Last February, Royal Enfield Pilipinas unveiled their newest “twins” - the Interceptor and the Continental GT 650. The event was also an opportunity for the media to get their first taste of what the all-new bike from Royal Enfield has to offer. While those in attendance happily obliged, I, on the other hand, saved my excitement for later. Fast-forward to June, I finally got my hands on this work of art after the bike got a clear schedule for a test ride.
My chosen route was a 250-kilometer route around the sleepy towns of Bay, Nagcarlan, Luisiana, Lake Caliraya in Laguna and back home in Cavite, plus the ride around the city, of course.
Royal Enfield’s first twin-engine was introduced in 1948, making its international re-introduction in 2018 a timely 70-year anniversary. The original twin cylinder engines displaced 500cc and were mounted on famed high-performance models like the Meteor, Super Meteor, and later on, the original Interceptor introduced in 1960. The modern Interceptor 650 is powered by a parallel twin, air and oil-cooled 648cc engine. For the first time, this bike, together with the Continental GT 650, are Royal Enfield's only models that have a 6-speed transmission with slipper clutch assist. Yes, you read it right, a slipper clutch assist on a Royal Enfield model!
The Interceptor's powerplant churns out 48 Ps at 7,250 rpm and 52 Nm of torque at 5,250 rpm, 80% of which is delivered as early as 2,500 rpm. To put that in perspective, a passenger jeepney with an Isuzu C240 engine only delivers a peak 58 Ps of power carrying a 2-ton body while the Interceptor is only 211 kilograms. The Interceptor 650's 6-speed transmission with a long 5th gear shifts flawlessly. I barely heard any clunk with each shift. As with any classic-inspired bike, it should not only look the part but also sound the part. The Interceptor's exhaust note does not stray away from the classic twins of old.
The chassis was designed from scratch by legendary Harris Performance UK, which has been owned by Royal Enfield since 2015. Though my 250-kilometer stint with the Interceptor was just a joyride with a couple of friends, there were quite a few times during the trip when I tried to discover how far the Interceptor can lean. I took advantage of the winding roads of Cavinti going down to Lumban and back to the Manila East Road and I must say that the Interceptor handled pretty well with the Pirelli Phantom tires, making sure the bike stayed on the tarmac while the slipper clutch assist guaranteed that I can downshift without worrying about fish-tailing the bike when approaching corners with some speed.
Riding the Interceptor 650 in and around Metro Manila's traffic is not a challenge, at least for me. The low seat height added to my confidence in squeezing the Interceptor 650 in and out of the gridlock. While seated on the bike, the engine's heat is manageable, so manageable that there were times I forgot that I was riding a 650 twin in between my legs. The pillion rider though, may not be all smiles because of the seat when riding for hours at a time, but for us who's used to riding, the Interceptor's seat along with its overall ergonomics are first-rate.
This new Royal Enfield won my heart. It is a very minimalist bike yet it still packs some punch. The demo unit's Orange Crush color scheme, together with all that chrome, made me feel like I traveled back in time. Make no mistake, though this bike pays homage to the standard bikes of the 60s, it can sprint to 180 kilometers per hour in a jiffy.
If there's one thing that could be improved with the Interceptor, it is the brakes. It's best to give it some generous braking distance, as it may not stop as soon as you expect. Though the Interceptor 650 was not designed as a performance bike, an additional disc (dual disc) in front or maybe a bigger disc brake to help slow down the bike within a shorter distance would be beneficial. Clutch pull is light, even in heavy traffic and the Interceptor's loud stock horn was largely helpful when I was riding through the busy streets of the metro.
My fuel economy with the Interceptor 650 yielded 21.3 kilometers per liter, city and highway combined. Take note that this was with somewhat aggressive riding. The Interceptor 650 is also unlike any other Royal Enfield that I have ridden so far. It is so smooth that I thought I was riding a Japanese motorcycle — a clear indication that Royal Enfield put an effort to make this bike appealing to the new generation of motorcycle riders.
It is also not intimidating to ride. Even riders with little experience can enjoy this bike. For the pricing, nothing beats the Interceptor 650's SRP of PhP360,000.