Has the new R15 V3.0 evolved to be a sporty tourer like its larger brother, the Yamaha R3, or has it become even more sportier than the R15 V2.0 it replaces?
When the first Yamaha R15 was launched, it rewrote the rules of the entry level sportbike segment. In what was then a segment consisting of 150cc air-cooled motors, the R15 ushered in many segment-firsts like liquid cooling, Deltabox frame, and front and rear disc brakes. The fact that it cost a shade more than Rs 1 lakh at launch did not stop it from garnering a cult following. Come 2011, it got updated and the R15 V2.0, as the second generation was called, brought in sharper styling courtesy a new tail section, split seats, wider tyres and revised sprocketing for better acceleration.
That was a long way back and the game has since then moved on to a higher 200cc capacity, with two formidable rivals joining the fray. The Bajaj Pulsar RS 200 is more of the sporty machine you can go touring on while the KTM RC 200 is the ultimate track weapon. So which direction does the new R15 V3.0 go? Does it imbibe the sport touring genes of the larger Yamaha R3 or does it sacrifice a bit of practicality to become even more track worthy than the R15 V2.0 it replaces?
Design and features:
The previous two generations of the R15 were inspired by the first few generations of the larger R1 and R6. The third generation follows the same suit, but with the new R1 and R6. Yamaha calls it the R-series design, where sharp lines are replaced with blunt and floating panels. It is a new design direction which makes the bikes look more purposeful, especially the new R15 V3.0.
The R15 V3.0 has grown: It is 20mm longer, 55mm wider and 65mm taller. Sharper lines make way for a more rounded front profile. Headlamps are twin units as before but are slimmer and now offer LED lighting. The flyscreen is larger and longer and is able to deflect windblast as long as you are tucked in. Larger Yamaha styling cues come in the form of shark gill-like vents on the top sides of the fuel tank. The reshaped fuel tank is a tad smaller in size and now displaces 11 litres compared to 12 litres on the previous version. It has got deep knee recesses which allows you to comfortably lock in your knees. The most eye-catching feature of the bike has to be the tail section that features a floating design. Rear seat profile has changed and is now smaller, a fallout of the new and more compact tail section. The bike is available in a two tone-red and white paint scheme but we loved the shade of blue our bike came in.
Feature updates include a new, fully digital instrument cluster in place of the semi-digital one on the previous version. The LCD instrument cluster is a large unit with a large speedometer and bar-type rev counter that goes across the screen. It welcomes you with a personalised message that can be customised via buttons on the console. Other relevant information displayed is the fuel consumption (average and instantaneous), adjustable gear-shift indicator and VVA actuator indicator. It also gets an USB charger as an optional accessory.
While paint and part quality is good, we could not help but notice the unfinished welds on the frame near the headstock. The plastic cap for the rear seat locking bolt also hid unfinished plastics. Underseat plastics panels too had gaps that looked ungainly.
Overall, the R15 has evolved into a larger, more premium-looking motorcycle.
Engine and performance:
It's not just the R15 V3.0 that has evolved into a larger motorcycle; the motor too has increased in capacity. The liquid-cooled single has grown to 155cc, up from 149cc. While the previous motor already has a high-tech four-valve motor configuration, the new one takes the game forward with variable valve actuation (VVA). What this tech does is keep the valves oven for a longer duration after a preset rpm level (7400rpm in this case). This allows for more air/fuel mixture to get in and ultimately results in more top-end power without compromising on low-speed rideability. It also gets a larger airbox for better airflow. Power output has increased: the new motor makes 19.3PS at 10,000rpm, up from 17Ps at 8500rpm. Torque output remains the same 15Nm but 1000rpm higher, at 8500rpm.
The new motor has good bottom-end performance; it pulls cleanly and strongly from as low as 20kmph in 3rd and 30kmph in 4th. This should help in city traffic commutes. Power starts trickling in post 5000rpm and gradually builds up till 8500rpm. Post that it gets stronger till 10,000rpm, after which the power delivery sort of plateaus. The highlights of this motor are its increased low- and top-end performance and flexibility.
Engine internals have been revised to make components lighter and stronger. Despite the changes, the engine weight remains the same due to the addition of VVA and slipper clutch. The lighter internals makes the new new motor rev freely all the way to its 12,000 rpm redline.
The motor is more audible thanks to a larger airbox. We also felt vibes creeping in via the footpegs when the potor was at the top part of its power band.
