Sprint ST put sport ahead of touring, but the all-new GT alters the balance with more emphasis on long-haul acumen. Entering this year’s shootout, the Sprint spruces things up with a tweaked powerplant and updated chassis. Triumph also did some stylish nip tuck work with the fairing that would go unnoticed to all but the most rabid Trumpet fan.
The Sprint’s defining feature remains its distinctive Inline Three. The mechanical architecture of the long-serving 1050cc three-cylinder mill is unchanged, but the GT sources a new 3-into-1 exhaust and revised engine mapping for a claimed five extra horsepower at the crank. The extra hp claims generate attention, but a new engine tune also promises optimized torque production.
Triumph took an already steady torque curve and smoothed it out further. This was confirmed on the dyno, where the lb-ft reading peaked at 73 lb-ft at 7600 rpm, but manifested the most linear powerband of the comparison. The extra horsepower didn’t manifest, with the GT topping out at 117 horsepower – one pony less than the ST in last year’s comparison (though it should be noted a different dyno was used).
Triumph's 1050cc Inline Triple gets a revised engine map to further smooth an already linear power delivery.
The GT’s peak power numbers may be well behind it competition in this test, but on road the Triumph produces more than ample engine performance. Its user-friendly powerband churns out gobs of torque throughout the rev range.
“The Triumph seemed to have the most torque,” agrees Lavine. “It pulled from any gear and at most of the rpm ranges.”
The GT engine did produce one of hiccup, as our test unit exhibited ignition and fueling issues on cold starts, with a faulty sensor suspect. Once up to temperature, however, the fueling was as steady as the power production, making it a treat to ride.
Our biggest gripe with the engine is the new exhaust system. While more practical than the previous underseat triple silencers, which generated unwanted heat and roasted pillion passengers, the new right-side canister robs the Sprint of its distinctively rich exhaust tones. The playful, raw sound of the burbling Triple was a key highlight of the previous ST, which the new GT doesn’t quite match. As such the Triumph finished second in the “engine personality” category of our scorecard, a section Triumph aced in our past comparison evaluations.
The Triumph took a hit in the clutch/transmission ratings, with its gearbox not as smooth as the snick-snick-snick shifts from its Japanese rivals. It had the trickiest Neutral selection, and first gear required the most feathering of the clutch (the Kawasaki can crawl along in first with virtually no clutch or fuel input at all). The GT’s cable-actuated lever also exhibited, by far, the stiffest clutch pull compared to the hydraulic input on the Japanese machines.
Revised steering geometry from the new swingarm alters the Sprint's handling characteristics, still a quick turner but offering a little more stability from the stretched wheelbase.
The lever input on the brakes didn’t feel as refined either, with the right lever set too far out – even adjusted to its lowest setting. The front Nissin four-piston calipers provided the least amount of feel too, though initial bite impressed testers. The non-linked braking packing hauls things down in a hurry, just without the refinement of its rivals. Triumph’s ABS, which now comes standard on the Sprint, proved effective but delivered the jumpiest lever pulse during our comparison.
Updates to the Sprint chassis are substantial and improve an already solid design. The prominent change is a new swingarm, with the single-sided design stretching wheelbase 3.2 inches to 60.5. The front steering geometry alters as well, with a half-degree steeper rake (23.5 degrees) and trail trimmed down to 82mm (from 90mm). The GT is also 16 pounds heavier, at 594 fully fueled, still the lightest in this year’s sport-touring class.
The changes result in a bike that is less knife-edged than the ST, but more stable in the corner. While not quite as quick to turn in as we remember, the Triumph remains flickable and a quite sporty handler, if not quite the equal of the precise VFR.
“The Sprint was very easy for me to handle. I could do a full lock U-turn without a foot touch most of the time. Everything was just easy and smooth,” touts Donald, who became enamored with the Triumph’s handling chops. “On the road it felt very solid and planted and it cruised through the corners easily and naturally. Like the Honda it just seemed to flow to where I pointed it. The suspension was firm and positive. I really liked the feel of this bike.”
The Showa suspension does a fine job, with the set-up on the firm side but transmitting supple feedback. The 43mm fork offers only preload adjustment, and the rear shock adjustment for rebound and preload (the latter via convenient remote twist knob), yet the components will satisfy all but the most discriminating tastes. The only handling quirk observed aboard the GT was on grooved surfaces, where it felt more squirrelly than the other bikes.
The Sprint GT still retains a riding position that leans on the sporty side, with a forward pitch and high footpeg placement.
The GT’s riding position still rests on the sportier side, with footpeg position feeling higher than the other bikes in our comparison. On the plus side, a rider’s wrists and back don’t tire as quickly as we recall with the ST model. The most comforting aspect of the ergonomics package proves to be the plush seat, with the 32.1-inch height a half-inch taller than last year’s model.
GT riders can enjoy the comfy saddle for long stints, as the GT delivered the best range during our testing. We observed a remarkable 47 mpg efficiency (which skewed higher than usual thanks to long stretches on the interstate), extending the GT’s theoretic range to 250 miles from its 5.3-gallon tank.
Purpose-built to deliver a better touring package, huge 31-liter saddlebags bolster the GT’s credentials. The new bags look more integrated into the overall design of the Sprint, unlike the add-on feel of the ST hard cases (which were accessories that later became standard features). Triumph’s befuddling mounting system continues to allow the saddlebags to sway, rather than mount rigidly to the subframe, but the bags are easy to open and remove from the bike. The cavernous luggage easily holds full-face helmets and plenty or gear, with an accessory top case offering even more storage capacity.
The GT’s revised fairing does a stellar job protecting the rider. While non-adjustable, but the bubble windscreen design delivers a consistent airflow devoid of turbulence. Some testers noted the channeling impact of the windflow, which hits at the chest, actually alleviated some tension from the forward cant of the riding position.
Fit and finish saw the Triumph struggle to compete with the more expensive Japanese entries. The switchgear felt less polished, with the control panel’s small analog speedo deemed difficult to read. The lack of a gear position indicator is an omission we hoped the new GT would rectify, but the hope proved vain.
The Spring GT improves its touring abilities with spacious 31-liter saddlebags, yet retains its sporting credentials with quick handling and ample engine performance.
“ Finish on the Triumph is the poorest, just look at the paint on either of the other two bikes and then look at the Triumph – it’s not bad, it just doesn’t measure up,” chimes Tom, adding. “The Triumph is a little Spartan and the speedo could be easier to read, it’s a tad small. I love a digital readout of my speed. Also, I love having a temperature gauge onboard – as it’s nice to know how miserable you’re supposed to be!”
While we’re whining, are we the only ones who think it criminal that Tornado Red isn’t a color option for the GT? Instead, first adopters of the newest Sprint must be content with the drabber tones of Pacific Blue and Aluminum Silver.
Still lacking an adjustable screen, or standard heated grips, some may argue the GT didn’t go far enough to satisfy the touring crowd. But even if it continues to lean on the sporty end of the spectrum, the new Trumpet proved a solid do-it-all touring model. In fact, its well-rounded nature won over one of our testers as his overall pick.
“Even though adding up all the numbers on a scoresheet might not support it, I have to go with the Triumph as the best all-around sport-touring ride,” states Donald. “It did not have the grin factor or the wow factor of the Honda, and it was not as good a tourer as the Kawasaki, but it did pretty damn good in both areas in its own right.”
The low $13,199 MSRP makes the new GT a quite attractive option, only a $400 increase over the ABS-equipped ST model. While we miss the rawer character of the ST, the 2011 Sprint GT is a versatile touring mount at an affordable price point.