Comparison test of large cruisers

The dark side of power

With the VN 1500 Drifter, Kawasaki is opening a new, dark chapter in the battle of the mighty Japanese cruisers. Can the shining Yamaha XV 1600 and Suzuki VL 1500 hold against it?

The color theory of the star warriors from the distant future is simple: the evil Darth Vader wears black, the moral authority Luke Skywalker comes in brilliant white.

Then both of them doodling their lightsabers around their ears, and in the end the figure of light wins. But not in the world of giant cruisers. Here the challenger wears black, while the emperors come along with monster forks swollen in chrome. The dark drifter against Wild Star and Intruder – sonorous names in the fight for the throne in the mighty V2 concert.
And that is by no means decided in advance, because in the armory everyone has grabbed in the same corner. Anyone who wants to survive in the cruiser fight needs the appropriate equipment according to the rules. A decent V2 is part of it, the thicker the better. And excavator-sized tires. In addition, as much sheet metal and steel as possible, because the dimensions have to be right. Anyone who flies in here with a combat weight of less than 300 kilos will be casually transported back into the intercruisal orbit by the heavy chunks. Or from their pilots. Because it should be a real battle star. Left in the turmoil of the star racers, unassailable due to the accumulation of material. The strength here lies in sedentariness. A requirement that the Suzuki VL 1500 fulfills most convincingly in terms of appearance. A huge wheelbase of 1.70 meters, combined with an area wherever the eye looks: the wheels are almost disc, the transmission seems to extend to the rear wheel, the fenders would like to take the drive completely under their wing, and even the air – / Oil-cooled engine, despite its delicate ribbing, stretches cylinders like monoliths towards the dummy tank.
The mass accumulation of a fixed star corresponds to the Yamaha Wild Star, whose name cannot be a coincidence. At 335 kilograms, it lets the Intruder (315 kg) and also the Kawasaki Drifter (321 kg) circling around easily. And that, although its surface, in contrast to the Suzuki, looks much more rugged and not as massive. The filigree aspects of mechanical engineering even flash up in the form of spoked wheels, the handsome wheel of the toothed belt drive and the antiquated and obvious type of valve control via bumpers. Distant Harley galaxies send their regards.
The Kawasaki, on the other hand, does not seem to come from the world we know. On its drift through time, it could have ended up in the present more by chance, starting decades ago when fenders – then made of sheet metal, today of all things plastic for the Drifter – still protected from the same and motorized two-wheelers were more means of transport than mass demonstrations. Suitable for this, but still curious: on the way through the decades, the Drifter of all people saw a contemporary form of mixture preparation, an injection with an unregulated catalytic converter, while the Intruder and Wild Star still mix their fuel in carburettors and precious little in the exhaust duct care about the environmental aspects of the universe.
This is no wonder, as both have enough to do with themselves at first. Although sheer size is the pound to be gained in the cruiser competition, strategic changes of position are inevitable. If you want to show strength here and impress there, you have to go from A to B. But before that, the engineers at Intruder have set the warm-up phase. Deep down, between the cylinders, the choke needs to be readjusted several times with a fine hand until the V2 runs smoothly. A similar procedure is required by the Yamaha, which, however, gets by faster without the starting aid. And the Kawasaki? Benefit from their injection, are there immediately – and run smoothly.
The obligatory way of handling is a general characteristic of the drifters. All this Material Arts posturing goes galactically by the fishtail tailpipe. Of course, it also lets you feel with each work cycle which path and which bore the two pistons are working. A gear-driven balance shaft, however, carefully sorts out the worst vibrations. It is something of a space glider – always provided the correct one of five gears is engaged. Because anyone who thinks that a maximum torque of 123 Newton meters would make the transmission superfluous is cruising in the wrong solar system. Careful from 50 km / h, always from 60 – that’s the motto in the last gear.
The Drifter is not alone with this unexpected incontinence. The other two also by no means shine with a stepless warp drive, but want to be switched in a very earthly way, although their more robust vibrations suggest power in all situations. Getting started smoothly from 50 km / h is still not possible. This is particularly astonishing in the case of Wild Star, because it not only shows off with more than 100 cm³ more displacement, but also with a hammer torque of real 141 Nm at 2300 / min – and then delivers beyond the 60 km / h limits the best pull-through values. The Intruder leaves it at 116 Nm at 2300 rpm and a gearbox that works precisely, but wants to be sorted with emphasis. With Drifter and Wild Star this is easier to do. The three opponents agree on that with a rocker switch.
As in the general chassis design. Doubled loop frame made of steel does it in any case, each with a steering head angle of 58 degrees. Once again the Drifter is going its own way, in terms of rear suspension. While the Wild Star plays the toughest and relies on rigid frame optics, the Intruder also denies its central suspension strut, the Drifter confidently flaunts its conventional swing arm with two suspension struts – knowing full well that the obvious function may diminish the reputation, ordinary movements compared to the two but for others it is quite a relief. Especially in combination with a telescopic fork that always provides the right amount of damping. The result is driving dynamics sovereignty and accuracy even in situations that may seem inappropriate given the retro look.
It is precisely these situations that show the intruder its limits. The spring elements, which in combination with the fat seat upholstery ensure appealing comfort, lose their composure on fast, undulating passages. The fork in particular suffers from a lack of damping reserves and the ship gets out of hand. So it doesn’t help that the front tire comes in the king-size format of 150/80, a size that the competitors only allow themselves on the rear wheel, while a modest 130 mm does the job at the front.
The Wild Star stayed out of this brisk mode of locomotion from the start, and for a different reason. The running boards act as an early warning system for inappropriately hectic pace, and they rasp loudly over the asphalt when they approach an incline. This is a shame because the Yamaha, with its stiff chassis and hard seat, falls slightly in the comfort rating, but would be able to do more in terms of sport. This is complemented by the low-reaction toothed belt drive – the two rivals lift the rear of the car with every acceleration due to the gimbals – and also the two 298 millimeter brake discs, which are gripped by double-piston calipers. Not particularly appealing, this system is the only one able to bring the front wheel to the locking limit, while the Drifter single-disc brake is not as effective as it is, but is more controllable. The lone disc of the Intruder with two-piston caliper, on the other hand, functions more than toothless. In the back, there is no reason to complain about any of the three. That is a good thing, because the rear wheels of the rear-heavy cruisers decelerate strongly.
If they have to, because the brisk way of getting around is and will not be in keeping with class. Patrol with power without hectic, see what’s going on, check, organize, enjoy. Goes wonderfully on all. The only thing you shouldn’t lose sight of is the fuel gauge, because the fuel consumption is by no means futuristic, but just yesterday. Kawasaki wanted to curb the unbridled thirst of the VN with a slightly increased compression ratio (9: 1) and the injection. Result: 6.9 liters per 100 kilometers on the country road, plus an expensive super. Suzuki (6.7 l) and Yamaha (6.5 l) are only slightly better, but only over land. At 130 km / h on the autobahn there is a lavish agreement with 6.9 liters, and even at 100 km / h it is all around 5 liters.
In view of this consumption, it is nice to be able to share the fuel costs with a passenger. A hopeless endeavor for the Yamaha, because the savings are wasted as compensation for the pillion passenger. The small seat roll is an impertinence in combination with the high footrests. With the Intruder, the upholstery is probably more comfortable in the second row as well, the seating position high above the driver and with strongly angled legs still leaves no comfort whatsoever. The drifter is the most bearable for two: very limited space, but at least an opportunity to hold on. In the long run, however, the pillion will also terminate the friendship.
D.hat was not to be expected otherwise. The struggle for power makes you lonely. Less than expected: In the realm of cruisers, the dark side wins. Not through familiar, martial charisma, but through new commitment. Which is why the old rulers are not yesterday. But they will have a harder time in the future.