While the six-speed gearbox ratios retain the same tall ratios like the R15 V2.0, the final drive ratio has increased, making the final gearing shorter. This has been done to improve initial acceleration, a requisite given that peak power outputs are made at a higher rpm. The biggest change here is the introduction of a slipper clutch that on the track led to high stability despite shifting at higher rpm. Clutch feel and actuation too has become lighter. The gearbox offers slick and positive shifts while the slipper clutch allows you to go down a couple of gears in rapid succession. It is a seamless experience, perfect for when you are riding on the racetrack.
Despite the 3kg increase in weight, overall performance has improved and the new R15 is definitely quicker than before. How quick is it as compared to its rivals? To answer that we will have to wait for a proper road test to strap on our Vbox and get a more detailed look.
Ride and handling:
While the R15 V3.0 carries the same Deltabox frame setup, the subframe has been revised for more rigidity. It is a new two-piece unit and is 20mm wider at the pivot point to accommodate the larger rear tyre. It also gets cross ribs on the inside for more rigidity without increasing weight. Rake has reduced to 25.5 degrees from 26 degrees while trail has dropped down by 10mm, to 88mm. This has resulted in the wheelbase dropping down 20mm, to 1325mm. Ground clearance, at 170mm, is up by 10mm.
While the international spec version gets upside-down forks, Yamaha has retained the telescopic units here to keep prices down. The fork diameter has increased to 42mm, as compared to 33mm on the previous version. Although, we wish Yamaha would give USDs atleast as an option. Rear suspension is the same linked monoshock as before. Wheel sizes have increased: the front is a wider 100/80R17 while rear is 140/70 R17 (both up by 10mm on the previous version's 90/80 R17 front and 130/70 R17 rear). Tyre are new MRF Zappers and a different compound than those on the R15 V3.0. Yamaha is offering a rear Metzeler Sportec M5 tyre as an option.
The result of these changes is a sharper-turning, more flickable and more stable motorcycle.
On the track the front felt more agile and reactive to inputs. Stability is fantastic, especially in high speed cornering where you feel more confident, allowing for more lean angles. The fantastic chassis allows you to get away with mid-corner line changes, making cornering a fast and smooth affair. This is a fantastic track weapon, and has enough excitement for both novices and experts alike.
The riding position has changed courtesy the higher 815mm seat height (up by 15mm). The taller seat takes some getting used to and is more suited for track use. The riding position has now become more aggressive, which is fantastic for the racetrack but could be bothersome in slow city riding. We would have preferred slightly higher-set handlebars for more comfort. One major change is that the step between the rider and pillion seat has been reduced so the pillion will no longer feel as if he or she is sitting a level above the rider.
Braking is via a larger 282mm Bybre front disc clamped to two-piston calipers and a rear 220mm disc. While the international spec comes with ABS, Yamaha has opted out to save costs. The brakes had good bite but could have been better as on the track, it lacked initial feedback and initial bite. This could partly be attributed to the front MRF tyre. While the rear Metzeler gave no reason to complain, the front MRF was a bit audible while braking hard. Other than that the front tyre gripped well in corners and should get the job done out in the real world. It will be difficult to comment on ride quality given the smooth surface of the MMRT racetrack, so how it behaves on the road can be answered after a proper road test.
The new R15 V3.0 has evolved into a larger, more powerful and more performance-oriented motorcycle. It feels more premium and polished and is an absolute hoot to ride on the racetrack. Looks aside, the features and kit on the bike make it appealing to a larger audience. It has the goods to keep both the novice and expert rider satiated on the performance and dynamics front. The retail price of Rs 1,25,000 (ex-Delhi) puts on par with the Bajaj Pulsar RS200 (Rs 1.24,998) and undercut the KTM RC200 (Rs 1,71,000). At this price it offers better design, high-spec engine tech and an engaging ride experience. Which one offers better value is a question that begs for a proper comparison test and is something we will be conducting soon.
The new R15 V3.0 offers more low-rev grunt in a smoother engine package while also affording more practicality with better ground clearance and an accessible pillion seat. You will have to learn to live with the more aggressive riding position. Positives are the eye-catching design, increased performance and more agile dynamics. The R15 has evolves into a more powerful and more practical motorcycle.
Words by: Benjamin Gracias
Photography by: Eshan Shetty