2007 Harley-Davidson VRSCX - Get Your Drag On

Harley's hottest V-Rod is a dragster for the rest of us

Harley-Davidson has finally introduced a motorcycle for the tire-smoke-lovin' drag-racing enthusiasts among us. The bold, new limited-edition VRSCX carries the bright graphics of the Screamin' Eagle/Vance & Hines racer that has dominated NHRA's Pro Stock Motorcycle drag-racing class, capturing three consecutive Pro Stock world titles.

Unless you're riding on ice, you can never have too much power, and the VRSCX has it in spades: It's powered by a 1250cc (76ci) big-bore version of Harley's Revolution V-twin motor (the iteration first seen on last year's CVO V-Rod). For this hot-rod version, Harley's engineers have upped displacement (from 1130cc) via a 5mm increase in the cylinder bores, boosting both power and torque. It's rated to produce a healthy 123 horsepower at 8000 rpm and 86 lb-ft of torque at 7000 revs, measured at the crank, up 8 horses and 12 pounds of torque compared with the VRSCAW. Harley also says the cylinder heads are custom ported and the cam timing is optimized. This new model is the quickest, most powerful production Harley yet and can certainly kick butt in a straight line.

Other features unique to this model include a stainless-steel drag-style handlebar, a custom "drag visor" flyscreen, a bar and shield logo on the deeply scooped saddle and a spoked 19-inch front wheel.

Ever since I first rode a V-Rod, the responsive four-valve-per-cylinder engine design has been my favorite Harley powerplant-and now it has even more power. It really comes alive at about 4500 rpm and pulls strongly up to its 9000-rpm redline. Yet it can readily lug down to 2000 rpm in fifth gear (or about 35 mph), demonstrating a tractability and smoothness that rivals any twin out there. Start-up is immediate, hot or cold, and the fuel injection keeps the engine running flawlessly at all times.

Lever effort with the cable-actuated wet clutch is a little on the high side, which can be tiring in traffic. However, the gears hook up well, and it's easy to get smooth, chatter-free launches. Shifts are quick and reliable, with no missed engagements or false neutrals from the five-speed gearbox. It's also a cinch to find neutral when stopped, but, hello, Motor Company, how about a sixth gear?

All that big-bore power feeds through a belt drive to a phat 240mm by 18-inch rear tire wrapped around an eight-inch-wide slotted aluminum-alloy rim. (As opposed to the front wheel, which oddly is a spoked unit.) While that wide rear tire gives the bike an appropriately aggressive drag-racing look, it also makes cornering more difficult. There's plenty of stopping power with twin 300mm front brake rotors clamped by cool-looking Brembo four-pot calipers with grilles over them. In back, a similar setup resides, but with a single disc. Braking is powerful, yet easy to modulate, with low effort and consistent fade-free stops.

A non-adjustable conventional fork with 49mm legs carries the front end. The VRSCX's 36-degree rake angle (same as those of the Night Rod and V-Rod) is two degrees steeper this year, which helps turn-in somewhat. An aluminum swingarm flanked by twin external coil-over shocks, adjustable for preload only, support the tail end. Ride quality is firm but well-controlled on average roads in normal conditions.

Forward-mounted pegs and foot controls on the VRSCX require riders to stretch out their legs and lean forward to grip the shorty handlebar. Lean the bike into a corner and you get an odd, awkward feel from the front-end geometry-that monster 240 tire resists turning, and the limited leverage of the short handlebar exacerbates the feeling. Meanwhile, those low-mounted pegs tend to touch down early in corners, giving the phrase "dragging your heels" a whole new meaning.

Passengers will have to cling to the rider, as the anorexic rear-sloping seat has them sliding aft every time you open the throttle. A deeply notched front saddle positions the rider down at 27.1 inches off the tarmac, and the shape helps lock the rider in during drag-strip-style launches, but thin padding and a folded clamshell riding position make long rides a test of fortitude.

