WE’VE WAITED SO LONG, and it’s finally here. It was over three years ago, in November 2014, when Husqvarna revealed the Vitpilen 401 concept at the huge EICMA show in Italy. It marked Husqvarna’s return to the street motorcycle segment, and the attention it received was massive. The angular, fresh design helped: for many, it was a welcome respite from the endless focus on the retro scene. Then a year later, the bigger Vitpilen 701 concept was unveiled.
Another clean and modern design, built around the 690 Duke engine from sister company KTM.
Fortunately, the production Vitpilen 701 is very close to the concept, and the design is stunning in the metal. The tank is a piece of modern art, and so is the tail unit. It’s all very clean and sleek—very Swedish, pure and simple. This is the DNA of the bike, and its vision too. It was not developed for a specific target group, and there is no stereotype that matches its philosophy. The Vitpilen 701 defines its own segment. After three interminable years from concept to production, the Vitpilen 701 is now available at dealerships in many countries—along with its smaller siblings, the Vitpilen and Svartpilen 401s.
We’ve just ridden the 701 in Barcelona, Spain, and one thing became immediately clear: the riding performance is on the same level as the design. The new Husqvarna is a serious and ‘grown up’ motorcycle, and not just a style item.
It’s tempting to underestimate single cylinder bikes, but one shouldn’t. Especially not when the engine is the most powerful street single you can get nowadays. It’s derived from the KTM Duke 690 and delivers 75 hp at 8,500 rpm from 693 cc. It’s also worth noting the Vitpilen’s wet weight of only 166 kilograms, which is easy meat for this engine.
Given those figures and the KTM connection, it’s not surprising that the Vitpilen is fast and very agile. If you are pressing on hard, you’ll need the assistance of the traction control at the exit of the corner because your front wheel might pop up.
From 3,000 rpm onward, the bike answers ride-by-wire throttle inputs with a strong punch—thanks to the ample 72 Nm of torque at 6,750 rpm. Happy feelings guaranteed. It’s a good setup and it’ll put a bright smile on your face. In Swedish Vitpilen means “white arrow” and the moniker fits well. The acceleration is linear—and smoothed out by the twin-spark ignition and a second counter balancer shaft. Having said that, it is a little twitchy under 3,000 rpm. But remember this is a single, so you still want some good vibrations. The urban playgrounds of Barcelona and the Catalonian backcountry are a good area to test performance, in both city traffic and on twisty roads. The chassis is quite firm, but it’s a dynamic and precise riding experience.
It’s super easy to bank the bike quickly from one side to the other, from curve to curve. The 43mm USD forks and monoshock—both from sister company WP Performance Systems—deliver exact feedback. You know exactly what’s going on, but the setup is also stable at speeds of up 160 kph (100 mph) on the highway.
Compression and rebound can be adjusted easily using the clickers on the top of the fork tubes, so you can adjust the suspension for more comfort in the city or a tauter ride on the back roads.
The mild angle of the clip-on bars offer an engaging riding position which suits the sporty character of the Vitpilen, improving the handling and agility—but they also make it a little tiring during longer rides.
On the technical front, the Vitpilen 701 comes with a quick shifter and auto-blipper, so you can easily shift through the 6-speed ‘box without using the clutch. It works well, especially at higher RPMs. There’s also an APTC™ slipper clutch, which stops rear wheel hop when braking hard into a turn during fast downshifting.
The Brembo brakes are up to the job, although there is only one floating 320mm disk with four-piston calipers in the front and a 240 mm rotor at the rear. We wouldn’t describe the braking as super-sharp, but it’s predictable. Advanced riders can switch off the Bosch ABS if they wish. For a single, the sound through the standard exhaust system is pretty good, especially if you’re accelerating at full throttle. If it’s not loud enough for you, you can improve it with a stunning titanium/carbon muffler from Akrapovič—which adds to the looks of the bike and doesn’t require a remap.
The seating position is comfortable and feels ‘just right’—even though it’s higher than you’d expect at 830mm. Everything else is where it needs to be, and gives you a good feeling of control. The headlight is well made and looks very sharp, but the dashboard could have been finished a little better. It’s also not always easy to read the key information fast.
It’s a progressive design that fits the modern zeitgeist, with state-of-the-art componentry and engineering—and a dynamic riding experience. Well done Husqvarna. Your white arrow has hit the bullseye.