Motorcycle Road Test: Suzuki Intruder 1500 LC | Motorcycle Cruiser

Motorcycle Road Test: Suzuki Intruder 1500 LC

Question: What big V-Twin motorcycle makes a Harley Fat Boy seem positively svelte? Answer: You're looking at it. From the April 1998 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser magazine.

Suzuki wanted its new Intruder flagship to be "long, low and massive." It is. The 66.9-inch wheelbase is the longest in cruising, and the seat is a mere 27.6 inches off the road. However, the "massive" part of Suzuki's plan is where the Intruder 1500 fully delivers. Up front, a broad, deeply valenced fender wraps around a chubby 150/80-16 tire. Stout 41mm fork tubes look even more imposing because of their chrome covers and the chrome fork shield behind the headlight. Beneath an oversized teardrop tank shape, the engine bulges muscularly, with wide case covers swelling below protruding side panels. The rider's saddle spreads a generous 16 inches wide, and the 10.7-inch-wide rear fender makes the 180/70-15 rear tire seem almost petite. Calling this machine fat is an understatement.

The Intruder 1500 LC comes by its corpulence partially by design and partially by necessity. In the Intruder 1400, Suzuki already has arguably the most successful of the thin, chopperesque, big twins among the non-Harley makers. Therefore, the firm intended for its new big-inch cruiser to flaunt the increasingly popular wide look that lends itself to classic lines and roomy comfort for big riders. You can see the intent in pieces like the fork shield and fender. However, the path the design took pushed the bike even further toward obesity.

Starting with the basic Intruder 1400 design, the engineers widened the bore by 2.0mm (to 96mm) and stretched the stroke by 3.0mm (to 101mm) to deliver 1462cc. The 1400 uses oil-cooling on just the rear cylinder, but that feature was applied to both of the 1500's cylinders to handle additional BTUs of the bigger engine.

An additional 30 percent flywheel mass was pressed onto the plain-bearing crankshaft. Like the 1400, the 1500 offset its crankpins by 45 degrees, which, when combined with the 45-degree V angle, yields 90 degrees between piston strokes. This offers perfect primary balance for smooth operation without a counterbalancer.

Up top, a three-valve head, pentroof combustion chamber was incorporated in the overhead-cam, and compression ratio was dropped to 8.5:1 from the 1400's 9.3:1. Unlike the 1400, which places each carburetor behind its cylinder, the 1500 locates both of its 36mm carbs inside the cylinders' V. This simplifies exhaust plumbing and permits the carbs to share a common airbox and filter. However, the resulting airbox had to be fairly large (it's six liters); so the space above the engine was devoted almost entirely to that, leaving no room for fuel. The fuel tank was placed under the saddle, squeezing out pieces like the maintenance-free battery, which resides ahead of the engine in a black case.

Because the saddle is low, there was limited space top-to-bottom for the fuel tank, which meant that the designers had to widen the tank to reach the nominal 4.1-gallon capacity. This created the bulging side panels. A cover in the top of the dummy fuel tank opens to reveal the fuel filler cap. An electric fuel pump, audible when you first turn on the ignition, gets fuel up to the carbs. No reserve feature is provided, but a light on the dash starts to flash when you have consumed between 2.7 and 3.0 gallons, and illuminates steadily when .7 gallons remain.

The fuel tank location helped to lower the center of gravity by 1.5 inches compared to the 1400, and it also set the stage for much of the 1500's girth. Because the fuel tank swells out from the side of the bike, it was necessary to give the pieces around it a similar width. This permitted the saddle to spread out without looking exaggerated. On the right, the pipes helped to fill in around the tank, but the crankcase area was also bloated with an oversize cover. The oil filler cap is actually located under a cover. On the left, another oversized metal cover -- which appears to be the engine side case -- actually houses pieces like the rectifier, which gets cooling through a scoop. Behind that, another metal cover sweeps rearward teardrop-fashion, covering the forward end of the shaft drive (which was also moved outboard half-an-inch to clear the rear wheel) while providing a space for the tool kit inside.

