2008 Victory Vision Tour Premium - Full Test

Can The Future Of Touring Take On The Past? (April 2008)

If you want to make a motorcycle tester nervous about your new touring bike, tell him that your highest priority when designing the bike was styling. It's not that we have anything against good looks, but full-dress tourers require truckloads of engineering. They need to be comfortable, carry substantial amounts of gear, offer great range, provide enough power to make it all work at speed, still be manageable at low speed and in corners, and offer a raft of amenities. The problem is that style often gets in the way of all those functional requirements.

It isn't easy to make a successful touring bike even when you aren't focusing on style; consider that kawasaki and suzuki have been unable to produce a full-dresser. When you compare those companies' engineering chops to victory's experience, which essentially amounts to two cruiser platforms, you might understand why red flags went up when victory said its first new platform since the vegas (the basis for its current cruisers) was built to be eye-catching.

You don't have to ride far to discover that victory's stylists did their job well. In 35 years of testing motorcycles I have never had a touring bike of any sort, much less a full-dresser, get anything like the reaction the vision gets. People hang out of car windows to take photos, follow you into gas stations to say how great it looks and accost you at almost every stop to ask questions. And that's during the day. At night when the big V of the led taillights and glow of the lighted side logos are evident, the reaction only increases. Victory reps say they don't care if people love or hate it, they just want people to notice the vision. They definitely notice, and the dozens of people we talked to were universally thrilled by the styling to boot. We can quibble about some of the details, but there is no question that the overall lines and execution are stunning.

The engine is the only component here that isn't all-new. The Freedom 106/6 is a 1731cc (instead of 1634cc) stroked version of the 50-degree, air/ oil-cooled v-twin used in all of victory's cruisers. Victory says the 106 makes about 8 percent more horsepower (92) and 3 percent more torque (109 lb-ft) than the 100/6 engine in the cruisers. It retains the overdrive six-speed gearbox and belt final drive but has a more powerful 50-amp alternator. This year all victory engines received a number of changes to improve driveability and noise, including a new sixth-gear ratio to lower highway rpm by 3 percent, a lower first gear, reconfigured oil-flow paths in the heads and a redesigned airbox. The 106ci displacement is available as a hop-up option for the other cruisers.

Though the vision weighs about 200 pounds more than victory's lightest bikes and 100 pounds more than the heaviest, the kingpin Tour, the engine has more than enough drive for the job at hand. Although it doesn't charge quite as hard as some multicylinder dressers, it accelerates better than other v-twin tourers. Thanks to a very controllable clutch it is easy to gun hard from a stop, and response is strong when you grab a handful in the overdrive sixth gear on the highway with a full load.

Our only complaint about engine performance concerns a hiccup when we tried to accelerate hard from a stop with a lot of throttle. The engine bogged for a fraction of a second, as if fuel flow couldn't keep up with the sudden increase in airflow. The ECU was remapped after our testing was done, so this may have been addressed in production bikes. Otherwise it worked well with good throttle response, quick starting and an average fuel mileage of 37.4 mpg. (I once got 42 mpg on the highway.)

In any event, you can expect better than 200 miles from the 6-gallon tank. Heel-toe shifting is the norm on bikes with floorboards, but the vision has just a toe-shift lever, though you could adapt the kingpin's heel-toe shifter. Victory felt that the heel lever would limit space on those roomy floorboards.

As with other victorys the vision makes a fair amount of drivetrain noise. There is mechanical driveline clatter, some intake honk and manly shifting noises. Our clutch also made a loud squeal when we powered away hard from a stop. The problem is that the vision's bodywork seems to capture these various rattles and thumps and project them toward the rider. Some riders may enjoy this mechanical connection to the bike, but for others it diminishes the luxury-vehicle appeal of a full-dresser. Some testers were bothered by it at highway speeds.

The vision has an entirely new chassis, and my first impression was that it is much longer than victory cruisers. Although it is quite long overall at 110 inches, the wheelbase is about the same as the kingpin at 65.7 inches and slightly shorter than the vegas series. However, the vision is extremely roomy, especially for the rider, but also for the passenger. There is plenty of space to shift forward and back. I definitely felt less constrained than on the gold wing. A broad, flat rider's saddle section encourages you to adjust your position, and the deep padding makes it a pleasure to sit on. It is one of the most comfortable bikes I have ever ridden.

The roominess extends beyond the saddle. The tapered floorboards are more than a foot long, giving you plenty of room to change your foot position. How much? Well, with my heels resting almost in front of the floorboards my knees were completely straight. With the balls of my feet on the rear of the floorboard my knees were bent back past vertical. That allows tremendous flexibility in the pressure points on your legs and butt, helping to extend the time you can comfortably keep riding. Passengers also get plenty of foot room, and there is an optional kit to raise their floorboards.

