2009 Star V-Max - Mad Max Is Back!

It happens every time the tach strikes 6650 rpm. Grab a handful of fly-by-wire throttle and hang on. Tight. The 1679cc V-4 growls like a heavyweight Jurassic Fight Club contender, squats down and pulls your arms straight. By 9000 rpm, an alleged 197 horses are headed for the pavement and whatever was way down there is right here, right now. Breathe. Smile. Repeat. It's like having your own steam catapult without worrying about where to dock the aircraft carrier.

Welcome to the 2009 Star V-Max, long-awaited successor to the bike that soiled a million shorts in 1985. It's 481cc bigger and 64 horsepower stronger. Civilized as the family Camry when it needs to be, this one leaves huge black marks on the pavement and big, stupid smiles under helmets just as easily. We expected something big after a 23-year wait, but nobody quite expected this.

Yamaha's research said committed V-Max riders-as if there were another kind-wanted a roomier, more comfortable riding position and better handling. Oh, and don't forget the V-Boost afterburner effect at 6000 rpm. Engineers went to work on all that in the mid-'90s, and while the running prototype they came up with was very big and very, very fast, it wasn't a V-Max. Man doth not live by horsepower alone. It has to be the right kind of power, coming from an engine with the right feel. Acceleration without character is just a commodity, and Yamaha wanted something you couldn't get in anybody else's showroom. And so, to the eternal chagrin of the accounting department, they started over.

Give your eyes time to adjust, and it looks like the Star design boffins hit this nail dead center...with a 20-lb. sledgehammer. The big-block soul is here, but the '80s weren't invited. True to the bigger-is-better hot-rod mantra, there's more of everything, but not too much. The new bike is big: 3.7 inches longer than before, and 61 lbs. heavier according to the factory spec sheet. Climb on and the first thing you notice is a more accommodating riding position. The low, flat handlebar is 15mm higher and 25mm farther back. Footpegs are just 2mm lower than before, but shifted 36mm to the rear, while the broad, flat seat is about a half-inch higher.

The result is roomy enough if you're 5'10", but marginal for anyone on the long side of six-feet tall. Everything below that seat is wide enough to make sub-six-footers stretch for the pavement. Lanky types end up straddling the signature air scoops-they're functional on the latest version-or sliding under them. The seat's rear bolster keeps you from sliding backward under the rocket-sled acceleration that lurks just beyond 7000 rpm. The closer you look, the clearer it becomes that Japan sweated over the details on this one.

The sun catches subtle red flakes in the Intense Black paint that match stitching in the seat. The suitably huge 10,000-rpm tachometer is inset with a digital speedo-meter, and there's an adjustable shift light offset to the right. Really, you can't miss it. A luminescent display set in what would be a fuel tank on most bikes-the 13-liter airbox lives underneath here-tells the upscale stoplight-to-stoplight warrior everything he or she needs to know: time, temperature, gear position, even throttle angle if you're interested.

After the obligatory technical explanations and way too much coffee, the only thing we're interested in is pulling the trigger on this thing. Despite a pathological need to horrify any member of the landed gentry towing an overstuffed Callaway golf bag, smoky burnouts are quite dclass here at the Rancho Bernardo Inn Golf Resort & Spa. Perhaps a more rural location would be more appropriate?

Children point, Mercedes-driving soccer moms sneer and wonder if the house is locked, but the 'Max is pure composure in upscale urbane traffic. Fueling is essentially perfect, the clutch is perfectly linear, shifting is easy but superfluous with an engine that pulls cleanly from 1200 rpm and accepts as much throttle as you have room for from 2000 upward. Shift at 5000 rpm and the Star still lunges through traffic like Usain Bolt at a junior high track meet. The listed 685-lb. wet weight feels about right avoiding the waddling duffer armadas common to any country club parking lot. This is a big, heavy motorcycle, but above 35 mph, you hardly notice.

Out on the I-15, top cog in the five-speed box and 3900 rpm on the enormous tach equal a smooth 70 mph, with just enough V-4 throb through the bars and pegs to let you know there's serious business under the hood. Those stubby mufflers say the same. Mr. Max never seeks to offend, but he doth not suffer fools, either. Non-existent wind protection, 4 gallons of fuel in a plastic tank under the seat and one very thirsty V-4 conspire against longer hauls anyway.

