V4 Motorcycle Engines: The Complete Guide - BikeChuno (2024)

V4 Motorcycle Engines: The Complete Guide - BikeChuno (1)

The greatest qualities of both a V-Twin and an inline four-cylinder engine are combined in a V4 engine. This engine is found in many of the world’s most popular motorcycles. V4s are typically difficult and expensive to construct. But with Honda, Ducati, Aprilia, and KTM employing V4 architectures in MotoGP, the advantages are evident.

What are V4 Motorcycle Engines?

V4 motorcycle engines are a type of engine configuration commonly used in motorcycles. They are composed of four cylinders arranged in a V-shape, with two cylinders on each side of the V. The V4 configuration offers advantages such as compactness, balanced weight distribution and smooth power delivery.

V4 motorcycle engines are known for their high performance, horsepower, powerful torque and excellent acceleration. They are commonly used in sports bikes and high-performance motorcycles.

V4 Motorcycle Engines: Pros

  • High caliber.
  • Torquey power delivery is smooth.
  • Streamlined design with a small profile.
  • Amazing exhaust notes and sound.

V4 Motorcycle Engines: Cons

  • Expensive to manufacture and complex.
  • Costly to maintain.
  • A weight increase over inline-four engines.
  • More challenging fitting of ancillary components.

V4 Motorcycle Engines: History

The engine is significantly smaller when the four cylinders are arranged in a V shape. Furthermore, it provides a smaller crankshaft length. Similar to a V-twin, adopting a 90-degree angle results in perfect primary balance and less shaking than an inline four.

Unlike other motorbike engine types, the V4 wasn’t introduced until the Matchless Silver Hawk in the 1930s. However, it gradually acquired popularity as a high-performance choice over time, with both two-stroke and four-stroke variants available.

In the 50cc two-stroke Grand Prix era, almost all rivals switched from square four designs to V4s. This even permeated lower classes and production bikes, including the legendary Yamaha RD500LC.

Honda V4 Engine Motorcycles

As Honda Motorcycles introduced the VF line in 1982 with options for 400cc, 500cc, 750cc, and 1000cc, the V4 motorcycle craze took off in the 1980s. They might have had reliability issues, but they helped make some legendary bikes possible. The first was the Honda VFR750F, which swiftly evolved from a sports bike to a sports tourer and is still produced today.

Honda also created the VFR750R (RC30) and RVF750 (RC45), two superbikes that won competitions like the inaugural World Superbike Championship. They also produced 400cc versions, initially intended for the Japanese domestic market. However, they later created a thriving “grey import” sector in the UK. Because the smaller V4s were more expensive, the officially imported models initially cost more than considerably larger motorcycles.

The ST series, also called Pan-Europeans, completes the Honda V4 trio. These featured shaft drives and a sizable fuel tank under the saddle and were more focused on touring than the VFR.

Yamaha V4 Engine Motorcycles

However, Honda wasn’t the only Japanese company to employ the V4 engine. The 1,197cc 70-degree V4 engine that powered the Yamaha V-Max (the VMAX from 2009) debuted in 1985 and exhibited arm-wrenching acceleration. The chassis, suspension, and brake systems—all weak points in the original—were strengthened in the subsequent model, which switched to a 1,679cc 65-degree V4 engine.

Aprilia V4 Engine Motorcycles

Aprilia also chose a narrower V-angle, a 65-degree V4, for the RSV4 that won the WSB title. Despite being built primarily as superbike racers, the production models, equally sought-after road bikes, offer a V4 engine for a comparable cost to inline four cylinder engine from BMW and Japanese automakers.

Ducati V4 Engine Motorcycles

The strongest contemporary proponent of V4’s benefits is maybe Ducati. The Italian company has a long history of using 90-degree V-Twins successfully. However, their MotoGP experiment gave birth to the unique road-going Desmosedici RR, which costs £40,000 and has the same 989cc V4 “long bang” engine.

Furthermore, the Bologna company’s production of new, very effective V-twin motorcycles ends with the Panigale V4. The MotoGP-derived Desmosedici Stradale engine has been modified to work with production motorcycles.

The updated Panigale is 4.5kg heavier but marginally wider. The 1,103cc Desmodromic engine rotates in the opposite direction from the wheels to lessen the gyroscopic effect and turning effort, producing 211.2 horsepower.

