Honda's NM4 Motorcycle is Less Visionary Than the New Prius: Review
Swinging your leg over the Honda NM4 motorcycle is as if you just entered the dystopian world of Judge Dredd. You have the insatiable need to yell, “I AM THE LAW.” The first thing you'll notice about this bike is the angular appearance. It gives the NM4 a thoroughly futuristic vibe, but a vision more representative of what the ‘80s thought of the future than that of today. It’s not what you’d call a clean design, either. There are sharp lines, the green gauges are ridiculous, and the integrated saddlebags look more like ammunition boxes than storage. But that's not the only thing that is strange about this bike. The Honda NM4 has a dual-clutch automatic transmission mated to a 670cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin engine. It produces just 44 horsepower and 40 lb-ft of torque. Combine that with the NM4’s curb weight of 562 lbs and you’ve got something that has the aesthetic of the Dredd's Law Master, but with considerably less grunt. All of which equals a rather unsatisfying experience. RELATED: Honda’s CB1100 Is a Café Racer for the Modern Age
Meeting the Future
While the Honda NM4 was in our care, we rode the futuristic motorcycle to meet the all-new Prius down at the now-abandoned Marine Corps base at El Toro. The Prius, rather surprisingly, was a fantastic car that didn’t make us want to gouge out our eyes (review coming later). And when put through an autocross course, as one does, the Prius handled it quite well. Will it compete in the next 24 Hours of Le Mans? Not on your life, but Toyota brought a zesty nature to the once-soul-killing econobox.
The Prius is what Toyota envisions the future to be. Safe, reliable, and a true gas sipper. The same can’t be said about the Honda NM4. The seating position, even with the seat propped up to support your back, becomes uncomfortable after about 45 minutes of riding. The crevice between the seat back and the seat itself, pinch you, and the seat back protrudes enough that it prods you as well. Honestly, though, you won’t have to go more than 45 minutes without stopping, because it hastily goes through its fuel.
From our starting point in Santa Clarita, El Toro is only 89 miles. If we were on one of Zero’s electric motorcycles, we’d have been worried of becoming stranded along the 405. With the NM4’s three-gallon fuel capacity, we shouldn’t have had to stop. But rolling along at an average of around 70 miles per hour, two-thirds of the way there, we were almost out of gas.
This is unacceptable on a brand new bike. We’ve made this trip countless times on other motorcycles, including the much-loved and more powerful Kawasaki Z1000, and have never had to stop. This gas-swilling nature all comes down to that dual-clutch transmission and its gear ratios not suited for highway speeds. At 75 miles per hour, the NM4 is at almost 5,000 rpm. And with the limiter stopping at just 6,000 rpm, it’s pushing the motorcycle to guzzle fuel as if it were a Lamborghini with turbos.
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We like the overall design of the Honda NM4, however, it’s let down by the riding experience. While in manual transmission mode, the NM4 becomes a much better machine, and doesn’t feel bogged down by its curb weight or substantial lack of power. Either retuning the NM4’s dual-clutch, or giving it a proper manual transmission would do wonders in making it more fun to ride.
Additionally, the 670cc engine is just miniscule when you consider that overbearing curb weight. The addition of a rider just compounds the problem. Honda makes wonderful 1,000cc engines, and that’s really what this motorcycle needs. It needs more grunt to get out of its own way. Furthermore, by giving the NM4 more power, Honda would need to change the gear ratios, which would help with gas mileage.
However, one of the most crucial pieces on the motorcycle that needs to be changed is the windshield. For anyone over 5’10”, it essentially shovels air directly into your chest and neck. Having the windshield adjust would do wonders for rider comfort.
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We want to love the NM4. The styling speaks to our inner child. It’s as if the designers saw the Tumbler from Batman, the motorcycle from the anime Akira, and the Law Master from Judge Dredd and put them into a blender. But the NM4 is let down due to it complicated transmission, and blasé engine.
Our biggest gripe with the NM4 is that it could be good. Honda has the technology and the background in making absolutely brilliant motorcycles, such as the CB1100 or the Africa Twin. And considering Honda’s charging $10,999 for the NM4, and a new Prius starts at around $26,000, and this surprises us as well, but we’d rather have the Prius.
Engine: 670cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin
Awesome looks, makes you feel like a kid again
Not having to shift is nice in traffic
Engine is entirely too small
The storage on the NM4 is laughable
Seating position and seat are not comfortable
Photo Credit: Jonathon Klein for BoldRide