Hot Rod Motorcycle Reborn!
We are reminded that the 1985 Yamaha V-Max motorcycle burst onto the scene as a fire-breathing, liquid-cooled V-4 power cruiser that had no motorcycling peer. It was, in the words of Mr. Araki, the Japanese project leader for the original V-Max motorcycle, an "American Hot Rod."
Like the original heavyweight boxer, its unadorned muscle and aggressive attitude demanded the attention of both motorcyclists and innocent bystanders. A cult surrounded the V-Max, complete with bike-specific tattoos and endless modifications designed to enhance both performance
However, the V-Max lost strength over the decades, as it became strangled by ever-tightening emissions requirements. Newer machines were more powerful, and lighter on their feet. Starting with the proverbial clean sheet of paper-and armed with riders’ preference surveys-the Star engineers set forth to return the once mighty V-4 streetfighter to its rightful place of respect. The result: the limited production 2009 Star VMAX.
Straddling the 685-pound brute is effortless as the 30.5-inch seat height is easily manageable, and thanks to Star’s fixation on mass centralization, it takes little muscle to lift it off its sidestand. Despite a displacement boost of 480cc, the new 65-degreeV-4 is more compact than its 70-degree predecessor. Like the original, the airbox is in the traditional tank location,and the fuel tank sits under the seat. All of this is wrapped up in a new aluminum chassis (frame, swingarm and subframe) with fully adjustable suspension and, now, a single rear shock.
Awaken the VMAX, and you’ll love the rumble of the big V-4, even though its exhaust gases are routed through a 4-1-2-4 catalytic converter. The mufflers flare out in classic hot rod style, and are as easily heard by the rider as by admirers. Do not board this bike and twist the throttle if you crave anonymity.
Launch casually on the new VMAX and it’s easy to forget that it has a shocking almost 200 horsepower on tap. This 1679cc V-4 bruiser has finesse; the EFI is flawless, so it is smooth and supple off idle. The seating position is a bit sportier than in the past-the bars are higher and farther forward, while the pegs have been moved back a bit and dropped just a sliver. This feeling of control is confidence-inspiring, and the flat seat with its relatively tall tail support locks you securely into the cockpit.
One of the storied attributes of the originalV-Max was its progressive powerband called "V-Boost". Something of a faux turbo feel (delivered mechanically on the original) it was never a hard punch in the gut, but it did give the rider an enhanced sensation of acceleration, helping the V-Max deliver physically, what it promised visually. Now, as the tach needle gathers speed, you will feel that same punch of torque-the legendary V-Boost-at about 5,000 rpm, thanks to computer-controlled wizardry and the Yamaha Chip Controlled Intake, which alters the length of the EFI’s intake tunnel.
DECEMBER 2008 / JANUARY 2009 ULTIMATE MOTORCYCLING Photos by RILES & NELSON