Thankfully, the V-Max stops and goes around corners almost as well as it handles accelerating in a straight line, and Star engineers have done an impressive job in containing the huge engine's power. The front brakes, with wave-type rotors and R1-spec calipers, have very good initial bite and feedback, although understandably a hefty pull is required for serious stopping power. The bike's ABS-based on the FJR1300's system-is not as seamless as I remember it being on the sport touring rig, and kicked in unexpectedly early on the rear end a few times. Up front it felt more sorted the few times I experimented with it.
Turning into a corner requires surprisingly little input to the wide handlebar. Grip from the V-Max-specific Bridgestones is very good and the Star is plenty stable once in a turn-although the 200-series rear tire will try to take control in mid-speed sweepers, requiring some handlebar input to hold a line. There is enough jacking effect from the shaft drive that you'll want to be extra cautious on the throttle (probably a good idea anyway), but this task is made a bit difficult by an abrupt throttle. Initial off/on response is clean and smooth, but open the throttle too quickly from there and the engine will hesitate momentarily, setting off all the things you'd expect a shaft-driven, 685-pound motorcycle to do.
While the V-Max falls into turns easily, lifting it up from full lean is another matter and a snaking road with switchbacks will wear you out quickly. Cornering prowess is not the V-Max's forte, but the bike is much more adept than the old model (based even on my limited time on an original V-Max) and much better than I had anticipated. Unleash the power with appropriate respect and planning, and you can make good time down a canyon road and maybe even surprise some unsuspecting sportbike riders. But who are we kidding anyway? This bike is all about the straights between the turns, and in gobbling up that part of a road the V-Max's addictive rush has no equal.
Star has plenty of accessories...
Star has plenty of accessories for the V-Max, including these beautiful carbon fiber scoops to replace the brushed aluminum stock bits.
Wind protection is about as you'd expect from a standard and the counterbalanced engine is quite smooth, with only a hint of both high- and low-frequency vibrations through the footpegs. The transmission ratios in the smoothly shifting five-speed gearbox are closed up overall from the original's, but have a much larger gap between fourth and top that leaves the engine loafing on the freeway. The drivetrain points toward long-distance comfort but the stiff seat and harsh rear suspension-most likely stiff to help reduce shaft jacking-left me sore and tired after a 140-mile day. You'll be stopping often if you plan on taking Mr. Max on a trip anyway, as the underseat fuel tank has only four-gallons capacity and the engine is thirsty; the low-fuel light on my bike came on at just 70 miles. Granted, those were mostly spent with the rear tire doing its best Marlboro Man impersonation, but you get the idea.
Star's "ultimate power cruiser" certainly lives up to its name, and its performance on roads that aren't straight spills over into sportbike territory. Star plans to import just 2500 units for '09 under a priority delivery program, and getting your fix will require placing an order in advance. Yes, it's a cruiser and I was as skeptical as any sportbike rider would be when the Boss instructed me to attend the introduction. But I was hooked after just a couple of twists of the throttle, and I'm planning to nab the key of our test bike as soon as it arrives.
2009 Star V-Max
Type: Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 65-degree V-four, 4 valves/cyl.
Bore x stroke: 90 x 66mm
Compression ratio: 11.3:1
Induction: Mikuni EFI with YCC-1, YCC-T, 48mm throttle bodies, one injector/cyl.
Front tire: 120/70R-18 Bridgestone BT-028F G
Rear tire: 200/50R-18 Bridgestone BT-028R G
Rake/trail: 31 deg./5.8 in. (148mm)
Wheelbase: 66.9 in. (1700mm)
Seat height: 30.5 in. (775mm)
Fuel capacity: 4.0 gal. (15L)
Claimed wet weight: 685 lbs (311kg)