HONDA XL1000V VARADERO (2001-2010) Review

Published: 23 November 2006

"Hasn't matched the success of the BMW R1150GS"

Honda XL1000 Varadero motorcycle review - Riding

"Hasn't matched the success of the BMW R1150GS"

Overall Rating 3 out of 5

In theory: the Honda XL1000V Varadero is a great idea; take the funky Firestorm motor and put it inside an adventure touring chassis. But the result didn’t live up to that and the Honda XL1000V Varadero hasn’t matched the success of the BMW R1150GS. Whileit has bags of comfort, luggage capacity and grunt, its thirsty engine, top heavy handling and plain Jane looks haven’t helped it win friends.

Ride Quality & Brakes 3 out of 5

The Honda XL1000V Varadero's chassis isn’t bad, but the soft front forks let the Varadero down, diving under hard braking. Some owners, especially bigger blokes, fit stiffer springs and heavier fork oil. The soft-ish, very comfortable suspension does keep two people, plus luggage, thrumming happily along all day however.

Engine 4 out of 5

The Firestorm motor of the Honda XL1000V Varadero is very tough, makes lots of lowdown poke and feels relaxed at motorway speeds. Apart from its heavy thirst for unleaded it’s hard to fault and generally lasts 50K miles before showing signs of serious wear. The facelifted 2003-onwards Varaderos feature fuel injection and a sixth overdrive gear, which makes the motor that bit more suitable for the job of long distance biking.

Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5

Build quality of the Honda XL1000V Varadero is generally very good. The only weak areas appear to be the exhaust system, which rusts quite easily and a dodgy sidestand cut-out switch – which was fixed via a factory recall. Owners tend to look after them, so with a service history and soft resale values, the Varadero makes a good used buy.

Insurance, running costs & value 3 out of 5

The Honda XL1000V Varadero is slightly cheaper than the BMW R1150GS/R1200GS, but loses its resale value a little bit quicker. On the upside, it seems more popular than something like an Aprilia Caponord…but then so are Keith Harris and Orville. Like most adventure touring bikes, the Varadero needs hard luggage, heated grips and other accessories to do the full 3000 mile touring gig. Find a Honda XL1000 Varadero for sale.

Insurance group: 13 of 17 – compare motorcycle insurance quotes now.

Equipment 4 out of 5

The Honda XL1000V Varadero comes with the Combined Braking System which links both front and rear discs, splitting the braking force between them. Some like it, some don’t. The XL1000 also features a decently tall fairing screen, generous exhaust heat shields for the passenger’s legs, plus handguards.

Owners' Reviews

40 owners have reviewed their HONDA XL1000V VARADERO (2001-2010) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

Review your HONDA XL1000V VARADERO (2001-2010)
Summary of Owners' Reviews
Overall Rating 4.2 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4.1 out of 5
Engine 4.3 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4.6 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4.3 out of 5
Equipment 3.9 out of 5
4 out of 5

Victor the varadero has gone.

15 January 2016 by Markemark

I've just traded my Varadero in but it will be missed. When I bought this bike they were called giant trailies and were not even on most people's radar. A great bike, yes it's a bit heavy and top heavy at that but you soon get used to it. Read more

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
I would not call the suspension soggy, I think squishy is more appropriate. But squishy is comfy. I did service the forks but didn't feel it necessary to but in heavier fork oil or up rated springs and I'm quite a large 15 stone bloke. I did, however, replace the rear shock with a hagon which improved the rear end especially with luggage.
Engine
4 out of 5
Very progressive, a little vibey under 2500rpm, and just above 6000 seemed to really pick up and take off. Most day to day riding tho was spent trundling around in between these two marks in the plentiful mid range.
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
Only one reliability issue during 11 years and 35000 miles (cdi/igniter box) It was very reliable. Other bikes came and went during my ownership but this one always stayed.
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
My bike had had 5 previous owners when I bought it so none of them had kept it very long, and going by its condition none of them had looked after it that well either. I think it is testament to Honda build quality that it looks no different now than it did when I bought it other than a little extra rust on the exhaust mid section, and I didn't exactly pamper it. It got used year round and even did 2 elephant rallies as well as European touring and general use. If you were heavy handed fuel consumption would drop through the floor, 26 mpg was my worst, but cruise along the autobahn at 75-80 and it was capable of mid forties.
Equipment
4 out of 5
I fitted a touring scottoiler...what a great piece of kit, kept chain adjustment to an absolute minimum. if you don't have one of these on a chain driven touring bike get one. Full givi luggage, crash bars (which saved the fairing on more than one occasion) and a touring screen and heated grips got fitted too, all well worthwhile. I liked this bike so much it has been a tough decision as to wether I keep it or trade it in.
5 out of 5

The Churchill of bikes: a fat, heavy drinker - but a Great nonetheless.