….who is the most beautiful in the whole country?

With all the macho behavior: A real cruiser should really look like something. The industry knows this very well – and supplies the right accessories to serve everyone according to their individual requirements. In this case, not everything is decorative, but much is functional. Example Yamaha: In addition to the normal Wild Star, a so-called full dresser variant called Silverado (23,490 marks) is on offer. With a windshield, panniers and a sissy bar, it makes cruiser life easier. Above all, the windshield frees the upper body from the wind pressure behind the extra-wide handlebars and enables higher continuous speeds when traveling without having an inappropriately negative effect on driving behavior. Another advantage: Jet helmet pilots can leave their toothbrushes at home because they don’t have to pull swarms of insects out of their teeth after every trip. Besides there

Kawasaki VN 1500 Drifter

But then she’s had enough, the new Drifter. In fact, no wonder with the genetic makeup, even if some people literally saw black. Does well in all disciplines, reveals – apart from the inadequacies that are inherent in the entire genre – no serious weaknesses. Except maybe the one: you have to like them to suffer. Because if you like cruisers of the traditional cut, very fat and with plenty of chrome, you will not look at the Drifters. Despite all the qualities.

Suzuki VL 1500 Intruder

But now it comes thick for the thick. Before the end of the year, the winner of the comparison test, now correctly replaced in terms of points. But – hand on heart – not so wild. Sure, the new ones can do a lot better. Driving, for example, even if the engine still shows real character. But look more massive? Absolutely no chance. The Intruder looks like it has been carved out of stone, heavy, mighty, enormous. And that’s what it’s ultimately about. The fact that it can all in all be moved quite properly is a bonus.

Yamaha XV 1600 Wild Star

He who is hard at giving must also be able to take hard. Beaten by the Drifter because their manners are better. The Wild Star puts away such little things manfully and with a wink. She wants to be pure cruiser, without compromise. Full sound, full punch – you can tell with every fiber of your body that you are on the move. Others should ingratiate themselves. The Yamaha doesn’t need that, given the dazzling looks. The engine alone – a feast for the eyes. And it’s hardest too. If that’s nothing.

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