2023 Moto Guzzi V100 Mandello S Review – First Ride

2023 Moto Guzzi V100 Mandello S Review – First Ride

Only three motorcycle manufacturers in the world can claim to have been in continuous production for more than 100 years, and Moto Guzzi is one of them. When it comes time to make a historic transformation to the brand, that change carries a lot of weight on its shoulders. With the Moto Guzzi V100 Mandello, the manufacturer alludes – twice – to that long history in the name alone. First, the V100 honors the century of production and maintains form with past naming conventions, while the last part of the name refers to Mandello del Lario, where all Moto Guzzi motorcycles have been made since 1921. When looking at the V100 for the first time, the Moto Guzzi lineage is unmistakable. So, where’s the risk?

Moto Guzzi Teases V100 Mandello And Reveals Plans For New Factory

2022 Moto Guzzi V100 Mandello First Look

2023 Moto Guzzi V100 Mandello S

2023 Moto Guzzi V100 Mandello S

Sea Change

The Moto Guzzi V100 Mandello is full of firsts, clearly looking to the future, while maintaining a link to the manufacturer’s past. Of course, being the heart of any motorcycle, the engine is where all the change starts, and the V100 features a huge first for Guzzi. Up until now, every transverse-mounted 90° V-Twin the company produced has been air cooled, but no more.

The “compact block” engine is the result of the switch to liquid cooling. Although manufacturers frequently claim that new models don’t share a single part with their predecessors, these “complete redesigns” rarely implement the amount of change Moto Guzzi has wedged into its re-envisioning of its 90° V-Twin, and while the inclusion of liquid cooling gets most of the attention, the engine’s changes go way beyond the new circulatory system.

2023 Moto Guzzi V100 Mandello S

Most of the major changes on display: The radiator (right), the 90° rotated head, the counter-rotating primary (below the oil filler), and the shortened engine length.

The two 96 x 72 mm pistons create a 1042cc displacement with components of combustion flowing through four-valve heads. The valves, however, no longer receive their instructions via pushrods; rather, chain-driven, dual overhead cams actuate finger followers to open and close the valves. These followers allow for more aggressive cam profiles, benefitting performance, efficiency, and emissions at the same time. The head layout was rotated 90° to achieve a couple of goals. By placing the intake manifolds in the center of the V, more room became available to the rear of the cylinder jugs for the rider’s knees. Additionally, the intake tract has a straighter shot from the centrally-located air box through the two 52mm ride-by-wire-controlled throttle bodies, which, in turn, send the air/fuel charge through shorter, high-turbulence manifolds into the combustion chamber, again for increased performance and efficiency. Since the exhaust ports are now on the outside of the engine, the headers are located in clear airflow and draw the heat away from the eng ine (and rider) at speed

One of the defining characteristics of a transverse-mounted engine is the torque effect that the crankshaft has when blipping the throttle. At a stop, Guzzi riders have long enjoyed having the engine torque to the right. While this is fun at a stop, when accelerating through a turn, this attempt by the engine to lean the bike to the right means that the rider must combat this force, which wants to tighten up the turn or send the bike wide, depending on the direction of the turn. Deceleration will have a similar-but-opposite effect. The V100’s engine delivers significantly less torque effect than the previous generation thanks to a primary shaft that counter rotates to the crankshaft. This also allows a smaller, lighter crankshaft to be used, a construction that Moto Guzzi claims improves both engine compactness and performance.

2023 Moto Guzzi V100 Mandello S

How’s that for a 77 lb-ft torque curve that’s made for surfing? And the horsepower is nothing to sneeze at.

Engine compactness was a goal for the V100. For example, the crank chamber is separated from the oil pan by a reed valve that allows for a shallower oil pan in the wet sump system. Additionally, the lessened amount of oil in the crank chamber delivers more efficiency due to less parasitic loss.

The shaft is angled out 6° from the engine to accommodate the 190/55 tire while keeping the V100’s waist narrow for easier access to the ground.

The drive train is radically changed, too. Gone is the single plate dry clutch of before, and in its place is a more compact hydraulically-actuated multi plate wet clutch – complete with a back-torque limiter to reduce wheel hop. The six-speed gearbox was constructed with the goal of reducing free play between gears to allow for “low inertia and very rapid gear shifting” with the ultimate goal of utilizing an up/down quickshifter (optional on the base model and standard on the S). To achieve this goal, patented technology was borrowed from the V85TT for the first two gears.

The result of all this effort directed towards the compact block engine was that the overall length is now 4.1 in. shorter than that of the V85TT while producing a claimed maximum power of 115 hp at 8,700 rpm and maximum torque of 77 lb-ft at 6,750 rpm and delivering a claimed 50 mpg. The beefy structure of the engine allows it to be used as a stressed member with attachments at six points to the steel trellis frame. Even the foot pegs are mounted to the engine for compact design. The compact engine allows for the use of a longer single-sided swingarm with the shaft drive inside to minimize the jacking effect under acceleration.

