Moto Guzzi, founded in 1921, is celebrating a century of building motorcycles. The company joins a very small fraternity of manufacturers that have reached this impressive milestone. Technically, the company’s 100th was already in 2021, but the pandemic spoiled the planned festivities. Being Italians, Moto Guzzi simply postponed the party. And what better way for the famed Italian marque to celebrate than to roll out a stellar example of technical evolution and innovation from the famed Mandello del Lario factory on the shores of Lake Como.
The key party treat is the 2023 V100 Mandello. Straight up, the new Guzzi, in S model form with two-tone Verdi 2121 livery and gold treatment, is striking. This dynamic machine marries the time-honored attributes of the iconic brand with an uncanny modernity that oozes sporting performance with a touring character. Interestingly, the V100 moniker was chosen not only as it pertains to displacement (1000cc) but also for recognition of Moto Guzzi’s centennial. More telling, the company audaciously declares it as a symbol of looking forward to another 100 years.
Maintaining its heritage of a muscled presence, the engine dominates the V100’s aesthetic. The all-new 1042cc 90-degree “compact block” V-twin resides in the high-strength, tubular steel trellis frame in Moto Guzzi’s unique and unmistakable transversely-mounted configuration. Augmenting the engine-as-art aura of the Guzzi, massive header pipes sinuously snake down on either side, tracing the powerplant’s silhouette and feeding into a compact muffler that delivers a throaty, alluring exhaust note.
Once cranked over, the smooth-thumping DOHC liquid-cooled V-twin almost completely lacks the famed Guzzi torque twist at the blip of the throttle. This is courtesy of the new counter-rotating shaft, which balances the inherent torquing sensations of the engine. Although a welcome innovation—one I wouldn’t undo—I have to admit, I kind of miss the torque twist now that it’s gone.
The lugubrious rumble of the big twin speaks to 115 horsepower, of which a very usable 82% is on tap at just 3,500 rpm. You have plenty of punch available right off idle, which is where it’s desired. The engine utilizes three timing chains, each with its own hydraulic tensioner, with finger followers serving to smooth out the operation of four valves per cylinder. These new internal components contribute to relatively low engine noise for the large rotating mass of a big-displacement V-twin.
Upon that initial feeding out of the clutch and engaging the powertrain with movement, the quality of engineering on the new Moto Guzzi is instantly apparent. The V100 possesses the refined character of a modern sportbike while paying homage to the raw visceral nature of previous Guzzis. The spirit of 100 years is present. Everything about the V100 is comfortably at your finger- and toe-tips, well-placed and reachable. Gone is the heavy clank of shifts, while the bike pleasantly retains the muscular presence of the bawdy V-twin.
The early part of the test ride on crowded streets, where stop-and-go was the order, attested to the V100’s easygoing and adaptable demeanor. The syncopation between rider controls—throttle pull, clutch lever resistance, gear shifter, the feel of the front brake lever with the rear pedal—presented an impressive technical balance that contributes to an overall feeling of meticulousness.
Although morning traffic is hardly the dream scenario for such a spirited machine, it is the harsh reality of what a great deal of riding constitutes. In that realm, the V100 is comfortable and compliant, patiently waiting for the opportunity to be cut loose on a good road.
Patience rewarded, we diverted from the main thoroughfare and ascended into the mountains above Lake Como on a sinuous road that allowed proper stretching of the V100’s legs. The seductive roar of the engine was awakened, the velocity blurring the grass along the road’s shoulder. The increased speed allowed for proper play with Guzzi’s quickshifter, which provided seamless, clutchless shifts. However, on several occasions, the transmission rebelled against the shift from second to third gear under intense acceleration.
The ride-by-wire throttle carries the V100’s claimed 514 pounds with aplomb. The on-the-fly ride modes of Turismo, Pioggia, Strada, and Sport let you change the bike’s character according to changing conditions and situations. The rain (Pioggia) mode severely restricts response, while Turisma and Strada provide decent performance in their respective categories. However, Sport lets the V-twin really sing. It’s where the V100 is happiest.
