The performance motorcycle market in India is cutthroat and fast developing. TVS Motor Company’s Apache is a classic case. When launched in 2006, the 150cc Apache was looking to take the fight to Bajaj’s Pulsars. In the years that followed, TVS came out with faster Apache variants such as the RTR 160 and the RTR 160 FI determined to beat the ever-growing Pulsar family. The entrance of Yamaha’s YZF-R15 has the Apache huffing and puffing. Not willing to give up without a fight, TVS has come out with the Apache RTR 180.
The RTR 180 is undoubtedly based on the previous RTR. Visually, apart from the decals, you can hardly make out the 180 from the 160cc. The RTR logo adorned on the tank scoops is the only give away. The new sporty, transparent mud flap for the rear tyre is a nice touch. It can be replaced with an optional full mud flap in the monsoon. The clip-on handlebar’s angle can now be attuned by four degrees to go with every riding style.
The engine of the new bike is the same that powers the former Apache motorcycles. However, the bore has been increased by 0.5mm and even stroke has gone up 5mm to produce displacement of 177.4cc. The change in the bore/stroke ratio to 1.08 from 1.17 has been done to perk up the bike’s ride capability in daily conditions. There is also a decrease in crankshaft inactivity as its heaviness is down by 25 percent. This makes the engine rev quicker. The gearbox is retained from the earlier RTR. Unfortunately there is no FI version, as TVS feels there is little scope for two FI motorcycles in the Apache line-up.
Start the bike and there’s the recognizable bawl from the engine as the throttle stays wide open, and progress is fast. The company-claimed 0-60kph time of 4.15 seconds with a 75kg rider on-board sounds a bit far-fetched, but we still have to carry out a full test.
The RTR 180 paces up better compared to the RTR 160, which looks slow now. The speedo needle will see you rev past 10,000rpm but the most excellent of its thump is from the 7000rpm mark. TVS claims a top speed of 125kph – we managed to touch a speedometer-indicated 119kph on the track before we had to slow down for the curves. The feelings from the bigger engine are satisfactory enough to leave you stinging after 15-odd minutes of flat-out riding on the RTR 180.
In the twisty sections, the RTR 180 surprises with an apparent enhancement in self-control. The nervousness of the RTR has been shrouded while maintaining flickability. To develop steadiness, the swingarm has been extended by 30mm and results in the RTR feeling nearly sympathetic when pushed to the edge and beyond. You can feel the tail slide away over bumps when leaned over but it’s by no means sufficient to worry you as the tyres have also been upsized to 90/90 x 17 at the front and 110/80 x 17 inches at the rear.
To perk up handling, the new RTR 180 uses tubeless tyres and unique construction that attains lower weight. Braking power is quite sturdy as the RTR 180 sets up a 270mm petal front disc and 200mm rear disc as standard. While the brakes present a fine experience, we did at times feel that the 180 could have gained from still better handling while braking hard had it used better tyres.
The Apache RTR with a kerb weight of 137kg and 17.3bhp still does not come close to Yamaha’s YZF-R15, as it remains in a league of its own with immaculate dynamics.
TVS needs to develop an all-new avant-garde motorcycle instead of the easier-to-achieve temporary upgrades. But for now, RTR fans will have to be satisfied with the new RTR 180’s stronger power delivery and superior handling.