18 September 2015 by Chazmania87

Put it this way: at 13 years old and with 20k on the clock, the Varadero was still desirable enough to be stolen from right outside my house. I still have both the keys so Burglar Bill must have been able to lift up the 270kg behemoth. Bought... Read more the bike somewhat by accident - I'd gone out with a mind to buy a Deauville: something soft and practical. I certainly did not regret the decision. In some ways what are described as faults with the Varadero - the linear (some would say "flat") power delivery, the top-heavy nature, the fact that it looks like the north end of a pig going south - are advantages in disguise. The linear power delivery means that- whether you're coming out of a tight corner, or pulling out of the entrance slip road to a motorway, or just riding in the greasy rain of a late summer's day - you can just hammer it and the bike will deliver without sending you sideways into a wall. Regarding the top heaviness: it actually means that turn-in is made easier because the bike will react easily to movements. This is particularly useful in heavy traffic/filtering, where quick left-right-left at low speeds and high lean are made easier by the pendulum-like nature of the bike. This manoeuvrability is of course aided by the arm-chair like comfort and wide handlebars. The ugliness means that, at least until it was stolen, it was largely ignored by passers-by. This is not a poser bike, and unlike my past bikes - the Dragstar 125, my Fazer FZS 600, and my 2002 Triumph Thunderbird - the Varadero was never once pushed over in the street or in the car park; expensive tragedies that befell all the pretty bikes I had previously. With the tall windscreen, crashbars, touring panniers and top box it really is the most practical bike you can get for the money: all day touring with great weather protection (no need to wear a scarf of balaclava in winter), no costs if you inevitably drop it (see above about top-heaviness), and the top box and panniers mean you can go to the supermarket and fit a week's shopping in it. All excellent. The one downside - and it is an expensive one - is that around town it really would only do 6 miles to the litre, which is HumVee territory. Very nearly a deal breaker if it weren't for the fact that this do-everything bike is quite incomparable to any other machine. So in short: it will do fun, it will do practical, and it will do heavy drinking.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
Very comfortable. Dive solved by virtue of replacement fork oil. Brakes had a tendency to go a bit wooden if pressed solidly into service (such as in the event of a the-light-is-going-yellow-got-to-get-over-the-lights-oh-god-I-need-to-turn-just-after-the-lights-I've-accelerated-towards-slam-the-brakes moment)
Engine
4 out of 5
My old FZS 600 had 95 horses, and above about 7k revs you suddenly went light-speed. Accordingly, it actually felt like it had the beans. The Varadero is completely flat up the power curve, which is good or bad depending on your perspective. Great with a pillion though - the torque means that even your most obese passenger makes no difference to the get-go.
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
Bulletproof, and with the crashbars, pretty hard to damage either. Solid construction, apparently not solid enough to stop it getting nicked, though.
Value & Running Costs
3 out of 5
Service intervals about 4000 miles - not too bad. Goes through tires at a rate of knots though because of the weight. Drinks petrol as if it has a partnership with the Sheikhs.
Equipment
3 out of 5
No fuel gauge. Seriously. WW1 planes had fuel gauges, and in 2002 Honda thought it more important to have an engine thermometer. Unacceptable in a vehicle where it really pays to know how much jungle juice you have left.
Buying experience

Dealer.

4 out of 5

03 September 2015 by Eslam Yehia

I like it a lot when it comes to long rides, but the engine becomes very hot and its tempreature increases to the top when ride in a traffic jam Read more

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
-
Engine
5 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
3 out of 5
-
Equipment
3 out of 5
-
4 out of 5

16 July 2015 by Olde Will

My second Vara. I bought the first one in 2003, and swapped for a new one in 2010. It's probably time to get a different bike now though as I've stopped touring and am too old to manage the top heaviness of this bike. I've loved both and put some... Read more good miles on the first one, but not so many on the new one. They are hugely under-rated, even though one was raced in the Manx Grand Prix (didn't win).

