A 1997 Suzuki Marauder On the Loose

Retro Reviews from the Cruiser Archive: Roving and raiding on Suzuki's 1997 twin

suzuki marauder
Riding the Suzuki Marauder threatened to become a bit tricky.Tom Riles

Not even the threat of snow and ice storms could keep us away. When Suzuki announced that it would hand over the keys for its new Marauder at a press introduction in Santa Fe, New Mexico, it didn’t matter what the weather forecast was for the southern Rockies, we were on the way.

It’s been a long dry spell for new cruisers from Suzuki. The firm introduced the 700 Intruder in 1986, followed up with the 1400 Intruder in 1987, and then, except for a couple of displacement increases for the smaller bike to eventually make it an 800, Suzuki rested on its considerable laurels. Original styling, immaculate detailing, strong performance and a reputation for durability have made Intruders popular for a decade, but even such a cruising icon didn’t grab everyone’s attention. So the broad hints of a new-for-’97 cruiser from Suzuki whetted our appetite. Stock photos released in time for our December ’96 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser revealed that once again Suzuki had come up with a fresh take on cruiser style. But the proof is in the riding, and our throttle hands were twitching.

battery
The battery is easy to reach under the seat and document tray. The latch to the right in this photo is one of the causes of the painful seat protrusion.Tom Riles

Riding the Marauder threatened to become a bit tricky. As Suzuki’s introduction drew near, the national weather maps looked discouraging. Though you may think of Santa Fe as desert, it’s actually located 7000 feet above sea level. It snowed the weekend before, and the Weather Channel forecast snow for both days of the event.

We called Suzuki. “Have you seen the forecast?” we asked anxiously. “Going to postpone it a few days?”

“We’re going ahead anyway,” came the reply on our voice mail. “We can still do the tech briefing and maybe you can find some nice settings for photos. You can ride it after we truck it back to the West Coast.”

“Don’t reserve a place for our bike on the truck,” we responded. “If the roads are open, we’ll ride it home. If they aren’t, we’ll wait until they are.” We got in the plane and flew to New Mexico.

Heading to the early morning tech briefing, we scanned the skies for the promised storm. A few clouds popped over the mountains right on schedule. Maybe we would get some riding in before the rain arrived. But first, we had to sit through the tech briefing.

It seems the Marauder engine owes more than a little to the Intruder 800 mill. Though a different transmission and chain drive has been grafted on the back of it, and new cosmetics were applied to its exterior, the engine is virtually pure Intruder. Not that we’re complaining, mind you. The Intruder engine, after all, is the butt-kickingest engine in the 800 class, but a little of that no-prisoners performance was given up to make the Marauder.

The most visible change from the Intruder to the Marauder is the switch from shaft to chain drive. New cases and covers needed to be made, narrowing the engine to a more compact package. Both the clutch and magneto covers are new items designed for the trimmer bottom end. Oil capacity drops almost a quart to 2.6 quarts. Although the transmission retains five speeds, it has narrower shaft spacing, and the gear ratios have been changed to a slightly taller overall gearing, which translates into a barely perceptible lowering of the rpm at speed. Negotiating the exchange of power from the dual-crankpin crankshaft to the drivetrain is an all-new cable-operated clutch with a rack-and-pinion actuation mechanism. A back-torque limiter is built into the clutch hub and helps smooth downshifts by reducing clutch friction capacity by up to 70 percent when the direction of the forces is reversed.

The Marauder breathes through the same carburetors as the Intruder but with different jetting. The front carburetor is a downdraft model with a slightly smaller airbox than the rear sidedraft model. The different-size airboxes require that the two carbs have different jetting. Helping the Marauder meet EPA standards, Suzuki has added air injection to the exhaust system of all U.S. models to burn exhaust gases more completely. California versions of the Marauder will also have different cam timing and less power as a result. The cleaner-breathing engine exhales into headers that are connected in front of the mufflers for enhanced midrange power and sound. Suzuki claims the Intruder makes one to two more horsepower, but the Marauder makes more peak torque at lower rpm.

dash
The Marauder’s instrumentation is standard cruiser Spartan. You get speedo, odometer, tripmeter and lights for oil, coolant, high beam, neutral and turn signal.Tom Riles

SANTA FE, NM Let the Marauding begin. The Marauder performed nicely when moving from one photo location to another in and around Santa Fe’s narrow downtown streets. Quick off the line, the Marauder was able to jump past befuddled tourists. Suzuki must have designed the torque curve with the boulevard in mind. Finally leaving the traffic and photographer behind, we sought two-lane twisties outside of town to let the Marauder kick up its heels.

