-logging ability. After a ride, the route can be called up on the app, and the rider can select any point on the route and have all of the recorded parameters displayed. Yes, everything from the gear to the rpm to the power output to the lean angle. Pretty fun stuff, actually.
Moto Guzzi has crafted another successful variation on the California platform – even if the state name doesn’t make its way into the model name. The Audace is a motorcycle worthy of its name, which translates into boldness, impudence, or, not surprisingly, audacity. From the stripped-down, blacked-out styling to real-world grunt, the Audace will stand out on the boulevard and, with some effort, charge through the mountains in a manner befitting an urban muscle cruiser. The 2016 Moto Guzzi Audace will be available in July priced at $15,490.
|+ Highs ||– Sighs |
|2016 Moto Guzzi Audace Specifications|
|Engine Type||90° V-Twin|
|Cooling||Air and oil with an independent cooling pump; oil radiator with thermostat controlled fan|
|Bore and Stroke||104 x 81.2 mm|
|Compression Ratio||10.5 : 1|
|Valve Train||4 valves per cylinder, DOHC|
|Fuel System||Phased electronic Multipoint sequential injection, Magneti Marelli IAW7SM, “ride by wire”, 52 mm throttle body, IWP 243 Magneti Marelli injectors, double oxygen sensor, integrated management of 3 engine mappings, traction control, cruise control|
|Claimed hp||96 hp @ 6500 rpm|
|Claimed torque||89.2 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm|
|Final Drive||Double cardan joint and fixed bevel gear seat|
|Clutch||single-disc with integrated anti-vibration buffer|
|Exhaust System||stainless steel, 2-in-2 type, 3-way catalytic converter with double oxygen sensor|
|Emissions Compliance||Euro 4|
|Frame||Steel tubing, closed double cradle with elastic-kinematic engine mounting system to isolate vibrations.|
|Front Suspension||Standard fork , 46 mm, 4.7 in. travel|
|Rear Suspension||Double shock absorber with adjustable rebound and spring preload with remote reservoir, 4.7 in. travel|
|Front Brake||Dual 320 mm stainless steel floating discs, Brembo radial callipers with 4 horizontally opposed pistons|
|Rear Brake||282 mm stainless steel fixed disc, Brembo floating calliper with 2 parallel pistons|
|Front Wheel||3.50” x 18”|
|Rear Wheel||6.00” x 16”|
|Front Tire||130/70 R18|
|Rear Tire||200/60 R16”|
|Seat Height||29.1 in. (28.3 in. option)|
|Calculated Curb Weight||691.6 lb.|
|Fuel Capacity||5.4 gal.|
|Available Colors||Nero Travolgente (black)|
|Warranty||Two years, unlimited mileage|
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