The most immediate revelation in the V100’s handling is how effortlessly the bike turns in. There’s an almost weightless feel about the initial stage of leaning in that borders on disconcerting, as the bike almost feels like it’s hit a false neutral. Once you’re aware of this tendency, it becomes second-nature and you can fully embrace the bike’s responsive handling. The V100 is capable of very quick, nearly effortless directional changes and is gifted with pleasant predictability in terms of trail braking. The chassis allows for brake application deep into turns without any hint of wanting to stand up or revolt with jitters against inputs. These are all attributes gleaned from a history of racing.
The S model sports dual 320mm Brembo brakes on the front end, accentuated by a perfectly sculpted lever, working in concert with a single 280mm rear disc. The brakes deliver excellent and predictable stopping while also responding favorably to the delicate nuances of trail braking. Cornering-ABS provides the latest technology, ensuring the safest possible ride performance in all weather conditions. The new, wet anti-hop clutch proved itself highly effective on choppy, tight downhill corners, keeping the rear end of the Guzzi firmly planted even under aggressive deceleration. The six-speed transmission is concise and tight, delivering positive engagement of shifts even when the rider gets sloppy.
The S model is fitted with Öhlins Smart EC 2.0 components, with a 43mm diameter fork mated with a single rear shock (the standard model has Kayaba suspension). Both units are fully adjustable with semi-active compression and rebound damping, and the shock preload is adjustable remotely. The driveshaft swingarm pivot is integrated into the gearbox and utilizes a single U-joint to bolster smoothness.
AERODYNAMICS AND ERGONOMICS
For a company renowned for having built the first wind tunnel for motorcycles, aerodynamics naturally figure prominently into the V100’s design. An electrically-adjustable windscreen helps keep turbulence in the cockpit to a minimum. The innovative adaptive aerodynamic lateral flaps—making a first-time appearance on a motorcycle—are nicely hidden in the upper bodywork and deploy at 45 mph, depending on the ride mode. The flaps supposedly reduce air pressure on the rider by as much as 22% while aiding airflow, and can be used to deflect rain. These aerodynamic elements work in conjunction to tailor cockpit turbulence.
The feel of the V100 is that of a fitted leather glove as opposed to a line-manufactured mitten. The seat, which sits at 32.1 inches, is firm yet comfortable, with the tank juncture providing an easy gripping point for the knees in spirited riding. Some editors complained about the seat juncture pinching them, but I was wearing full leathers, which evidently left me immune to any discomfort. The bend of the handlebar settles the wrists and arms naturally, while the peg-to-seat placement finds an uncanny balance between comfort and sporting attributes. The engine cylinders have been angled forward five degrees to provide more leg room.
Svelte and sophisticated, exuding excellent craftsmanship and build quality, the V100 embodies 100 years of Guzzi heritage while shamelessly and eagerly tugging on its reins toward the future. Built in the European tradition of sporting capability with practical daily rider attributes, the V100 is a nimble urban utility mount during the week, capable of cutting loose on the weekend for sport riding and touring.
Standard equipment includes an LED headlight and cornering functionality, cornering-ABS and traction control, adaptive aerodynamics, a five-inch full color TFT screen with Moto Guzzi MIA, cruise control, and underseat USB socket.
Other color schemes include Bianco Polare (white), Rossa Magma (red), Grigio Avanguardia (black and gray) and, honoring Moto Guzzi’s bond with the Italian Navy, there’s the limited edition Aviazione Navale, inspired by the F-35B fighter jet. All the bikes are served well aesthetically by the exceptionally dynamic 17-inch wheels in either satin gold or matt black.
+ V100 is set to make Guzzi owners out of a whole new generation of riders
– at long traffic lights, the massive V-twin’s heat rises up into the rider cockpit
Distributor: Piaggio Group Americas
MSRP: $15,490 (base model);$17,490 (S model, tested)
Engine: liquid-cooled, 90˚,transverse V-twin, DOHC w/ finger followers, 4-valve
Power: 115hp @8,700rpm; 77.3lb-ft @6,750rpm
Transmission: 6-speed, electronic quickshift, hydraulic wet multi-plate clutch, anti-juddering system
Weight (wet): 514lbs (wet, claimed)
Seat Height: 32.1in (low 31.5in and high 32.8in seats optional)
Fuel Capacity: 4.49gal
Fuel Consumption: 50mpg (claimed)
Colors: Verde 2121, Bianco Polare, Rossa Magma, Grigio Avanguardia, Aviazione Navale