Norton’s V4 superbikes were the stars of last year’s Motorcycle Live show at the Birmingham NEC, and the revived Midlands based company has been working hard behind the scenes to get the first production bikes to customers by the end of the year.
Company boss Stuart Garner says that his team is trying to bring the kind of exclusive design and engineering that the likes of Aston Martin brings to the car world, and so far it’s proving hugely popular. Deposits have been put down for every single one of the 200 top end £44,000 SS versions Norton has committed to build, while there are no shortage of suitors for the less exclusive (but still extremely special) RR model. At £28,000, the ‘base’ version of Norton’s masterpiece is set to go head to head with Ducati’s Panigale R in the battle of the exotic superbikes.
What makes the British company’s wares stand out, in addition to the high spec and evocative badge on the tank, is the unique TT pedigree. For the past xxx years, Garner’s Norton has been competing at the gruelling Isle of Mann TT, using an Aprilia superbike engine in their own chassis design. This rolling test bed has led to the new V4, which uses an all-new 1200cc engine designed and built by Norton, in a frame directly developed from the TT bike that Australian David Johnson took to seventh place in last year’s Superbike TT.
Garner says: “When we say we’re race developed, we’re road race developed, and we think that’s the best way to test your road bike. Through our experience of building the business over the last seven or eight years, our recent Isle of Man TT activity, our seventh place in the Isle of Man Superbike TT earlier this year, and a near 131mph lap, we feel now is the right time to bring our own V4 to market.
“We’re now ready to bring that Isle of Man TT race experience we’ve learnt over the last five years to Norton road riders worldwide. At the TT, we’re doing an average speed of 131mph, and it’s a road course. To be able to get the bike set-up to work at every point on the Mountain course – from 120mph sweepers to flat-out 200mph straights – has allowed us develop everything we need for a great handling road bike.”
Stuart continued: Sure, some riders will take the new V4 on a track day and it will be ace for that, but it’s a very, very pure development process that we’ve done at the TT that has given us a very strong all-round road capability with the platform we’ve put together.”
While the Norton’s chassis has been developed on the world’s most demanding race course, the 1200cc powerplant is new from the ground up. Developed in conjunction with the world famous Ricardo engineering company, the 72-degree V4 should comfortably produce in excess of 200bhp and will feature cutting edge electronics that wouldn’t look out of place on a MotoGP bike.
The engine is extremely compact, allowing the exhaust pipes to be tucked in on opposite side of the engine, allowing the engine to be moved further forward in the chassis, improving weight distribution and making for a very narrow bike.
The V4 engine uses titanium valves, a six-speed cassette gearbox and a race-bred slipper clutch to assist with sports riding and rapid down changes along with the autoblipper system.
Eight fuel injectors use variable inlet tracts and full ride-by-wire throttle system. It makes 130Nm of torque at 10,000rpm. A six-axis Bosch Inertial Measurement Unit will give the lucky riders full control when it comes to setting up their new machines, with options on the neat TFT screen allowing infinite adjustments to the traction-control, anti-wheelie, engine braking strategies, cruise control and launch control. There’s also launch control and a datalogging system for use on the track.
Garner added: “We’ve tried to move the bar a little bit with this bike, with the chassis, the swing arm, the carbon, the electronics, and a V4 with 1200cc, banging out north of 200bhp. We’ve looked at where the competition is at today, and thought ‘how do we take that on and beat it?’ We wanted to create a bike that’s not lesser spec than the competition, but a V4 that is at least where the cream of the market is today, and then go past that. We’re confident we can go past it with some performance, we can go past it with some handling, and the electronics too. But then you get the exclusivity and the hand built British Norton. A V4 that delivers everything with a little bit more swagger, and a little bit more exclusivity than the mass market superbikes out there today, but with a hand built finish and exclusive numbers.”
There’s no exact word as to when the first V4s will be united with their new owners, but one thing’s for sure. If the new Nortons live up to the hype, Britain will once again have a superbike to be proud of – 50 years after Bonnevilles and Commandos ruled the roads.