After an absence of almost three decades, Yamaha has finally introduced a motorcycle with a twin-cyl motor. But unlike the RD350 of the yesteryears, the YZF-R3 has a slightly smaller heart, that of a 321cc.
We sampled the R3 at the Buddh International Circuit, near Delhi, and, and before we set the track alight, we gazed long and hard at it. The R3 is a compact motorcycle, and only slightly larger than the R15. That all-new face with the aggressive shark nose has spent lots of time in the wind tunnel. The compact-looking fuel tank can stow 14 litres of fuel, and we like the raised rear that is partly responsible for its aggressive stance. It's not a beautiful motorcycle, but like the Sukhoi SU-30, it's striking from any angle.
The angular design theme has been carried over onto the instrument cluster as well. The information is well laid out -- tachometer, speedo, gear indicator, clock and fuel gauge - and can be easily read at a glance. There's also a gear-shift indicator that will come in handy on track days.
The R3 comes armed with the right equipment for the job. The fuel-injected twin-cylinder 321cc motor develops 41.5bhp at 10,750rpm and 29.6Nm of torque at 9000rpm, teamed with a six-speed transmission. Even with a twin cylinder motor, the R3 tips the scales at 169kg. So, yes, this thing has a good power-to-weight ratio.
In contrast to R15's complex delta box chassis, the R3's engine is nestled in a diamond frame chassis. The tried and tested conventional (right-side-up) suspension setup is unlike the KTM's more modern upside-down forks. But does it affect the overall performance of the R3? No way, Jose.
Once astride it, the first thing we notice is that the saddle height is exactly the same as the R15's. What has changed, though, is that unlike the R15's aggressive riding position, the R3's feels a lot more comfortable. The clip-on handlebars are raised for a more practical upright riding position. Overall, the riding position is more like a sports tourer's than an outright track bike's.
Starting the engine further reinforces that notion. The parallel twin is characteristically smooth and free-revving, and there are barely any vibrations. Down the straights, the engine builds up speed effortlessly. Acceleration is not neck-snappingly fast, but before you know it, the R3 is doing 100. While there is decent power north of 5000rpm, true madness starts once the needle passes 7000. Like the R15, the R3's engine doesn't mind humming at high revs for long durations. And the rev-happy nature of the engine is what will please riders most.
On straights, the bike touched its indicated speed of 167kph, and we're certain, given a long strip of tarmac, it could get close to 180. This also has to do with the tall 5th and 6th gears, which make the R3's touring intentions evident. The R3 flows effortlessly into corners. Despite being bigger and more powerful than the R15, it still changes directions easily. If you are not accustomed to taking tight corners, the R3 is a good bike to learn on. Overcook a corner, and the bike allows you to quickly adjust and change trajectory.
Apart from flat-out acceleration and keeping the engine on the boil, the other thing that was extensively tested was the brakes. The 298mm disc upfront has enough power to shave speeds quickly, and hauls in the R3 without any drama. Should the R3 have had ABS? Yes, yes, yes.
To sum it up, we've been waiting for a performance bike from Yamaha that sits above the R15. With the YZF-R3, the wait is over. It is not an outright track motorcycle like the R15, and focuses more on on-road performance. Yes, we would have liked ABS and a slipper clutch, especially since the R3 costs around Rs 3.25 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). But, despite these omissions, the motorcycle still manages to impress. Engine\: 320cc, 2cyl in-line, 41.5bh at 10,750rpm, 29.6Nm at 9000rpm, 6-speed, Fuel tank\: 14 litres, kerb weight\: 169kgPrice\: Rs 3.25 lakh, ex-showroom DelhiVerdict\: The YZF-R3 may not undercut the KTM RC 390 on price and power, but it's a versatile 300cc sportsbike. Score 8/10