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We ride the re-engineered Norton V4SV. But is it worth $77,100?

Nortons new owner has spent two years re-engineering the Norton V4SV. This, at last, is the result

Nortons great strength is its name. Can there be a more evocative marque in motorcycling, or one so steeped in the business of speed and the history of the Isle of Man TT? Unfortunately, Nortons name is also its great weakness. The events of the recent past – the horror stories of unreliable and even unrideable bikes, and the appalling way customers, staff and many others were treated by former owner Stuart Garner – has left the new Norton regime with much repair work to do.

So how do you convince the world that youve changed? That the past is the past and the future will not only be different… but better? Well, in the case of Norton Motorcycles, you pretty much start again. You build a state-of-the-art multi-million-pound HQ and production facility, fill it with a skilled and highly focused workforce and then completely re-engineer the machine that so dented the brands image over the last few tumultuous years.

The bike in question is the Norton V4SS, the 1200cc V4 that promised so much but which, under now-disgraced Garner, became mired in controversy. Customer deposits were paid but bikes werent delivered. There were issues with reliability, with quality and even safety.

In April 2020, TVS Motors bought the famous Norton brand, and in a short space of time (and in the midst of a global pandemic) the Indian motorcycle manufacturing giant restructured the business and set about restoring the publics enduring love for the marque. Absolutely central to that process was correcting the defects and supply issues that have blighted the V4SS superbike. The new Norton team identified no fewer than 35 problems and set out on a two-year project to completely re-engineer the bike; to rectify every fault and improve both reliability and longevity.

It stripped back the old V4SS, forensically scrutinised and tested each component, both in the new high-tech British facility in Solihull as well as on road and track, and then redesigned or used entirely new parts where necessary, to produce the new bike, the V4SV. At every turn, quality control and a high level of craftsmanship were paramount: it was operating without margin for error.

And this is the result, the new V4SV by new Norton, which we rode at Mallory Park, not too far, in fact, from the new companys new headquarters in the heart of the British midlands.

The old V4SS was plagued by problems, ranging from a leaking fuel tank to sub-standard electrics and, more worryingly, low-quality welding on the frame and swingarm. Its subsequent re-engineering into the Norton V4SV was a costly and time-consuming job (some customers are still waiting bikes ordered from oldNorton).

Despite its obvious connection with the V4SS, the V4SV is very much a new model. It uses a re-engineered version of 72º 1200cc V4 used in the original bike with a quoted 134kW (185hp) at 12,000rpm, and 125Nm of torque at 9000rpm, down on both power and torque compared to the 200hp-plus once claimed by the factory for the V4SS.

The hand-polished, handcrafted, tig-welded frame is also similar to that seen on the V4SS but redesigned and with new welding. Suspension is provided by Öhlins with manually adjustable NIX30 43mm front forks and a bespoke TTXGP rear shock. So it looks like the old bike, but underneath is new.

There are still two models to choose from: Manx Silver and Carbon. The only difference being the looks and BST carbon wheels on the Carbon model.

Despite the bikes historic connection with the Isle of Man TT races, at which the older V4SS was raced on several occasions, Norton is keen to emphasise that this is a road-going superbike and not a race machine with mirrors. And while the Norton V4SV press launch was held at a racetrack, the test bikes were shod with road-biased Dunlop SportSmart TT rubber, first introduced back in 2018. There wasnt a tyre warmer in sight.

An examination of the V4SV specs reveals why Norton is pushing the road element rather than track: its significantly down on power and torque compared to the superbike competition, much of which sits happily in the 200hp-plus club. The Ducati Panigale V4 S, perhaps the closest rival to the Norton, produces a quoted 158.5kW (215.5hp) at 13,000rpm, a considerable number of Italian horses more than the British bike. The hand-built Norton, however, produces slightly more peak torque and does so lower in the rpm.

But even in the distinctly unglamorous Mallory Park paddock – think Wayne Gardner on that unruly Moriwaki Zed in 1981; the place hasnt changed much since then – the new V4SV shines and remains evocatively reminiscent of the TT race bikes. The unconventional single-sided swingarm and Union Jack seat unit catch the eye immediately, while the billet machined footpeg assembly and new silver and carbon bodywork looks stunning in the flesh. The front sprocket cover is simply a work of art and the designersdecision to stick with the older bikes hand-stitched single seat can only be applauded.

There are no fancy aero wings on this luxurysuperbike for the road but, unlike the old V4SS, the V4SV does get rear-view mirrors. Once onboard youre greeted by a large, full-colour six-inch screen, which incorporates a rear-view camera. Ignition is keyless; so its a press of the onbutton incorporated into the dummy carbon fuel tank – 15 litres of fuel is stored under the seat – and the smartly presented dash comes alive.