Much to our surprise, the Marauder felt more like a distant cousin to the Intruder than a sibling. As the rpm increased, power built from down-low torque to the point where we would expect the top-end to kick in. Instead, the power dropped off. If we opened the throttle wider, the engine made more noise and vibration, but shifting was the only option for increased speed. While the Marauder could pull away from most cars in all situations, the Intruder provides a more exciting acceleration experience. The half-second, 7-mph difference in quarter-mile times can be felt from the saddle.

There was no joy in Mudville that night. Most of our evening conversation revolved around why the power would drop off so quickly. Was Santa Fe’s 7000-foot-plus altitude the culprit? Could the low-mileage engines just be a bit tight? Many miles were in order to study the problem further.

Throughout our low-speed around-town riding, the new, smaller fan motor only switched on occasionally. Suzuki said it spent some time refining the smaller radiator to address the flow problems of air around the large front wheel. We couldn’t help but wonder why the designers bothered to make the radiator smaller if they weren’t planning on hiding it between the frame’s downtubes. The smaller radiator, still riding Intruder-style in front of the downtubes, misses an opportunity to clear up one of the Intruder’s few styling glitches.

Suzuki did, however, remedy one of the most pressing problems of the Intruder’s chassis. In spirited cornering, the Marauder’s folding footpegs are the first part to touch down, and they do so cleanly. You no longer need to fear levering your front tire off the ground with the peg mount as you do on the Intruder. Of course, if you place your feet on the pegs carelessly, you may drag your heels in tighter corners, but doing this once or twice will make you diligent in your foot placement.

Overall, the Marauder handles much better than the Intruder. At 64.8 inches, the wheelbase is 3.4 inches longer than the Intruder’s. The 35 degrees of rake (compared to 33.25 on the Intruder) and the fat front tire, slow down the steering considerably. But with input, the bike steers steadily. Gone is the hinge-in-the-middle handling of the Intruder, thanks to the heavier, steel, double-cradle frame and inverted fork. The non-adjustable 41mm Showa fork and the preload-adjustable Kayaba shocks handle most common riding conditions competently. When you throw in some mid-corner bumps, however, the Marauder feels like it needs better suspension rates to live up to the nifty fork. Sharp bumps get directed to the tailbone with minimal absorption.

marauder
The Marauder performed nicely when moving from one photo location to another in and around Santa Fe’s narrow downtown streets.Tom Riles

Interstate 25, South of Santa Fe
The sun was already low on the post-daylight-savings-time horizon as we hustled down Interstate 25 through Albuquerque on our trip back to Los Angeles. We needed to cover some ground before dark, which provided us with an opportunity to find out a little about the Marauder's long-range comfort.

The raised drag bar puts the rider’s upper body in an upright, slightly forward position, and with the relatively narrow 28.5-inch bar, the wind blast doesn’t have much to push around. Even cruising at 80 mph during the extended stretches of interstate with a 75-mph speed limit, neither the rider nor the Marauder felt overtaxed. But let the speed get above 80 and only those with the strongest upper bodies will last for long. The rubber-mounted bar isolates the controls well enough to keep the tinglies at bay. The well-placed pegs put the rider in a reasonable riding position although they’re too far forward to allow standing up to help absorb bumps. The Marauder felt noticeably roomier than the Intruder as the miles clicked by.

The Marauder’s seat was a limiting factor on extended rides. The locking mechanism that secures the seat to the frame above the document compartment and helmet locks creates a hump of thin padding at the back of the seat about the size of a half-dollar. All of our testers found this bump uncomfortable over time. Those with an inseam of 32 inches or longer, however, began to loath the seat, which placed its thinnest padding in contact with their coccyx, their hiney’s point of thinnest padding. By the end of the three-day, 1000-mile trip, we had a difficult time lasting the 128 miles to reserve. One editor, noting the dictionary definition of marauder as “one who raids for booty,” said the seat had claimed his. Though it’s broader and roomier than the Intruder saddle, the Marauder seat still leaves plenty of opportunity for improvement.

engine
Suzuki pulled out all the stops on the chrome—even on the ball-milled cam covers. Air injection hides behind the air- cleaner cover.Tom Riles

