Photography By Adam Campbell
Believe it or not, Kawasaki is the first Japanese company to take on America’s V-Twin touring stalwart, the Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic Electra Glide, and the newcomer Victory Vision Tour. Both U.S.-made bikes are mile-munching monsters that are full-featured and comfortable for a day in the saddle or weeks on the road. We recently sampled the all-new Voyager and the rest of the new 2009 Vulcan range north of San Francisco.
The updated-for-’09 Vulcan platform was a perfect opportunity for Kawi to dive into the deep end with a metric-Twin dresser. The Voyager is not only loaded with features but packed with technology—a sophisticated Electronic Throttle Valve system (ETV), ABS with Kawasaki Advanced Coactive Braking Technology (K-ACT) and all the touring amenities buyers expect.
Key is the new liquid-cooled, 1700cc, 52-degree, long-stroke V-Twin. A single-pin crank gives the engine that nice Vee character, while twin counterbalancers keep it smooth. The cylinder heads feature a single-overhead-cam arrangement for improved mid- to high-rpm power. Kawasaki claims 108 foot-pounds of torque at just 2250 rpm. The tranny features overdrive fifth- and sixth-gear ratios, 0.967 and 0.806, respectively, which should provide excellent fuel mileage and a smooth ride.
Response from the fuel-injection system, which features a fully electronic fly-by-wire throttle, was very good. Acceleration was strong throughout the rev-range, with particularly good roll-on performance in third and fourth gears.
A 4.4-pound-lighter—yet 40 percent more rigid—steel double-cradle frame is more compact (than the old Vulcan 1600′s) allowing a shorter 65.6-inch wheelbase. Curvy roads were quite enjoyable; never once did the Voyager exhibit anything that could be described as wallow. The 1700 carries its weight low, which made getting in and out of parking spaces easy, aided by the low 28.7-inch seat and the firm footing afforded by it.
Although we only had half a day aboard the Voyager (we sampled all four ’09 Vulcans over two days), it was clear that this is a bike that has a voracious appetite for all the miles that 5.3 gallons of fuel will provide. The deep-dish seat is plush yet supportive, the reach to the bars neutral and wind protection from the tall screen envelops the rider in a quiet still-air pocket.
The Voyager has ample creature comforts, including cruise control, a 40-watt audio system that is intercom headset-compatible, iPod/MP3-ready (with optional cord) and can be fitted with an XM tuner or CB radio in addition to its FM/AM/WX head unit. Three power ports, one on the dash and two under the seat, can send juice to a GPS, radar detector or heated apparel.
With a MSRP $3100 cheaper than the Harley and $2100 less than the Victory, the Voyager (with ABS) seems like a true bargain at $17,899.