The bigness shows up on the scales, where the 1500 LC weighs in at a hefty 699 pounds, full of fuel. However, the mass isn't oppressive when you are supporting it at a stop. Despite the width and weight, most riders will find the bike pretty manageable. Once moving, its tonnage shows up. It's just slightly awkward while making tight turns in parking lots, in part because the handlebar ends turn rearward and can connect with your legs. However, the Intruder 1500 also feels slightly less certain at ultra-low speeds than other big bikes.

Once moving faster than a walk, the big bike settles in and feels as stately as it appears. It's comfortable dawdling along in dense traffic and remains steady past the point where you go from speeding tickets to handcuffs. Though it seems to feel crosswinds more than comparable machines, the Suzuki isn't blown off-line; it just heels into the wind and keeps going where it is pointed.

Turning the big bike requires a bit of effort, both to initiate and to hold the turn. Braking also makes the LC straighten up a bit. Suzuki says that the frame is considerably more rigid than the 1400's chassis, and anyone who rides both bikes will quickly confirm that. The suspension is also firmer, which leads to generally superior handling through bumps, with one exception. A surplus of compression damping (especially in the front) makes the ride choppy on sharp bumps; delivering solid thumps over large, sharp-edged road irregularities and producing jitteriness in rippled corners. Cornering clearance is adequate, and, unlike the other Intruders, the 1500 first drags its folding floorboards (leading with an extension placed there for this purpose), not the solid bracketry.

Unlike other makers that have crafted wide-look cruisers from an existing engine, Suzuki did not sacrifice strong power to produce good low-rpm power. The 1500 claims more peak power than the 1400, with a torque peak at 2300 rpm. However, the 1500 weighs about 115 pounds more than the 1400 and also pulls taller gearing. Suzuki changed the primary ratio from 1.645:1 for the 1400 to 1.49:1 in the 1500. It also raised the internal ratios for fourth (from 1.086:1 to 1.041:1) and fifth (from .96:1 to .884:1) gears to widen and further relax the engine on the highway, where it's turning just under 2500 rpm at 60 mph in top-gear. Even though the 1500 makes more power than the 1400, it has to move more weight with less leverage. As a result, the 1500 doesn't accelerate with the same authority as the 1400, which remains the hardest-accelerating of cruising's big twins. The 1400 negotiates the quarter-mile half a second quicker and almost three mph faster, from a standing start. The 1400 also gets going about five mph faster in our benchmark top-gear roll-ons. Though Kawasaki's Vulcan 1500 Classic is slower all-around than the Suzuki 1500, the twin-carb Vulcan 1500A will also run away from the new Intruder.

The 1500 LC (which Suzuki says stands for "Legendary Classic") delivers that sort of easy-going, relaxed power that most riders expect from the fat-look segment of cruisers. You get plenty of low-rpm power here. You can chug along practically counting the exhaust pulses, then twist the throttle wide open and enjoy the ride as it powers steadily to the same 6000 rpm rev limit as the 1400. Along the way there are no rushes or soft spots in the power delivery, and throttle response is very crisp throughout. The flywheel mass smoothes out the power when you are just trickling along, barely off idle.

Fuel mileage has dropped off significantly from the 1400. Our 35.9-mph average would get you about 140 miles before you'd need a gas station. On our high-mileage loop, the Intruder LC turned in precisely 40 mpg compared to 46 mpg for the Kawasaki Vulcan 1500 Classic. On such a king-sized bike, 4.1 gallons of fuel seems a bit meager. To its credit, the under-seat fuel-tank design makes it easy to top off quickly and completely without making a mess.

The engine is tame in other respects too, requiring choke only on cold mornings. When you turn on the ignition, the fuel pump pressurizes the fuel system. When you thumb the starter button, an electronically controlled compression-release opens the exhaust valves before the starter engages, and holds them open for two crankshaft rotations. Once started, the engine is ready to ride away immediately with no bucking or hesitation. It did backfire infrequently, but loudly, during deceleration.

