A day before the world’s leading two-wheeler show – EICMA in Milan – opens, Chennai-based Royal Enfield revealed the engine – a brand-new, 650cc, air-cooled parallel twin – that will power its next generation of motorcycles that will be showcased at the Italian fair.
This revelation confirms Autocar Professional’s online report of March 16, 2016, that the Royal Enfield was working “on a number of global platforms including a high-performance motorcycle project, which is likely to have an engine displacement of more than 600cc with a twin-cylinder configuration.”
The main aim behind the new 650 twin engine was to develop a global platform to carry on the Royal Enfield legacy and character into today’s motorcycles and those in the future. The new platform is a four-stroke, single overhead cam, air-cooled, 648cc parallel twin-cylinder engine developed by Royal Enfield’s UK Technology Centre and Chennai teams. Precisely engineered to be able to accelerate and deliver higher power and torque at lower rpms, this new engine develops 47bhp and 52Nm torque.
The new engine is a complete ground-up effort and the company stresses that it has nothing to do with the firm’s existing single-cylinder engines. Royal Enfield says that it wanted the new motorcycles to be aspiring, but also affordable and the 650cc capacity is at a sweet spot where it makes for a good upgrade from the 350 and 500 singles, but is not a step too far. Another advantage is that with this level of power, the engine slots under Europe’s learner-legal A2 licence regulations, thus opening up the potential to tap into new riders as well.
How the new engine stacks up
In line with Royal Enfield’s heritage, the engine is air-cooled and the cases have been designed after the Mark II Interceptor. An oil cooler is employed for additional engine thermal management. The engine uses a four-valve, SOHC layout and a 270deg forged crank. The 270deg firing order helps balance secondary vibrations while a balancer shafts takes care of primary vibrations. Power is sent to the rear wheels via a new six-speed transmission that uses a slip assist clutch for easier modulation. The clutch is a heavy duty unit, as is the alternator which is beefed up to handle the additional load from running any accessories.
Peak power is a healthy 47hp at 7,000rpm while a maximum of 52Nm arrives at a low 4,000rpm. These figures and the rpm they arrive at hint at strong, but unstressed, performance. Royal Enfield says that this bike doesn't have the trademark thump of its singles, but instead produces a signature rumble thanks to that 270deg firing order. From the little that we heard in the teaser video MD and CEO Siddhartha Lal shared in his video on Instagram, the motorcycle emits a deep and throaty rumble. The engine will be Euro 4- and BS IV-compliant at launch and can be scaled up to meet the stricter norms of Euro 5 and BS VI when the need arises.
The motor is still in the pre-production stage. We had the opportunity to witness its performance while touring the test track near Royal Enfield’s new, high-tech test centre at Bruntingthorpe in the UK. The bike was carrying considerable pace and it was hard to snatch a clear photograph. The company says that it can hold a pace of 130-145kph ‘without feeling overstrained’, so it looks safe to estimate to a top speed upwards of 160kph.
Tested over 10 lakh kilometres
According to the company, the entire platform, including the engine and chassis, has undergone rigorous testing during the development programme. It has been subjected to lab and bench tests, in addition to being tested on proving grounds, race tracks and public roads. Royal Enfield says it has put in over 10 lakh test kilometres in multiple environments including India and Europe. The Indian team and the team at the UK test centre have been equally involved with the development and RE is confident that its testing regime is up there with the most stringent in the world. The result should be significantly higher levels of quality than seen with previous products.
As regards the machines the new engine will power, the full details will be available only at the press launch tomorrow. For now, we can tell you that one of the bikes will be a standard model, while the other might be something along the lines of a café racer. The frames for these motorcycles are also new from the ground up and the bikes will feature classic retro styling with simple clocks and a single disc upfront. ABS will be standard.
If all sticks to schedule, Royal Enfield plans to start rolling out these bikes to the initial lot of markets by April 2018. Additional markets will receive the bikes as the year progresses. We believe India should be among the first lot of markets. Unlike the Himalayan, which was developed in different specs for different markets, RE says the new bikes will be sold in one spec worldwide.
With these new machines, Royal Enfield is targeting a multitude of different customers. The A2 licence-friendly power and easy riding characteristics that the company promises these bikes will have means that new riders will certainly be on the radar.
Existing RE customers are another huge base to tap into as the company has sold a whopping 2.5 million bikes since the UCE engine first debuted in 2008 and that's an enormous number of customers who could be looking for something to upgrade to.
The third set of potential customers are those who like, or are interested by the brand, but have no interest in the current products. Finally, while RE repeatedly states that it is more focused on self-improvement than beating the competition, rival machines are also an area of focus.
On the sales front, Royal Enfield is firing on all cylinders. In the domestic market, the company has sold a total of 378,304 units in the first six months of the fiscal year to notch 23.17 percent YoY growth. In the same April-September 2017 period, it has exported 8,561 units, up 17.69 percent YoY.
Also read: Royal Enfield opens its new innovation factory in the UK