You do have to hand it to Royal Enfield. The Continental GT does look the business. From the deeply, gloriously red paint to the contrast with the chrome bits, the motorcycle looks tremendous. However, it isn’t flawless. The build quality and the finish levels can stand a lot of improvement.
What would I change on priority? First, I’d mount a heat shield where it protects the rider rather than hides an ugly catcon. Second, I’d work on the engine vibration because it loosens things and left unattended, they’ll start falling off. Third, I’d get the frame guys to work hard at making cleaner welds or, ideally, eliminating them.
The engine is, in effect, the least changed part of the motorcycle. It is based on the 500 cc UCE but is stroked out to hit 535 cc. The extra cubes are further helped by work on the intake setup, on the ignition curves, a lighter crank and more. All of this is aimed at allowing the engine to rev quicker. It does make 29 PS at 5,100 rpm and 44 Nm at 4,000 rpm of torque. But the difference in feel from the engine is more about how it revs rather than extra performance.
It takes 4.3 seconds to get to 60 kmph, which is 1.2 seconds quicker than the Thunderbird 500. The GT hits 100 kmph in 12.01 seconds, which is 7 seconds quicker. Top speed is 131.3 kmph, which is about 15 kmph faster. Within the Royal Enfield family, the new café racer creams all of its siblings. It is happier to gather momentum than any other Royal Enfield; getting up to about 90 kmph is easy and unless you’re revving it hard, quite calm.
The biggest improvement in terms of dynamics is on the brakes: Whether on road or on track, the brakes never lack for power and there is always a good amount of feel from the levers.
The Continental GT is the absolute best Royal Enfield there is. At Rs 2.14 lakh on-road or below in all of India, it is also a spectacularly priced motorcycle given that it runs superb Paioli rear shocks, sticky Pirelli Sport Demons, aluminium rims and so forth.
On purely objective parameters, it doesn’t have any standout attributes apart from its styling and its feel. There are, for its price or lower, motorcycles that will outperform it. But there is an emotional component to owning the GT which is tangible when you ride one, but hard to capture in words and that is the real draw of the motorcycle.