At the beginning of 2020, Norton Motorcycles under the leadership of Stuart Garner dropped a bombshell when they announced they were going into administration. It was a devastating event in the brand’s 123-year history and left us all wondering if this would be the final nail in Norton’s coffin. Then things took a surprise twist when the world’s third-largest motorcycle manufacturer, TVS Motor Company, stepped in to save the day.
Since taking control of the Norton brand TVS hasn’t wasted any time establishing a new 100+ person strong Norton development team and production facility in Solihull, England. Late last year at the UK’s biggest motorcycle expo, Motorcycle Live, TVS had their all-new lineup of Norton Motorcycles on display including one very desirable cafe racer, the Norton V4CR.
The Cafe Racer styled Norton V4CR has been built using the same organs and bones as the Norton V4SV. The V4 was originally announced back in 2016 by the companies previous owners. They released a small batch of the Norton branded superbike but rather embarrassingly recalled them due to irremediable safety and manufacturing defects. Under the control of TVS, the V4 has been re-released as the V4SV which TVS say is now devoid of any of the models previous shortcomings.
The new V4SV is, according to Norton’s current PR department, “the most luxurious British superbike ever created”. And, in order to stay true to the brand’s British roots, the revised model has been designed and built (by hand) in the UK.
At the heart of the V4SV is Norton’s very own 1200cc V4 engine. The liquid-cooled powerplant produces an impressive 185bhp and 125Nm torque. To make that power even more potent Norton has limited the weight of the V4SV to the bare minimum. The bike’s chassis for instance is entirely aluminium, the bodywork is carbon fibre and most of the other hard components are machined billet. To top it all off the handling has been optimised using premium suspension and brake components from Ohlins and Brembo.
The Norton V4CR cafe racer
The Norton V4CR cafe racer has inherited its DNA from the V4SV superbike. The 1200 cc engine sitting within the V4CR’s chassis is untouched so we can expect the exact same performance from it. The Brembo brakes, Ohlins suspension, single-sided swingarm and OZ Racing forged alloy rims are identical too but the frame has one small difference. In order to tighten up the proportions of the bike, as is the approach generally taken with custom cafe racer builds, Norton has shortened the subframe. This leaves no room for passengers but works wonders for the bikes cafe vibe.
When it comes to bodywork there’s been very little carry-over between the 2 models. The one common bodywork feature is the carbon fibre fuel tank but aside from that most everything else is unique to this model.
The naked V4CR boasts a spattering of retro styling touches blended with distinctly modern details to create a striking modern classic. Channelling wind to the airbox beneath the tank are louvred side panels. Sitting on the revised subframe is a shorter iteration of the V4SV tail unit wearing a unique 2-panel seat. Sitting between the forks is a classically styled round LED headlamp. The headlamp is covered by a small louvred cowl and behind it sits a TFT digital display that’s mounted directly to the top yoke. Both front and rear fenders are carbon and the exhaust is protected by a small belly pan.
The Norton V4CR cafe racer will be available in 2 variants differing mainly in colour. These will be Norton’s trademark Manx Silver and a premium exposed black carbon fibre finish which is rumoured to also come with carbon wheels by BST.
We love everything about this new Norton Cafe Racer except for one thing. TVS are sticking to the premium brand approach taken by its previous owners. This means if you plan to buy a V4CR it’s unlikely you’ll see any change from a $40,000 USD outlay. This is a real shame as Norton’s history didn’t see them manufacturing motorcycles in this way. Models like the Commando 850 were a global success. This was achieved through design and performance excellence as well as affordability. We’d love to see Norton under TVS management produce a model that took this approach. The reality is however that the Norton brand may only ever be available to the riders with the deepest pockets.