Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 vs
Husqvarna 701 Enduro (plus special guest)
WRITTEN BY AARON TRAVELL
We’ve often wondered that when a manufacturer like Husqvarna place a given engine in various models, how those models then relate to one another in performance. The KTM 690 single cylinder engine is a prime example and is used in no less than 6 current KTM group models.
So, we decided to go to the airfield and have a shake down battle with the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 and our own Husqvarna 701 Enduro!
Before we get into the results, on paper at least they should be very similar. Both feature the same engine with 75hp and, in fact, our 701 Enduro is approximately 10kg lighter than the Vitpilen. The Enduro also has shorter gearing so we thought this could improve the acceleration even more. Further than this, we had high expectations for the 701 Enduro based on the fact that it annihilated the 95hp BMW F850gs Adventure we had on loan a few months back in roll on 50-80mph performance.
However, as we’ve seen before, ideas, concepts and specification sheets do not tell the whole story and it took us all of about 3 minutes to work out the very clear winner… The Vitpilen…
There is something incredible that Husqvarna have done with the Vitpilen 701 in terms of maximising the performance of the 75hp 690 single engine. The combination of lightweight, ergonomics and the ability of the suspension set up to put every last once of that power directly on the ground is incredible. While the Vitpilen has not got any launch control function, with traction control turned on, the way the bike launches from stationary is incredible; its fast, flat and just very easy to launch consistently fast. On every occasion, we launched the Vitpilen way ahead of the Enduro model, even though we changed rider many times. The Vitpilen also has a good quick-shifter which makes light work of the frequent upshifts.
The 701 Enduro in contrast was much harder to launch, its high seat height, long travel suspension and power delivery all getting in the way of a fast time and felt like racing a giraffe in comparison to a gazelle. To note at this point, with both machines we had traction control turned on. In our testing experience, while doing a wheelie on an airfield is a lot of fun, it makes for a really slow acceleration in this sort of thing, especially with this engine that is so prone to launching the front wheel in the air. On the Enduro 701, we opted for road mode. In practice, we have found that off road mode allows a pretty massive wheelie, so road mode was the only option we could consider.
The final figures were as follows
0-60mph 3.6 seconds – 0-100mph 8.4 seconds
0-60mph 4.5 seconds – 0-100mph 10.4 seconds
In gear performance 40-80mph – Vitpilen won 3rd gear, 4th and 5th were pretty even.
The conclusion is that actually it wasn’t as close as we thought it would be, and to us at least, shows that Husqvarna’s use of the 690 engine in the various different models that they have, its not just been a case of “lets just chuck the 690 in it” and leave it there. While it is essentially the same engine, there has clearly been a huge amount of design and engineering work done to make that engine suit the model. In the case of the Vitpilen, they have maximised the road going drive and performance with gearing to match… with the 701 Enduro, other priorities are made in terms of suspension and off-road abilities. A very interesting experiment in our opinion.
In fact, the Vitpilen 701 was so impressive that we brought another bike into the ring… Enter my Suzuki GSXR750…
Double the power, 150hp of screaming inline 4 linear power, the GSXR750 should have left the Vitpilen for dead… and in a way, it did!
However, like reading the blurb for a novel doesn’t give you the whole story, the numbers and end result for this test don’t exactly paint the full picture here either.
The straight-line performance of the GSXR is incredible, 0-100mph in 5.7secs, 0-140mph in 10 seconds flat. For perspective, that is faster than a £270k 700hp Lamborghini Aventador!
What is amazing though is that in every test we did, the Vitpilen 701 was actually in the lead up to around 70mph! Nothing I did on the GSXR really change that, and while I don’t profess to be a seasoned racer and openly admit that launching a peaking inline 4 is a bit of an art form, even my best launches saw the Vitpilen in the lead at the beginning of every race. That being said the GSXR blitzed it in speeds above 80-90mph, only changing from 2nd into 3rd gear at 120mph and seeing 140mph at the same time the Vitpilen saw just over 100mph. Another interesting area was the in gear performance, the 2 bikes were quite evenly matched, that is until the GSXR gets into 10krpm and then its goodnight.
In realistic road legal speeds, the Vitpilen proved its worth as an incredibly respectable motorcycle with real world road going performance and the whole vs testing we did was very interesting to us and obviously a huge amount of fun!
So to summarise my final thoughts, similar to the products we make, specification sheets don’t tell the whole story. While it is often the case that people make a decision for or against a certain product or motorcycle based on its specification, in reality and in the Vitpilen’s case, the 75hp on offer is more than enough to get a good kick at realistic legal speeds and will pretty much hang with anything out there!
Written by Aaron Travell
What we wore on this test
FROM THE KNOX COLLECTION