We have one man to thank for the newest, most sophisticated Moto Guzzi ever, the V100 Mandello, which is now on sale in New Zealand.
Italian business magnate, Roberto Colaninno, having made a fortune with Olivetti and Italy’s largest telecommunications company, invested a fair chunk of his personal wealth when he acquired full control of the Piaggio Group in 2003, which had a portfolio of motorcycle companies, including Vespa, Aprilia, and Moto Guzzi.
Of the three brands, only Vespa appeared to have a future at the time, although it was also sliding towards oblivion due to its then-outdated scooter technology.
Colaninno fixed Vespa first, with new powertrains that made the brand’s scooters more efficient and refined. He then turned Aprilia into a MotoGP winner and filled the brand’s dealerships with cutting edge sportsbikes and innovative adventure two-wheelers.
He took a long, hard look at Moto Guzzi before he decided that the modest low-volume factory that has made motorcycles on the shores of Lake Como since 1921 was worth saving. It was only when he attended a rally for Moto Guzzi owners in the mid-2000s that he realized the brand had attracted such a passionate global fanbase.
Guzzi’s comeback since Colaninno took the reins has been in measured steps, jaw-dropping California 1400cc mega-cruiser aside. The three-model Mandello V100 is a great leap forward by comparison, featuring Guzzi’s first all-new engine since the early 1970s, and it arguably creates a new niche within the market by combining the riding experience of a sporty roadster with the comfort expected of a long-distance tourer.
The new Guzzi’s combo of sporty dynamism with cosseting luxury rivals that of Grand Touring cars, and I suspect no other motorcycle maker has managed to achieve it with so little compromise to either quality before.
How did they do it? With a little help from the factory’s own in-house wind tunnel, which helped shape the legendary 500cc V8-powered Moto Guzzi racer that roared up to a speed of 187mph on the banking at Monza during the 1957 Italian Grand Prix.
More than 200 hours were logged perfecting the adaptive aerodynamics of the Mandello V100, which include flaps that extend from the sides of the fuel tank to usher the oncoming airstream around the rider’s legs, and a powered windscreen that can be raised or lowered to suit. These enable the Mandello to have the immediately comfortable upright riding position that is requisite to the streetbike segment, yet there’s reduced air pressure on the rider’s body once open road speeds are reached, promoting long distance comfort over touring use.
The new 1042cc engine also offers a degree of weather protection, sheltering the rider’s knees by sticking to the transverse 90-degree V-twin formula that has been Guzzi’s go-to since post-World War 2. The difference is that there’s a lot more room for the rider behind it than before. Guzzi has made the motor narrower and shorter, then tilted it forward in the high-strength steel trellis frame so that the rider ergonomics could be perfected. This is arguably the first Moto Guzzi that you don’t have to be of a certain size to ride.
With 86kW developed at 8700rpm and 105Nm at 6750rpm, the new engine punches the 233kg (wet) Mandello forward with a gusto never experienced in a Guzzi before, the exhaust note sounding suitably baritono.
The top V100 Mandello model, the $31,490 S, gets a quick-shifter to rapidly row the bike up and down the gears, while the semi-active Ohlins suspension fitted completes the chassis, providing exemplary ride quality in the road, touring, and rain modes, and firming up a little harshly in sport.
The $27,990 base model wears Kayaba suspenders instead, sending the forks diving for cover whenever the twin Brembo 4.32 calipers are activated whereas the Ohlins hold the front end more upright, absorbing up the braking force following instructions from the six-axis Inertia Measurement Unit (IMU) fitted to the V100.
The latter also directs the cornering lights of the Guzzi, and other tech fitted includes cruise control, tyre pressure monitoring (S only), multi-media system (S only), and IMU-enhanced ABS and traction control.
For $28,990 you can buy one of eight Aviazione Navale limited edition versions of the base V100 Mandello coming to New Zealand, featuring a paint livery inspired by naval aircraft.
Roberto Colaninno died two months ago, aged 80, and lived long enough to see the Moto Guzzi V100 Mandello reach production. The bike is so well-executed that it’s a fitting final tribute to the man who gave the brand a future.