Let’s get one thing straight: the Audace looks the dog’s nuts. Muscular, fierce, finished in matt black, it has all the ingredients that make the Diavel such a great bike to look at.
And like the Ducati, there’s a big V-twin cradled in that frame. Except instead of a fast-revving 1200cc lump taken from a high performance superbike, the Audace - which is pronounced OW-DATCH-EE, by the way - uses the same 1.4L motor from the Guzzi California. That means you get 96hp at 6,500rpm and peak torque at only 2,750rpm.
It’s not particularly sporty but what it lacks in performance, it makes up for in character. Take for example the throttle, blip it with the clutch pulled in and the Audace tugs to the right, a result of the longitudinally mounted engine and the spinning flywheel. Or those cylinder heads which poke out and vent enough heat into your groin area to leave you infertile. See? Loads of character.
There’s some sophistication in there too. The bike has a ride-by-wire throttle and three riding modes: a sporty one with a direct throttle response, a smoother map, and a wet mode where power is slightly reduced.
There’s also a three-stage traction control system which I switched off during my ride in Italy. The combination of dry roads, a chunky 200-section rear tyre, and pegs which kissed the road long before the tyre was ever going to let go meant the TC system was only slowing the bike down. If it was raining or we were riding on bad roads I would have turned the system back on, which can only be done with the ignition on while the engine is off.
On the go you quickly realise the Audace is no Diavel or Vmax. The looks scream performance cruiser but it’s only slightly more sporty than its vintage sibling, the Moto Guzzi Eldorado, which comes with the same engine, white-wall tyres, dashings of chrome and a much more relaxed riding position.
That’s not to say it’s sluggish or lazy. Revs climb relatively slowly on the big V-twin but throw it gears fast enough and its easy to find yourself speeding along the Italian countryside at over 100mph.
At those sorts of speeds, many Harley-Davidsons would translate the road surface into an eclectic mix of back-breaking jolts and shudders. The Audace just glides over them.
Still, I was slightly disappointed to see non-adjustable RWU forks up front which look budget on a £15,000+ motorcycle. Other components looked a bit cheap and cheerful too, like the rubber end-piece on the gear-shifter in the picture below.
Those are some of the bad points, but the Guzzi has many good ones too. Like that blacked out exhaust which sounds meaty and aggressive straight off the bat - if I owned an Audace I doubt I’d bother buying an aftermarket can. The twin-disc Brembo brakes up front are nice too and help to bring the bike’s hefty 299kg mass to a halt with the added safety of ABS as standard.
Neither the Eldorado or Audace were designed with corners in mind but the latter is harder to throw around than its looks would suggest. I thought the flat handlebars would offer a ton of leverage to wrestle the bike into corners. Not so. Pitch the Audace into a corner and then pray it’s on course because once the pegs go down there’s not much you can do to tighten up your line.
Perhaps this is harsh but I think the Audace falls into the category of bikes you’d expect to see at a gritty London bike show. The type where off-the-shelf Triumph owners claim their bikes are customs because they once fitted some exhaust wrap to the headers in their mum’s garage. It’s definitely a styling exercise and at £15,135, I'm not sure I get it. I'm not entirely sure who’s going to buy it either.
Moto Guzzi's V7 is so successful because as well as offering many of the Audace’s trump cards, it’s affordable and to many people a better offering than the competition. At £11,000 I could have overlooked the Audace’s shortcomings, but as it is, at over £15,000, I'd find it hard to walk away from the Diavel even if performance wasn't my top priority.
Available in June in black and red.
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