Seeing Double: Kawasaki Mean Streak and Suzuki Marauder 1600 Motorcycles

Though they wear different brands, these two 1600s are essentially the same, the first streetbikes sold under the agreement between Kawasaki and Suzuki to share models and development efforts. By Art Friedman.

Though selling the same basic vehicle under two brand names has become common in the automotive world, the practice is a comparative rarity in the motorcycle market. A few Royal Enfield vertical twins were sold as Indians in the 1950s. In the late 1960s, Laverda 750 twins and models other from other makers were sold under the American Eagle brand in the U.S. Evel Knievel even rode one for a while. Korea's Hyosung motorcycles are imported here bearing the Alphasports brand and elswehere with other names. Aprilia has built a few models for BMW.

However, the first time that two major motorcycle brands shared models was when Kawasaki and Suzuki announced that they would do so a few years ago, beginning with versions of the same dirt bikes. The first street bike to arrive here under that agreement is the Kawasaki Mean Streak 1600/Suzuki Marauder 1600. A number of readers have inquired about the differences between the two bikes.

The short answer is that the differences are quite minor, and all of them are essentially cosmetic, not functional. Both bikes are built by Kawasaki and are a minor variation on the Vulcan 1500 Mean Streak, using the 1552cc "1600" engine instead of the 1470cc "1500" engine in last year's Meanie. The Mean Streak was one of our top picks in our 2002 Big Twins comparison, and trhe 1600 versions of the bike are still quite pleasing. The most noticeable difference between the Kawasaki 1500 Mean Streak and this 1600 drivetrain is that the new engine's clutch engages a bit more abruptly. The seats of our pants are debating if there is any more power down low in the 1552cc engine, but if so, it's not much.

Both Kawasaki and Suzuki versions of the 1600 have the same frame, suspension (air-adjustable in back and an upside-down fork up front), brakes, gas tanks, and other major components. Even some items that we thought would be changed to create a visual separation -- front fender, seat, wheels, mirrors, etc. -- are the same on both bikes. The Marauder, which as the largest-displacement bike in Suzuki's cruiser line-up becomes its defacto cruiser flagship, also gets some features -- such as the headlight not turning on until the engine starts and automatic neutral-finding -- that were previously exclusive to Kawasakis. Even the suggested price is the same no matter which dealer you walk into: $10,999.

The list of differences between the two machines is short, and shown in the photos you see here. The biggest is probably the back end, where the Kawasaki retains the sweeping fender and low-profile headlight of past Mean Streaks and the Suzuki has a tailsection with a conventional taillight hung below it. Most people seem to prefer the Kawasaki treatment out back. The Marauder's more stylized headlight treatment drew more frequent appreciative noises than the Mean Streak's standard headlight bucket. Above the headlights, the instrument faces in the tachometer and speedometer are different, and there is a Suzuki logo set into the top triple clamp on the Marauder. The airbox covers are the final visual difference. Kawasaki uses a plain, snooth chrome finish on the Mean Streak's dual airboxes, while the Marauder airboxes have a ribbed insert. We suspect that some owners will mix and match these features to customize theior rides.

Since some dealers who carry both brands, it will be interesting to see which version proves more popular in showrooms. We also wonder if Suzuki, which has always priced aggressively, undercuts the Mean Streak's price in the future.

We expect the model-sharing to continue in the future. We anticipate that Suzuki will add a version of the Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 to its line, particularly when the touring version we expect for that bike arrives. There has been some speculation that Kawasaki might put a variation of Suzuki's 800 Volusia in its line too, since none of the Vulcan 800s have the Volusia's shaft drive, which is a popular feature.

We have gathered these two 1600s in preparation for our June-issue semi-big twins (V-twins over 1300cc but under 1700cc) comparison. We wanted to be sure that there was no reason include both in that test.

For our full selection of motorcycle road tests and comparison tests is available at the Road Tests section of MotorcycleCruiser.com.

Both the 1600s are available in black or blue, and the Kawasaki is also available in this green.
The Suzuki gets a stylized visor and stretched shell.
The Kawasaki versions has a conventional headlight.
The Kawasaki has a full wrap-around fender and a low-profile taillight.
_A tailsection added to the Marauder is the clearest difference between the two. _
Each machine has a different treatment on the dual airboxes. The Meanie's is smooth and rounded.
The Marauder's dual airboxes have ribbed inserts and a slightly less rounded shape overall.
The Marauder gets its own tank badges.
Kawasaki adds a small tank graphic to the Mean Streak.
Each bike gets its own instrument faces.
Each bike gets its own instrument faces.
Suzuki adds a small badge to the top triple clamp.
Suzuki adds a small badge to the top triple clamp.
Suzuki adds a small badge to the top triple clamp.
Suzuki adds a small badge to the top triple clamp.
Each bike gets its own instrument faces.
Each bike gets its own instrument faces.