There is little lash or chassis jacking to mar drivetrain performance, but we had a couple of other complaints. Though the heel-toe shift lever is positioned comfortably, the shifting requires a longish throw between cogs, and we sometimes missed the second-to-third shift. Otherwise, shifting was positive, and the five speeds are well-staged. A back-torque limiter allows the clutch to slip if you muff a downshift, helping to prevent rear-wheel slippage. Though a taller primary ratio raises all of the ratios compared to the 1400, the 1500's low-speed power more than compensates.

Our biggest complaint with the motorcycle centers on the clutch. The clutch is essentially the same component used in the Intruder 1400 and it brings with it the same grabbiness we have experienced with the 1400's clutch. It engages smoothly as long as little power is being transferred. But as soon as you get the rpm up just a little bit, the clutch refuses to engage smoothly. We aren't talking about a high-rpm take-off here, just one where the revs are slightly higher than normal. And we don't mean that it surges a little bit; the clutch grabs as if you had dropped the lever. The problem is compounded by the engagement point which is well out from the grip, almost at the point where the lever slides from your fingers. Add the facts that the levers seemed designed for large hands and that hydraulic actuation leaves little latitude for adjustment (despite the adjustable-position lever), and you have a recipe for problems. If you attempt to beat a car across the intersection when the light changes, your smooth take-off suddenly turns into a five-foot lurch forward as the VL1500's considerable torque is suddenly coupled full-force to the rear wheel. On one occasion this literally pulled the bar from the rider's left hand. (It's hard to grip that bar when your fingertips are barely controlling the lever.) A smooth start requires you to raise the rpm just off idle, ease out the clutch, then accelerate.

The shape of the handlebar also contributes to the difficulty of holding onto the bike when the clutch hits. The bar turns back about 50 degrees, so your hands are turned with the knuckles out. Acceleration forces, therefore, try to pull the grips out of your hands rather than against your fingers. This pull-back design puts the grips far enough rearward so that average-sized riders don't have to lean forward excessively. However, shorter riders will probably have to slide forward to comfortably reach the floorboards, and even our average-sized staffers wish the floorboards were slightly farther rearward.

The rider's saddle, which is 17 inches long, offers plenty of room for fore-and-aft movement; but the eight-inch-wide nose doesn't place as much under you as you get at the back, where it's 16 inches wide. Since it's also relatively flat, free of styling accents that create comfort problems, and thoroughly padded with a foam that's dense enough to support a heavy rider all day -- the ultra-roomy saddle rates as our favorite of any cruiser. The detachable passenger saddle is also roomier and more comfortable than most.

On the highway, the bar shape and forward foot placement make you wish for more wind protection. Despite the pretty chrome fork shield behind the 7.5-inch headlight, a bit more wind seems to hit you than on similar bikes. A windshield tops our list of first changes.

Though adequate, the Intruder 1500's brakes are not exceptional. The rear brake is easy to cover and modulate, which isn't always the case with floorboard-equipped bikes. The front brake is equally controllable and has good power, despite its simple, single-disc, double-action configuration.

The brakes, or at least the rear brake, lead our list of minor complaints. They squeak. So does the horn. The Intruders use separate keys for the ignition and fork locks, a system that has no benefit that we can discern. We did like the dual-tripmeter function of the LCD tripmeter/odometer, though.

With no valves to adjust, no chain to maintain, and a maintenance-free battery, service is pretty simple. Getting to the paper-element air filter requires removal of the cover that forms the dummy tank. This involves removing seven screws, the fuel filler cover, and the wiring leading to the electronic speedometer. Then the removal of four more fasteners admits you to the airbox. The dummy tank also has to be taken off for spark plug removal (recommended every 7500 miles), which also involves removing the front frame-cover plates and the chrome cylinder-head covers. Suzuki recommends changing the oil every 3500 to 4000 miles, with a new spin-on filter every other change. Adding oil requires you to pull off the right engine cover in order to reach the filler hole. A fuel filter for the electric pump is located under the saddle. The 1500's nicely polished cast wheels require no maintenance, and their tubeless tires lessen the likelihood of sudden deflation when punctured. They are also easier to repair on the road. After 2000 miles the bike needed no repairs or adjustments.

