Again from U.S. Kawasaki … no official word from the Canadian distributor yet … comes word of a series of immense 1,700 cc cruisers that replace the existing 1,600 cc beasties.
The Vulcan 1700 Voyager is the king of the crop, featuring full touring gear including a frame-mounted fairing and leg shields, a new fuel-injected 1,700 cc V-twin, throttle-by-wire EFI control, and an optional sophisticated linked braking system that comes with ABS models.
Convenience/luxury features include a "premium sound system" including iPod and MP3 connectivity, cruise control, and "large capacity" saddlebags and trunk.
Performance features include, as noted, a new engine and new brake system, which sounds eerily like the system Honda has already announced will be available on its 600 and 1,000 cc sport bikes. Rather than translate, here’s what Kawasaki says about the system:
"With input from pressure and speed sensors, the brake ECU sends directions to the motor-driven hydraulic pumps so they deliver the proper amount of pressure to the brake calipers. This speed sensitive system provides a progressive engagement and disengagement that delivers a natural feel to the rider. With the anti-lock braking (ABS) function incorporated into the K-ACT, the wheels are prevented from locking up, even under strenuous braking."
"For maximum control in tight corners and when executing parking lot maneuvers, K-ACT’s coactive function does not engage when braking is initiated at speeds below 12 mph (20 km/h) and the ABS function is automatically disengaged at speeds below 4 mph (6.4 km/h)."
The new engine is derived from the Vulcan 2000 power plant, but with a single overhead cam rather than the 2000-series’ pushrods.
Interestingly, completely the reverse of most big V-twin claims, Kawasaki says the new engine is "tuned to deliver its peak torque and horsepower at higher rpm – ideal for its open road operating environment."
Cruise control operates up to nearly 140 km/h, and the top transmission ratio is an overdrive. Belt drive is fitted, and is said to be 40% stronger than previous units.
You may have to leave the kitchen sink at home, but a 50 L top box and 38 L each saddlebags provide a pretty decent amount of luggage room. Additionally, there are lockable glove boxes in the fairing for smaller items.
The instrument panel is designed with a retro appearance large round dials and a radio that’s "reminiscent of 8-track players from the 1960s." You also get a digital function, which features a gear position indicator, clock, odometer, dual trip meters, remaining range and average fuel consumption.
An interesting tech feature is a water-cooled alternator that produces 48.5 amps of output … that would run an average house if you didn’t run more than two appliances at a time.
Unusually for a cruiser touring bike, the suspension sounds fairly high-tech:
"Dual adjustable rear air-shocks provide 3.1 inches of travel, and include air adjustable spring preload and rebound adjustment to ensure a comfortable ride feel with unique settings for the Voyager. Up front, a large 45mm fork offers four-way preload adjustment, 5.5 inches of travel and promotes precise steering feedback."
More new 1700s
Featuring most of the mechanical and electronic ideas introduced on the new Voyager, three other 1700 models will be available for 2009 from Kawasaki: the Vulcan 1700 Classic, Classic LT and Nomad.
The LT is basically a slightly dumbed-down Nomad (no cruise, for example) that shares the Nomad’s windscreen and luggage.
The frame is claimed to be slightly lighter and 40% stiffer than that of the 1600, and has a shorter wheelbase for improved low-speed response.
The bikes share the Voyager’s upgraded suspension, including air-adjustable rear shocks with rebound adjustment, and big 43 mm forks with four-way preload adjustment.
Availability and pricing information when we get ’em, as ever.