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2016 Moto Guzzi Audace: MD Ride Review

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A few years ago, MD chose the Moto Guzzi California 1400 as its Bike of the Year, in large part due to the glorious 1380 cc 90° v-twin newly developed by the historic marque from Mandello del Lario. That engine has found its way into other models, including the subject of this test – the naked Audace. As we previously learned, this engine not only has the wonderful character Moto Guzzi powerplants are known for (including, but not limited to, the typical rocking to the right when blipping the throttle at rest, due to the twisting of the longitudinal crank), unlike some Moto Guzzis, it makes enough power to please performance enthusiasts.

In the Audace, Moto Guzzi claims 96 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 89 foot/pounds of torque at 3,000 rpm. Compare those numbers with the specs published yesterday for the new Triumph Thruxton models (Triumph claims the same 96 horsepower at 6,750 rpm and 82.6 foot/pounds of torque at 4,950 rpm). The Triumph will undoubtedly feel quick at street levels, but the big Moto Guzzi mill has an even broader spread of power with higher peak torque coming at just 3,000 rpm. What this translates into is an effortlessness in acceleration on both the street and the highway.

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From below 3,000 rpm to 7,000 rpm, the Audace jumps every time you ask it to. Particularly, when the “Veloce” engine map is chosen (one of three available, in addition to Turismo or touring, and Pioggia or rain). Throttle response is very good, and improved from the California 1400, which could feel a bit “jumpy” when cracking the throttle in the Veloce (sport) mode. In addition to the greater power, the Audace’s engine is distinct from typical cruiser v-twins in its much quicker engine response (lighter flywheel effect).

Moto Guzzi considers the Audace a “muscle bike”, and the styling is meant to form this impression. Termed “ostentatious, muscular and fierce” by MG, the Audace looks like it means business. No excess plastic, the Audace expresses an aggressive attitude, right to the tip of its dual exit megaphone exhaust system. The carefully crafted details are there, as well, including the carbon front fender, classic MG tank badge, and the seat with contrasting red stitching.

The classic looking engine includes a very modern head design with four valves per cylinder and 10.5-to-1 compression ratio. Fuel injection with ride-by-wire throttle and the aforementioned three engine maps (Turismo offers full power, but softer throttle response than Veloce) are part of a very modern set of electronic aids. Adjustable traction control and dual channel ABS brakes are standard, together with cruise control. As an option, a Bluetooth module Moto Guzzi calls MG-MP allows the rider to connect a smartphone to the Audace (either iPhone or Android). After downloading either an IOS or an Android app (free from Moto Guzzi), you can access on your phone screen a huge amount of real-time data regarding speed, engine conditions, navigation information, stored routes, and even the maintenance manual for the Audace. Other functions include “Find My Bike”, which stores the Audace’s location when parked (in case you are suffering from a mild form of dementia – natural or liquid-induced), as well as an extensive data logger (including GPS information and vehicle data).

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Special “elasto-kinematic” engine mounts further quell the vibrations from the already smooth 90° v-twin as it sends power through the six-speed gear box (sixth is an overdrive) and shaft drive to the rear wheel.

The seating position is somewhat between that of the typical “standard” or “naked” and a cruiser, with the footpegs a bit forward and a reach to the bars that creates a mild “V” shape in the rider’s body. The rider’s seat is comfortable, although the seating position places a bit more weight on the tailbone.

New steering geometry is intended to provide more nimble handling compared to the California 1400. Braking is handled by high-end Brembo four-piston calipers in front (squeezing two 320 mm discs) and a single piston operating on a 282 mm rear disc. ABS keeps the rider from getting into too much trouble with these powerful deceleration devices. The contact patches include a 130/70 x 18 front tire and 200/60 x 16 rear. Moto Guzzi claims the Audace weighs 659 pounds with its ample 5.4 gallon gas tank full.

Riding the Audace, you immediately realize you are aboard a Moto Guzzi despite the modern electronics, gear box and engine. The unmistakable, raw Guzzi sensations are there, although perhaps a bit muted in comparison to some of the older, two-valve models. The chassis feels stiff, and the handling is responsive, while the engine makes the bike just plain quick around town.

As with forward thrust, you never feel a lack in braking power to slow the big beast down. The gear box has some of the clunky feeling found in just about any big v-twin. The spread of available gearing is more than enough in light of the broad powerband.

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The looks, including the fat rear tire, give the Audace an attitude that its performance can easily back up. In addition to the generous go and “whoa”, the Audace handles well for a power cruiser. The fat rear tire makes the bike want to stand up while cornering (particularly, when trail braking), but not so strongly that the rider doesn’t get used to it rather quickly. Ground clearance is pretty good, but aggressive riders will find enough feedback to confidently drag the footpeg feelers on both sides.

With 4.7″ of travel at each end (only adjustable for spring preload and rebound on the rear shocks), the suspension does an admirable job of keeping the Audace under control. Damping feels pretty reasonable until you encounter a sharp bump at speed (such as a square-edged pothole), when the fork damping tends to seize somewhat and transfer a good jolt to the rider. The stout 46 mm forks help with steering precision and confidence when hustling the considerable mass of the Audace.