Staring down a long, straight stretch of rural pavement, it's finally time to let the big guy off his leash. Pin the throttle and the V-4's flat, tractable delivery puts 100 mph on the speedo quicker than you can say, "License and registration please," and there's a whole lot more where that came from. Objective measurements will have to wait until they square off at the drag strip, but the V-Max feels every bit as quick as Suzuki's B-King, and no less fun to ride. According to ace triggerman Jay Gleason, who made the '85 'Max the quickest production bike in captivity with a 10.42-second pass, the '09 version is sneaky fast. Given enough grip at the line, he figures it's not a question of whether it would get into the nines, but how far.

How far is sort of a recurring theme on this mission-as in how far can you go without ending up in a CHP cruiser or the emergency ward? In these Northern San Diego County twisty bits, the answer is farther than you'd think. Not far enough to sniff at a well-ridden Hayabusa's tail light, but that rock-solid chassis and admirably compliant suspension get the 'Max around corners more quickly than anything this big and heavy has a right to. With a little help from the rear brake, those six-piston front calipers and 320mm discs haul the Sumo-sized lad down to comfortably sporty-cornering speeds with a firm two-finger squeeze, and more feel than initial bite. Standard ABS never intervenes prematurely, which is as it should be.

Flick isn't a word we'd use around a motorcycle that's flirting with 700 lbs., but this one arcs in nicely, with none of its ancestor's mid-corner rodeo-bull behavior. The long wheelbase, relatively lazy steering geometry and a refreshingly flex-free chassis make the 'Max dead stable around fast sweepers. Take your pick on the exits: Surf that wave of torque, shift at 6000 rpm and save the tire, or stay in the throttle and let 'er spin. Shaft effect is minimal most of the time, but all that power starts to push the rear suspension around above 8000. Whatever you do, don't do it too far from a ready supply of super unleaded. Under admittedly enthusiastic riding, we got between 26 and 32 mpg. If you were planning to slide one past the family CFO, don't try it with those numbers.

The $17,990 sticker price probably won't help your cause either. But go back over all the work that went into it and the level of performance that comes out. No price-point V-Max could come close to this one. Chip-controlled 48mm throttle bodies do the work instead of cables and linkages and four 35mm carburetors, but once you grab a handful, all you want is another one.

Hard Parts
Don't dare call it a Yamaha

Combustibles enter through a quartet of 48mm Mikuni throttle bodies and YCC-I variable-length velocity stacks: 150mm up to 6650 rpm and 54mm from there to the 9500-rpm redline. Despite bigger, 90mm ceramic-coated bores paired with the original-recipe 66mm stroke inside an integrated cylinder/crankcase casting, the new 1679cc eyeball-flattener is more compact where it counts: 27mm shorter across the heads and 7mm shorter overall. How? Chain-drive intake cams geared to exhaust cams allow a 29-degree included valve angle that keeps top-end dimensions tight and permits optimal placement in the frame. Cylinders are arrayed in a 65-degree angle, 5 degrees narrower than the 1198cc version that prowled the streets from 1985 to 2007. It takes 6.2 quarts of oil vs. 5.0 for the old 1198cc V-4. At 606mm, it's 6.5mm taller than before. Forged pistons and fracture-split carburized connecting rods spin the 180-degree crankshaft, while a single contra-rotating balance shaft squelches offending vibration. A 4-1-2-4 exhaust system-complete with torque-boosting EXUP valves, three-way catalytic converters and closed-loop oxygen sensors-turns noise into beautiful music. Cam covers are magnesium; muffler cans are titanium.

Denso builds the brains for the beast: a 32-bit EFI CPU, integrated with a pair of processors that run the YCC-T fly-by-wire throttle system, all in one little black box. The computer samples ambient data from 15 separate sensors 1000 times every second to make the smartest fueling decisions and optimize throttle response. Data readout atop the faux fuel tank shows odometer and trip data, plus a fuel gauge, gear indicator, coolant temperature, fuel consumption, intake air temperature, throttle-valve angle, stopwatch and countdown timer. Using rows and columns of organic materials printed on polymer film, the compact electroluminescent display doesn't need to be backlit, so it's thinner and draws less current.

