2018 Royal Enfield Continental GT and Interceptor | First Look Review

2018 Royal Enfield unveil
Royal Enfield unveiled two new models at EICMA, the 2018 Interceptor (left) and Continental GT (right). Both are powered by a new 648cc parallel twin (center). From left to right are Simon Warburton, Head of Product Development; Siddartha Lal, CEO; Rudratej Singh, President; and Mark Wells, Head of Product Strategy and Industrial Design. Photo courtesy of Royal Enfield.

Royal Enfield is in the midst of a revival. It never really died (read the story here), but like most manufacturers it’s had its share of tough times. After decades as a relatively domestic Indian brand, Royal Enfield CEO Siddartha Lal has a newly global vision: expand into other developing markets such as Latin America and Southeast Asia, and return the brand to its former glory in the European and U.S. markets. He isn’t interested in carving up the existing pie into smaller pieces, however. As he stood before a large contingent of moto journalists from around the world in Royal Enfield’s brand-new U.K. Technical Center at the Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground, he explained that his vision is to grow the market. Draw in new riders, make people excited about motorcycles again. It’s easy to get behind an idea like that.

Royal Enfield UKTC
Royal Enfield’s new UK Tech Center employs about 130 designers and engineers. Pictured here is one of the design departments, with conceptual models under covers and away from prying journalists’ eyes.

The new U.K. Tech Center, located about 11 miles from Leicester in central England, is a clear indicator of how seriously Royal Enfield is taking its mission. First opened in May 2017, it employs about 130 people, mostly engineers. Drawing on a newly international engineering talent pool, the UKTC houses chassis and engine design, modeling and testing facilities including both engine and chassis dynamometers, and accessories development. The location at Bruntingthorpe was carefully chosen, with a paved road course—which you might have seen on the popular TV show Top Gear—and a 3-kilometer (nearly 2-mile) runway for high speed testing.

Royal Enfield parallel twin
This new 648cc air-/oil-cooled parallel twin will power the new Continental GT and Interceptor.

This new focus on performance is what Royal Enfield hopes will help propel it into the global market. Its motorcycles have garnered a reputation for simplicity, reliability and ruggedness, perfect for the rough roads of India and other developing markets. Power was never a focal point. But on the open roads of Europe and the U.S., riders expect more, and that’s where the two new 2018 models come in. Powered by a totally new 648cc air-/oil-cooled parallel twin that is Euro 4 and 5 compliant (a feat of engineering for an air-cooled engine), the new Interceptor and Continental GT represent Royal Enfield’s first big step outside its Indian homeland, a step back to its origins.

Read: Royal Enfield Opens North American Headquarters

2018 Royal Enfield Interceptor
2018 Royal Enfield Interceptor in Orange Crush.

The 2018 Interceptor is a reincarnation of a model last seen on the streets of America more than 50 years ago, which became known as Britain’s “Lost Twin.” It’s a classically-styled British retro standard, with a long, flat, 31.7-inch-high quilted seat, upright handlebar for a comfortable riding position, dual coil-over rear shocks and upswept chrome mufflers. Its rounded gas tank holds 3.6 gallons and claimed dry weight is 445 pounds.

2018 Royal Enfield Continental GT
2018 Royal Enfield Continental GT.

On the sportier side is the 437-pound (claimed, dry) café racer 2018 Continental GT, with the requisite 31.1-inch-high solo humped seat (a flat dual seat is also available), clip-on handlebars, rectangular sculpted 3.3-gallon tank and rearset footpegs. Most other parts appear to be shared with the Interceptor, including the frame, spoked wheels, 41mm non-adjustable fork with 4.3 inches of travel, dual preload-adjustable coil-over rear shocks with 3.5 inches of travel, 320mm (front) and 240mm (rear) brakes with ABS, chrome upswept exhaust and, of course, the 648cc parallel twin.

2018 Royal Enfield Interceptor
The 2018 Interceptor is a revival of a bike last seen in the 1960s, a bike made for the U.S. market and its taste for speed.

Royal Enfield is quite proud of this new engine, its key to the worldwide motorcycling kingdom. On paper, it’s fairly basic: single overhead cam, a modest 9.5:1 compression ratio, electronic fuel injection and a 270-degree single piece forged crank. Power runs through six gears to the rear wheel via chain drive, with a slip-and-assist clutch making for light lever action and easy handling. Power output is also modest; Royal Enfield claims 47 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 38 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm.

2018 Royal Enfield Continental GT
The Continental GT appears to share a frame with the Interceptor, along with several other components such as brakes and wheels. The clip-on handlebars, humped solo seat, rearset footpegs and squared-off tank give it a unique cafe racer look.