2023 Moto Guzzi V100 Mandello S

2023 Moto Guzzi V100 Mandello S

The Chassis

The V100 features a steel tube trellis frame that uses the engine as a stressed member. The headstock  creates a 24.7° rake, which combines with the 4.1-in. trail for sporty handling. The single-sided swingarm mounts directly to the engine with its pivot point and length designed to minimize the jacking effect of the shaft drive during acceleration/deceleration. The shock is visible on the left side of the bike and connects the swingarm directly to the chassis without a linkage. The fork and shock themselves come in two varieties. The standard package receives a Kayaba 41 mm fork and a rebound and preload adjustable (via a handy knurled knob) Kayaba shock. The S model goes full modern with the Öhlins Smart EC 2.0 semi-active suspension system, which can adapt to road conditions through the filter riding modes to deliver the desired suspension characteristics to the rider.

2023 Moto Guzzi V100 Mandello S

The Öhlins TTX shock features a remote preload adjuster and semi-active control.

The Smart EC 2.0 semi-active suspension system has two maps as its baselines from the factory, Comfort and Dynamic, for controlling the NIX fork and TTX shock. These two modes are also linked to ride modes, with Comfort paired to Tour and Rain modes, while Dynamic slots in with Road and Sport. Comfort and Dynamic deliver plush and firm rides, respectively; however, each of these suspension maps have the ability to be fine tuned via the OBTi (Objective Based Tuning Interface) available in the TFT screens settings menus. The categories of adjustment are broken down into functions: braking support (to help prevent bottoming while on the brakes), front firmness, and rear firmness. However, if the rider prefers to go old school with fixed suspension settings, a Manual mode is also available. Rear preload is adjustable via a knurled knob attached below the shock.

The brakes are standard Brembo fare, which means that they are quite good without being flashy. The dual front discs are 320mm and are mated to a pair of Brembo four-piston, radial-mounted calipers. The rear disc measures 280mm and is gripped by a Brembo two-piston floating caliper. Cornering ABS comes courtesy of Continental.

2023 Moto Guzzi V100 Mandello S

The Pirelli Angel ST II tires perform quite well, and the Brembo 320mm discs combine with the four-piston, radial-mount calipers to haul the V100 down from speed.

Rider Accommodations

The Mandello’s rider triangle is just about perfect for a roadster or a sporty tourer. Although it sounds high, the seat height feels shorter than the 32.1-in. specification (31-in. and 32.9-in. accessory seats are available). Credit goes to the bike’s narrow waist that begins with the front of the seat and goes down to the rubber-mounted footpegs on the engine cases. Again, despite the relatively tight appearance when looking at the bike, the seat-to-peg relationship is roomier than it looks. Finally, the reach to the tapered superbike-style handlebar gives the rider just enough forward cant to face the wind and provides enough room for the rider to move around on long highways or get down to business in the twisties.

Wind protection is one of the places where Moto Guzzi is making news with the V100. While other manufacturers have focused on wings designed to increase downforce and keep high-powered sportbikes’ front wheels on the ground, the folks from Mandello del Lario have harnessed their historical relationship with wind tunnels on the rider by developing the world’s first adaptive aerodynamics on a motorcycle. A pair of wings mounted on the outer edges of the gas tank, just behind the fairing, automatically deploy themselves at a user-programmable speed in some of the ride modes to help protect the rider from the wind blast and weather. From the factory, the speed threshold is set at 43 mph, but riders can adjust them to open anywhere from 19-59 mph. The wings will stay deployed until the speed drops to 12 mph below the set threshold.

2023 Moto Guzzi V100 Mandello S

The automated airflow deflectors are more than a gimmick, but the benefit is hard to quantify.

You may be wondering why the fairing wasn’t designed to provide this protection all the time, but anyone who has had to loaf along at a relatively low speed on a hot day already knows the answer to the question. There are times when airflow benefits the rider and times when it does not. When deployed at highway speeds, Moto Guzzi claims that it takes 22% of the wind pressure away from the rider’s torso, and while claims like this are hard to prove, my ride in the chilly 60° morning air at the beginning of our test ride proved to me that there is clearly a lessening of airflow with the wings spread. Still, every little bit helps on either a cold morning or a long day in the saddle racking up the miles. So, to those who cry “sales gimmick,” I respond by noting that if it is a gimmick, it’s a quite functional one. If for any reason, you want to keep the wings constantly open or closed, you can fix them that way in settings menus. Up until now, I’ve completely ignored the electrically-adjustable windscreen because it works exactly as you would expect it to since they’ve been around for a long while. However, the control is strangely buried a couple levels down in the settings for some reason.

