Team ICB’s long time reader, Dinesh Kumar, gets astride the facelifted TVS Apache RTR180 and comes back with a range of impressions. Here we go.
Hi there guys, I am here to give you a comprehensive review of the new RTR 180. Following a string of mixed responses before and after the launch of the new RTR series, and having tested the new RTR 160, I mustered up all the positivity within me to go ahead and check out the new RTR180. When the RTR 180 debuted a few years back, there was a lot of talk about it looking identically same as its younger sibling. Well, TVS has kept all these things in mind – all the feedback regarding the design, the ergonomics, and the engine vibrations while creating the new series.
Unfortunately while the response amongst the enthusiast crowd has been lukewarm ever since the spy pics of the new Apache hit the interweb a couple of weeks before its launch – much of it having to do with no higher displacement engine being introduced, I somehow feel that the 180 looked much better in this new avatar when compared to the 160. I had to wait patiently for the first lot of 180s to arrive here at Hyderabad before I could lay my hands on them. The showroom people were generous enough to allow me to spend adequate time with this mean machine in order to give a detailed review. Here is a section-wise review of my experience with this new beast.
Much has been talked about the design ever since the spy shots surfaced. There are people who compare the headlamp design to that of a Pulsar and I believe that is true to a certain extent. The similarity is pretty evident on the side view, if not the front. The positive way to look at it is that people at TVS have tried to give it a cosmetic makeover given that the old design was aging. A refreshed look every now and then is a must in the competitive motorcycle industry, but my personal opinion is that, when the first RTR160 came out in 2007, it was well ahead of time with split grab rails, engine cowl, clip-on handle bars, etc. If you would notice even Bajaj took some cues from TVS and came up with clip-ons in its later models. I personally feel the older design was simple yet practical. For a motorcycle, design is crucial – it needs to turn you on the moment you look at it.
Having witnessed the older version, knowing what people at TVS were capable of, and given the teaser shots on TVS’s official Facebook page of the twin pilot lamps that looked stunning, the expectations were way too high for not only the Apache fans, but also other biking enthusiasts. The moment the spy shots hit the net, the response was pretty despondent. Many Apache fans and other enthusiasts were shocked by the design. Right from the unusually sized tank shrouds to the unequally yoked dual tone paint job, this new beast was less eye candy. No doubt the beast looks much better in its flesh when compared to the spy pics, but the high expectations came crashing down. Also I personally felt the design was meant for the 180 because the 180 looks more polished and neat with a sensible paint job and gorgeous graphics that blend well with the design – at least much better than that of the 160.
TVS released an official video highlighting the science and art behind its making and justified the unusual size of the tank shrouds by stating that it lessens the engine heat by a phenomenal 10 degrees. This is good, but something seems to have gone wrong somewhere and the pure harmony with which all parts used to come together in the old design is missing in the new one. Also having made so many changes cosmetically, they could have done away with the old tail lamp. The headlamp design, no doubt is good and the show stopper as mentioned before is the pair of pilot lamps. The one thing that was irritating my eyes though was some sort of a round rubbery protrusion on top of the digital console (it is visible in the pics posted). I believe it is there to cover the screw holding the unit together, but it spoils the look. The bottom line is that the 180’s avatar of single tone paint with good graphics is much more inviting when compared to the new 160.
This is another thing people at TVS had to look at. While the older version boasts of racing ergonomics and posture, many people complained of developing back pain and wrist pain due to the short handle it used to sport. Though the older 180 looked the same as the 160, the moment you mounted it, you could feel the difference almost immediately. The older 180 was a joy to ride and always longed to be pushed harder and faster. The older version stayed planted even at high speeds when compared to the 160, which started to swerve even as we reached the 90s. The good thing about the new 160 is that it will not swerve as much as the older one because it now comes equipped with wider tubeless tyres. Also going by the normal stance, though the new models look longer, the wheelbase remains the same for both the 160 and 180 at 1300 mm and 1326 mm respectively.
The seat is nice and comfortable just as much the old one was. The suspension quality remains the same, somewhat stiff, going by its racing pedigree. The handlebar is well positioned and might result in less wrist pain and back pain when compared to prior. The people at TVS have tried their best to reduce the vibrations and have succeeded to a great extent if not completely. The vibrations do exist at low RPMs for the 180, but are very negligible. Earlier, the 160, due t its ergonomics, was limited to city conditions and was not advisable for longer journeys. TVS have tried to change that and I guess they have succeeded. Nothing has changed with the 180 though. It was good enough then and is the same now irrespective of longer or shorter distances.
