First ride: Moto Guzzi Eldorado review

Moto Guzzi’s new Eldorado mixes retro-looks with high-tech gadgets. Is it trying too hard to please everyone?

THE Guzzi museum at the firm’s Mandello del Lario HQ has two floors. The first floor showcases bikes from the twenties up to the mid-forties and all but a few are lost on me. Scrub off the manufacturer’s logo from the tank and I’d be hard-pressed to tell you who made it, let alone the engine that powers it. There’s almost every type of engine configuration on display from singles to side-mounted four cylinders – it’s an eclectic mix that highlights Guzzi’s past love-affair with racing and the evolution of the species.

Then you step onto the second floor and after a few paces, everything changes. Suddenly all the bikes have cylinder heads that poke out from under the tank, facing the sky in opposite directions. Walk from one end to the other and not only does the configuration stay the same, the actual powerplants look identical too. On the face of it, it doesn’t look like much has changed since the mid-sixties when Guzzi - deeply in financial trouble - was taken over by a state-run receiver who presumably put the thumbscrews on the R&D department and by chance, helped create Guzzi’s iconic look: the air-cooled, shaft-driven, transverse cylinder twin.

So given Guzzi’s track record over the past 50 years, it’s no surprise the firm’s 1380cc v-twin, first introduced on the California in 2013, gets rolled out not once but twice for 2015.

Firstly there’s this, the new Eldorado and there’s also the meaner looking Audace. There are now three models using the new 1400cc eninge and I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I reckon we might see it being used a few more times over the next 50 years.

It’s strange to see Guzzi’s volte-face from their origins of race-bred, cutting-edge motorcycles, to the modern day where the press releases are chock-full of words like vintage, heritage, classic and legendary. Think what you like about Guzzi’s new lifestyle positioning but each model in the current line-up looks far stronger than the majority of what left the factory throughout the entire 90s. I get the impression someone in Piaggio Group wants Guzzi to be here a decade from now and things are definitely looking up.

The new Eldorado is a curious mix of old clashing into new. On one hand, you’ve got spoked wheels, lots of chrome and white walled tyres and on the other you’ve got radial brakes, ride-by-wire throttle and traction control. It’s hard to believe this 315kg lump of shaft-driven metal has more electronic gadgets than Honda’s flagship superbike. Strange but true.

The Eldorado is about as subtle as a steam train ploughing through your living room; there’s no denying it’s an attention grabber. I get the impression the designers had a lot of fun putting the bike together. When you stand back you can see the symmetry of the design; things like the line where the tank meets the seat, then look to the under-seat side panels: it’s clean. Or the curve of the seat which is a mirror image of the tank’s lines. Or the fact the tank’s shape runs parallel to the front forks.

I’m not sure Guzzi will thank me for saying this but it looks like a caricature of a cruiser; the proportions are chunky, almost cartoon-like. I’ve always tried to steer clear of commenting on a bike’s looks (beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that) but a cruiser’s aesthetics are, to me at least, an important part of how the bike makes you feel.

It’s a handsome motorcycle.

It’s a comfortable motorcycle too. The riding position is about as relaxed as it gets. Feet flat on the boards, backside just 740mm from the ground, pushed back into the curve of the seat and arms left dangling in front of me without an ounce of pressure on my wrists. The only unnerving thing about this Guzzi is the torque reaction when you rev the bike at a standstill which makes the bike try to revolve around the shaft.

What’s even stranger is that the moment you get moving, you never feel that torque reaction. Someone far cleverer than me could explain it to you but let’s just put it down to magic and move on.


We all know cruisers are about torque and the 1,380cc v-twin has an abundance of it. Get up to 15mph, stick the bike in sixth gear (a taller ratio for cruising), let the clutch out, take your hand off the throttle and the Eldorado plods along at 25mph on tickover and the motor doesn’t sound like it’s about to shake itself to pieces either. Maximum torque of 88ftlb is produced at 2,750rpm and while the motor revs to an indicated 7,000 rpm, the Eldorado runs out of puff at not a lot over 5,500rpm. In sixth gear, you can stride along at 50mph with the motor churning at 2500rpm. For such a big engine, it revs cleanly and isn’t the lumpy ‘vintage’ experience I was expecting.

The ride is sublime, the Eldorado is well suspended and thanks to its not insignificant weight, it just rolls over any bumps in the road and doesn’t bat an eyelid.

