Triumph's Daytona 675 sportbike came straight from left field in 2005 with its eccentric three-cylinder engine and category-defying displacement. In the intervening years, however, Motorcyclist's Motorcycle of the Year has gone from marketplace misfit to the most successful European sportbike in recent memory, and a driving force behind record sales. The 675 retailed almost 2500 units in the USA last year, making it the British maker's best-selling model here, outselling even the popular Bonneville and Rocket III cruisers.
Triumph won't have the 675cc category to itself much longer. Fellow European manufacturers Benelli, BMW and MV Agusta are all said to be at work on their own plus-sized middleweight triples. Now that the Daytona has been legalized for World Supersport competition (where a factory-supported team run by former Scuderia NCR Ducati team manager Stefano Caracchi will run against 600cc fours and 750cc twins), the 675cc triples have a newfound legitimacy that will drive this development even more aggressively.
Of the three, Benelli is the furthest along. According to European correspondent Alan Cathcart, Benelli CEO Pierluigi Marconi says his firm's DOHC, 12-valve 675 Tre is undergoing dyno testing, with plans to launch the bike at the '08 Milan Show. New-model development has been moving forward at a fever pace inside Benelli's Pesaro facility. The Italian maker's new owner, the Qianjiang Group (China's largest motorcycle manufacturer, producing more than 1.2 million powered two-wheeled vehicles every year), has announced plans to establish a full range of Benelli products by 2010, and the middle-displacement triple will form the basis of a significant portion of that lineup.
Benelli's 675 Tre will be designed by the company's in-house stylist, Spanish-born Carlos Solsona, with actual R&D happening in China. "This will enable us to fast-forward its development, while still delivering reliability and quality, as well as performance," Marconi said. "Things get done much faster in China than in Europe, and Benelli's expansion is being driven at a speed our owners are accustomed to."
Benelli will compete against Triumph on the racetrack as well as on the sales floor. Qianjiang Group President Lin Hua Zhong has committed to international competition at all levels, pointing to this effort as "a good way of obtaining recognition of Benelli as an important manufacturer, and showing the excellence of our technology." In addition to the 675cc triple, Benelli is also allegedly developing a five-cylinder World Superbike competitor and a six-cylinder MotoGP entry. Talk about a brand revival...
Meanwhile, MV Agusta's engineering department, led by the capable Andrea Goggi, is said to be working on an F3 675. Though the small Italian firm might lack the manufacturing might of Chinese-backed Benelli, it does have more resources available than before thanks to the recent sale of the Husqvarna off-road line to BMW. More importantly, MV has experience producing highly competitive, effective sportbikes as proven by its established F4 750 and 1000cc lineups-expertise that will no doubt be applied directly to the new three-cylinder platform.
Can Triumph's 675 triple stave off the building wave of Italian competition?
Lastly, moving north to Germany, BMW is rumored to be developing a K675 three-cylinder supersport for 2010. The Bavarian manufacturer is already hard at work on its 1000cc four-cylinder World Superbike racer (spy shots of which appeared in Motorcyclist's February 2008 issue), and has stated intentions of making this the foundation of a new and very serious sportbike family. With that in mind, it seems unthinkable that this technology wouldn't be applied to a middleweight that would provide BMW entre into this key sportbike category.
We're big fans of the Daytona 675's unique combination of light weight, nimble handling and meaty midrange power, and the notion of having other sportbikes following this format has us extremely excited. Bring 'em on!