HONDA has a penchant for building weird bikes from time to time. This usually coincides with the introduction of a new technology they come up with.
An unusual commitment to automatic gearboxes is one such Honda trait and no amount of failure will deter them from trying time and again. Remember the disastrous Hondamatic CM400A or the CB750A?
But now, the technology has finally caught up with Honda’s “affliction” to build self-shifting bikes.
The fairly successful DN-01 and Vultus models led Honda to build a “proper” automatic motorcycle with the NC700 series, the new Africa Twin and the model we’re testing here — the X-ADV.
The first impression to lump the X-ADV with mere superscooters is a common one. That impression is soon gone, as is the idea of grouping it with other 750 cc twins. The fact is, the X-ADV is in a class of one.
Yes, actually we don’t know what the X-ADV is, either. It isn’t a scooter or a motorcycle but a mixture of both. The engine, chassis and transmission is motorcycle but the clothes it wears say scooter. It looks kind of dual-purposey (is that a word?) but the riding position and floorboards say no.
Whatever the X-ADV is, it is excellent. It works like a scooter, feels like a full-size motorcycle and looks superb. One thing for sure, it blows the doors off any other superscooter on looks alone. Never has a Honda quite drawn attention as this one.
The X-ADV is powered by a 745cc SOHC twin producing just 54hp at 6,250rpm and 50.14 ft/lb of torque at 4,750rpm. Just about enough for the 238kg it carries around.
It peaks at around 175kph, which is quite adequate considering it runs 17 and 15-inch wheels front and rear, respectively. Those spoked tubeless wheels are a masterstroke of design, as it would have been quite easy to just sling some alloy wheels on the X-ADV and call it a day. They look, simply, marvelous.
On the front end is a 41mm adjustable (preload/rebound) upside-down fork and the rear suspension is handled by a Pro-Link monoshock system adjustable for preload.
The latest version of Honda’s Dual-Clutch-Transmission (DCT) is superb. The shifting is seamless and quite intuitive but sometimes slow speed filtering will see it cycle between first and second frequently if you’re in Drive Mode.
Speaking of which, there are three Sport Modes (which sees less cycling since it holds onto gears longer) and, of course, the Manual Mode.
In Manual, you change gears using the paddles on the left switchgear and the shifts are seamless as well. It still downshifts by itself in Manual if you slow down excessively, though.
All in, the six-speed DCT transmission is useful and definitely a plus point for the X-ADV. There is also a G-Button (accessed by a button under the dash) which allows good traction on loose surfaces in any driving mode (so says Honda).
Traction Control (Honda calls it Selectable Torque Control) is a toggle on the left switchgear and has three levels, including Off. Level 1 TC allows some wheelspin while Level 2 is more obtrusive.
Off-road, the X-ADV is suited for light trailing only (no hardcore courses, unless you’re Marc Marquez) due to the fact it’s quite wide in the mid-section and the floorboards are in the wrong place for stand-up shenanigans.
The floorboards are none too grippy either, so limit your trails to simple, flat ones. The oil sump, too, hangs quite low and may be a detriment to serious off-roading.
On the road, however, the X-ADV excels. The handling is responsive and secure, and steers quickly and accurately despite its long wheelbase. It handles nothing like a scooter and is more motorcycle in this regard. The centrestand ears take the brunt of its confidence in corners and dig deep grooves in tarmac if you like (and you will).
Front brakes (296mm discs and four piston radial calipers) with two channel anti-lock braking system, are excellent but the rear is probably purposely made weaker, perhaps as a nod to off-road riding.
There is a handbrake hidden in the right hand fairing panel (for slopes and hill parking duties).
The keyless ignition is handy and the fuel cap/seat are electrically activated. The four-position screen adjusts easily (manually) and work great at protecting you from the wind. The 21-litre underseat storage (with a vanity light) fits a full-face helmet or a backpack and a 12v power outlet is provided in the underseat area as well.
The aggressive (but cute) twin LED headlights are super-bright, as is the rear LED taillight. All relevant information from speed, rpm, clock and even the d/m/y is clearly legible on a hooded LCD instrument panel.
The X-ADV returns 27.5 km/l easily and the 13.1 litre tank only blinks reserve long after you stop for a breather.The seat is nice and wide (good for comfort, not so good for getting both feet on the floor) but is situated 820 mm off the ground.
Luckily we don’t ride our bikes with our feet on the ground so its only a problem if you stop. And with the X-ADV, you just don’t want to stop riding. It is so good at what it does that nobody cares what category it’s supposed to be in.
And with those awesome Italian looks (it was designed by Honda Italy), the X-ADV is a definite contender for Bike of the Year, no doubt about it.