2012 Moto Guzzi Norge GT8V | First Ride

To Norway, the long way

The original Norge of five years ago had plenty of positive attributes, but Moto Guzzi's fully faired sport-tourer was criticized for a laundry list of flaws including handlebar vibration, excessive heat from its 1151cc, four-valve V-twin and an uncomfortable seat.

Now the Norge (Italian for Norway, in celebration of a Moto Guzzi's 4000-mile journey to the Arctic Circle in 1928) is back, and it's been comprehensively updated. The new Norge GT8V looks very much like the old model, but 80 percent of its components are said to be new, starting with the eight-valve motor that gives the model its name. Guzzi has had an eight-valve engine in the Stelvio and Griso for several years, but didn't originally use it for the Norge because the main requirement was midrange rather than top-end performance.

That concern has now been addressed by the latest high-cam V-twin, which Guzzi claims has 20 percent more torque across the rev range as well as an extra 7 horsepower on top. The revised air-cooled motor also keeps temperatures down with re-engineered cylinder fins and a larger oil cooler with attached fan.

The chassis has also been revamped with firmer springs at both ends and new damping rates. Brakes are from Brembo with ABS fitted as standard. The bodywork is new but retains the traditional rounded look and twin headlamps. The seat is re-contoured as is the windscreen, and the handlebar has been lifted and brought closer to the pilot for a more upright riding position. There are now grab handles for a passenger and the standard-fitment saddlebags have been redesigned. A top box is available as an accessory.

Pressing the starter button brought the big longitudinal V-twin to life, and it settled into a lazy idle. Setting out from our launch base near Florence in Italy, my initial impression of the new engine was that it felt effortlessly flexible. It was happy to chug along at 3000 rpm, then pick up revs instantly given a tweak of throttle.

With a claimed 102 bhp pushing a bike that's said to weigh 602 pounds wet, the Norge's straight-line performance was never going to compete with the latest breed of four- and six-cylinder supersport-tourers. But there was more than enough acceleration for an enjoyably quick ride on the roads heading north toward the Mugello MotoGP circuit, and the Guzzi cruised at 90 mph with a relaxed, loping feel.

Comfort at speed was pretty good, too, thanks in part to the manually adjustable windscreen, operated by a slightly hard-to-reach pair of thumb buttons. The new rubber-mounted handlebar did a good job of keeping vibes from my hands while the new seat proved wide and well-padded. I found the Norge commendably comfortable, although some riders thought the distance between the seat and footrests was too tight. Shame there's no simple height adjuster under the seat as on the Guzzi Stelvio. At least the fairly high footpegs allow plenty of cornering clearance.

It needs it, too, because the GT8V's firmer suspension means it handles corners better than before. For a fairly big, heavy, shaft-drive sport-tourer, the Norge was wonderfully agile, and flicking from side to side was just a matter of nudging the high handlebar and letting the Guzzi follow the road. The Pirelli Angel ST tires supplied plenty of grip and the redesigned sidestand and centerstand allow enough lean angle to make use of it.

My only suspension-related complaint was that if you add luggage and a passenger, you're also going to want to add spring preload to the shock. The Norge could do with a remote adjuster as fitted to the Stelvio, or better still the option of electronically adjustable suspension as offered on BMW's R1200RT and Ducati's Multistrada 1200. While the Guzzi does come standard with ABS, the brakes aren't quite as powerful as those fitted to other bikes in this category.

What makes the Norge appealing is its punchy, smooth-running engine and a composed chassis that allows for very enjoyable riding on twisty roads. It promises to cover distance in serious comfort, too. With most of the original Norge's failings now put right, the GT8V must be regarded as a serious contender against BMW's RT and all the rest-especially as its price is very competitive.

tech SPEC
The Norge gets Guzzi's high-cam eight-valve V-twin and updated suspension, brakes and ergos.

BMW R1200RT, Ducati Multistrada 1200, Triumph Sprint GT.


Price $15,990
Engine type a/o-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 EFI
Clutch Dry, single disc
Transmission 6-speed
Claimed horsepower 102 bhp @ 7000 rpm
Claimed torque 76.7 lb.-ft. @ 5500 rpm
Frame Steel double-cradle
Front suspension 45mm Marzocchi fork with adjustable spring preload
Rear suspension Sachs shock with adjustable spring preload and rebound damping
Front brake Dual Brembo four-piston calipers, 320mm discs with ABS
Rear brake Brembo two-piston caliper, 282mm disc with ABS
Front tire 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Angel ST
Rear tire 180/55ZR-17 Pirelli Angel ST
Rake/trail 25.0º/4.7 in.
Seat height 31.9 in.
Wheelbase 58.9 in.
Fuel capacity 6.0 gal
Claimed curb weight 602 lbs.
Colors Black, white
Available Now
Warranty 24 mo., unlimited mi.
Contact Piaggio Group Americas, Inc. 257 Park Ave. S., 4th Floor New York, NY 10010 212.380.4400 www.motoguzzi-us.com

VERDICT 3.5 out of 5 stars

Comfortable and capable but lacking the sophistication and refinement of its competitors.

The Norge’s instrument console combines traditional chrome-rimmed gauges with a modern digital display. Everything is higher and nearer the rider, making it easier to read.
The brakes become computer-controlled at the threshold of traction to keep the front wheel from locking. An oil cooler and thermostat-controlled fan are positioned behind the lower cowling.
Shaft drive is a must-have on a sport-tourer. Moto Guzzi’s CARC (Compact Reactive Drive) works to eliminate driveshaft jacking for a smooth, controlled ride.