One interesting item we observed at Suzuki's introduction for the bike was what happens if it falls off of the sidestand. A couple of bikes demonstrated, and the damage was minimal. Both machines landed on the top cover of the clutch fluid reservoir (which suffered the only perceptible damage), and the floorboard. By polishing the reservoir cover, you could fix it for free.

The 1500 inherits most of the clean detailing of the 1400, with most cables and wires concealed, and covers over many prominent fasteners. It has pretty tank badges, attractive muffler shapes and a nicely finished engine. The front brake caliper is a pretty piece with a silver finish and chrome covers, but the equally visible rear caliper is left black. Brake lines are covered with springs to give them a metallic look and some protection. There are some warts, however. Many of these congregate around the front of the engine -- the battery in its flat-black metal and plastic case, the rear brake master cylinder and reservoir (also black), and the large floorboard brackets.

With its under-$10,000 price, the Intruder 1500 LC shows that it's possible to build a quality big-displacement twin at an alluring price. Beyond that, it offers some special attractions for tall riders, or those who simply want a roomier cruiser than they can get elsewhere. We suspect that styling will be a determining factor for many potential buyers. Some riders dislike the non-traditional location of the fuel tank and some of the other distinctive touches. Others, apparently believing the old saying "you can't be too rich or too fat," fall in love with the bike's ultra-wide, bigger-than-life appearance. We expect to see a lot of Intruder 1500s on the road.

**IN BRIEF

High Points: **Ultra-roomy, super comfortable saddle; Fat's where it's at; Most affordable of wide-look cruisers; Strong power with relaxed highway cadence.
** Low Points: **Grabby clutch makes even semi-quick starts difficult; Some details, like the battery, collide with otherwise excellent detailing; Range is limited for such a comfortable machine.
**First Changes: ** Install a windshield for highway use; Optional fuel gauge would help fuel management.

**RIDING POSITIONS

Elvidge: **Bigger isn't always better, and anyone who buys into that myth should be sentenced to own a 1500 Intruder. I can't get past the look...kind of a cross between a Pacific Coast and a Cuisinart. For me, the best thing going for the 1400 model has always been visual; the way the bike's other components accentuate the beefcake motor. What happened here? Fittingly, the 1500 felt like a slug on the road as well. The only time I experienced exciting acceleration is when the bike's dysfunctional clutch would launch it for a fraction of a second.

Giving an all-new Intruder a chance in the ring with a heavyweight like Kawasaki's Vulcan Classic was a sound idea, but boy, what came out wearing the gloves didn't seem fit for a fight. TKO.

Jamie Elvidge
You can contact Elvidge atJamie.Elvidge@primedia.com.

**Brasfield: **Remember when people didn't call fat "fat" but "prosperous?" Well, I think the 1500LC's designers must have thought porcine was the direction cruising fashion was headed. Unfortunately, my cruiser taste leans toward big-boned, not corpulent. Just one look at the LC had me thinking about Lean Cuisine.

With the exception of the clutch, Suzuki has made one of my favorite engines better. The additional oomph does an admirable job of propelling the LC's formidable weight in almost every situation. Just don't expect 1400-like acceleration, and make sure you have good clutch control or a good grip on the bar. On the plus side, the LC addresses the 1400 Intruder's biggest failing. The LC exhibits none of the flexi-flyer handling problems of the 1400. Shaft effect is non-existent; the front steers slowly but steadily. The newfound stability inspires confidence even if the suspension isn't quite perfect. A bit too much compression damping makes rippled corners exciting, but the LC tracks true despite the jostling. I'll take a slightly harsh suspension over spongy every time.

