Breaking the image of the Thunderbird as a laid back and chilled out cruiser, Royal Enfield has added new twins to the line up with an ‘X’ suffix. The new Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500X is essentially the same Thunderbird underneath sharing most of its parts with the regular Thunderbird. With the new Thunderbird X, the company intends to offer a sporty cruiser without compromising on the old school charm of Royal Enfield. The Royal Enfield Thunderbird has been in India for almost two decades now and the new model is an enthusiastic approach to recover the Thunderbird from the slowing sales.
The good part is that Royal Enfield is offering the standard Thunderbird too alongside and hence, it tries to widen up its customer base by offering two ‘different-yet-same’ cruisers under the same nameplate. So, is the new Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500X all about just cosmetic updates and does it actually have that ‘X’-factor? Let's find out.
2018 Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500X - Design and Styling
Because looks do matter!
This is the key area where Royal Enfield has focussed while designing the Thunderbird X. The aim was to make the motorcycle look energetic and happy-go-lucky and make people admire the bike for its looks. Take the first look and the candy coloured fuel tank quickly catches the attention. However, this idea is not completely new as we have already seen it on the Redditch series earlier.
The front section remains the same with the signature rounded headlamp with LED DRLs (Daytime Running Lights). There is a new handlebar in place now and the ape-styled unit is gone. The soothing pillion backrest has also given way to the twin rear body grab rails that have been fitted on either side. The Thunderbird X also comes with multiple features that are a first ever on any Royal Enfield. For instance, the alloy wheels with body coloured pinstripe and tubeless tyres have been offered for the first time on any of the brand’s cruisers.
The single unit type seating is also new as against the split type units on the regular Thunderbird. The saddle now offers reasonably better comfort but the pillion might face a bit discomfort on the long hauls. Overall, the new Royal Thunderbird 500X looks proportionate and thanks to the new visual treatment, it does grab your attention. The new model looks a lot young and for this reason, it will appeal more to the millennials and those looking to upgrade to a sporty cruiser.
2018 Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500X - Engine and Performance
Anything better now?
The new 2018 Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500X shares the same heart as the standard model as it draws power from a 499cc, single cylinder, air-cooled engine. The five-speed gearbox works fine and offers a clunky feel, especially when you shift from neutral to first gear. The same set up means the performance is essentially the same. The power and torque figures are also identical with 27 horses and 41 Nm of torque. Torque in good quantity can be felt easily as the motorcycle proceeds from a standstill with enthusiasm and pulls ahead quite impressively.
The sweet spot of the engine is at around 80 kmph and 3,000 rpm when you can cruise without any complaints. Crossing 90 kmph can be a discomfort as this is the point when the vibrations start to creep in and you can easily feel them through the handlebar and the footpegs. During our test runs, the motorcycle returned a combined fuel efficiency of 32 kmpl, which is quite good for a cruiser of this size and weight.
2018 Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500X - Ride Quality and Handling
Like the old one or anything new?
Ok, so first things first! This new Thunderbird 500X is a better handler and is easily the sharpest Thunderbird till date. All thanks to the new flatter handlebar, the steering geometry is now slightly more forward biased. As a result, the motorcycle feels nimble and flicking it in traffic is a lot easier now, especially when you compare it with the standard model. The motorcycle gets the same suspension set up and while it absorbs smaller and moderate bumps positively, it is the bigger ones that filter through to the rider.
Stopping power to the Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500X is delivered with the help of a 280mm disc brake up front along with a 240mm disc brake at the rear. While the brakes have enough feedback, they lack instant bite and hence, you will have to be hard on the lever and pedal to extract the required amount braking but you'll get used to it in sometime.
The braking could have been better with the inclusion of an ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System). Nonetheless, the company is going to introduce the safety feature in the coming months with the Government of India mandate wherein all newly launched two-wheelers having an engine displacement of 125cc and above need to have an ABS starting April 2018. The deadline for the already existing ones is April 2019.
You can watch our Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500X video review here:
2018 Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500X - Features
What's present and what not?
As mentioned, the new Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500X gets multiple features that no other RE has received before. The alloy wheels with the body coloured pinstripe have been offered for the first time. The tubeless tyres are also new and the new seat gets a single saddle against the split-type on the regular model. This one comes with body coloured stitching and hence, it highlights the company’s attention on aesthetics.
The motorcycle gets the same rounded headlamp from the standard Thunderbird with similar LED DRLs (Daytime Running Lights) that come in a circular fashion and look appealing, especially in the dark. The instrument cluster on the motorcycle is more or less the same with the same digital analogue readouts.
2018 Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500X - Verdict
Should you buy one?
At Rs 1.98 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), the new Thunderbird 500X demands Rs 8,000 more than the regular model and what you get is a host of features that are unseen on a Royal Enfield before. Add to that the attention you get on roads, especially at traffic signals due to the way this bike looks and people actually wonder if this is an RE due to the candy treatment.
So, the big question is who is the new Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500X for?
Well, if you are in the market looking for a sporty looking cruiser that handles well and packs some decent features, then this can be the perfect pick for you. And if you are a Royal Enfield fan, the choice makes even more sense. So, yes, the new Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500X does have that X-factor and it can definitely bring back life to the Thunderbird moniker.