2008 Gilera GP 800

Is there any logic in building a scooter that goes almost 120 mph, tips the scale at no less than 600 pounds and spans a 63-inch wheelbase? I strongly doubt it, but someone at Piaggio’s headquarters in Pontedera, near Pisa, has been nurturing this concept for almost two decades. Through the years the idea has been discarded, recovered, thrown away again, re-sized and finally integrated into a wider program pivoting around a whole generation of 90-degree V-Twins.
Gilera
The front end is rather conventional by scooter standards, featuring a 41mm fork with the offset wheel spindle facing to the rear. Twin 300mm rotors and two-piston calipers by Brembo offer excellent power and modulation.


Today we bring news which does not register very far up on our green meter, but we’ll fit it in nonetheless. Piaggio has recently made headlines on our site by indicating that they might offer up their hybrid scooters in the U.S. in a few years time. Now, they go and partially undo that good news with this, the Gilera GP800. Now, I am not saying that the scooter is a bad product, what I am saying is that I wish that the push for ever larger engines in scooters would come to an end. Don’t get me wrong, I love scooters. But, I personally think that the scooter market is better served with machines which focus on frugality rather than outright speed. A 500cc engine with a CVT transmission is plenty large enough to get well ahead of traffic when the light turns green, and can cruise comfortably above any speed limit in America or (Autobahn aside) the rest of the world. So, why go bigger? And, if you are gonna go bigger, why not cater to the market that really seems to want to go bigger – motorcycles. Oh well, we’ll all just have to wait and see, if the GP800 indeed does go into production, how well it sells. Maybe I’m wrong and scooter riders do want bigger and more powerful.


Another interesting tidbit from another source: “Piaggio is building a version of the 3-wheel MP3/Fuoco with the 839.3cc engine and CVT plus final-chain-drive from the 850Mana/GP800 which will be sold as a Moto Guzzi.” Really? That would be interesting, and there might be more of a market for the three-wheeler than the two.

Gilera
Computer-generated view of the GP800’s final drive, which uses a real-live chain. Fuel tank holds a substantial 4.8 gallons.

The final stage of this project started back in the late ’90s and produced its first results around the year 2000, when a line of Vees was developed utilizing the 460cc cylinders and heads from the engines that propel a number of Piaggio, Aprilia and Gilera scooters. The present plan lists three units: two dohc eight-valvers in 750cc (which Aprilia uses in the new-for-2008 Shiver) and 1200cc displacements, and a sohc 838cc eight-valver.

This last powerplant is used in the Gilera GP800, a maxi-scooter whose name—if not its performance or intended usage—harkens back to Gilera’s illustrious Grand Prix racing heritage. The motor has been largely detuned from its original 92 hp, but 75 horses should be enough for what Piaggio has in mind for both this super-scooter and a soon-to-be-released automatic-transmission motorcycle.

The transmission is a mix of Italian and Japanese technology. The most vital element—the trapezoidal belt—is manufactured by a Japanese supplier, while the variable-width pulleys, centrifugal clutch and electronics have been developed within Piaggio and manufactured by Italian specialists. The CVT unit is inside the engine crankcase, and like the Suzuki Burgman 650 and Yamaha T-Max, the finaldrive housing pivots separately from the engine (which is mounted in the frame), eliminating the big lump of unsprung mass that is the bane of most scooters’ handling.

The Gilera GP800 is grossly excessive, pushing the boundaries of the concept that the scooter is a lightweight urban commuter. It’s big, heavy, not particularly agile, has a wide turning radius and its handling is just as vague as many other scoots, regardless of final drive type. Of course, considering its portly curb weight and lengthy wheelbase, it could hardly be otherwise, especially given a weight distribution of 45 percent front and 55 percent rear with the rider aboard.

But it’s not all bad. The fat radials (120/70-16 front and 160/60-15 rear) do help a lot in terms of straight-line stability and cornering, as does the motorcycle-like front-end geome-try, with 25 degrees of rake and 4.25 inches of trail. The brakes are superb, as I always expect from Brembo. And they better be; the GP800 is capable of blinding acceleration (0-60 mph in 5.2 seconds), can raise the front wheel if you play with the throttle, and top speed exceeds 120 mph. The high-speed comfort is good and its stability is reassuring, the cockpit is ergonomically correct in handlebar reach and shape, and the windshield is electro-adjustable, offering good aerodynamics.

Despite its potential, the question remains: Is there room in the market for a mega-scooter that sells at no less than 9200 euros in Italy that doesn’t give the riding pleasure of a bike of equivalent price? Maybe not, but the CVT technology—coming soon to the Aprilia Mana motorcycle—should prove an interesting and practical alternative to shifting gears.

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