The view from the seat is purposeful: polished-billet top yoke, a protruding Öhlins fork and a large manually adjustable Öhlins steering damper. The switchgear is Aprilia-like, with a toggle on the left ’bar that allows you to opt for one of three different riding modes: Wet, Road or Sport. Each mode changes the engine character, throttle response and interaction of the rider aids. While the rider aids, including traction control, which incorporates wheelie control, are linked to the six-axis IMU, ABS is not linked to the IMU and therefore not lean-sensitive.

There is no launch control or engine brake assist either and you cant personalise the electronic rider aids, meaning the TC and wheelie control are factory set and cant be adjusted.

So, yes, given that virtually all 2022 machines in the superbike category boast at least 200hp outputs, multiple rider aids (including cornering ABS) and electronic semi-active suspension, the Norton feels a little old-school. But this isnt a negative, more a recalibration to an earlier time.

The up-and-down clutchless changes with the quickshifter are smooth, which is good because the clutch is a little heavy. The Öhlins suspension is plush, not soft, but certainly not racebike firm. There is feel and movement, plus a one-to-one connection between the rider and the bike. You can feel the Dunlops coming up to temperature.

Nortons quoted peak of 185hp feels about right. Considering its 20–30hp down on the competition, the V4SV is deceptively quick, pulling strongly while backed by a lovely V4 howl from the exhaust. It’s worth noting the Norton V4SV isnt Euro 5 compliant, so it’s free to shout a little louder than some…

Its easy to change the riding modes on the move by closing the throttle, and the dash changes the graphics to a chequered flag to highlight to indicate the move into Sport mode. Its refreshing to have an easy-to-use dash – and even the rear-facing camera is simple and fun to use, especially when you switch it on as you exit a corner and see the rear tyre lay down a satisfying black line of rubber.

But its here that the Norton V4SV will divide opinion, especially when you compare it to the competition. The Ducati Panigale V4S, the epitome of a modern V4, loves revs. Take it to 14,500rpm, bounce it off the limiter, then hold onto those screaming rpm between turns. Thats how it rolls.

But while you can make the Norton scream, this is not the best approach because, while the Panigale makes peak power at 13,000rpm and a Honda Fireblade at 14,500rpm, the Norton peaks at a relatively lowly 12,500rpm, while peak torque is at 9000rpm.

In fact, only Aprilias V4 makes more torque in the class than the Norton, and its that strength in the mid-range that makes the V4SV special. An abundance of easy torque that invites you to short shift through the smooth gearbox then let off the brakes and carry plenty of corner speed. It doesnt want to be ridden aggressively; better to let it flow and find its way like an older V-twin or RC45 (and I mean that in a complimentary way). Once you settle into this way of riding, the Norton becomes an effortless joy to flow around a racetrack.

The suspension setup is a little soft on the rear, but the front is near faultless. The supple ride of the Öhlins suspension gives feedback and confidence, and encourages you to dial in all that torque earlier and earlier.

And theres no escaping the fact that if you look at the dyno and performance figures ,as well as lap times, the Norton is clearly down compared to the competition. Even if we fitted slicks and fully dialled in the suspension, the competition would lap quicker. In fact, a similarly priced Panigale would eat the Norton for breakfast, and even the 30th Anniversary Fireblade would show it a clean pair of heels without breaking into a sweat.

But forget about the stopwatch and remember instead that this a re-designed, re-engineered iteration of a 2018/2019 motorcycle, so we are not comparing like for like. Norton has done some serious reinventing, putting in hundreds of hours of dyno testing and over 110,000 kays on road and track. The V4SV is the bike the V4SS should have been and it should now be reliable too.

Its easy to ride and has usable torque, with excellent road-biased handling that can be easily tweaked for the track. Fit some slicks, fiddle with the suspension and you wont be a million miles away from the front of a trackday. Some will be perturbed by the basic level of rider aids whereas others will love it just because it says Norton on the side and wont care one iota if its a few horses down.

TVS, Norton’s new owner, has rectified the problems of the V4SS they inherited and the end result is a desirable roadbike. But given Ducati has been producing market-leading superbikes since forever, it would have been a complete folly to think the Italian factory could be challenged by Norton. But a bit like Lotus or Morgan, who can never really compete with Ferrari on track, that doesnt make the Norton any less desirable. If Brits want a high-end road-going superbike with exclusivity, is the Norton now leading the market? Only time will tell. 


Top-shelf toffers

If the V4VS makes it Down Under, this is what it’s up against

Ducati Panigale SP2

1103cc, V4
194kg (wet)
$56,900 (ride away)

BMW M 1000 RR

999cc, inline four
192kg (wet)
$55,104 (ride away)

Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade Anniversary

999cc, inline four
201kg (wet)
$55,816 (ride away)

Norton V4VS

1200cc, V4
193kg (dry)
£44,000 ($A77,100) plus on-roads