When manufacturers launch a new model they aren't wholly literal, but Yamaha tried: Various scribblers were assembled on the aircraft carrier USS Midway, anchored in San Diego Harbor, for a tour and a tech briefing. Although we were given a full explanation of the Midway's steam-powered catapult-capable of launching a 65,000-pound F-14 Tomcat from a dead stop to its 180-mph flying speed in 238 feet-we were not allowed to spark up the fire rooms, build steam and try it out ourselves. Dang.
Yamaha's staging of the V-Max launch on the Midway was meant to imply the powerful, inexorable acceleration of the thoroughly redesigned '09 model, coming a scant 24 years after the original bomb dropped in 1984. Although we didn't ride the new V-Max, the specs make this look less like a wacky PR stunt. And the styling? Well, it's pure V-Max, with the functional air scoops flanking a faux fuel tank-the real thing, as before, is under the seat-stubby exhausts (with EXUP and a catalyst), a prominent radiator and a ducktail rear fender. No pieces are exactly like the original's, but the family resemblance is evident even across the carrier deck.
Let's start at the engine, as the V-Max always has done. Still a V-four configuration, the engine is nevertheless completely new. The vee angle is now 65 degrees, tightened from 70 in the original. Using the same stroke as before, the new engine gets a massive bump in bore to 90mm (from 76) for a total displacement of 1679cc, making the original 1198cc engine seem puny. More modern combustion chambers and a raised compression ratio-11.3:1 versus 10.5-help boost power to a claimed 190 horsepower at the crank; figure on something north of 160 at the 200-width rear tire. To reduce engine bulk, the intake cams are driven by central chains; the exhausts are geared to the intakes.
The '09 V-Max engine is completely...
The '09 V-Max engine is completely new, with a narrower (65-degree from 70-degree) vee angle, humongous 1679cc displacement, and abundant modern technological trickery (YCC-I, YCC-T, EXUP, and so on).
Note the full-size shift light...
Note the full-size shift light attached to the top of the analog tachometer.
Electronics are everywhere. Yamaha employs YCC-T and YCC-I, an updated version of throttle-by-wire with 48mm throttle bodies and variable-length intake funnels (54mm effective above 6650 rpm, 150mm below), to replace the quartet of 35mm Mikuni carburetors. The famed V-Boost system is gone.
While the transmission carries five ratios as before, it propels a new, lighter shaft final drive through a slipper clutch. A single-shock rear suspension, remotely adjustable for spring preload as well as compression and rebound damping, hangs from a die-case aluminum frame that uses the engine as a stressed member. Say goodbye to hoary twin shocks, damping-rod fork and flexy-steel frame. Yamaha says the new assemblage weighs 683 pounds wet; the old V-Max was 580 dry. Despite the new alloy frame, poundage scores a plus, no doubt because the new Max is larger (the wheelbase alone is 4.3 inches longer) with higher-spec components (like the new 52mm, titanium oxide-coated, fully adjustable fork and ABS brakes with six-piston Sumitomo calipers up front).
Bigger and more expensive, too. The last, admittedly very much amortized V-Max sold for $11,199. The '09 model, of which only 2500 units will be built for delivery starting in late October, sells for $17,990. -Marc Cook