2011 Moto Guzzi Norge 1200 GT8V Review
The Norge strikes again
Moto Guzzi’s Norge has been around for a few years now, since 1928 in fact, but I’m talking about the latest incarnation launched in 2006. This updated Norge is now powered by Guzzi’s 8-valve V-Twin engine, first seen on the Griso 1200 S.E. launched a couple of years ago.
In the Norge chassis it’s tuned to produce 102 horsepower but it’s the early torque push that makes it a Guzzi. The transverse 90-degree V-Twin is an engine full of character, but the 102-hp version doesn’t feel quite as “rich” straight away like the new Stelvio 8V does with its 105-hp version of this powerplant. The engines differ only in their exhaust layout.
The Norge first feels a bit tamed compared to its other flagship half, the Stelvio. But as soon as we really get moving the Norge 1200 just grows on me. I don’t care so much about the half hearted electric windshield or any other gimmick. It’s the pure riding pleasure surrounding this bike I’m after, and it’s there in the bucket load.
Despite its 567-lb claimed dry weight, the Norge GT8V flicks from side to side like a sport-tourer, but the Norge is as stated in the name a GT bike. I really like the way the big motorcycle feels in corners, and soon enough I push harder into the corners than the ABS brakes allow. You could speculate that I was about to overcook a corner, but I blame the ABS brakes which I felt were overzealous to a degree one too many for my tastes and nearly dangerous at this one point.
Due to time constraints we don’t really cruise much at launches and instead ride fast whenever we can. I still kick it up to sixth gear to test the engine response at low rpm, and there are very few bikes that can do this with as little effort as the Norge GT8V. The big 8-valve V90 behaves in a smooth and relaxing way when cruising. The new efficient oil cooler is mounted lower and is said to reduce mechanical sound and improve power.
The suspension has been upgraded with new spring rates and more preload at the back, which is one of the handling features that enables a much quicker change from extreme left to right in tight corners. The Norge transfers power to the 180 rear tire by way of a cardan, and accelerating hard feels very similar to that of an air-cooled BMW.
Most of the power is available very early in the power range and 76.7 ft-lb is available at 5500 rpm, whilst max power of 102 horses is reached at 7000 rpm. Above 7K rpm there’s little to gain, so it’s better to short shift and use that lovely torque instead.
The new handlebar has been lowered and moved slightly back towards the rider. This is a comfort upgrade but also allows a more sporty riding style in perfect harmony with the 31.9-inch well-padded seat. The footpegs are mounted fairly low for comfort, but the ground clearance is still good enough to have plenty of fun up and down mountain roads.
The new exhaust silencer looks a lot more stylish than the old one, but beware of loose muffler bolts – they vibrated loose on several of the test bikes, and one test rider even had his muffler loosen and drag on the tarmac until another rider stopped him. This bolt needs to be secured better in place or Moto Guzzi will eventually have to replace this gorgeous muffler on many bikes after scratch damage.
The tires fitted are the Pirelli Angel ST in a 120/70-ZR17 and 180/55-ZR17. These tires have great all-round capabilities and are amongst the safest tires you can buy for wet-weather riding.
It’s fair to say that those double 50-liter panniers on my bike were empty and handling would change as soon as they were filled up for a long journey.
Moto Guzzi claims that only the headlights remain from the last Norge. The fairing has been redesigned to extract air from the engine to the rear wheel rather than anywhere near the rider. Then there’s a new electric windshield that I don’t like particularly much. There’s not enough travel to give somebody my height (6-feet) any particular benefit in the higher position, hence a waste of space and weight. The windscreen is also too thin, so it vibrates a lot in the wind. Also, you’d need thumbs the length of Pinocchio’s nose to reach the lower/raise buttons on the handlebar.
The sidestand and centerstand have been redesigned for ease of use, making it easy to place the bike on its mid stand. Luggage capacity from the saddlebags is 100 liters. Other practical details include heated grips as standard and a 12-volt external power socket. The fuel tank takes 6.1 gallons (23 liters), which ensures plenty of touring miles in one go.
The 2011 Moto Guzzi Norge GT 8V is pretty irresistible despite its old-fashioned Italian flaws. It’s not often we see flaws in modern Italian motorcycles these days, but Moto Guzzi has a few like that exhaust muffler vibrating loose and a electric windshield that doesn’t satisfy.
Everything else, including the engine, new fairing and handling capabilities are fantastic. The ABS brakes work well despite me complaining a little, but I rode it in an extreme way which many customers will never come close. The flaws we find in a day may take your average Joe years to find, and Moto Guzzi will more than likely remedy any issues before it hits the showrooms.
The Norge GT 8V is priced to beat BMW’s touring bikes, but with BMW you get more gadgets and dealer support. I still find the big Moto Guzzi flagship oozes Italian flair and character and have absolutely no problem whatsoever recommending a Moto Guzzi Norge over most other manufacturers’ offerings because it’s more special in both feel and looks.