The most significant testament to the performance, power delivery, and compact size of the current V4 is likely the shift in a motorcycle company’s attention to the more costly and difficult V4 engine design. It has happened twice, given Honda’s dedication over time and Ducati’s recent move.

V4 Motorcycle Engines Sound

V4 motorcycles share a distinctive sound. From the lesser capacity Honda NC30 and NC35 to the dominant Ducati Desmosedici and Honda RC213V in MotoGP, exhaust noise is a throaty performance growl.

V4 Motorcycle Engines: The Complete Guide - BikeChuno (2024)


Is the V4 the best motorcycle engine? ›

Well, while there are plenty of benefits to a V4 engine, there are also downsides. Higher build cost due to their complexity and overheating issues that can creep up in the rear pistons tend to scare away some manufacturers. But that doesn't mean we don't have some incredible and powerful V4 bikes in the world already.

What are the advantages of a V4 motorcycle engine? ›

Arranging four cylinders in a V configuration makes the engine much more compact. And it also gives a short length across the crankshaft. As with a V-twin, using an angle of 90 degrees gives perfect primary balance, and it will produce less rocking than an inline four.

Is a V4 engine better than an inline 4? ›

A V4 engine is much smoother, rigid, and strong when compared to an inline 4-cylinder engine. 2. V4 engines tend to generate more power than inline 4 engines. It primarily comes down to much stronger crankshafts in V4 engines, which are shorter and reduce the chance of torque twisting.

Which bike has a V4 engine? ›

Currently, the only V4 engine bikes sold in India are the Ducati V4 range and Aprilia RSV4. That said if Keeway India's future pans out well, it could introduce the two bikes here.

Why does Ducati use V4 engine? ›

A V4 engine that is 1.2 kg lighter and more compact than the previous Multistrada V2 generation. A result that guarantees performance and riding efficiency. Up to 170 hp for consistently smooth and linear delivery, and significant performance when needed.

What is the most reliable motorcycle engine brand? ›

2.2 Yamaha

Consumer Reports which is considered to be a reliable source that evaluates different products, particularly automobiles, found that Yamaha is the most reliable motorcycle brand.

Can a V4 beat a V6? ›

If the economy is your top priority, a four-cylinder is likely the best choice for you. A V6 engine will be able to produce a greater amount of power at a quicker pace and will be much more responsive to each tap of the gas pedal, able to quickly accelerate to high speeds.

Why don't we use V4 engines? ›

Due to their V-shaped configuration, V4 engines are more complex to design and assemble, leading to higher production costs. Requires two separate cylinder heads (as opposed to one cylinder head in inline fours), exhaust manifolds, and often more complex valvetrain arrangements.

Why does MotoGP use V4 engine? ›

The V4 engine is more compact, allowing for better mass centering, and lowering the center of gravity, which is an advantage, but it is also a much more complex design. The V4 has lower mechanical losses as the crankshaft has fewer supports, and requires a smaller crankcase, which also helps to reduce weight.

Are MotoGP bikes V4 or inline 4? ›

The V4 and inline-four engines had actually been equally successful since the MotoGP class was introduced in the World Championship 20 years ago up until 2023. However, the Ducati V4 2023 season win means the V4 is now the most successful configuration so far in MotoGP.

What engines do MotoGP bikes have? ›

In the MotoGP class, the pinnacle of the Road Racing World Championship, regulations stipulate a 4-stroke 1000cc, 4-cylinder engine with a bore of 81mm. Honda's MotoGP bike, the RC213V, is powered by a liquid-cooled DOHC V-type engine with an official output of over 170kW (230ps).

When did they stop making V4 engines? ›

Lancia produced V4 engines until 1976, when they were replaced by flat-four engines. The 1960–1994 ZAZ Zaporozhets is a Soviet city-type car that used a rear-mounted V4 engine. This engine was based on the design used in the LuAZ-967 amphibious military vehicle.

What is better 2 cylinder or 4 cylinder motorcycle? ›

4 cylinder vs 2 cylinder motorcycles

With that in mind, four cylinder engines are put to best use in sport bikes, while two cylinders are suited to all-round and off-road bikes. Four cylinder bikes dominate MotoGP races thanks to their (generally) superior power.

Which is better 3 cylinder or 4 cylinder motorcycle? ›

So which is the better engine here? The answer is neither. If its fuel efficiency you want, then the three-cylinder engine is the best bet for you. But if you are looking for engine refinement and punchy performance, then a 4 cylinder engine is the one for you.

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