2023 Moto Guzzi V100 Mandello S

Even from the side, the narrowness of the front of the V100’s seat is visible. This aids in reaching to the ground, while the wider rear section adds comfort for racking up the miles.

Electronics

While I’ve mentioned electronics briefly, they do warrant further discussion. The V100 Mandello is the first Moto Guzzi to be equipped with an IMU, which when paired with a ride-by-wire throttle and the ECU, helps to deliver the many conveniences and safety features that riders of current generation motorcycles have come to expect. The Marelli 11MP ECU and the six-axis IMU track the current riding conditions and determine how the bike will react to them. Consequently,the V100 has four ride modes, Tour, Rain, Street, and Sport, each of which according to MotoGuzzi “manages three different types of engine mapping, four levels of traction control, two levels of engine braking, the opening of the side deflectors and, on the V100 Mandello S version, even calibration of the Öhlins Smart EC 2.0 semi-active suspension.” Oh, and let’s not forget the cornering ABS, developed in conjunction with Continental, that “constantly monitors various parameters such as lateral acceleration, the pressure applied to the front brake lever, and the lean, pitch and yaw angle, modulating the braking action in order to better guarantee the ratio of deceleration to stability.” Finally, these electronics make an up/down quickshifter (a first for Guzzi) and cruise control possible.

The electronics that most riders adjust the most will be the ride modes, and each has its factory base lines that can be adjusted in the settings to taste. The purpose of Tour mode is pretty self-explanatory, racking up miles. To that end, the throttle setting is in the middle, at 2 of 3, and the engine braking is set to its most aggressive state. Traction control is set to 3 of 4, while the Öhlins Smart EC 2.0 suspension is in Comfort mode. The wings open at the set speed. Rain mode softens almost everything. Power and TC are set to allow for the most electronic intervention, while engine braking remains at maximum. The suspenders are in the soft Comfort map, and the lateral deflectors are open at all times. Road keeps the same engine braking and throttle response settings while dialing the TC back a notch to 2 of 3. The Öhlins Dynamic map is in play. The adaptive aerodynamics are turned off in both Road and Sport. The Sport mode delivers the snappiest power curve paired with the least engine braking. TC is dialed to the minimum, while suspension is set to Dynamic. Throughout all four modes peak power is maintained, and only the response to throttle input is changed.

2023 Moto Guzzi V100 Mandello S

A well-appointed cockpit with no fluff.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

I don’t envy the employees tasked with putting together a multi-wave international new model introduction. So many factors need to be accounted for.  Unfortunately, my wave drew the short straw, as our ride day was on a Sunday, which around the scenic Lake Como area means that the roads were filled with cyclists, motorcyclists, and people out for a Sunday ride in their cars. Not the ideal situation for taking photos or testing motorcycles with a group of about 20 riders. But the weather was perfect, and we had a job to do. The fact that passing anywhere that there is enough room to do it is acceptable behavior in Italy did make things a little easier – and exciting.

2023 Moto Guzzi V100 Mandello S

The V100 likes to be leaned over, and I look forward to having one for a longer test.

My first impression upon thumbing the starter was that, thankfully, not all of the torque effect of the engine had been tuned out when at a stop. (Later, in corners, I would learn that it was essentially non-existent at speed, which was the goal.) Rolling out of Mandello del Lario and through the many small villages we encountered on the ride, I felt immediately comfortable with Touring mode. The throttle response was predictable, and there was no hunting for neutral throttle at low – or any – speeds. Moto Guzzi claims that 82% of peak torque is available from 3,500 rpm, and I believe it. So much torque is available that I found myself riding the wave to the point that I never bumped the rev limit all day. There was simply no reason to wind the engine out.

The suspenders soaked up any broken pavement encountered, and the wind deflectors made me laugh when they first deployed. As I said above, I could feel the difference in the amount of air flowing through my riding jeans and vented jacket. Touring mode would become my favorite of all the modes throughout the day.

Add on the accessory bags (which connect with nifty pins on the bottom of the pillion seat base), and the V100 is ready to go on an extended tour.

Into the switchback-filled mountain roads, I changed to Sport mode, only to find the throttle response a bit too abrupt for my tastes. In Sport, the V100 wanted to be either accelerating or decelerating and tended to hunt between the two at neutral throttle. In a higher-speed environment, I might have liked this more, but instead, I just dialed back to Road, which had slightly less reactive throttle action. Both Road and Sport set the suspension to Dynamic, and if I had more time on the bike, I would have tried tuning some of the harshness out of the settings. I think this is more a symptom of the broken pavement we encountered on our ride than a side effect of the suspension.

