2008 Moto Guzzi Stelvio - Reborn Identity

Moto Guzzi Stelvio

Moto Guzzi is revamping its image. To illustrate this, the Italian company has been showing photos of a traditional older Guzzi owner with a bushy mustache and open-face helmet and a new owner: a younger, clean-cut, Jason Bourne look-alike.

The ideal bike for a tough action hero like Mr. Bourne would be a big adventure-sport. So, it's no coincidence that the first new Guzzi since this change of direction is the Stelvio, named after the famously twisty Alpine pass.

If you've seen the movies, you know Bourne is a secret agent unsure of his identity. The Stelvio seems unsure of that, too. Like the class-leading BMW R1200GS, it combines rugged looks with off-road features such as long-travel suspension and wire-spoked wheels, but its Pirelli Scorpion Sync tires are distinctly road-biased and there's little room for mud beneath its front fender.

The Stelvio is a handsome devil, though, much of its appeal based on that hunky, air-cooled, longitudinal V-twin. The half-fairing contains an analog tach and digital speed display, plus a small glove box that pops open at the press of a button. Out back there's a solid-looking luggage rack with mounts for the accessory luggage.

Chassis specification is high, too. The tubular-steel frame holds a 50mm leading-axle Marzocchi fork, with compression damping in one leg and rebound in the other. The single Boge shock has a remote hydraulic preload adjuster, and the front brakes are a blend of Brembo 320mm discs and radial-mount four-pot calipers.

Like most adventure-sport bikes, the Stelvio is tall, with a wide bar and long wheelbase. Its broad, height-adjustable seat felt like a good place to be at the press launch in Tuscany, the roomy, upright riding position giving a commanding view of the scenery. Although I'm over 6 feet tall, the height-adjustable windscreen did a good job of keeping the wind off my chest without too much turbulence.

Mechanically, the 1151cc, high-cam V-twin is identical to that of the Griso 8v, and is respectably quick. Revised EFI settings and a new 2-into-1 exhaust with a large, angular silencer on the left side combine to boost midrange torque. Peak output is down by 5 bhp to a claimed 105 at 7500 rpm, matching the GS.

The new-generation, four-valve-per-cylinder lump is quieter and more sophisticated than the old two-valver, but still rustled away with traditional Guzzi character. The clutch is light, throttle response immediate without being snatchy, and the big twin vibrated in a fairly amiable way at low speeds and when revved toward its 8000-rpm redline.

One of Guzzi's traditional assets has always been generous low-down grunt, but I found myself using the slick-shifting, six-speed gearbox to maximize the performance of an engine that felt disappointingly weak below 5500 rpm. Ironically, the Stelvio might be better off with the less powerful but more flexible two-valve motor.

At least the Stelvio kicked out a good amount of smooth power when it got into its stride-enough to cruise at 90 mph, up to a likely top speed of about 130 mph. And the shaft drive was unobtrusive, although aggressive acceleration and gear changes sometimes got the bike moving around on its suspension.

In general, the Stelvio handled very well given the constraints of its size and long-travel suspension. At speed, the bike was quite stable, and changed direction quickly in response to a light nudge of those wide bars. Part of the reason for that were the powerful front brakes, which made the fork dive enough to noticeably reduce rake and trail. Using up that much suspension travel inevitably reduced cornering clearance, but the Guzzi could be cranked over a fair ways before its footpegs scraped. At least the suspension gave a luxurious ride.

Having a tough off-road image and the long legs to match hasn't done the BMW GS any harm, and there are doubtless some riders who will make good use of the Stelvio's ability to ford rivers while keeping their feet dry. A few refinements would make Guzzi's adventurer better suited to its likely role. But as it stands, the Stelvio is a stylish, distinctive character with the toughness and all-around ability to make a lasting impact. Just like Jason Bourne.

Tech Spec

Yet another contraption powered by Guzzi's venerable V-twin, this one in semi-modern eight-valve guise.

Price $14,990
Engine type a-c {{{90}}}-deg. V-twin
Valve train SIHC, 8v
Displacement 1151cc
Bore x stroke 95.0 x 81.2mm
Compression 11.0:1
Fuel system Marelli EFI
Clutch Dry, single-plate
Transmission 6-speed
Claimed horsepower 105 bhp @ 7500 rpm
Claimed torque {{{80}}} lb.-ft. @ 6400 rpm
Frame Tubular-steel trellis
Front suspension 50mm Marzocchi inverted fork, adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Rear suspension Single Boge shock, adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping
Front brake Dual Brembo four-piston radial calipers, 320mm discs
Rear brake Single Brembo two-piston caliper, 282mm disc
Front tire 110/80-19 Pirelli
Scorpion Sync
Rear tire 180/55-17 Pirelli
Scorpion Sync
Rake/trail 27.0/4.9 in.
Seat height 32.3-33.1 in.
Wheelbase 60.4 in.
Fuel capacity 4.8 gal.
Claimed dry weight 472 lbs.
Colors Red, black
Available August
Warranty 2 yrs., unlimited mi.

They say: "Devours off-road surfaces."
We say: "It might be the surface that does the devouring."

Moto Guzzi USA
140 E. 45th St.
New York, NY 10017

A stylish, distinctive character with the ability and toughness to make a lasting impression.

They say: "Devours off-road surfaces."
We say: "It might be the surface that does the devouring."
The Stelvio is a capable on-road adventure-tourer, and could be made to work better off-road with the accessory steel engine and drive shaft protectors and aluminum sump guard.