Back in May Chinese firm Zontes confirmed its plans to manufacture a new range of three-cylinder engines for a future line of large-capacity bikes. Now the company has revealed more details by confirming the first examples will come in 650cc and 1000cc forms.
Zontes bikes are already on sale in Europe and coming to the UK this year, but at the moment the firm only makes single cylinder 125cc, 250cc and 312cc machines. Facing criticism in its Chinese homeland for failing to offer a parallel twin in burgeoning 500cc market, the company has opted to leapfrog that sector and jump straight to making three-cylinder engines.
According to the firm’s official blog, the 1000cc version of the engine will off genuine superbike levels of performance, indicated by a 13.5:1 compression ratio that’s higher than the one in rival three-cylinders from MV Agusta, Yamaha and Triumph.
The initial 1000cc engine appears to share a similar general layout as Yamaha’s MT-09 three-cylinder, but without being the sort of slavish copy that we’re used to seeing from Chinese brands. In developing its first multi-cylinder engine, the firm will inevitably look at how others have gone about, and Yamaha’s is among the most recently designed three-cylinders on the market, from a company that’s renowned for its engine development skills, so clearly a sensible template to follow.
The wide capacity difference between the 1000cc and 650cc Zontes triples hints that the firm has more than one design on the table. While it might be possible to sleeve down and de-stroke a 1000cc engine to 650cc, the smaller engine is more likely to be a completely separate design.
In terms of performance, the smaller Zontes triple is likely to be in the same ballpark as Triumph’s Trident, which makes 80hp from its 660cc three-cylinder. While small three-cylinder engines can be made more powerful – notably the likes of MV Agusta’s 126hp F3 675 – both MV Agusta and Triumph, the only firm’s offering middleweight triples at the moment, have increased their engines’ capacities in recent years to meet emissions rules.