2009 Star VMax - Max Is Back

First came steel. Then came internal combustion. And then came the 1985 Yamaha V-Max: V-4 power, 1198cc, five speeds, shaft drive and a whole new attitude for a cruiser. The V-Max was a dragracer with a license plate, sporting a claimed 135 hp (at the crankshaft) pumped via shaftdrive to the then-massive 150/90-15 rear tire. Some technological magic was required to manage all those ponies, and that came in the form of V-Boost: At 5730 rpm a valve between the intake manifolds opened, allowing both front and rear cylinders on each side to breathe through both carburetors, in effect doubling carburetor size. And Max was a big boy, measuring in at 62.6 inches between the axles and a 616-pound wet weight. Of course with all that power and heft the brakes needed to be sportbike-like triple discs. In 1985 a rider could have all that performance for $5299.

Over the years Max received upgrades: less restrictive mufflers and disc wheels (1986), improved brakes and larger forks (1993), and a variety of engine bits. But 2007 marked the final year for Max, after a 23-year run.

The fans have been waiting years for a new V-Max, which they hoped would finally showcase the features they'd been craving-more power, better rideability and more comfort. Their patience has finally been rewarded: On a pleasant June night on the deck of the retired aircraft carrier USS Midway, Star unveiled the new '09 VMax. The bike emerged from behind a screen, engine wailing, the rider performing a smoky burnout to enthusiastic applause.

It still flaunts the visual heritage of the old Max, but the new Max is not just an extreme makeover-it's an entirely new motorcycle from the ground up. It may be the most technical Star model we've ever seen. The central focus remains the massive V-4 engine, now displacing 1679cc. The liquid-cooled, four-valves-per-cylinder mill with hybrid chain and gear cam drive pumps out a claimed 197.4 hp (at the crank) and 123 lb-ft of torque. This is not a bike for those with more ego than experience. However, Max is not an uncontrollable beast, either. Taking technology from Yamaha's YZF-R1 sportbike, Max has a fly-by-wire throttle control (Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle) with variable intake-tract length by way of a servomotor that moves the intake funnels for better acceleration at both low- and high-rpm running. You'll also find EFI plus a hydraulic slipper clutch to make downshifting smoother. Air enters the engine through the can't-miss-them aluminum intakes and exits through a 4-into-1-into-2-into-4 exhaust system with twinned pairs of mufflers per side. The exhaust also has EXUP (Exhaust Ultimate Power valve) for smoothness at all engine speeds, as well as catalytic converters to meet EPA regulations.

The twin-spar frame and swingarm are aluminum, consisting of cast, die-cast and extruded sections. The bike still has an underseat fuel tank, but it's now up to 4.0 gallons. Beefy 52mm forks hold up the front end with a single shock in the back. The suspension, front and rear, is fully adjustable for rebound and compression damping and spring preload with a remote preload adjuster on the rear shock. The front brakes are superbike spec, with a Brembo radial master cylinder, 320mm wave-type rotors and six-piston calipers. The rear also has a Brembo master cylinder, 298mm wave-type rotor and single-piston caliper, and the tire it stops is now a wide 200/50-18. The gauges are also noteworthy, with a digital speedometer and an analog tach with LED shift light mounted in the center of the bars, just like on a dragracer. On the tank there is an "Organic Electro Luminescence" selectable display that can show a clock, fuel meter, tripmeter, gear position, coolant temperature and more.

Weight has climbed to 683 pounds, and price has increased to $17,990. However, with only 2500 units coming to the U.S.-starting in November-ownership will be an exclusive club. If you haven't already placed your order, it may be too late for 2009. We'll have a ride report later this summer. -Evan Kay

'09 Star Vmax
MSRP: $17,990
Color: Intense Black
Warranty: 2 years

Type: 1679cc, liquid-cooled, 65-deg. V-4
Bore x stroke: 90 x 60mm
Valve train: DOHC, 4 valves/cylinder
Compression: 11.3:1
Fuel system: EFI
Transmission/clutch: 5-speed, slipper clutch, shaft drive

Front Suspension: 52mm cartridge fork, adjustable for preload, compression and rebound; 4.7 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Single shock, adjustable for preload, compression and rebound
Front tire: Bridgestone Radial 120/70-R18 59V
Rear tire: Bridgestone Radial 200/50-R18 76V
Front brake: Dual 320mm discs; 6-piston calipers
Rear brake: 298mm disc, single-piston caliper
Overall length: 94.3 in.
Wheelbase: 66.9 in.
Rake/trail: 31/5.8 in.
Seat height: 30.5 in.
Fuel capacity: 4.0 gal.
Wet weight: 683 lb./685 lb. (CA)