Another change made to all VRSC models is the relocation of the ignition switch from under the right side of the seat to just aft of the radiator, still on the right side. Perhaps Harley got tired of all the press bikes coming back with melted plastic key heads, a result of them frequently being dropped between the dual exhaust pipes.

But the V-Rod still manages to look cool, no matter what version you're on. That stylish headlight-a signature feature on all the V-Rods-looks like it came from a Porsche. And that just happens to be the company that helped H-D with the engine's development- what a coincidence! Despite its small size, that headlight throws an incredible swath of light on high beam, though the small, tinted flyscreen perched just over the light arrangement is somewhat less effective in its role.

The instrument-gauge cluster incorporates a small tach on the left, with a central speedometer and gas gauge on the right. Twin tripmeters and a digital clock share space with the odometer, along with the usual indicator lamps. At night, the instruments have a warm, orange-tinted glow, which makes them pleasing to look at and easy to read.

When it comes time to fuel up, you'll have to remember that what looks like a gas tank on the VSCRX is just an airbox; the real fuel tank and filler are located under the non-locking tilt-up seat. Capacity is five gallons, up from the 3.7 gallons of original models (which had a paltry range of about 100 miles). Adding more room for fuel required a change to wider subframe rails on the hydro-formed steel frame, but the capacity increase is one of the best improvements made to the V-Rod series to date. Factory-advertised mileage is 33.9 city and 44.1 highway. Our mileage ranged from 31.2 to 39.7 mpg, averaging 37.8, and the low fuel light usually came on at about 135 miles.

Overall, the VRSCX is a strong, smooth runner using a now-proven drivetrain to whisk you down the boulevard or highway in style. It's well made, powerful, attractive and attention-getting, but with its finicky cornering characteristics, spine-stretching ergonomics and that 20-grand price, it's not for everyone. On the other hand, not everyone rides long distances or on twisty roads, and this is one Harley you won't see a dozen of every time you go for a ride. With only 1400 models being built this year, it should hold its value well, so if you want one, you'd better see your Harley dealer soon.

Price $19,995 ($20,995 CA); security system $325
Standard color Orange/silver
Standard {{{warranty}}} 24 months/ unlimited miles
Type Liquid-cooled, 60-degree, 1250cc V-twin
Valve arrangement DOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Bore x stroke 105.0 x 72.0mm
Compression 11.3:1
Carburetion EFI, dual 53mm throttle bodies
Lubrication Wet sump, 4.5 qt.
Minimum fuel grade 91 octane
Transmission 5-speed
Final drive Belt
Wet weight 657 lbs.
GVWR 1075 pounds
Seat height 27.1 inches
Wheelbase 67.2 inches
Overall length 94.4 inches
Rake/trail 36.0 degrees/ 4.5 inches
Front wheel/ tire Cast, 19 x 3 inches; 120/70-19 Dunlop D208
Rear wheel/ tire Cast, 18 x 8 inches; {{{240}}}/40-18 Dunlop Elite 3
Front brake Dual 300mm floating rotors, 4-piston calipers
Rear brake Single 300mm floating rotor, 4-piston caliper/td>
Front suspension 49mm telescopic fork tubes,4.0 in. travel
Rear suspension Dual dampers, adjustable for preload, 4.0-in travel
Fuel capacity 5.0 gallons
Handlebar width 29 inches
Lighting Single 55/65W headlight; single 5/21W taillight
Instruments Speedometer, LCD odometer, two tripmeters, clock; warning lights for high beam, low fuel, turn signals, neutral, oil pressure, temperature, check engine
Horsepower (claimed peak) 123 hp @ 8000 rpm
Torque (claimed peak) 86.0 lb./ft. @ 7000 rpm
Fuel mileage 31.2-39.7 mpg, 37.8-mpg average
Quarter-mile performance 11.95 sec @ 113.6 mph