Pie Town, NM
Southwestern night dropped down from the sky taking the temperature with it. As the low 50s turned to the low 40s, we were glad that the new under-seat location of the maintenance-free battery made it easy to hook up an electric vest. The Intruder's under-the-swingarm location would have precluded these last-minute, cold-fingered installations. The 250-watt charging system worked flawlessly under the additional load, and the new, smaller starter motor cranked the cold engine over while ice still covered the surface of puddles the next morning in Quemado, New Mexico. While warming up the engine, we realized that somewhere during our nighttime ride, the tool-kit cover fell off, and the tool kit followed it into the night. No one noticed and, fortunately, no one was hurt. We hope.

The Marauder’s brakes work well, if unremarkably. A firm two-fingered squeeze was enough to pull the bike down from speed in most situations, but full-on panic stops benefited from all four fingers. The rear drum was predictable and not grabby.

Salt River Canyon, AZ
While not a sport bike, the Marauder takes to the twisties with aplomb. Riding a relaxed pace, leaned over just short of dragging pegs, you can easily cruise away from cars. No fighter-jock gymnastics, just a dance with the corners. The engine's low-end torque pulled out of the slower corners without hesitation. We had so much fun we rode the canyon twice.

At every gas stop, restaurant and motel at least one person looked over the Marauder. Those familiar with bikes wondered, “Marauder, who makes it?” Many expressed a fondness for the fork, the red paint, and the chrome. A couple, after gazing for a few minutes, said that they felt Suzuki had gone too far in making the Marauder shiny by not painting the side panels. A couple of editors echoed that opinion. The cylindrical toolbox behind the cylinders was another candidate for chrome removal. Strap a leather aftermarket tool case to the fork and clean up the look of the engine while assuring that your tools don’t journey to oblivion. The Marauder shows its low price in the plastic chrome on places like the headlight shell, the previously mentioned side covers, and the faux air-filter cover. The chunky headers could use a little more attention; perhaps with full-length, one-piece heat shields like some of the pretty ones available in the aftermarket. The stock pipe uses multiple small heat shields, which makes the pipe look cluttered and lumpy.

800cc
The Marauder has dragster styling coupled with decent performance and a low price tag to assure its strong place in the 800cc category.Tom Riles

Interstate 10, Somewhere East of Palm Springs, CA
No unfaired motorcycle is pleasant to ride for 350 miles of interstate-highway drone. Toss in the uncomfortable seat and you have the recipe for six hours of cataloguing aches and pains. The Marauder participated willingly in all our boredom-breaking freeway antics, such as top-gear roll-on races and dodging the Botts dots (a challenge with the heavy steering). Those of you who will be riding in the wide-open spaces of the West be forewarned: Extended riding at high speeds drops the Marauder's range considerably, once giving us as little as 105 miles before we needed to switch to the 0.8-gallon reserve. We encountered 45-mph headwinds, gusting to 60, in the San Gorgonio Pass past the wind farms, their propellers whipping, as we left the Coachella Valley behind us. This powerful incentive helped us discover what the Marauder's handlebar risers were really for. Folding ourselves up dirttrack-style with our left hand gripping the risers, we were able to slip under much of the wind and stay with the flow of the 65-mph traffic without feeling too beat-up. Throughout our trip, the Marauder handled winds gracefully, the stiff frame allowing us to dial in more lean as the crosswinds increased.

L.A. Basin, Commuter Duty
The Marauder handles around-town tasks, garnering looks and dispatching traffic, with confidence. The bike's narrowness and low-speed stability make the Marauder an ideal weekday ride. Problems like the soft top end and the painful seat don't loom as large. In fact, the top end doesn't feel as weak closer to sea level, although a slight abruptness in throttle response became ap-parent. The Ma-rauder developed the same grabby clutch in high-rpm launches that we noticed in the Intruder 1400 tested in this issue. Running the Marauder at the drag-strip exacerbated the problem.

Logging over 1200 miles in four days provided us with a crash course in the Marauder. The dragster styling coupled with decent performance and a low price tag assure that this bike will establish a firm hold on the 800cc cruiser market. With the Suzuki bikini and chin fairings soon to become available and several aftermarket companies busily developing add-ons, expect to see the $5999 Marauder cutting a swath across territories near you.

rear chain
Look closely at the Marauder’s spiffy cast rear wheel, and you’ll see something you don’t see too often on a cruiser: chain lube.Tom Riles

Riding Positions:
A few weeks before the Marauder introduction, a contraband dealer brochure was smuggled from Japan into the mighty Petersen tower. The entire Motorcycle Cruiser staff huddled around, trying to get a glimpse of Suzuki's new cruiser. I liked what I saw that afternoon, but I liked what I rode home from New Mexico even better.

