Rumours emanating from Japan suggest that Honda are planning a raft of incremental changes for the popular Honda Africa Twin, with a new Euro5 version set to arrive for 2020 boasting a bigger engine, more power, and more tech.
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The battle for sales in the adventure bike market has never been more ferocious, while the division lines between rivals are getting increasingly blurred as traditional capacity boundaries evaporate, and the battle for tech-laden supremacy hots up.
While Honda have officially denied that there’s a new model under development – as you would expect them to – the level of detail leaking out of Japan about the changes has a sincere whiff of credibility, and ties in rather neatly with the areas of criticism Honda have faced over the Africa Twin’s skill set.
They also logically address the challenges that all manufacturers are facing with creeping legislative controls over emissions – which is forcing development to keep upping engine capacity to combat the power losses of enforced cleaner combustion.
The current Africa Twin packs 94bhp into its 998cc parallel-twin, which delivers pleasing road performance and more than enough for most off-road forays, but when fully loaded with luggage and/or a pillion its performance suffers a tangible dip.
As the even tighter Euro5 regs arrive, Honda will have to increase capacity to net the same output, while they realistically need to give riders a little more mumbo to add some sparkle to its delivery.
To that end, the rumoured increase to 1080cc, with a 6.7bhp (5kW) resultant boost in power seems entirely believable, both in terms of what’s achievable and Honda’s typically incremental development of existing models. There’s a suggestion that the fuel tank will grow by a litre, to just shy of 20, at the same time.
Whether this is to combat increased fuel consumption, or simply to give riders a little more range than current, is unclear. There’s no hint of how the torque curve will be affected, but there’s likely to be a similar boost at peak torque.
Whether such a small boost will be felt from the rider's seat is debateable, and with no suggestion that the manual gearbox ratios will be fettled we’d suggest it’s unlikely to feel like a revolution when you open the throttle.
DCT makes the changes
There is, however, rumoured to be an update to evolve the clever Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) version. No details have emerged about the nature or goal of the changes, but we would hope Honda are chasing better pick-up from standstill (it’s quite aggressive in stop/start situations), smoother transitions under load, and more intuitive gearchanges that support the rider like a manual gearbox would. For casual touring the current system works well, but ask for more control and it falls short.
Adventure bikes are as much at the cutting edge of tech progress as superbikes, and Honda have been slow to pick up on this with the Africa Twin. This looks set to be rectified with the 2020 model, which will apparently gain keyless ignition – hopefully with a keyless fuel cap, like BMW – and a new full TFT dash tower to replace the outdated, hard to read, and function-light current LCD unit.
To drag the AT into the current battle, it’ll have to boast Bluetooth connectivity for multimedia support, support at least turn-by-turn navigation, and multiple device connections – and a suite of rider modes and aids. Wouldn’t it be great if they simply dragged the Gold Wing’s Apple CarPlay functionality across?
What about the Adventure Sports?
The only specific hint of change for the big-tanked, more off-road-ready Adventure Sports version is the addition of a new rear rack, but we’d obviously expect all of the stock model changes to percolate through to the AS version, not least because Euro5 will demand the powertrain updates, and customers will demand the tech advances.
When’s it coming then?
Honda rarely step outside of their routine for favouring the big pre-season EICMA show in Milan as their world unveil for new and revised models, which means we’re unlikely to see anything official until November 2019, with the bike arriving as a 2020 model.
If true, these changes will certainly boost the appeal of the Africa Twin, but it seems unlikely that they’ll materially change the character of this loveable adventure middleweight – and with good deals on the current model only likely to continue, there could be just as much wise money being spent now as in 2020.