One feature worth mentioning here is that the projections around the floorboards serve not only as footrests but also as guards in a tip-over. Victory says if you slip and drop the bike at a stop or low speeds, these will prevent damage to the bags, fairing and so on. We didn't confirm this by throwing the bike down, but we know someone who did have cause to sing their praises.

Even though the vision doesn't have all the wind-management features of some other dressers, we didn't miss them. The fairing effectively diverts air from rider and passenger, and even with the electric windshield (standard on our Premium trim version) at the lowest point in its 3.5-inch travel, buffeting was minimal. There are small fold-out clearplastic wind diverters below the wings of the fairing; folding them in seems to reduce buffeting slightly, while unfolding them lessens the wind flow over your knee area. Overall the fairing did well to keep the wind and engine heat from the rider. At its lowest I (5 feet 10 inches) could easily see over the windshield, and at its upper limit it was an inch or so above my eye level. Victory offers one taller and two shorter shields. The ability to raise and lower the windshield while riding (similar to bmw's dresser) enhances both comfort and safety. The fairing, though, takes up plenty of real estate-its wings, which house the mirrors on their rear sides, are more than 45 inches wide.

Victory's usual counterbalancers smooth out virtually all vibration. However, the biggest difference in performance between this chassis and those on the cruisers is the suspension. Though the fork has the same 5.1 inches of travel, the rear suspension offers as much as 1.7 inches of additional travel as well as air adjustability. As a result the vision rides better than any other victory. Big or sharp bumps that would bounce you off the saddle of a Vegas low feel like mild undulations by comparison. The air adjustability means you can adapt to the weight of a passenger and/or luggage.

Of course, the suspension also contributes to the vision's steady, confident handling. The vision Tour we tested is a heavy bike at about 900 pounds (depending on options) full of fuel, but you don't feel that weight as much at low speed as you might expect. The vision Tour, which includes the 40-pound trunk, feels a bit ponderous below 20 mph, more so than the Electra glide or gold wing. I briefly rode a vision street, which doesn't have the standard trunk (it's an option), and removing that weight from high and rearward on the machines makes a noticeable difference at low speeds, up to about mph.

The Tour was easy enough to manage at creeping speeds, when clutch action and steering lock are paramount. Once you are moving above approximately 20 mph, though, the vision Tour handles quite nicely, steering predictably and tracking steadily whether straight or turning, fast or slow, smooth or bumpy.steering effort is modest, because victory resisted any temptation to use the 250-series rear tire that creates steering issues on some of its cruisers in favor of a 180/60-16 dunlop radial. Cornering clearance is much greater than that of any other victory and also better than the gold wing or Electra glide, even though the saddle is fairly low.

Except for lacking an antilock option, the triple-disc brakes were all I'd wish for-powerful with modest lever effort, controllable and fade-free. I didn't even mind the linked aspect of the pedal control, which usually bothers me. That's probably because under light applications only the rear brake is applied, which makes gentle stops a bit easier. Stronger pressure also applies the dual front brakes. Still, big luxury bikes do deserve to include the safety net of antilock brakes. Once you've really used them, especially on a snotty surface, you won't want to panic-stop without them.

Luggage is an essential component of a big tourer, which is why we asked for the Tour model with its trunk. It easily swallows two full-face helmets and more. It also has a well in its bottom that drops down into the rear fender to add some useful storage. The teardrop saddlebags, however, look larger than they really are when closed and smaller than they really are when open. They are divided into smaller compartments, which means you can't tuck just one big soft bag inside and use all the space. The tops (actually sides) also bow out so you have more space than it appears, but it can be tricky to use it all, especially on the left bag. Having one big compartment as on the gold wing is more convenient. Despite my concerns about style trumping function, this is the only place on the vision where function seems to have been sacrificed for appearance. There is no central locking mechanism, but the locks are easy to operate and may be locked or not (with the ignition key) when closed.

A modern tourer also demands an audio system; an AM/FM radio with four speakers is standard these days. There is a cord in the left fairing pocket of the vision to plug in an MP3 player or other device, and victory offers optional XM satellite Radio, CB, intercom and 10-disc Cd-changer modules. The vision's audio weakness is power; like the Electra glide's, it really isn't loud enough at highway speeds. The optional helmet speakers would address this, of course, but the gold wing proves that you can do it with the bike's speakers. Reception on ours was also somewhat weak, but victory has since upgraded the hidden antenna system. The audio controls are on the "tank" console (the real fuel tank is down in the fairing) and left handlebar, mostly on a pod below the grip. The pod's buttons are kind of small for heavy gloves. Ours also sometimes changed frequencies when we adjusted the volume.