All in all, I appreciate the Intruder LC's functional improvements over the 1400. But like the past-his-prime athlete who claims "it's not fat; it's muscle," the LC needs to hit the gym to tone up and lose a few pounds, if I'm gonna believe this Intruder isn't just sucking in its gut in an attempt to look buff.

Evans Brasfield
Brasfield, _MOtorcycle Cruiser
's former associate editor, has gotten prosperous and now has his own web site._

**Smith: **There's a whole lot to like in the newest Intruder. In fact, there's a whole lot, period: seven hundred pounds, a liter-and-a-half, 67 inches between axles, and a wider rear tire than some cars have. First time I saw the seat, I figured we could ride two-up on it, side-by-side.

Not that sheer porkiness is necessarily a liability, but it does kind of put me on alert. Did the guys engineering the thing maybe lose track of a detail here and there, along with their sense of restraint? In the 1500LC's case, I think a couple of stitches did indeed get dropped along the way. Take the styling. Its basic proportions look fine, but I'm unimpressed by such touches as the too-crude fork cover behind the headlight. It lacks detailing on the front, and from the cockpit, you stare into its rough backside.

Or, consider the performance. There's enough of it, certainly, but why does the clutch have to grab its friction plates and my attention? Even the comfort has one sour note. The floorboards mount so flat and so far forward that I can't use them as anything but heel rests.

If the devil is in the details, Suzuki needs a little exorcism to make the biggest Intruder hang together for me. _Kevin Smith
Smith, _Motorcycle Cruiser's former editorial director, is now doing the devil's work at Motor Trend, a magazine about vehicles that lean the wrong way in corners.

**Friedman: **Some people think that putting the fuel tank under the seat with a dummy tank up top qualifies as some sort of fakery. Maybe so, but how much performance would Suzuki have sacrificed to do otherwise? If the tank were in the conventional location, a smaller airbox would have been required. That would have reduced performance; either because the extra intake noise meant that Suzuki further muted the exhaust or because the intake was restricted.

The conflicts between traditional and functional are sure to be tested increasingly in the years ahead. The old ways of doing things may not work as well as systems that just look like traditional-style. Buyers will decide what they want. I find other aspects of the Suzuki's styling, such as the battery hung out in front of the engine and the excessively wide fender, to be more troublesome.

Personally, I like the Suzuki pretty well. Its ultra-comfy saddle and the fact that such a big bike is so manageable especially impress me. I think the grabby clutch is a real handicap, however, and it knocks a chunk off of the Suzuki's score for me. Hopefully someone will offer a fix, removing the most serious blemish from a machine that's otherwise pretty nice to ride.

_Art Friedman
You can contact Friedman at _ Art.Friedman@primedia.com _or at _ ArtoftheMotorcycle@hotmail.com.

SPECIFICATIONS
1998 Suzuki Intruder 1500 LC

Designation: VL1500
Suggested base price: $9899
Standard colors: Black/green,yellow/white, brown/beige
Extra cost colors: NA
Standard warranty: 12 mo., unlimited miles
Recommended service interval: 7500 miles

ENGINE & DRIVETRAIN
Type: Air/oil-cooled, 45-degree tandem V-twin
Valve arrangement: SOHC, 2 intake valves, 1 exhaust valve per cylinder, operated by rockers, hydraulic adjusters
Displacement, bore x stroke: 1462cc, 96 x 101mm
Compression ratio: 8.5:1
Carburetion: 2, 36mm Mikuni constant-velocity
Lubrication: Wet sump, 5.0 qt.
Minimum fuel grade: 87 octane
Transmission: Wet multiplate clutch, 5 speeds
Final drive: Shaft, .852:1

