2018 Yamaha XSR700 Review | Retro-Modern Motorcycle

With throwback styling firmly cementing itself within today’s motorcycle market, Yamaha has been hoping to fan cross-generational motorcycling flames with its Sport Heritage lineup.

Taking care of the sportier side for the world’s 2018 Sport Heritage line are the XSR series machines, and this year we get the crucial middleweight offering—the 2018 Yamaha XSR700.

2018 Yamaha XSR700 top speedThe Sport Heritage line is Yamaha’s way of honoring the companies past, through past styling cues that have become integral to the brand’s image, and utilize their modern machines as strong foundations – creating a similar experience, with an alternative look that could appeal to a wider variety of riders without sacrificing performance.

Now that the 2018 Yamaha XSR700 has touched down on US soil, we have had our first chance to become familiar with Yamaha’s latest retro-ride. We cruised the streets of San Diego and then turned our attention to the twisting Sunrise Highway in the nearby Cleveland National Forest. Here are the essential Fast Facts.

1. The Yamaha MT-07 cleans up nicely. Don’t take that as a knock, but when it comes to styling, the XSR700 wins out in spades. Underneath all of that pomp and circumstance lies the MT-07 (formally the FZ-07 in North America) that we’ve all come to know and appreciate since its introduction in 2013.

2. The XSR700 marries the new, with the old. Much of the design inspiration for the XSR line comes from the original Yamaha XS series, which was first seen on showroom floors in the 1960s and was put to rest in the ’80s. Aspects such as the round headlight, fuel tank shape, and round taillight (now LED for the 21st century) encourage that vintage look without going in a gaudy direction. In fact, this is downright elegant.

2018 Yamaha XSR700 testing3. With a new look come new ergonomics aboard the XSR700. In many ways, we can think of the XSR700 as the fashion conscious brother to the MT-07 or, rather, the sibling that actually has romantic success. Of course, that can all be chalked up to personality. While the XSR shares much of its componentry with the MT-07, it’s taller, wider, has swept-back handlebars, and a nearly half-inch taller saddle. This encourages a properly upright riding position. Those aspects create a slightly different riding experience on the XSR700, one that isn’t shy of getting sporty. Yet, it remains comfortable and makes for a more accommodating cockpit.

4. Ah, the 689cc Crossplane Concept motor, how we love thee. Returning to the fold is Yamaha’s stout parallel twin that packs an impressive wallop at the flick of a wrist. The XSR700’s heart is a more than capable accomplice when whipping around the streets in traffic or taking off into the canyons, allowing riders to make use of the entire rev-range without a single hiccup. Brisk throttle response will have you taking full advantage of great low-end and midrange power that is delivered in a delightfully tractable manner. It’s a quality those less experienced riders will appreciate, as they’ll be able to become comfortable with the engine at any rpm, while advanced riders surely relish in.

5. Middleweight motorcycles need to be nimble, and the 2018 Yamaha XSR700 doesn’t disappoint. What a middleweight sport bike lacks in power, it has to make up in handling. That has been a strength of the MT/XSR platform since its introduction. The XSR’s short 55-inch wheelbase and stress-free 25 degrees of rake, will have you darting around traffic with ease, while also still allowing a great amount of stability at higher speeds. It doesn’t take more than subtle suggestion to get the XSR700 pointed in the right direction, yet another quality that less experienced riders will embrace.

2018 Yamaha XSR700 test6. The 41mm conventional fork and horizontally mounted shock aren’t new, but they received an overhaul. Though still on the sporty-yet-soft side of things, Yamaha engineers increased the spring rate and rebound damping in the fork a tad. The shock’s spring rate was increased by about ten percent, while the damping in both directions went up by a third. That means Yamaha is listening the market’s desire for firmer suspension. As far as adjustability, you’ll still only have pre-load in the rear.

7. The price-point oriented suspension gets the job done. The XSR700’s suspension gobbles up potholes and other inconsistencies, delivering little negative feedback into the rider and without upsetting the chassis. When the pace picks up in the canyons, the story is much the same—positive damping characteristics keep the motorcycle settled and on line, and will be a great starting point for novice or intermediate riders. It’s a noticeable improvement over the final FZ-07 and remains competent spirited paces. The suspension is only truly upset by harsh dips or bumps, something that only the advanced riders at faster speeds have to worry about.