There's enough torque to get by with a three-speed, but the new gearbox offers five cogs just the same. Goodbye,'85-spec diaphragm: The '09 gets a hydraulic ramp-type slipper clutch that's stronger and much better behaved, squeezing 19 plates with six coil springs. Shaft drive uses a dual cross-joint design and smaller final-drive cogs to make room for that phat 200mm-wide rear tire.

The twin-spar main frame is cast aluminum, varying wall thickness from 3 to 6mm. The bolt-on subframe combines aluminum die-castings and extrusions. The swingarm is cast aluminum as well, carrying a rising-rate linkage that bolts to the top of the diagonally mounted rear shock.

Wheels And Brakes
Cast-aluminum five-spoke wheels are news at both ends. The 3.5 x 18-inch front carries wave-type 320mm rotors grasped by radial-mount six-piston Sumitomo calipers, cued by a Brembo radial master cylinder. A single-piston Akebono caliper and 298mm wave rotor handle rear braking chores. Bridgestone BT028 radial rubber was designed specifically for Mad Max.

A titanium-oxide coating on those 52mm fork tubes cuts nasty stiction. They live 225mm apart in aluminum triple clamps-the upper cast, the lower forged-with 30mm of offset. The sliders are extruded aluminum, while the axle carrier is cast aluminum. The Soqi fork is adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping, as is the Soqi shock. Remote adjusters make dialing-in the rear suspension a blissfully tool-free experience.

Tech Spec

The brutally sophisticated sequel to Yamaha's original 133-horsepower blunt instrument called the 1985 V-Max.

BMW K1200R, Kawasaki Z1000, Suzuki B-King, Triumph Rocket III.

Price $17,990
Engine type l-c 65-deg. V-four
Valve train DOHC, 16v
Displacement 1679cc
Bore x stroke {{{90}}}.0 x 66.0mm
Compression 11.3:1
Fuel system EFI
Clutch Wet, multi-plate
Transmission 5-speed
Claimed horsepower 197 bhp @ {{{9000}}} rpm
Claimed torque 122 lb.-ft. @ 6500 rpm
Frame Aluminum twin-spar with aluminum swingarm
Front suspension 52mm Soqi fork, adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Rear suspension Soqi shock, adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Front brake Dual Sumitomo six-piston calipers, 320mm discs
Rear brake Single Akebono single-piston caliper, 298mm disc
Front tire 120/70R-18 Bridgestone BT028F
Rear tire {{{200}}}/50R-18 Bridgestone BT028R
Rake/trail 31.0°/5.8 in.
Seat height 30.5 in.
Wheelbase 66.9 in.
Fuel capacity 4.0 gal.
Claimed dry weight 661 lbs.
Color Black
Available Now
Warranty 24 mo./unlimited mi.

**Contact **
Yamaha Motor Corp., USA
6555 Katella Ave.

Verdict 4.5 stars out of 5
Officially the most fun you can have with two wheels on straight pavement, yet it gets around corners well enough if you're into that.

They say: "The muscle bike to end all muscle bikes. Commanding respect. Triggering fear."
We say: "Be afraid. Be very afraid"
Each air scoop takes 40 minutes to hand polish. They feed a 13-liter airbox under a plastic cover that sits where the fuel tank would normally be. The V-Max carries 4.0 gallons of super-unleaded in a plastic tank under the seat.
Just 2500 of these are coming to the U.S., but you have to lay down $1000 by October 31st to get one, complete with a numbered commemorative plaque and two-year warranty. Delivery is scheduled for late October through early November.
The best shock you've never seen is easily adjustable thanks to the miracle of hydraulics. Separate dials let you tune spring preload, compression and rebound damping in seconds without tools.
Despite bigger 90mm bores, a tidy chain/gear cam-drive narrows included valve angle, making the 1679cc V-4 compact enough to move forward in the frame, putting more weight on the front wheel to optimize chassis balance.
Six-piston radial-mount Sumitomo calipers and 320mm wave-type rotors trade initial bite for reassuringly linear feel. ABS is part of the equation, but never takes over prematurely.