Why not more? I thought it was a valid question, so I cornered one of the British engineers at the new model launch party at the EICMA show in Milan. His explanation: the U.K. and Europe have a tiered licensing system, with four levels. AM is good for mopeds only, A1 is good for a maximum of 125cc, A2 limits you to 35 kW (47 horsepower) and A is the full license. Royal Enfield, per its stated objective of not necessarily drawing current riders away from other brands but instead attracting new riders, capped its new engine at 47 horsepower in order to make it accessible to newbies, but at the upper limit of the A2 license so they won’t grow out of it too quickly. It’s worth noting that India does not use tiered licensing. Another checkmark in the “commitment to global expansion” column.

We obviously weren’t able to take either new twin for a ride at the unveiling, but on our bus tour of the Bruntingthorpe test track, we were buzzed by a Royal Enfield test rider on one of the new machines, and the sound was impressive. We’re guessing that the new Interceptor and Continental GT are the type of bike that feels better than it appears on paper, but a riding impression will have to wait until spring 2018, when the new models will be available at dealerships and a press launch. Pricing details will also follow, although we were told both would land between $5,000 and $7,000. We’ll have more information in the upcoming months.

Check out more new bikes in Rider’s guide to new/updated 2018 motorcycles

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15 COMMENTS

  1. This could leave room for them to produce a 750 in the future. It could use a significant amount of the 650’s engine components with the addition of high performance cam, carbs, pistons and bling to attract those who so love the retro Brit bike looks, sound and handling but want modern reliability and power

  2. This is a handsome retro bike. If it is SMOOTH running, handles reasonably well, with its slipper clutch this COULD be a great starter bike & more. Considering the PRICE RANGE THEY GIVE. I certainly wish them well. Would love to see RE get back into the western game. Many riders are not looking for high performance machines.

  3. Simple, fun and inexpensive! Sounds like a good start. A bike you can just ride and enjoy without breaking the bank. Not out to win anything but riding. Hope it works out. Maybe others will follow.

  4. A look at the photo shows the crankcase is split horizontally, presumably the crank also has a center support bearing too. The head is thru bolted to the crankcase, another improvement over classic British designs , but sadly the whole bike does not have nearly the ‘visual presence’ of the original, I wish they saved the name for a bit larger and more majestic machine. The original easily exceeded in visual appeal the Sportsters and all the smaller twins.

  5. These look great! A “starter bike”? I remember when a 650 was a large bike only exceeded by the 750 Atlas! Mid size were 350 to 500. Us OLD GEEZERS cannot bend our knees onto fancy sport bikes anymore so this RE should fit the bill nicely AND be rideable on the Interstate/Motorways when necessary. The singles were just not up to that and semi’s passing you at 75mph can blow you off the road and worse in the rain! This bike should cruise at that speed and more,

  6. I can’t tell from any of the photos, wonder if it retained both the electric and kick start modes as on the 535 cc single it replaced?

  7. Good attempt, a cheap version of Bonneville may be, but they should have gone with a smaller dia wheels, these look 19″, may be 18″ or 17″ rear wheels would have lowered the saddle height which stands at 804 mm as of now.

    • Sanjay, there are hundreds of motorcycles available for shorter people. Taller riders are being ignored, except for adventure bikes. I would go for a lower seat height as long as the seat to pegs height is tall enough.

  8. Why would you want to lower the bike, that would raise the pegs. There are enough bikes with scrunched up rideing positions as is. The concept of making small displacement bikes uncomfortable is doing nothing to increase the number of riders. Yes I am old enough to remember and have ridden bikes when 650’s and 750’s were big bikes.

    • Thank you Bill. I plan to attend the Chicago show coming up in February. Lay you odds right now I might be comfortable on a maximum of four of the new models in the entire show. Same thing every year. Yet the vertically challenged write letters to the editors, and the manufacturers jump. Look how many test riders in the magazines are sitting with their knees well above their hips. No thanks. I have had to raise the seat on nearly every bike I ‘ve owned. I have short legs, so sometimes I must also lower the frame so I can place my feet solidly on the ground.

  9. I have owed more than a dozen motorcycles during my 27 years of riding. My present ride is a 2017 Honda CB1100 EX. During those years I owned two BSA Lightnings and thoroughly enjoyed them. But they did have to be overhauled every 10,000 miles.

    The new RE Interceptor has the look and sound of vintage British motorcycles which appeals to me. The 48 horsepower is all my BSAs had and I never felt compromised by that. The RE should be faster than them given that it has a 6 speed gearbox not four, as well as, fuel injection and electronic ignition not carburetors, points and mechanical spark advance. My 48 horsepower Honda CB500X was proof of that.

    I also like the idea of the chain driven overhead cam. The pushrods and tappets in the original Triumphs and BSAs were noisy. Don’t mind the seat height either, as I am 6’2″ tall. Hopefully it has the same comfortable upright riding position as my CB500X did. I do like the disc brakes as well. The brakes on vintage British bikes were terrible. Good thing down gearing the motor could be used to slow them down.

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