Royal Enfield rolls into the present with two gorgeous parallel twin-powered bikes that lovingly emulate the past.
Company known for its old-school singles unveils Interceptor INT 650 and Continental GT 650
Forty-seven years since it was last seen in dealerships, the Royal Enfield Interceptor is back (officially – and awkwardly – known as the Interceptor INT 650 in most markets), alongside a more powerful Continental GT – both powered by the India-based company’s all-new 648cc parallel twin engine.
The bikes' new SOHC air/oil-cooled powerplant was first revealed earlier this week. Promising 47 hp and 52 Nm of torque, it’s a lump clearly designed for relaxed riding, but with plenty of oomph to keep up on the highway. That relaxed attitude is perhaps best personified by the revival of the Interceptor name, which was last seen some 47 years ago on a parallel twin that had been introduced a decade before (1960) with the American market very much in mind.
“ achieved great popularity in California, where the motorcycle aligned well with the relaxed hippie and surfer culture,” claims Royal Enfield. “It is this iconic movement, and the original Interceptor, that are the inspiration behind the creation of the new Interceptor INT 650.”
The Continental GT 650, meanwhile, builds on the success of the 535 cc single-powered Continental GT that was introduced in 2013. This new and improved version, with almost 20 more horsepower, will go a long way to better encapsulating the 1950s cafe racer culture that inspired the motorcycle. Finally, riders will be able to do the ton on a Continental GT – something that was notably difficult on the old thumper version.
The Interceptor INT 650 is authentically old-school with its classic tear-drop shaped fuel-tank, quilted twin-seat and wide braced handlebars. A new steel-tube cradle chassis – developed from the ground up by the team at Royal Enfield’s UK Technology Centre and Harris Performance – frames the new parallel twin well. RE describes the bike as “perfect for riding in the city or a leisurely weekend cruise.”
Rocketing forward from the kind of Royal Enfields we’re used to, the Interceptor INT 650 comes with ABS. If that’s blowing your tiny mind you may need to sit down for this: the bike’s six-speed gearbox comes equipped with a slipper clutch to facilitate easy riding and prevent wheel hop when downshifting. Cats and dogs living together, y’all.
ABS and a slipper clutch on a Royal Enfield? We have travelled to the future!
“The Interceptor INT 650 carries forward the Royal Enfield legacy into the 21st century,” said Royal Enfield CEO Siddhartha Lal. “While in its essence it retains the design and old-school character, it has all the underpinnings of a modern machine. It combines agility, usable power, excellent ergonomics and style in an unintimidating manner. However, the Interceptor INT 650 is more than the sum of its parts; it is great fun to ride and brings a smile on your face every single time that you ride it.”
The all new Continental GT 650 also gains ABS, while maintaining the authentic cafe racer look that made us love the bike despite its (many) foibles. The Continental GT 650 shares the same engine, chassis, and running parts as the Interceptor INT 650, but offers a considerably different experience in terms of ergonomics and style. A forward-leaning stance and decent lean angle, afforded by upswept exhaust and rear-set footrests, give the motorcycle a sporty feel.
“The GT has been an iconic motorcycle in Royal Enfield’s portfolio. Since its launch in 2013, the Continental GT has helped the brand strengthen its position in mature motorcycle markets across the world,” said Royal Enfield President Rudratej Singh. “In its new avatar, the Continental GT 650 is the absolute definitive cafe racer.”
Royal Enfield claims to be the global leader in the mid-size (250-750cc) motorcycle segment, and it has made no secret about its ambitious plans to grow much, much larger in the coming years.
READ MORE: Royal Enfield Unveils New 650 Twin Engine
“While for our largest customer base is in India, the new 650 twins will be a compelling upgrade. We believe it will attract customers from other developing markets in Southeast Asia and Latin America to graduate to the middleweight segment,” said Lal. “In addition, the 650 twins will offer a very evocative option to customers in mature motorcycle markets such as Europe, Australia, and North America. For us, this marks the beginning of a new chapter at Royal Enfield.”
Perhaps addressing the concerns that many people have regarding the reputation of Royal Enfield machines of the past, the company says its new bikes have undergone “rigorous testing” at the company’s UK Technology Centre. The entire platform, including the engine and chassis, has been put through its paces “at world-class proving grounds with professional riders.”
Both vehicles have “been subjected to lab and bench tests, in addition to being tested on race tracks and public roads,” says Royal Enfield. “With over half a million miles of testing prior to production, more than 70 different tests have been conducted on the vehicle and individual chassis components. Modern CAE techniques and CAD systems have been applied during the development of the chassis, and comprehensive data logging and analysis have been undertaken. The gearbox has undergone extensive test miles... These motorcycles have been tested for real world riding conditions.”
Helping riders to overcome their concerns will almost certainly be the new motorcycles’ price tag. Both models are expected to hit North America in summer 2018 with a targeted price range of US $5,000 - $7,000. The bikes will hit Europe before that – in April – though pricing information is not yet available.