Suzuki has managed to build a unique-looking cruiser, give it good ridability, and allow riders to park one in their garage for $5999. The special combination of those three points is what makes the Marauder such a desirable motorcycle. Miss any one of the three—particularly price—and the Marauder would fade into history.

After four days of seat time, I know Suzuki hit close to its mark and won't be saddling dealers with excess Marauders sitting on the showroom floor. As I stand here typing these comments, I know I had one more point to make, butt saddle-ly, I can't remember what it was. —Evans Brasfield

In most ways, I like Marauding better than Intruding. You Maraud astride a stiffer frame, on a roomier (if lumpier) saddle, with a more comfortable riding position. But I am puzzled about why street-racer styling and chain final drive is coupled with fewer ponies than you get with the chopper styling and shaft drive when you Intrude. Considering the $500 savings, I would choose to go Marauding if I was buying an 800 at my Suzuki dealer, but I’d quickly spend some of what I saved on painting or replacing the side panels and finding a decent cover or replacement for that header pipe with its ugly heat shields. I could live with the stock seat around town, but traveling would require a change.

Mostly, I am glad to see Suzuki showing renewed interest in cruisers and retaining that fresh thinking in the motorcycles it makes. Yup. I'm ready for a 1400 (or bigger) Marauder. —Art Friedman

This article was originally published in the February 1997 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser.

tire
The racy inverted fork will look nice with aftermarket chrome fork guards. We wish it had firmer rates to match the aggressive looks, however.Tom Riles

High Points:
Original Styling
Nice frame and good cruiser geometry
Strong, reliable liquid-cooled engine
Great price

Low Points:
Some ugly pieces
Unnecessary seat protrusion

First Changes:
Rear-fender reflector to parts bin
Replace seat
Barnett clutch

specs
Wet Weight: 482 lbs., GVWR: 482 lbs., Rake: 35º, Trail: 5.7 in., Seat Height: 27.5 in., Wheelbase 64.8 in., Overall length: 95.0 in.Tom Riles
Specifications
Designation: VZ800V
Suggested base price: $5999
Standard colors: Black/Forest Green, Candy Orange/Silver
Extra-cost colors: N/A
Standard warranty: 12 mo., unlimited miles
Recommended service interval: 7500 miles
Engine & Drivetrain
Type: Liquid cooled, 45-degree, transverse V-twin
Valve Arrangement: SOHC, two intake, two exhaust valves; operated by rockers, threaded adjusters
Displacement, bore x stroke: 805cc, 83.0 mm x 74.4 mm
Compression Ratio: 10.0:1
Carburetion: Mikuni downdraft, front; Mikuni sidedraft, rear; 36mm
Lubrication: Wet sump, spin-on filter, 2.6 qt
Transmission: Wet, multiplate clutch, 5 speeds
Final drive: No. 520 chain, 48/15
Chassis
Wheels: Cast, 3.0 x 16 front, 3.5 x 15 rear
Front tire: 130/90-16 Dunlop D404FJ
Rear tire: 150/90-15 Dunlop D404G
Front brake: 2 piston pin-slide caliper, 300mm disc
Rear brake: 180mm drum, rod-operated
Front suspension: 5.0 in. travel
Rear suspension: 2 dampers, 4.0 in. travel, 5-way adjustable for preload
Fuel capacity: gal. 3.4 gal., (0.8 gal. reserve)
Handlebar width: 28.5 in.
Electrical & Instrumentation
Charging output: 250 watts
Battery: 12v, 10AH
Forward lighting: 55/60-watt headlight, position lights
Taillight: 1 bulb
Instruments: Speedometer, odometer, tripmeter; warning lights for high beam, turn signals, coolant temp, oil pressure
Performance
Fuel mileage: 37 to 47 mpg, 41.8 mpg average
Average range: 142 miles
RPM at 60 mph, top gear: 3830
200-yard top-gear acceleration from 50 mph, terminal speed: 69.3 mph
Quarter-mile acceleration: 14.14 sec @ 87.8 mph