Highlanders - There Can Only Be One - Up To Speed

A New Factory And New Models For Sweden's Sole Surviving Motorcycle Manufacturer

Funny how it takes a Scandinavian company with an Asian factory to produce that most American of motorcycles, a V-twin dirt-tracker. But that's what Sweden's Highland Motors showed at last fall's Milan Show.

With Husqvarna now owned by Italy's Cagiva, and Husaberg by Austria's KTM, Highland is Sweden's sole surviving motorcycle manufacturer. Founded in 1996, and with no presence in the U.S., Highland purchased the rights to the Swedish Folan engine in '98 and has been quietly making V-twin-powered adventure-tourers for discriminating buyers in Europe and Japan. Now, having entered into a partnership with Great Northern Enterprise, one of China's largest motorcycle manufacturers, Highland hopes to build approximately 10,000 bikes per year in a variety of guises. The joint venture calls for the Chinese factory to produce complete motorcycles and engines for the Asian market, as well as components for Highland's own assembly lines in Skllinge in southern Sweden. "This combination of low-cost production in China with innovative design and development at our Swedish R&D; center is the foundation for a strong and successful partnership to drive our growth in the coming years," reads a company press release.

Highland currently offers six models, most interesting of which is the aforementioned dirt-tracker bearing the too-cute name DirtTrac. The street-legal machine is powered by a liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, dohc, eight-valve, 60-degree V-twin displacing 750cc that purportedly pumps out 84 horsepower and 62 lb.-ft. of torque. Rolling on 17-inch wire-spoke wheels shod with Pirelli SuperCorsa tires, and halted by twin disc brakes (a French-made Beringer four-piston caliper grasping a 320mm rotor in front), the complete bike is said to weigh an incredible 284 pounds dry. A racing engine kit is available, and a racing version of the bike rolling on 19-inch Goodyear dirt-track tires has been shown; there is no word on whether it will be produced.

Also new is the DesertStorm, which, as its name suggests, is a Dakar Rally-inspired adventure-tourer meant to take on KTM's 950 Adventure. Essentially a slimmed-down version of the firm's original Outback model equipped with a frame-mounted fairing, it's powered by a 936cc V-twin said to produce the same peak horsepower as the 750 but at 6000 rpm instead of 7500, and an additional 15 lb.-ft. of torque. Rolling on dirtbike-size 21-inch front and 18-inch rear wheels, and with 11 inches of suspension travel, it allegedly weighs just 370 pounds.

Rounding out the 2006 Highland line are the Allroad, which is basically an Outback with 19-/17-inch wheels that allow a lower seat height, plus a pair of very trick-looking single-cylinder 450cc motocross and supermotard models. For more information, visit www.highland.se.