The old clashing with the new is well demonstrated by the Eldorado’s clocks which feature a digital ‘core’ surrounded by an analogue rev counter. The rev counter appears to be rubber mounted and its wafting movement is almost hypnotic, while the digital display appears to float in the centre of the unit, presenting your speed in a large font that’s easy to glance at. It’s a weird mix but it gets full marks from me.

I could easily see the Eldorado as an all-day ride and a bike to cover serious distances, for many reasons. Firstly, it’s effortlessly comfortable, secondly, it has a 20.5 litre tank which by my calculations is good for at least 200 miles and thirdly, it features cruise control. You might think cruise control on a bike that is mainly built for cruising, removes the one thing you actually can do on it, and in a way, it does. Grab third gear or higher, hold the cruise control button for a couple of seconds and then press it once more to set your speed and you can sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. A cruiser that takes the hard work out of cruising.

As expected, the Eldorado doesn’t live for corners. It takes them in its own unique way but anything tighter than 90-degrees will guarantee you get the footboards down (you’ll get through a lot of the nylon sliders attached to the underside of the footboards) and anything that resembles a hairpin will ensure you get the footboards down, followed by a bolt on the underside of the frame rail, plus you’ll have to actually turn the handlebars to make sure you don’t run onto the other side of the road, which makes the whole bike feel like it’s bending in the middle. So yeah, hairpins, best avoided.

I don’t know if the Eldorado needs the three power modes, the throttle is so soft and the engine response so unassertive that even in Veloce mode (the full power option), you’d be hard pressed to find yourself wanting it diluted down. Still, if that’s your thing, then the Touring and Rain modes will appeal to you.

Traction control seems to be another irrelevant piece of tech tom-foolery. How you’re going to lose traction on a 16ft long, one tonne cruiser is beyond me but rest assured with three levels of traction control, you can have a good go trying to spin up the rear, knowing that you never will. Even while riding through a wet and cold tunnel, with the traction control off, I couldn’t get the rear wheel to break traction. A sharp poke of the throttle and at least 20 per cent of the input is lost in the massive rubber throttle grip, 20 per cent is absorbed by the rubber engine mounts and 30 per cent goes into transmission losses leaving 30 per cent to turn the rear wheel which, thanks to 400kg pushing down on it, firmly refuses to lose traction.

You’d think a bike the size of the Eldorado could do with as much braking power as Guzzi could throw at it. The radial brakes are backed up by ABS but the whole thing is a bit too much. Not only do radial brakes look weird on a cruiser but they’re just overkill. Squeeze the lever more than 50 per cent and the ABS will kick in, while all the time the feeling at the lever is numb. Slightly less powerful brakes would give better feel and with a long wheelbase, the chances of locking up the front and getting yourself into trouble are slim. I’m a fan of ABS but it seems like the brakes don’t give you a chance to not ride into it every time you give the lever a decent squeeze.

Fancy electronics don't come cheap and the Eldorado costs £15,635… this is the same price as Harley-Davidson's 1,690cc Breakout and in the ball park of the £16,000 Fat Boy. Granted the iconic Harley cruiser doesn't come with all the Italian technological-wizardry but if we acknowledge that traction control and radial brakes are superfluous then where's the money really going?

While the air-cooled motor has plenty of surface area to help it lose heat, I get the impression Moto Guzzi have taken air-cooling about as far as it can go with an engine of this size. The oil cooler has a large fan mounted behind it and more often than not, that fan was flat out doing its best to keep things under control.

The Eldorado has me hooked. After five minutes, I couldn’t see what the 1,400 fuss was all about but after 50 miles I didn’t want to get off. It made me think long and hard about what defines a ‘good’ motorcycle. The Eldorado is a strange mix of old-tech, high-tech and rose-tinted specs. It has more than a slight whiff of cheese about it too, what with those white walls, the chrome and the fact Moto Guzzi mention the LAPD and Roman gods in the Eldorado’s brochure.

Even after riding it, I think the Eldorado is trying a bit hard to be cool, to be laid back, to please everyone. But ride one and there’s no denying the Eldorado is a properly enjoyable bike to rumble around on. I don’t quite know how, but it just works.

Model tested: 2015 Moto Guzzi Eldorado

Price: £15,635

Engine: 1380cc V-twin

Power: 96hp

Torque: 88ft/lb

Wet weight: 314kg (no fuel)

Tank capacity: 20.5 litres

Seat height: 740mm (720mm option)

Available: Soon

Read our Moto Guzzi Audace review

Watch our video review of the Moto Guzzi Eldorado and Audace

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