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Great Wall Souo Flat Eight Revealed

The newly formed Great Wall Souo motorcycle company’s first product is powered by this huge flat-eight engine with a capacity ranging from a predicted 2,000 to 2,500cc. (Great Wall Souo/)

Great Wall Motor is China’s eighth-biggest car company, selling more than a million vehicles per year and custodian of several sub-brands. This month it becomes a motorcycle manufacturer as well, with the launch of its new company, Great Wall Souo, and its insane flat-eight-powered tourer that even dwarfs Honda’s Gold Wing.

It’s a bold move, but one that’s not out of character for Great Wall. Run by charismatic billionaire Wei Jianjun, the company started life making trucks in the 1980s but has grown rapidly in recent years, branching off into multiple brands. Its current lineup includes the Haval brand, making road-biased SUVs, the suitably named Tank brand that makes more rugged off-roaders, and two electric-only ranges (Ora and Wey), as well as GWM-branded trucks.

Souo (which means soul) is Great Wall’s first motorcycle venture but reflects Wei’s long-term interest in two wheels, and unlike most Chinese bike companies it’s aiming straight at the very top end of the market rather than starting out with cheap single-cylinder machines. Not a twin, not a four-cylinder, and not even a six-cylinder, Souo’s first-ever motorcycle is also the world’s only production eight-cylinder bike. And it’s not a car-engine shoehorned into a motorcycle frame (à la the Boss Hoss), but a purpose-made flat-eight that takes its inspiration from the Honda Gold Wing’s flat-six.

We revealed patents showing the engine last month and now the actual power unit has been shown in Beijing, and Souo has teased the outline of the bike itself, as well as giving a glimpse of its front end. The final machine is due to be unveiled on May 17, but spy pictures of the finished bike are already circulating on Chinese social media after it was spotted, completely undisguised, during what appears to be a promotional video shoot with Wei Jianjun himself riding it.

This image shows how the internal engine components are arranged, and reveals the DOHC design and separate crankpins for each piston and rod.

This image shows how the internal engine components are arranged, and reveals the DOHC design and separate crankpins for each piston and rod. (Great Wall Souo/)

The engine is believed to be between 2,000cc and 2,500cc, and while it clearly borrows elements of its layout from the Gold Wing, including a transmission mounted underneath the crankshaft, it’s far from a direct clone. Not only does it have two extra cylinders but, as we expected, it features DOHC cylinder heads in place of the Honda’s SOHC design. It’s a true “boxer” engine too, with separate crank pins for each piston so they each move in the opposite direction to their equivalent on the other cylinder bank.

A sneak peek video reveals the profile of the bike.

A sneak peek video reveals the profile of the bike. (Great Wall Souo/)

Like the Gold Wing in optional DCT form, the Souo has a dual-clutch transmission, confirmed by the conspicuous absence of a clutch lever on the left-hand bar on the latest spy pictures. It also uses the same Hossack-style girder front suspension system that features on Honda’s Gold Wing and BMW’s K 1600 GT. However, the styling steers away from the Wing, with a more curvaceous shape and a reverse-rake to the headlight that gives a profile that’s more like that of Indian’s Pursuit. That nose shape gives a hooded brow over a pair of eye-inspired headlights, each punctuated with a slanted “pupil” and flanked by lashlike LED strips.

Another sneak peek shows what the headlights and front end will look like.

Another sneak peek shows what the headlights and front end will look like. (Great Wall Souo/)

Questions still hang over the bike’s precise capacity (if it borrows the Gold Wing’s square 73mm bore and stroke figures, it will come in at 2,444cc, but that has yet to be confirmed and some Chinese sources say it’s nearer 2,000cc) and its performance levels, but the most significant one is whether it will be offered on international markets outside China. Setting up an international distribution and dealer network for an all-new brand is a huge undertaking, even for a company like Great Wall that already sells cars globally under several brands. However, the fact that Great Wall’s car-making operation is intent on expanding around the globe, and several of its brands are already available across Europe and Asia, is a strong hint that the firm’s motorcycle arm will do the same.

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