Do the new updates make the flagship Apache a better motorcycle?
TVS was the centre of attraction at the 2016 Auto Expo with the Akula concept. And a year down the line, the TVS Apache RR 310 was unveiled. It is an important bike for TVS, being the first bike to be launched under its partnership with BMW Motorrad. The Apache RR 310 is its flagship bike and also the first full faired bike to be launched by TVS. Many Indian bikers appreciated the fact that the production motorcycle maintained most of the design cues of the concept. While the bike did impress on many aspects, the engine lacked refinement and a bit of grunt. Sales took off on a positive note but soon dropped.
To arrest this slide, TVS have introduced the new 2019 Apache RR 310. The new motorcycle gets a slipper clutch, a new colour and some additions to reduce vibes and improve rideability. As was the case with the first generation bike, we were back again at the MMRT (Madras Motor Race Track) circuit on the outskirts of Chennai to test ride the new Apache RR 310.
As mentioned above, the most vital update on the 2019 Apache RR 310 is the inclusion of a slipper clutch. It’s the second TVS offering to get a slipper clutch, after the TVS Apache RTR 200 4V Race Edition 2.0 which was launched last year. According to TVS officials, the slipper clutch was added based on feedback received from its customers and racers who compete in the RR 310 Cup. In order to perfect the settings of the slipper clutch system, TVS engineers spent over 200 hours testing the assembly on the race track. Existing Apache RR 310 owners can also retrofit the slipper clutch system for Rs 3,950 and given its advantage, we would highly recommend it.
To reduce vibes, TVS engineers have given the new bike larger and heavier bar-end weights, a new ignition map and a rubber sealing below the windscreen to damp buzz from the fairing. Also, the new bike features a softer chain roller to reduce chain sound. I must add that these updates were also introduced on the older bike and were added during service free of cost to existing customers.
It’s now available in a gloss black paint finish dubbed as ‘Phantom Black’ while the matte black shade has been discontinued. Apart from the glossy paint finish, the new colour also gets a silver and red stripe that runs from the front to the back and is a neat touch. At the back, the “35 Years of Racing” sticker has been replaced with a “RR 310” sticker. Apart from these, there’s no visual difference between the older and the newer bike, while the red colour option remains unchanged. I must admit, the new black colour with the stripes and golden finish on the fork does make the new Apache RR 310 look even more menacing.
Are the changes effective?
Out on the track, the slipper clutch really helped as one can downshift aggressively without unsettling the bike, which means corner entry is smoother than before. I once went down from 120kmph in 6th gear to 2nd gear on the back straight of MMRT and while the bike did slide a bit, it was in a controlled manner and the rear wheel didn’t hop or skip. Another benefit of the slipper clutch system is that clutch effort has been reduced by 20 per cent. While I can’t quantify how accurate the claim is, the clutch did feel lighter than the older bike and this also helped in improving the gear shift quality. However, the real test of the system will be in crawling traffic, a scenario that the older bike struggled with and the clutch cable had the tendency to wear out pretty early.
Press the starter and one is welcomed with the familiar gruff and vibey idle as seen on the older bike. As expected, I was a bit skeptical whether the updates really made any difference with respect to refinement. However, once I gained momentum, I could immediately notice that the clip-on handlebars felt vibe-free even as the motor closed on its redline. This doesn’t mean that vibrations have disappeared, as it’s present on the tank, seat and pegs. However, its intensity has reduced. One aspect of the older bike that irritated me was the manner in which the bike struggled carrying low speeds and you had to constantly use the clutch to avoid the bike from stalling. The update to the motor means that it felt more relaxed carrying slower speeds exiting the pits, but its real test remains in the bumper-to-bumper urban traffic.
What could have been better?
While the updates to the motorcycle have resulted in reducing those irritating vibrations a bit, the fact remains that the Apache RR 310 is still far from a refined motorcycle. The efforts of the TVS engineers is commendable, but the flagship Apache somehow misses the mechanical finesse that its smaller siblings, the Apache RTR 200 4V and the RTR 160 4V, possess. Also, a bit more grunt from the engine would have been welcome as 34PS and 27.3Nm feels inadequate compared to the KTM RC 390.
In terms of handling dynamics, the new bike remains impressive with a very communicative chassis, however the Michelin tyres feel out of place on the racetrack and Metzeler rubber could have been offered as an optional extra. The footpegs are also too low set and get grounded rather easily. They need to be raised a bit for a sportier riding posture and also better cornering clearance. Another aspect that I feel needs improvement is braking: the feel from the lever was inconsistent and a bit more sharpness in braking would have been very welcome.
Worth the update?
All said and done, the updates made on the 2019 Apache RR 310 have made it a much better bike than before. It has the visual appeal, engaging handling and sporty performance to make it appealing to buyers. Also, the new Apache RR 310 has been priced at Rs 2.27 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), which is a minor increment of Rs 2,600 over the older bike. However, two vices of the flagship Apache remains, which are a vibey motor and high spare costs. While the updates should give the Apache RR 310 a boost in sales, whether it would be enough in the longer run is something only time will answer.