8. Pirelli Phantom Sportscomp tires help keep the shiny side up. A 120/70 front tire and 180/55 wrap around cast aluminum wheels, keeping the unsprung weight down and the grip at a good place. The tread pattern on the Phantom Sportcomp has a decidedly vintage spin on it, helping push the XSR’s narrative along.

2018 Yamaha XSR700 horsepower9. At 5’ 10” and with a 32-inch inseam, I was comfortable all day. The classic-styled seat offers a good bit of room for movement. It works whether you’re shifting positions during a long drag down the freeway, in the canyons, or popping around to the store; you’ll have a lot of maneuverability behind the XSR’s bars. Its seat height, slightly under 33 inches, allowed me to comfortably flat-foot at stops, and didn’t encourage painful knee bend. In all, the ergonomic changes are for the better.

10. The 2018 Yamaha XSR700 has a 3.7-gallon fuel tank. Under the attractive aluminum paneling sits a 3.7-gallon fuel tank, which is more than enough gas to get around town and out in the canyons. Yamaha claims that the XSR700 is capable of achieving an impressive 58 mpg – though that figure will vary depending on how you ride.

11. Adequate stopping power is available. Dual 282mm wave-rotors in the front allow for adequate stopping abilities, given the speeds you’ll be achieving. Feel at the lever is progressive, and relays a fair amount of feedback to the rider. The brakes on both wheels are easy to modulate and have an amicable initial bite, which is always appreciated. Riders who want a bit more feel and attack out of the XSR’s brakes can upgrade to steel-braided lines and a more aggressive brake pad—an affordable stopgap before jumping up to a machine with higher-price point, radial mounted braking components.

12. ABS is standard. No, you will not be able to save $400 and skip out on ABS. For a bike in this class and the market it caters to – why would you want to do without it?

2018 Yamaha XSR700 Review13. A round, LCD dash keeps you informed on the road. Featuring a handy fuel gauge, gear indicator, rev counter and speedometer, among several other bits of info; the straightforward LCD dash is visible in direct sunlight and doesn’t present itself as a distraction.

14. The 2018 Yamaha XSR700 has an MSRP of $8499. That’s $900 more than the 2018 MT-07, certainly nothing to sneeze at when shelling out for a new bike in this price range. That $900 dollars essentially covers an alternative dressing, but it’s more than that. With relaxed ergonomics, the XSR700 won’t have you constantly itching for your next chance to push the firmer suspension. Instead, you can zip about in style and know that when push comes to shove, you’ll still be able to hang it out with the best of them.

Photography by Kevin Wing

RIDING STYLE

2018 Yamaha XSR700 Specs:

ENGINE

  • Engine: Parallel twin
  • Displacement: 689cc
  • Bore x stroke: 80.0 x 68.6mm
  • Compression ratio: 11.5:1
  • Valve train: DOHC; 4vpc
  • Cooling: Liquid
  • Transmission: Constant mesh 6-speed
  • Final drive: Chain

CHASSIS

  • Front suspension; travel: Non-adjustable 41mm fork; 5.1 inches
  • Rear suspension; travel: Spring-preload adjustable shock; 5.1 inches
  • Front tire: 120/70ZR17; Pirelli Phantom Sportscomp
  • Rear tire: 180/55ZR17; Pirelli Phantom Sportscomp
  • Front brakes: 282mm discs
  • Rear brake: 245mm disc
  • ABS: Standard

DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES

  • Wheelbase: 55.1 inches
  • Rake: 24.8 degrees
  • Trail: 3.5 inches
  • Seat height: 32.9 inches
  • Fuel capacity 3.7 gallons
  • Estimated fuel economy: 58 mpg
  • Curb weight: 397 pounds

2018 Yamaha XSR700 Colors:

  • Matt Gray/Aluminum
  • Raspberry Metallic

2018 Yamaha XSR700 Price:

  • $8499

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