New Norton V4 takes shape

200bhp all-British superbike set for 2017 release

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Norton’s all-new 200bhp 1200cc V4 announced earlier this year is already taking shape – as these computer illustrations reveal.

The new V4 – codenamed P94 after the number of wins the company have taken at the Isle of Man TT – will be a new flagship model for the British brand, heralding a new era of performance motorcycles. And it will feature an all-new engine being built and developed in the UK.

This week also sees Norton announce a second-generation version of the Commando 961, which has undergone a thorough makeover for 2016.

Norton’s new development boom has been partly fuelled by £4million of Government funding unlocked earlier in the summer. The money is coming from the Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative (AMSCI), and will allow Norton and its 11 supply chain partners to further develop the British Motorcycle Manufacturing Academy (BMMA), construct the new factory, and design and engineer the V4 along with a new 650cc parallel-twin motor.

Norton will directly get £1.6million to fund the building work where in-house chassis and welding work will take place. The rest of the money will go to partners who work with Norton.

Months of work had already gone into laying down the foundations of the work needed to get the 1200cc V4 laid out, but since the investment news broke in August there have been significant advances in the V4 design. MCN got an exclusive inside look at the project at the factory last week, with Head of Engineering Simon Skinner on hand to explain the progress.

Super high-spec V4

The new V4 is not aimed at the current crop of race rep superbikes such as the Yamaha R1, BMW S1000RR or the Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade. Instead it will forge its own fast road bike niche, and will also spawn an exclusive high specification version which will sit above the standard road bike.

Skinner told MCN: “The new V4 is our priority and although we have done a huge amount of work already, there are still decisions being made all the time about the fine detail. We are now at the stage of making early concepts.”

Class-leading partner

One of the key moments was the appointment of Ricardo Engineering to be the technical partner for engine and chassis development. Ricardo are world renowned for the work they do with motorcycle and car companies, and while few talk publicly about their role, it has been revealed that Ricardo were the driving force behind BMW’s K1300, K1600 and the C650 scooter range.

Skinner added: “Norton’s technical partner Ricardo are building our engine and we talk all the time as it progresses.

“This isn’t another company designing an engine for us; this is our design being realised by Ricardo.”

At the heart of the bike is an 1199cc V4 with a projected power output of 200bhp and a vee angle of 72  degrees. The torque figure is expected to be in the region of 100ftlb. This is an all-new bespoke Norton design and will also spawn a 650cc parallel-twin based on removing one bank of the V4; although the 650cc engine is still a long way from production.

Chassis built in-house

The V4 will be cradled by an all-new aluminium tubular chassis, which will be designed and built in-house by Norton’s chassis division, which was formed largely by their acquisition of specialist frame builders Spondon.

Right now there is a plan to use the large-diameter aluminium chassis tubes with billet-aluminium side spars. This will then carry a carbon fibre tail unit, and the fuel will sit below the seat, allowing room under the hand-beaten aluminium dummy tank for the airbox and electronics.

The swingarm will be a single-sided design, and will be either billet aluminium or carbon fibre.

The electronics package will have to include ABS (due to Euro4 rulings on new bikes), and is also expected to include traction control, anti-wheelie and launch control – but Norton tell us they don’t want to get involved in multiple riding modes, multiple-level traction control and other complex settings or control units.

While the V4 is being designed primarily as a road bike it will also be appearing in the Isle of ManSenior TT, the race the team currently competes in with a bike powered by an Aprilia V4 engine. Skinner confirmed: “This bike will be at the TT for sure. It needs to be light, it needs to be focused but it will end up being quite different from everything else that is out there.

“We will have a prototype to show at the end of 2016 with deliveries to owners in early 2017.”

Norton are a long way from being able to confirm the pricing of either version of the new V4, but previous form and the exclusivity of the new model is likely to see a figure of around £50,000. 

While it might make sense to assume the 650cc parallel-twin is a modern replacement for the Commando 961 engine, that’s definitely not Norton’s intention.

The new 650 will be a much more modern and powerful motor, and doesn’t fit into Norton’s desire to keep a retro Commando in the range – as underpinned by the new MkII Commando, which will live on for as long as it can keep passing emissions regulations. It already meets Euro3, and Euro4 is relatively straightforward. Euro5, however, might be much more of a challenge.

The new 650 will be water-cooled and will be derived from the 1200cc V4 in terms of basic architecture, not just to save money in the development of two engines, but also to keep things simple from a logistics point of view with component suppliers, parts, and production engineering – which were all massive challenges for the Norton brand at the time of their rebirth.

Norton’s Simon Skinner said: “Plans for the 650 are not as advanced as the 1200cc V4 but, imagine a sporty bike with 100bhp and a weight of 120kg! That’s the sort of thing that might be possible.”

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Andy Downes

By Andy Downes

Former MCN Senior Reporter