2013 Suzuki Boulevard C90T B.O.S.S. | Big- Wig

Suzuki’s Middleweight

So American Suzuki has decided to shut down its U.S. automotive division. But if that means losing the likes of the Grand Vitara while keeping world-class machines like the GSXR and the M109R, we're thinking that's not such a terrible move. And if 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the firm selling motorcycles in the U.S., seems like a great time for Suzuki to make some big moves in the long-neglected middleweight cruiser arena. Cue the Boulevard C90T B.O.S.S..

Meet The New B.O.S.S.

Yes- it is directly related to the previous, air-cooled C90T, one of Suzuki's more popular Boulevard models, discontinued in 2009 for emissions reasons. But this new C90T model is the B.O.S.S. edition-and while it may not boast a complete redesign, it signals Suzuki's return to the middleweight touring cruiser segment in a big way. Or at least a medium-sized way.

There's been a big gap in the Boulevard lineup between 800 and 1800cc for a while now, which the updated C90T is meant to address. The B.O.S.S. thing sounds intriguing, but it doesn't mean you'll be seeing Bruce Springsteen as a Suzuki factory rider anytime soon; in this case B.O.S.S. stands for Blacked-Out-Special-Suzuki. Yep, the C90T is draped in the all-black finish and ebony hardware that seems to be a cruiser styling staple these days. The 'T' part of the moniker describes any touring aspirations this C may have, and so you'll find integrated hard bags, floorboards and a tall windscreen aboard to dole out an extra measure of comfort down the road. Of course there's also a standard C90T version, which rolls with the same features, but adds chrome and color options to the proceedings.

The new bodywork has been redesigned to be more flowing, but bigger changes lie within. Featuring a new, more powerful, 1462cc, 54-degree V-twin motor (now liquid-cooled), the C90T was developed in conjunction with Suzuki's critically-lauded M90 power cruiser (which also returns to the line for 2013) and shares its basic platform, including the frame and swingarm, engine components like the intake, exhaust and cooling system, and even the transmission. Lurking in the internals are three separate air-cleaner boxes to maximize air induction, and Suzuki says that engine has also been massaged for broader torque and a wide spread of power for long range cruising. The company quotes some impressive numbers on that topic: 77.8 hp @ 4800 rpm. It's claimed to be the most powerful engine in the class.

On the outside, the C90T hews to a classic but updated style, with sleeker lines enhanced by new lower profile fenders that frame seven-spoke cast aluminum wheels. A good ol' triangular steel-tube chassis holds a 4.8 gallon tank and a softail-style suspension, dual slash-cut mufflers, floorboards and a wide, comfortable seat. The C90T is also the first Boulevard machine with factory-designed hard side cases as part of the bike, rather than simple bolt-ons. The impact-resistant ABS pods are covered in a leather-like material that mimics what's on the saddle, and they're lockable. They're also positioned to allow easy access while seated on the bike. Capacity is a reported 26 liters for the right bag and 24.5 liters for the left bag (due to the exhaust cut-out; the left bag also features a bumper to protect the luggage in a tip- over).

Once settled in on the BOSS, you get a riding position that's classic lay-back cruiser; combined with a 28.3 inch seat height, the 34-inch-wide pullback bar and open floorboard layout offer equal-opportunity accommodations. The C90T is targeted at the wide range of rider sizes that seems to populate this segment, and both the rider and passenger seat portions are shaped wider and flatter than on the M90, so there are more seating options too. A heel-toe shift lever completes the classic vibe.

Thumb the starter and the engine catches instantly, with no fuss and sans finicky fueling. This is slick, Japanese-engineered iron, with a good measure of tech borrowed from Suzuki's sportbikes, so a velvety-smooth throttle response and virtually no quaking at idle is the order of the day. Release the clutch lever effortlessly, engage the shift lever with a snick and off you go with a light roll of the throttle. You don't get an as-quick rush as with the M90, but then this bike is heavier, and if you're out for a Sunday cruise, there's plenty of oomph here to keep you interested. The C90T moves down the highway with little prodding and a remarkably light gearshift action. Especially impressive were the downshifts-Suzuki's Clutch Assist System reduces pressure on the clutch plates under deceleration for a smoother transition and virtually no skip.