2023 Moto Guzzi V100 Mandello S

At low speeds, particularly after extended high-rpm running, the heat wafting up from the exhaust, possibly the catalytic converter, was quite noticeable on a 65° day.

When it comes to handling, the V100 bends into corners with the best of the sport tourers, and it should. One of the Moto Guzzi reps told me that the V100 benefited greatly from having Aprilia under the Piaggio umbrella, utilizing the sister brand’s chassis knowhow. With its 58.1-in. wheelbase, the V100 is slightly longer than it’s two Japanese competitors, the Kawasaki Ninja 1000 (56.7 in.) and the Suzuki GSX-S1000 GT (57.5 in.), but I didn’t notice any difference in turn-in effort with the Ninja I rode the weekend prior to this introduction. While this comparison might feel strained, the BMW R1250 RT and the Ducati Multistrada V4 S are both significantly more expensive than the V100. So, Moto Guzzi is, once again, marching to its own tune.

In lower-speed corners, the V100 demonstrates a tendency to fall into the corner. Or that is what I initially thought. Instead, it feels like it has a preferred lean angle and stabilizes there once it is achieved. Since I’m doing a quick comparison to the Japanese sport tourers, the Moto Guzzi weighs in at a claimed 514 lb. (with 90% fuel load) to the Kawasaki’s 514 lb. and the Suzuki’s 498 lb. claims, putting it squarely in the same playing field.

One place the V100’s weight is felt is on the downhill, hairpin corner entries I encountered repeatedly on the press ride. The Brembo brakes offer plenty of feel and power to handle the brisk deceleration required, making it easy to trail the binders well into the corner. A nod should also go to the EFI for making the transition back onto the throttle so seamless and preventing the slight driveline lash apparent in most shaft drive systems from upsetting the chassis.

The Fly in the Ointment

Unfortunately, my experience with the V100 Mandello wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. One frustrating problem cropped up repeatedly during the ride. While the quickshifter performed well when shifting up and down from second gear or higher, the system clearly preferred that the engine either be accelerating or decelerating. Shifts at neutral throttle tended to be abrupt, lacking the polish of the Ducati Multistrada V4 or the Suzuki GSX-S1000 GT. However, the first to second gear shifts (and back) were abrupt at best. On several occasions under hard acceleration, the upshift resulted in a false neutral. After upshifting a second time to get out of neutral, I would find myself in third gear. This didn’t happen every time, and despite my best efforts to figure out what conditions triggered the issue, I could not find a way to predict when it would happen. Also, on the downshift to first, the rev-matching of the quickshifter occasionally over revved the engine, unsettling the chassis. This was much less frequent, though.

2023 Moto Guzzi V100 Mandello S

The quickshifter, while working quite well when the transmission was above second gear, had some issues with balky and missed shifts.

I don’t think this is a problem with the transmission. In fact, the V100’s six-speed gearbox is the smoothest I’ve ever encountered on a Moto Guzzi. Instead, I think the missteps have something to do with the quickshifter’s duration. Because of this, I am optimistic that it can be tuned out, perhaps with a firmware upgrade in the future. For much of the ride, I simply clutched my first to second upshifts and downshifts.

Wrapping it up

To say that I have been looking forward to testing the Moto Guzzi V100 Mandello since it was announced last year would be an understatement. No bike has filled me with more anticipation in all of 2022. For the most part, the bike was worth the wait. Visually, the V100 is stunning with a premium fit-and-finish that rises above its price. The changes that it embodies for Moto Guzzi are huge: all-new liquid-cooled engine and full electronics package. Still the V100 is unmistakably a Guzzi. The style, the visual profile, and the sound take care of that. Yes, there are some teething pains associated with this new platform, but I expect them to be sorted out in future updates. The compact block engine is a huge step into the future where ever stricter emissions requirements beyond the current Euro 5 will come into play. I look forward to seeing what other motorcycles Moto Guzzi decides to put this engine in. You know it’s going to happen.

2023 Moto Guzzi V100 Mandello S

The road beckons.

The Moto Guzzi V100 Mandello should be in dealerships by the end of the year, and I hope to have one for a proper test about that time. The base model Moto Guzzi V100 Mandello comes in two colors (Bianco Polare and Rosso Magma) for an MSRP of $15,490. The Moto Guzzi V100 Mandello S I tested receives heated grips, quickshifter, tire pressure monitoring system, MIA app access, and the Öhlins Smart EC 2.0 semi-active suspension system and comes in Verdi 2021 and Grigio Avanguardia for $17,490. This motorcycle is certainly worth a test ride if you’ve been as excited by it as I have.


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