If you like power cruisers, and appreciate a full dose of Italian style and character, the Audace is a hell of a motorcycle. It certainly looks the part, and packs a surprising level of performance and sophistication. At an U.S. MSRP of $16,390, the Audace is available in the single Matte Black color shown. For additional details and specifications, visit the Moto Guzzi web site.


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80 Comments

  1. Grover says:

    I don’t like Guzzi cruisers. The cruiser configuration just doesn’t work for a Guzzi. I wish the V7 had a little more performance as it demands a premium price for such a dog of a performer.

    • Scotty says:

      Thats because Guzzis have always been dynamically superior to cruisers – no matter what thier shape.

  2. tom thompson says:

    1400s are 2 valve heads!

  3. Buzz says:

    I’m enjoying the heck out of my California 1400.

    A Power Commander has cured the fueling hiccups.

    The valve covers don’t toast the shins. The heat comes from those covers over the intake behind the cylinder heads.

    Do not ride in shorts!

    (Que ATTGATT lecture).

    • jimmihaffa says:

      I really thought your ATTGATT lecture sign off was referring to some sort of bioinformatics sequence alignment. Maybe that acronym is intended with reference to a putative survival gene…who knew?

  4. azi says:

    So much classier than a Victory Octane.

  5. JimC says:

    I wish Guzzi would develop a new four valve for their smaller bikes. That might get my money.

  6. Beezer68 says:

    SHODDY Workmanship – NO Quality Control – NO Customer Care

    My new V7 Special came with a compromised clutch, machining waste (swarf) in the engine, and no O-ring seal in the final drive unit. I wrote, emailed and called customer care but never got a reply. So, I would recommend looking elsewhere for a new motorcycle.

    • Scotty says:

      It happens. I was on a ride with a bloke with a Blade with under 400 miles on the clock and the engine destroyed itself. BMW recalls???

    • Tom R says:

      Swarf? Is this an acronym, or some slang I have not heard off yet?

      • Scott says:

        swarf
        swôrf/
        noun
        fine chips or filings of stone, metal, or other material produced by a machining operation.
        “a curl of metal swarf”

    • JimC says:

      The small block I owned had some teething issues as well. The dealer was the best in the U.s., but the factory and parts were impossible.

  7. steveinsandiego says:

    659 pounds? a lightweight for a cruiser. my 05 kawi vulcan 1600 came in at about the same; fun scoot. the entry model indians (not the scout) tip the scales a hair below 800. the indian roadmaster is 930 wet. HD ultra limited = 896.

  8. North of Missoula says:

    Nice hi-res photos on this site. I like to be able to zoom in and take a close look at the motorcycle.

    As far as the bike goes I would love to take one out for a spin. As far as owning a Guzzi goes the Griso is more my style.

    • Dale says:

      Agree on Dirck posting fabulous hi-res photos. One of the reasons we are always tuning in to read his work.

      • KenHoward says:

        ‘Love Dirck’s photos (always including a side-view of the rider’s posture on the bike) and reviews, and how he has kept the simple design of this site so pleasurable to visit.

  9. Michael H says:

    Don’t the riders shins and knees cook, seeing as how they are directly behind the huge air-cooled cylinders?

    • Jack Mc says:

      No, your knees and shins don’t cook as you’re looking at the rocker boxes. Now, at about 25-35 MPH the underside of your thighs will roast when it’s hot outside.

    • Scotty says:

      Its never worried me. 🙂

    • MGNorge says:

      I’m a tall guy and the valve covers will transfer some extra heat to your knees if you keep them there but I mildly splay my legs outward subconsciously and really don’t think about it. Hasn’t been an issue on the Norge.

  10. Auphliam says:

    Considering that flat paint jobs, aka Suede Paint, has been popular in the hotrod world for somewhere around 60 years, I don’t see any relief in the near future for those with the “enough already” comments. Not as long as creating “muscle” is the strategy du jour.

    The bike looks good enough, and it’s nice to see selectable ride modes and dual disks up front…but the real question is, can it do a 2 mile burnout?

  11. JimW says:

    Enough already with matte black!

  12. Grover says:

    I really wish they would get off the cruiser kick and put some development money into the V7. It is way past time to put a little power in the V7 engine.

  13. WSHart says:

    If I may?

    Miles per gallon, please and in U.S. gallons, mind you. Oh! And in real world use. And tell Guzzi (and other manufacturers) that flat paint jobs have long since flatlined, especially among adults not aspiring to be mistaken for “caucasious trashus” cruisin’ to the local Piggly Wiggly.

    I would already own a California 1400 Tour if not for reading about mileage being as dismally low as 23 mpg. Regardless, the tank should be a minimum of 6.5 U.S. gallons on all the 1400 models and they should deliver at least 40 to 45 mpg at the legal highway speed limit of (depending upon state) 65 to 75 mph.

    I would say more, but it would doubtless be censored by those lacking in testicular fortitude.

    • Archie says:

      I agree about the paint job.

      I’m not a guy who takes a serious dislike to bikes generally, even those that may not be as highly regarded among the keyboard cowboys. For instance, I like the new Victory Octane.