The standard cruise control puts its buttons in a pod on the right grip. Though the same small-surface niggle applies, the speed control worked very well and was easy to understand. The Premium trim level of the bike we rode brings heated grips and saddle, too. Grip heat is controlled by a switch on the tank console, while switches under the left side of the passenger seat control rider and passenger seat heat independently (high, low or off).

A garmin gps navigation unit is also available, though our bike didn't have it. That display mounts on the tank console and provides spoken directions through the audio system, muting other audio to do so.

Building a touring bike is probably the toughest engineering challenge a motorcycle company can undertake. The vision was not only the most complex new model created by victory, but by parent company Polaris as well. Building a competitive luxury tourer has to be several times harder than building a good cruiser and even tougher than making a good sportbike.

What astonishes me is how good the vision is. If I were to buy a touring bike right now, the vision would probably be my choice (and if abs was available you could take "probably" out of that statement). Though I admit to preferring the gold wing's engine and audio, the vision is so much more comfortable for me that it pulls ahead of the honda. I like to ride long days, and comfort becomes the most important aspect of a touring bike in that situation. Despite all the things a full-dresser needs to do well, the vision simply has no dealbreakers anywhere.

Victory was probably smart to make attention-grabbing style a requirement for its tourer. By drawing so much interest the vision will introduce more people to what is the company's most significant model yet. Ride it and you discover that victory is no longer just a cruiser builder. It's now a world-class motorcycle company producing hard-tobuild machines that can take on the best big, established motorcycle companies and surpass them. That's vision.

High points
+ Amazingly successful first touring model
+ Spectacular styling
+ Class-leading comfort, especially for big riders
+ Confident handling

Low points
- Underpowered audio system
- Occasional hiccup when throttle opened
- Noisy clutch
- No abs option

First changes
-Stronger amp or helmet speakers for stereo
-Shaped liner for main saddlebag compartments to ease packing

'08 Victory Vision Tour Premium
Suggested PRICE: $21,749
Colors: Gray, Cherry, Black
Warranty: 12 Months

Type: Air/Oil-Cooled 50-Degree V-Twin
Valvetrain: Sohc; 4 Valves Per Cylinder, Operated By Hydraulic Lifters
Displacement, Bore X Stroke:1731cc, 101 X 108mm
Compression: 9.4:1
Fuel System: EFI, Two 45mm Throttle Bodies
Lubrication: Wet Sump, 5 Qt.
Minimum Fuel Grade: 91 Octane
Transmission/Final Drive: Wet Clutch, 6 Speeds/Belt

Wet Weight: 896 Lb.
GVWR: 1414 Lb.
Seat Height: 26.9 In.
Wheelbase: 65.7 In.
Overall Length: 109.9 In.
Rake/Trail: 29 Degrees/5.4 In.
Wheels: Cast Alloy, 18 X 3.0 Front, 16 X 5.0 Rear
Front Tire: 130/70-R18 Dunlop Elite 3Tubeless Radial
Rear Tire: 180/60-R16 Dunlop Elite 3Tubeless Radial
Front Brake: Two 11.2-In. Floating Discs, 3-Piston Calipers
Rear Brake: 11.2-In. Floating Disc, 2-Piston Caliper
Front Suspension: 43mm Fork, 5.1 In. Travel
Rear Suspension: Single Damper, 4.7 In. Travel, Air-Adjustable
Fuel Capacity: 6 Gal.

Charging Output: 50 Watts
Battery: 12v, 18 Ah
Forward Lighting: Hid, 55/60-Watt
Taillighting: Multiple-Point Led
Instruments: Speedometer, Tachometer, Fuel Gauge, Voltmeter; Lcd Clock/Odometer, Tripmeter, Gear Position, Air Temperature; Warning Lights For Neutral, High Beam, Engine, Turn Signals, Oil Pressure, Low Fuel, Cruise Control

Fuel Mileage: 31 To 42 Mpg,
37.4 MPG Average
Average Range: 224 Miles

Riding Position

You can't help but be a bit overwhelmed by the vision at first sight-I saw women gasp, babies drool and grown men glaze over as I rolled by. And sitting in it feels positively plush, but I just assumed that because the thing looked titanic it would be an overweight handful once I shoved off. not so-the vision is a real rider's motorcycle, and cranking out long miles on it is a relaxing and comfortable proposition. I'm not crazy about the engine noise, but the thing pulls like a truck and the weather protection is outstanding. normally I'm not an acres-of-bodywork fan, but I give big props to the engineering department on this project, though I find the saddlebag capacity and configuration unforgiveable. There's a lot of wasted room inside. The jury's also out on the styling, but I prefer it to the gold wing's late-'80s vibe. here's the big one, though-my wife absolutely adores the back perch, and that goes a long way toward domestic bliss.