CHASSIS
Wet weight: 669 lb, 55% rear wheel
Wheelbase: 66.9 in.
Overall length: 99.4 in
Seat height: 26.7 in.
Rake/trail: 32 degrees / 5.43 in.
Wheels: Cast, 3.50 x 16 in. front, 5.00 x 15 in. rear
Front tire: 150/80-16 Bridgestone G703 tubeless
Rear tire: 180/70-15 Bridgestone G702 tubeless
Front brake: 2 piston, double-action caliper, 11.8-in. disc
Rear brake: 2 piston, double-action caliper, 7.1-in. disc
Front suspension: 41mm stanchions, 5.1 in. travel
Rear suspension: Single damper, 4.6 in. travel, adjustment for preload
Fuel capacity: 4.1 gal.
Handlebar width: 33.3 in. wide, 1.0 in. diameter
Inseam equivalent: 31.2 in.

ELECTRICAL & INSTRUMENTATION
Charging output: 340 watts
Battery: 12v, 14AH, maintenance-free
Forward lighting: 55/60-watt, 7.5-in. headlight, position lights
Taillight: 1 bulb
Instruments: Speedometer, LCD odometer/dual tripmeter; warning lights for neutral, high beam, turn signals, oil pressure, fuel level

PERFORMANCE
Fuel mileage: 31 to 40 mpg, 35.9 mpg average
Average range: 147 miles
RPM at 60 mph, top gear: 2490
200 yard, top-gear acceleration from 50 mph, terminal speed: 71.7 mph
Quarter-mile acceleration: 14.19 sec., 91.9 mph

Additional motorcycle road tests and comparisons are available at the Road Tests section of MotorcycleCruiser.com.

Photography By Tom Riles

Not everything is as it seems on the 1500 LC. The triangular object that appears to be an air filter case actually houses some air-injection emissions plumbing and components. The air filter resides atop the engine under what appears to be the fuel tank. Where is the fuel? Under the seat.

Tuned for low-rpm power with 30 percent more flywheel than the Intruder 1400, the 1500 has a similar 45-degree V angle with the same 45-degree crankpin offset. It also inherits the 1400's three valves (one exhaust, two intakes) per cylinder with hydraulic adjusters. Except for lowered compression and a new pentroof combustion-chamber design, the 1500's cylinder head and valve train share most of the same specs as the 1400. The valve sizes, angles, lift and timing are the same. Oil-cooling is utilized on both cylinder heads. The exhaust ports were shortened to further reduce heat transfer to the heads, and the intake ports are straighter and narrower than the 1400's to increase intake velocity. Plated cylinders permit the use of the same basic cases as the 1400.

_Large chrome metal covers make the engine appear as wide as the fuel tank area and sweep rearward to clean up the looks and distinguish the machine. The bulging cover just behind the crankcase covers the rectifier. The cover behind that unlocks to reach the tool kit. The black side panel above hides the fuel tank. _

Filling the under-seat fuel tank completely is easier than with most conventional tanks. However, the 1500 LC's fuel system does not include a reserve supply or a gauge. The fuel filler lid, with its fake leather-texture finish, is one of the few cheesy-looking pieces on the bike.

Including the chrome fork shield behind the headlight is a distinctive and nice touch, though we wish the designers had chosen to cover the back of the same area as well. The unfinished rear of the fork-top begs for a cover from the aftermarket.

Here is a saddle that you can spend all day on with few regrets come sunset. Wide, flat and constructed from dense enough foam that it still feels good a few hundred miles down the road, the Intruder LC gets our vote for the best seat in the house of cruising. It's 16 inches wide at its broadest point.

The nicely polished alloy of the rear drive housing meshes smoothly with the matching cast wheels; chroming them should be easy. Although not as pleasing to some eyes as wire-spoke wheels, cast wheels with tubeless tires offer a number of maintenance and safety advantages, including easier cleaning.

Suzuki chose some nice shapes for items like pipes.

When we compared it to the similar Kawasaki 1500, the Suzuki wound up in second place, though we felt tall riders might prefer the roomy Suzuki.

Suzuki had a line of accessories already available when the 1500 Intruder LC was launched.

Suzuki has made some updates, including dual front brakes, to the LC since its arrival. The examples above are 2003 models.