The spec sheet doesn't lie-there 's a prodigious amount of torque on tap, and the 1462cc engine dispenses it smoothly, though most of the peak 96.6 ft.-lbs. comes on at the very bottom, at 2600 rpm. The engine is generally a good match for the C90T's 5-speed tranny, though with gearing being somewhat tall (you can run up to 50 mph in second gear), you don't find yourself even thinking about fifth gear until accelerating to, say, 75 mph. Handling is surprisingly lively; despite all the weight (those 800 lbs can be felt when you pick the bike up off the sidestand), the C90T was a blast to run into the corners, with predictable steering and no surprises, though it takes time negotiating all but the most mellow sweepers. The chunky tires-even the 200mm rear rubber-track well, and the bike rides in a well-balanced manner at all speeds. Some might cluck at the fact that there's only one brake disc on each wheel, but the four-piston caliper does an adequate job of slowing the front; the rear disc gets squeezed by a two-piston unit with similar results. ABS, alas, is not an option.

On any big cruiser, suspension travel doesn't always get as high priority as style does, and though the link-type, softail-like rear suspension on the C90T offers a decent 4.3 inches of travel, it's not especially compliant, nor is it adjustable. Fortunately the super-stout 45mm fork (a conventional telescopic unit as opposed to the M90's inverted setup) doles out a generous 5.1 inches of travel up front, and was up to the task of soaking up most of the bumpy asphalt.

The C90T offers some nice details as well. We already mentioned the bags, but the fork-mounted Suzuki-designed windshield is also a robust add-on, purpose-built to minimize wind buffeting at speed. We had more than ample wind protection at freeway speeds so on that point, mission accomplished, though a detachable option might have been more appealing. Another highlight is the tank-mounted multi-function instrument package, dominated by a large analog speedometer in the middle. The gauge cluster includes a gear-position indicator and a large fuel gauge, along with a clock, plus lights for low fuel, odometer and twin trip meters, all easy to read. As a whole, styling, fit and finish is very good-Suzuki even paid attention to refining the back side of the windscreen, a part normally overlooked by most manufacturers-and all hardware and fasteners are top notch.

Even though the C90T B.O.S.S. brings the biggest and most powerful engine in the class and comes equipped with solid touring amenities, we wish the price was slightly lower, and the overall weight a little bit less (you can feel the C90T's heft when maneuvering into parking spots). But yes, those ARE nit picks.

Suzuki will offer a robust line of accessories to further dress up the bike's lines (think fender trim, luggage racks and the like) though details have yet to emerge.

At the end of the day, the C90T isn't an entirely mind-blowing machine but it's an impressive effort from Suzuki, and a welcome addition to the somewhat milquetoast middleweight segment. It's got a few little bugs (weight and price), but it also brings more power and upscale amenities to the class, which is definitely a step in the right direction. It's good to see Suzuki getting back in the game.

2013 Suzuki C90T B.O.S.S.
MSRP: $13,999
Colors: Glass Sparkle Black
Warranty: 12 mos., unlimited miles
Type: liquid-cooled 54-degree V-twin
Displacement, bore x stroke: 1462cc, 96 x 101mm
Valve train: SOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
Compression: 9.5:1
Fuel system: EFI
Transmission: 5-speed, wet multiplate clutch
Final drive: shaft
Overall length: 100.8 in.
Wheelbase: 65.9 in.
Wet weight: 800 lbs.
Seat height: 28.3 in.
Rake/trail: 31° / 5.2 in.
Front tire: 130/80R 17M/C tubeless
Rear tire: 200/60R 16M/C tubeless
Front brake: 320mm disc, 4-piston caliper
Rear brake: 260mm disc, 2-piston caliper
Front suspension: 45mm telescopic fork; 5.1 in travel
Rear suspension: Single link-type coil-over damper; 4.3 in. travel
Fuel capacity: 4.8 gallons
Horsepower: 77.8
Torque: 96.6 ft. lb.
A robust, well-laid out instrument cluster makes info checks a breeze
The C90T’s integrated, sleekly-designed saddlebags are a first for Boulevard bikes.
Single-disc brakes offer good-enough feel and power.