The old 180 was pretty underrated, at least in terms of sales figures, for what it was capable of. It used to handle like a dream, its performance was top notch, and it always used to deliver more than what people expected out of it, no wonder it was always pitted against higher capacity vehicles in shootouts. Now, enter the new 180, thankfully since this is predominantly a cosmetic makeover, there is no significant change in the way it handles when compared to the older version. The power delivery is nice and smooth and boy, the throttle response is crisp. The large RTR labeling is not on the tank shrouds for the sake of it; the Racing Throttle Response is pretty evident every time you twist the throttle. The brute force of 17.03 PS of power coupled with the incredibly high power to weight ratio pulls off mind-boggling performance, especially if you’re graduating from commuter motorcycles.
60 Kph came up in no time and I had to purposely shift to higher gears with enough power in hand even as I was going past each gear. The top speed claimed and mentioned in the brochure is 124 kmph. Now here comes the most important point and I hope TVS people take note of this. They have kept almost all the feedback in mind while coming up with this new series, but have missed out on one important and crucial thing. It is the sixth gear. Many people across the board have mentioned the fact of missing a sixth gear on the 160 as well the 180. You go past the five gears in a flash and are left wanting for more with the amount of power still in store. I am sure a sixth gear would do wonders for at least the 180’s monstrous appetite and let us hope TVS includes the sixth gear in their upcoming launches. Almost everything you throw at the 180, it seems to devour with consummate ease – be it bumpy roads, corners at high speeds, instant pick-up, power delivery at higher RPMs, or even effective braking. The quality of rubber has been an issue in the past and continues in the present model. TVS tyres do perform their duty pretty well, but are not as good as that of MRF.
“Kitni deti hai” is a common statement that everyone has come to terms with since the beginning of time. No matter how powerful the bike or whichever segment it may find itself in, the average Indian biker always has this question popping up. Well, since nothing has changed internally, at least as claimed by TVS, the old figures should be applicable to the current models as well. The showroom people claim the 160 to deliver around 45-50 kmpl and the 180 to deliver 35-40 kmpl. However, I do have friends who claim to get around 45 kmpl with the 180 and around 55 kmpl with the 160. When it comes to mileage, a lot depends on how we ride. One needs to avoid riding the clutch and frequent braking. Also riding in the top gear between speeds of 45-55 will optimize the mileage on most motorcycles.
The roto-petal discs on front and rear perform their duties well. Braking is sharp and precise and there is no sense of insecurity even when braking at higher speeds. Of course, ABS is a welcome addition and enhances the confidence level on wet surfaces. On the non-ABS versions, the moment you hit a water patch, the tyres tend to skid on moderate-to-harsh braking. ABS goes a long way in preventing that and hence is a must have if you can afford the extra few grand that the ABS version sells for. The rear discs are optional for the 160, but come standard with the 180.
Ever since its debut, Apache has been a name synonymous with raw pulsating power that sets your pulse racing and gets the adrenaline going. Over the years, it has grown up in terms of power, performance and ergonomics.. The new series was eagerly anticipated by all die-hard Apache fans and the greatest disappointment was that TVS didn’t up the ante in terms of displacement even after the many rumors of an RTR 220 doing the rounds. I just want to leave you guys with some hope because I have confirmed from a dealer friend here in Hyderabad that an RTR 220 is still in the pipeline. When it will surface, nobody knows, but if it indeed does, it is great news for all bike enthusiasts. Let us hope TVS will not disappoint us and will come up with a worthy opponent to the Pulsar 200 NS in the days to come. That’s it from me guys. Ride safe, keep your eyes on the road, wear your helmets, keep the headlight on low beam while in city limits, and do not use your cell phones while riding.
Model Ex-Showroom On-Road
RTR 160 Rs. 68,628 77,816
RTR 180 Rs. 74,258 84,059
180 ABS Rs. 82,780 93,511
PS: I often see many Pulsar and Apache fans locking horns with one another trying to prove which motorcycle is better. I have owned a Pulsar 180 and now own an RTR 160. My sincere suggestion as a motorcycle enthusiast and as an Indian is that we should appreciate both the brands. With all due respect to world leaders like Yamaha, Honda, KTM, etc., both Bajaj and TVS need to be commended for the two marvels they have come up with that have revolutionized motorcycling here in India. We should be proud about the fact that two Indian companies have taken the initiatives to up the ante and provide good sports bikes at affordable prices carrying as many goodies as possible.
No doubt that Pulsar was nothing less than a revolution and marked the beginning of an era of the new Indian biker whose expectations scaled new heights. TVS Apache has been the only bike that has given the Pulsar a run for the money. As per my opinion, these two products are legendary and something that we can proudly share with our kids and grandkids that these were released in our generation. Pulsar and Apache are two products that compliment each other rather than contradicting one another, and try to match step to step as they cross each level redefining performance and practicality. So my urge is to stop fighting with meaningless arguments and instead start encouraging both brands with hopes that things will further improve for the good of the Indian motorcycling industry. Bye and God bless.