Andrew Cherney, 5' 7", 155 lb, 30-inch inseam

Talk about one cushy bike! victory's luxo-barge is the perfect place to plant one's posterior for the long-haul road trip. It eats up the miles with aplomb, my weight comfortably distributed between the well-cushioned seat and the world's longest floorboards. Even in the lowest position the windscreen was still too high . . . of course, I'm only 5 feet 4 inches. like every victory motorcycle I've ridden, the shift and rear brake pedals are a bit of a stretch, but not bad. styling? well, I love the rear two-thirds of the bike, but that front fairing is wider than Big Momma's backend.

Evan kay, 5'4", 159 lb, 29-inch inseam

Vision Vs. Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Classic

My first thought when I climbed on the "big" harley after a couple of weeks aboard the vision was that the Electra glide suddenly felt like a minibike-it simply feels much smaller. The harley is roomy enough for me (unlike the gold wing), but adding a passenger feels more crowded than either the Victory or the Honda.

The Electra glide's "smallness" translates to more manageable handling at low speeds, but the victory's superior suspension gives it a handling edge out on the road, especially if the road is bumpy. Harley dressers still wiggle around in fast (more than 80 mph) turns when loaded, but the victory was always rock-steady. The smaller, narrower harley is much better if you plan to split lanes. The victory has more cornering clearance, stronger power, a much roomier "cabin" with less engine heat, and better (and more adjustable) wind management. The drivetrains-clutches, gearboxes, final drives-are about equal, though the harley's directs less noise at the rider. The antilock option gives the harley's brakes an edge, but without it I'd prefer the victory's brakes. The harley luggage doesn't actually hold quite as much, but its saddlebags' top-loading feature makes it easier to use what space there is. -AF

Vision Vs. Honda Gold Wing

Honda's ultra-smooth six is the reigning king of the full-dressers, but the vision comes surprisingly close to unseating it. That is especially true if you are on the tall side. At 5 feet 10 inches, I was noticeably more comfortable on the victory because of its greater roominess. The ergonomics of the gl1800 crowd me, though Cherney (5 feet 7 inches) says the gl fits him better than the vision. Of course the gl engine design, which mandates footpegs, means you have nothing like the flexibility of foot position that you get with the victory's floorboards. The gl offers more windmanagement features but also seems to need them more, and its manually adjusted windshield can't be raised or lowered on the fly. Passengers gave them about equal marks. The Honda is a bit easier to handle at low speeds than the victory, but both are equally adept at high-speed cornering, although the victory has more clearance.

The 1832cc flat-six in the gold wing is stronger, smoother, quieter and more civilized than the vision's big v-twin, and the honda pulled away from the victory in every side-by-side performance contest we could come up with except one. When we put both bikes in fifth gear (which is top gear for the honda) they accelerated evenly. The victory's clutch engages more predictably.

Except for the windshield the gold wing's touring amenities outshine the victory's. It has the only audio system you can actually hear through the speakers at highway speeds and includes more features. Its electronics are generally better integrated. Consider, for example, the gps, which plays through the standard dash display on the honda and harley but is a separate module on the victory. The honda has somewhat more useful luggage space than the others. It also offers optional antilock braking and its pioneering airbag system (which looks promising but lacks any real-world data to confirm that yet), neither of which is available on the vision. Finally, if you want to go backward, the gold wing is the only one with reverse. -AF

Helmet: Nolan N102
Jacket: Dainese Arizona
Gloves: Tour Master TS Gel
Boots: Joe Rocket Sonic
Pants: Firstgear HT Air Overpants 2.0
Cool cluster: The vision's instrument panel sorts info clearly, and with a cool blue glow at night.
The front-and-center mounted audio system is designed to accept IPOD, GPS, XM and CB plug-ins.
If the 2-into-1-into-2 exhaust doesn't get you noticed, a "performance" version is available.
The fuel filler cap is hidden under the right front panel over the faux tank.
Acres of room on those foot-long floorboards.
The top-mounted trunk (found only on the Tour model) can easily handle two helmets.
Audio controls are mounted on a pod below the grip, but they're small and can be difficult to access at night.
The swoopy saddlebags are subdivided into compartments inside. Those gaskets mean good weather protection, though.