2009 Suzuki Boulevard M90 - The Great Compromise

On the face of it, Suzuki's 2009 Boulevard M90 is a compromise-something big and shiny to fill that chasm between the underwhelming 805cc M50 and the 1783cc M109R uber-cruiser for less than $10,000. It's just basic marketing, son: The M109 struck a nerve, so here's the same idea scaled to a nicer price. But "outstanding value" in the brochure copy usually means mind-numbing mediocrity on the road. Be still, my spastic colon-I'm probably missing something good on The Discovery Channel right now. Scanning the particulars over dinner at Tarpy's Roadhouse, the idea of a 1462cc, 723-pound middleweight induces mental acid reflux in literal-minded decoders of corporate happy-speak. Call it heavyweight lite if that makes you feel any better. But after the inevitable overwrought preamble, the M90 press packet describes something more than the usual chromed-and lacquered V-twin concession.

We are talking about two 96 x 101mm cylinders splayed in a 54-degree V. Otherwise, there are enough acronyms in this new eight-valve SOHC lump-not to be confused with the 45-degree, six-valve C90 engine-to fill a GSX-R press kit. Aluminum-alloy slipper-pistons travel in low-friction SCEM-coated bores while 42mm SDTV throttle bodies supply the combustibles and ISC idle control insures a steady resting pulse. PAIR pulsed air-injection disposes of odious unburned hydrocarbons, while we listen to the digitally orchestrated backbeat waiting for that Peet's double Americano to kick in.

Soaking up an improbably clear Monterey Peninsula morning, the M90 silhouette is much easier on our eyes than its extroverted big brother. The look is clean (maybe too clean) with unsightly bits-the rear master cylinder, for instance-tucked out of sight. Other parts are painted, chromed or polished, not hidden behind chrome modesty panels. The speedometer can be tough to read once you're rolling, and that 4.8-gallon gas tank puts your knees a bit too far apart. Otherwise, good looks rarely get in the way of a good time.

The more compact ergonomic package is less of a stretch for the vertically concise than the M109R's, and comfortable enough for 6-footers. Thumb the starter and the new 32-bit engine control module takes care of the rest. Just when you thought we were out of acronyms, the Hayabusa-style SCAS clutch-assist system steps in to ease lever pull. Engagement is a bit sudden, especially when combining 5:15 p.m. traffic with a hot engine. Beyond that, fuel delivery is excellent.

With peak torque arriving at 2600 rpm, a whiff of throttle punts you forward quite smartly. Chug down Cannery Row like a sardine trawler or wick it up a bit for some refreshingly sporty thrust. Either way, relatively tall gearing keeps you in trawler mode below 60 mph in fifth gear, but rubber mounts keep the cockpit smooth in the 70-80-mph sweet spot on the freeway headed south. A quick sprint to 100 mph proves triple digits are more accessible than advisable. Then the first big bump comes through the Kayaba shock hard. Note to self: Seek the smooth pavement. We've had enough of the 75-mph windblast anyway, so let's drop down a gear or two and see how it gets down Highway 1, shall we?

Considerably better than you'd think, thanks. Soft fork springs knuckle under hard braking, and those two-piston Tokico front calipers are a bit short of feel. Squeeze hard when you need to slow things down in a hurry, but this is a cruiser boys and girls. There's a third of a ton and 5.5 feet of daylight between the axles. Tattoo that somewhere on your frontal lobes and it's surprisingly well behaved through the twisty bits past Castle Rock. Mid-corner bumps induce a strange sort of mating dance, but all that wheelbase makes staying on course easy enough. It's plenty good enough for a quick scrape up Jack's Peak just for the view and some soul searching on the sanity of living with a Southern California zip code. Steering is light and neutral on the way down, unspoiled by the phat 200/50-17 rear Bridgestone. Shaft reaction is negligible beyond low gear, but grinding peg feelers mean no mas. Heavy peg brackets are next. After that, it's your ass and don't say we didn't warn you.

Suzuki parks the M90 one full rung and $3100 beneath the top-drawer M109R. But somewhere between Big Sur and Carmel, it feels like the place to be. Unless you really need to roast rear tires and most anybody else's V-twin power cruiser, the alleged compromise is 40 lbs. lighter with better road manners and a more manageable horsepower/handling ratio than its 11-second big brother. The bottom line, these days, is all about the bottom line. Put what you give up against what you get, and if any other big twin delivers more of the good stuff for less than $10,000, we haven't ridden it yet. Hey, maybe compromise isn't such a bad thing after all?

Tech Spec

M109R DNA breathes life and good looks into a new eight-valve version of last year's C90 twin.

Harley-Davidson Super Glide, Honda VTX1300C, Kawasaki Mean Streak, Star V-Star 1300.

Price $9999
Engine type l-c 54-deg. V-twin
**Valve train ** SOHC, 8v
Displacement 1462cc
Bore x stroke 96.0 x 101.0mm
Compression 9.5:1
Fuel system Keihin/Denso EFI
Clutch Wet, multi-plate
Transmission 5-speed
Claimed horsepower na
Claimed torque na
Frame Tubular-steel cradle
Front Suspension Kayaba inverted fork
Rear suspension Kayaba shock with adjustable spring preload
Front brake Twin two-piston Tokico calipers, 290mm discs
Rear brake Two-piston Tokico caliper, 275mm disc
Front tire 120/70-ZR18 Bridgestone G851
Rear tire {{{200}}}/50-ZR17 Bridgestone G850
Rake/trail 32.0/4.3 in.
Seat height 28.2 in.
Wheelbase 66.5 in.
Fuel capacity 4.8 gallons
Claimed dry weight 672 lbs.
Colors Black, blue, red
Available Now
Warranty 12 mo./unlimited mi.

American Suzuki Motor Corp.
3251 E. Imperial Hwy
Brea, CA 92821

Verdict 4 stars out of 5
The best big-inch power cruiser $9999 can buy.

They say: "A cruiser that connects on a visceral level."
We say: "What's more visceral than 90 cubic inches for $9999?"
The optional sporty seat cowl snaps on in place of the standard M90 pillion pad, which is easier on the passenger's derriere than it is on your eyes.
The chrome speedo pod includes an LCD clock and fuel gauge. The 1-inch diameter bar is situated close enough to let you lean into the wind.
The faux hardtail layout conceals a steel-bodied Kayaba shock ahead of the driveshaft. Ham-fisted throttle work incites some shaft effect in low gear.