Aprilia Mana 850GT Review
Aprilia have taken the best of both worlds into account when developing the Mana 850GT. This ones made with the rider in mind.
The Aprilia Mana has always had some difficulty being understood. Is it a motorcycle, a scooter, a mixture of both, confusion can sometimes become the centre of neglect.
The Mana has always struggled to fit in with the motorcycle crowd, for its automatic origins don’t sit well. Us scooter riders understand automatics, we actually love the convenience, the ease and control that comes with it.
So how does this latest version of the Mana transcend into everyday life, can it satisfy both parties? We find out.
The Mana is an automatic motorcycle. You have the option of choosing a number of drive modes, be it sport, rain or touring. You also have the option of using 7 speeds in a semi-automatic fashion, be it by foot or by the push buttons on the left hand grip.
Now I’m not about to go into the technicalities other then to say that it works, and works well.
The motor’s a gem. A 90 degree Aprilia V-twin producing 56 Kw’s of power. The key being the way it delivers its 73 Nm of torque.
The Mana can be a docile mule or a crazy thoroughbred, you make the choice via the right hand. Injected, liquid cooled with 4 valves per cylinder, also twin spark plugs per cylinder.
The brakes are typically powerful, above par. Twin radial callipers with four pistons, twin 320 mm discs on the front combined with ABS. On the rear we have a 260 mm disc with a dual piston calliper.
The suspension is a highlight and typical of the brand. Upside down forks on the front, not adjustable and 43 mm in diameter. The rear shock forms part of the bikes visual appeal.
It’s also extremely easy to access for both rebound and dampening adjustment. Both adjustments are right there, no digging under fairings required.
Storage is available where you would normally find the fuel tank. A push of the button(with the ignition on) will allow you access to this lit area which features a 12 volt charging socket. The fuel tank is housed under the rear passenger seat, which is opened using the ignition key.
The rear passenger gets a nice sturdy grab handle and a set of large flip out foot pegs. The seat is wide and flat and should make for a comfortable perch, even if touring. A couple of tie down hooks are available if you wish to use the rear seat as an extra storage area.
Top box and panniers are available as an accessory.
The bars are high and very commuter friendly or touring friendly for that matter. The dash contains a number of flick through modes, even a lap timer if required. You can turn the semi-auto function on and off or dial yourself up a number of facts and figures.
Average fuel consumption, top speed travelled, time travelled since last reset, the dash is pretty comprehensive and can keep you entertained for hours.
The fairing on the front is touring friendly and resolves all my issues with the previous model. A well thought out design that deflects a fair bit of wind and rain around the top half of the rider. Also performed well out on the open road, the screen is adjustable and easily moves up and down to suit different riders heights.
Wheels are full alloy jobs shod with premium sports rubber. They are 17 front and rear, 120/70 on the front and a nice fat 180/55 on the rear.
You’ll find a handbrake on the side just in-case the parking incline becomes a little hairy. Remember the Mana is automatic so it doesn’t have gears to lock it into position. In normal day to day use, I can only remember using the handbrake once.
The fit and finish on the Mana is exceptional, the plastics are moulded like only Italians can. The way everything feels and fits is worthy of the price-tag, this is one well built machine that exudes quality.
On The Road
Can you ride a scooter confidently?
If you can ride a scooter, you can ride the Mana 850GT. The power comes on smoothly and the weight balance feels almost scooter like (I said almost!). The centre of gravity feels low down for a motorcycle and even tackling lower speeds is a piece of cake.
The Mana 850GT is a seriously good commuter, largely because it’s so simple to ride. In auto mode it becomes a twist and go proposition. Anything will struggle to keep up from standstill, your reaction time and plenty of power will see to that.
Take away the monotonous need for constant gear changes and you soon find time to think about what’s going on up ahead. Brakes are just sensational and most stops can be performed by using the pressure of one finger. They do offer the added reassurance of ABS, though I didn’t get the chance to test this feature.
As a commuter the Mana works, partly because of its point and shoot nature, and partly because the Mana doesn’t feel top heavy like some motorcycles can. The seating position is pretty much upright and the Mana feels slim. The fairing provides an increased level of protection around the front, especially for the top half of your body.
In the rain it made a significant difference, though the bottom half still cops it.
If you have a need for touring, the Mana performs this duty standing on its head. The real pleasure spot for the Mana is 60 km/h to whatever. The Mana 850GT has the advantage of being able to traverse the countryside at high speeds and without fuss. The front fairing, high bars and comfortable seat all adding up to make the Mana a competent touring option. I performed a Sydney to Canberra run in pretty quick time, watching the speedo is the hardest chore really.
One tank of fuel is all you need for a run like this, the fuel light coming on at around 300 km’s.
When the chores end, and the call for some serious sports riding takes place, the Mana has this licked. With full control over the power available, you’re taking all the guess work out of what gear is required. Once you take your hand off the throttle the engine will brake for you, so again you have the ability to roll on and off the throttle to control speeds in fast corners.
This means some serious concentration can go into the riding line you take through corners. The Mana won’t deviate.
A funny saying is to Unleash the Beast, yet in the Mana’s case, it relates. The Mana is one of those machines where you are going to have a sublime motorcycling experience at some point. The suspension firm, the V-twin screaming, the bike just flowing beneath you, flipping from side to side, corner to corner.
I don’t wish to be all emotional here but its something that’s built into certain brands, and this Aprilia’s got it.
I do need to explain that in the two months I had the Mana, I used the semi-auto function once. In this mode you can hold gears and control revs and it would be nice if I ever had some really quick scratching or track work to do. For me, stick the Mana in automatic touring mode and just twist the wrist.
Aprilia’s always been at the forefront of motorcycle technology, pushing the envelope so they say. Being a motorcycle first and foremost the Mana benefits from having all the attributes of that fine Italian sportsbike heritage.
The package is all premium, premium suspension, premium brakes, premium fit and finish, its what you pay for. At around $16,000, the Mana 850GT is not cheap. But let me make the point, the Mana is not your average commuter motorcycle, you need to get out of the shallow depths and take a deeper look.
The Mana 850GT provides the convenience of twist and go scootering, yet demands respect when things get serious. From a scooterists point of view you have the auto box, convenient storage, a lower centre of gravity and a somewhat upright riding position. From a motorcycle riders point of view, ample power, together with a premium suspension and braking package that would shame most lower priced commuters.
Those that get the Mana will see the price versus value equation. Those that don’t will keep comparing this motorcycle to the myriad of 12-$13,000 commuters that flood today’s Australian market.
Do yourself a favour, ride one. Aprilia has developed the Mana 850GT with you in mind, not the other way round. A very well thought out motorcycle.
** The Mana 850GT with ABS is now on sale in Australia, only in the configuration shown above. The manufacturers list price is $15,990 and this model replaces the previous naked model. For more information please see www.aprilia.com.au .
and every 10 after that.
Major service is at every 20,000 km’s. CVT belt is changed during this service. Labour time for belt is around 2 hours.
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