Honda X-Wing focusses on aerodynamic efficiency and rider protection
By Mike Hanlon
Honda's 1500cc V6 X-Wing luxury touring concept surfaced at the 1999 Tokyo Motor Show, three years ago and for some reason has never seen the light of the showroom floor. Indeed, with the announcement of the production of the somewhat similar Honda ST1300 V4 later this year, it's likely that we probably won't see the machine at all, though there's no doubt we'll see most of the advanced functionality of the X-Wing eventually permeate Honda's entire range. More's the pity we won't see the X-Wing, but viewed as a showcase of future toys, it's a compelling study to reflect upon!
From the press kit: "Speeding down Europe's autobahns like a wind from the Alps, this near future sports tourer is powered by an exceptionally smooth-running V6 engine. Its adjustable fairing provides superb aerodynamic performance, and its elegant shape proves the maxim that form does indeed follow function."
"Featuring a next-generation Combined Brake System plus ABS, an electronically-controlled Traction Control System, a multifunctional navigation system, an internet capable display monitor, and a two-way rider/pillion communication system, this machine is a showcase of state-of-the-future motorcycle technology. Safe, clean, efficient, and comfortable, the X-Wing promised to raise tandem touring to truly new levels of elegance and performance."
The X-Wing was touted at the time as a "near-future" tourer specifically designed to realize the kind of riding comfort ideal for sports touring - it just didn't reach production.
There's little doubt the 150 degree, transverse 1500cc V6 power-plant would provide ultra-smooth power, but with variable valve timing it also promised an awesomely robust low- and mid-range, not to mention significantly improved fuel efficiency.
It's not so much the motor that makes the X-Wing a significant motorcycle though - it's the number of forward-thinking creature comforts and rider protection offered.
For starters, the promise of a next-generation combined braking system, plus an anti-lock braking system, plus an electronic Traction Control System promise a degree of safety that will make larger motorcycles available to much less advanced riders. Controlling a 1500cc motorcycle is beyond many experienced riders at present due to its weight. If you're an experienced rider and don't quite like the idea of an advanced and combined braking system with ABS, might I suggest you try it.
A combined braking system is actually fun to use and takes some of the thinking out of the equation, particularly on wet roads. An anti-lock braking system is similar in that it simply takes the stress out of the equation when the roads are in that delicate state when rain first begins to fall and combines with leftover rubber, oil and unburned hydrocarbons to create the perfect non-friction surface until the rain gets going and washes the scum away. It may seem like an insult to your riding abilities that you don't need, but once you've used a good one, you'll be sold.
Yes, very good riders can stop quicker with the ABS turned off, but only one in 10,000 riders race, and only one in a hundred of those will stop quicker without the ABS. You won't learn such skills without racing, and being prepared to lose some skin learning them, so do the maths, put the ego in neutral and get with the program - they might save your life.
Traction control has the same effect of keeping your rubber side connected firmly to the road under acceleration as ABS does under braking, and with the rate of progress of electronics and sensors, that progress will probably surpass human capabilities sooner or later anyway - probably sooner.
Japan's communication network and road network infrastructure is already well in advance of those in any other country and an internet-capable display monitor is something to look forward to with the types of information it will eventually be able to provide: on-the-fly weather, road conditions and traffic congestion for starters.
The multifunctional navigation system and two-way rider/pillion communication system will make exploring by motorcycle just that much more enjoyable and fulfilling, particularly in environments you're not familiar with.
One last futuristic feature worth looking forward to is the adjustable seat and fairing - all electronically adjustable on-the-fly, the seat hardness and backrest can all be adjusted, the flow-through venting in the fairing and the height of the windscreen are all variable at the touch of a button (see video). Based on the themes of safety, environmental friendliness and comfort, the X-Wing combines all the high performance, comfort and enjoyment that two people could ever need for great touring.
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