      But I agree that the flat dark tones are played out. How about a nice cobalt blue? This bike would look good in a wine dark red, too.

    • Jack Mc says:

      I’ve never gotten anything less than about 32 MPG in crap stop and go commuting in Houston. Doing 65 on a back road, it will jump to 40-42. 80 MPH on the interstate is about 39. I agree, a little thirsty.

      But…If you’re holding out on a fantastic motorcycle because of what…an extra $35 dollars in gasoline cost per year (5000 miles) and only 2 hours in the saddle before you have to stop for gas, you may want to reconsider.YMMV.

      • Buzz says:

        I’m with ya.

        Mine is 34 on the low side and 42 on the high side.

        I guess I shouldn’t say low side and high side when referencing a motorcycle.

    • Martin B says:

      No doubt you mean “Whiskey Tango” in military parlance.

  14. Gham says:

    Very cool but I like the Eldorado better!

    • Martin B says:

      I’ll put my $0.02 in here. The Eldorado is a homage to Guzzi’s American origins, a rolling panoply of style with white wall tyres and it really looks like it belongs on Main Street. The Audace is propped up outside a sleazy roadhouse bar,waiting for its owner to be thrown out the window.

      • Scotty says:

        Well a homage to the cruiser lines American origins. The company itself was formed in 1921 by 2 fighter pilots and a mechanic/engineer, who had no idea about finances. 🙂

  15. James says:

    I like the Guzzis, and I might otherwise buy one, but the local dealer is mad at me and won’t let me in the shop.

    Guzzi dealers I’ve met are a little, er …, excitable.

  16. Randy in Ridgecrest says:

    What if MG came out with a transverse crank V-twin, or vertical twin, or I4? Why is MG management apparently rational but has this thing about the longitudinal crank engine, or this weird idea that the world want Italian cruisers?

    • The Spaceman says:

      Probàbly for the same reason HD sells only narrow-angle V-Twins (an inherently crappy design): brand identity. Any motorcyclist can glance at an MG and know what they’re looking at.

      • Randy in Ridgecrest says:

        That would be pretty condescending to “any motorcyclist”. Apparently Triumph, Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki, even BMW now doesn’t feel tied to a single engine format. I think it is corporate laziness.

        HD is a cruiser image powerhouse, and using “it’s” 45 degree twin is part of that image. But MG puts out sport and sport tourers, standards, adventure, and standards. All with the “trademark” longitudinal 90 deg twin. For better or worse, mostly worse. I think MG is otherwise rational but has two failings – strict application of that engine format and this weird cruiser thing. The engine hobbles certain models (V7) into yesteryear performance, and the cruisers suck company resources away from getting with the program and finding a place in performance standards/sport/sport tourer. They could beat Ducati and BMW at the game with bikes that have that MG practicality and essence, and also actually are performance competitive. And before some old … anorak … comes in with a HP isn’t the thing, torque is etc, sorry, you are in the minority. A very small minority.

        • Scotty says:

          But a loyal minority nonetheless. 12 years with the same bike, my only bike, a 750 Guzzi thats used for touring, fun, and commuting to work. If they changed the engine design what would be the USP?

        • Norm G. says:

          re: “And before some old … anorak … comes in with a HP isn’t the thing, torque is etc”

          HP isn’t the thing, Torque is.

          God forbid I miss my cue.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            Indeed, torque is the thing. After you multiply it by rpms and divide by 5252 of course. 🙂

      • Buzz says:

        You got it Spaceman.

        It’s branding. The engine is uniquely Guzzi.

        Piaggio also owns Aprilia which is the sporting end of the division.

        BTW, the 1400 draws rave reviews wherever I ride. People just flip over the massive cylinder heads sticking out the sides.

        • Scott says:

          Wow, I read that wrong the first time. I thought you said people *trip* over your cylinder heads… 😄

    • Martin B says:

      Even HD (or was it Indian, I forget) came up with a longitudinal VTwin back in the day, but cancelled after a few examples. Moto Guzzi was chasing military contracts with its VTwin, then went after Police contracts. By contrast to the Electra Glide most forces were stuck with, the CHP were delighted with their Guzzis. It is a proven format, though it has seen few racing victories other than the V7 in Europe. Nobody complains about BMWs with a similar format. I agree the ElDorado treatment could have been given to the V9, but the Roamer is pretty good. It is a successor to the Nevada, with a 19″ front wheel. I’ve always had a soft spot for Guzzis, since the T5 of the mid 70s. And I love that the same people have been making them for decades. Maybe by now they’re getting pretty good at it.

  17. skybullet says:

    Nice looking bike for a Cruiser, but 659 pounds!! That’s why Cruisers have no appeal for a lot of us.

  18. Butch says:

    Rake looks to be in the V-Rod range.
    Guess it’s necessary when you’re pushing 659 lbs around.
    Not a bad looking package if you’re into the power cruiser thing.

  19. Jon Baker says:

    “which stores the Audace’s location when parked (in case you are suffering from a mild form of dementia – natural or liquid-induced)”

    Be welcome to the selected hall of journalist that would suggest to drink and drive a motorcycle… a formula close to 100% good for killing yourself.