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
Only problem I've had was full luggage and two grown fellas on board. Braking was not up to scratch - my fault for not anticipating! They are top heavy, especially with a full top box, panniers and six foot plus passenger.
Engine
5 out of 5
A real workhorse
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
4 out of 5
very variable, but not unreasonable
Equipment
4 out of 5
Should have had heated grips.
Buying experience

Both times from dealers

5 out of 5

Great long distance traveller

16 December 2013 by PanagiotisKavala

Well, I'm very partial in my review but I love this bike. Had it since 1999, 0 km. Been around Greece and Europe and never put a foot wrong. Changed the shoggy suspention with ohlins front and rear and can move to the rythm of much-much faster bikes... Read more in the Dolomiti Passes we visit every other year. Impecable brakes, outstanding built quality, great miles-eating ability. In these past fourteen years the only things that needed attention were the fuel pump and the alternator, the two weak points of the bike, they were changed not because they failled but for my peace of mind. Oh yes, and one of the two taillight lamps.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
-
Engine
5 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
4 out of 5
-
4 out of 5

Great real-world bike

19 May 2013 by Classicblade

I have been motorcycling for over 30 years and have experienced the whole range of bikes over that period. I bought a Varadero new in 2009 and without doubt it is the most USEFULL bike I have ever owned. I have been all over Europe on it (mainly with... Read more my good lady). Its not a sports bike, its not on off road bike, its not commuter. What it is is 80% of all of them - and in the REAL WORLD that adds up to a really great bike. It will cruise all day 2-up with luggage in comfort at 100mph, it will struggle up snow covered roads in the Pyrenees, it will scramble up tracks over looking the Cote-D'Azur. It has never missed a beat and had nothing other than normal servicing. Don't be fooled by some old 10yr old review by someone who rode one for a day or 2, these are great bikes.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
-
Engine
4 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
4 out of 5
-
Equipment
5 out of 5
-
4 out of 5

Underated

23 November 2012 by Anonymous

Never ever saw myself on a bike such as this but after excepting invite to go touring round Spain with the GS boys needed something more suited than my Superduke. Mine's 2003 first of FI ones, fitted with full luggage, Hagon suspension and high... Read more screen. What amazed me is the ride and handling of such a big bike. Its very heavy which you feel setting off (and in danger of toppling you) but once fast enough to lift your feet, it just disappears. Acceleration although not quick is smooth. The ride and handling is excellent for such a large bike, but you can tell the uprated suspension does a lot for this. Comfort is ok, the seat if anything probably too soft and will be better to a lighter chap. Build quality on mine good but did see a few shockers when looking around. Its not the typical wash and go Honda but shown a little care does keep its shine. Screen although larger than standard whistled around my head but after reading about tap washers on a review on here did some alterations to move the screen forward. Revelation, makes touring distance so much easier. Will try if similar problems on future bikes. Luggage is Kappa not Honda stuff. Robust and waterproof, however panniers do stick out a long way preventing some filtering and wind drag makes bike sluggish above 85. Now for touring leave them at home and use tankbag, top box and strap roll bag to back seat. Fuel wise everyone keeps telling me how poor they are. Complete rubbish, generally get 45mpg and with such a large tank can get nearly 250 miles. I'm converted, it's a really underrated bike, if it was much lighter and more powerful it would be fantastic. I'm looking at the next generation of adventure bikes but for the world of me can't see them worth 4 times my Varadero.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
-
Engine
3 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
4 out of 5
-
4 out of 5

Use your head !

02 August 2012 by Hyabusa1340

to only achieve 35 mpg would indicate that you either need a sports bike or anger management counselling. If, like me, 900 miles in 36 hours floats your boat - get Vara. Wonderful V-twin, great view of the action. I admit that a new custom seat... Read more from Melvin in Coventry really transformed the comfort. What a Bike!

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
-
Engine
5 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
4 out of 5
-
4 out of 5

Mileage

13 July 2012 by DaveyM

I bought a used 07 plate 2 months ago and 2 up, with luggage loaded, at 75mph I'm seeing 45mpg. If I do a non motorway route I can get 50mpg so there's no truth in your road test re bikes from about 2003 onwards Read more

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
-
Engine
4 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
4 out of 5
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4 out of 5

update this listing!

30 May 2012 by davsato

this listing is way out of date, the 2001-2003 differences make it an almost different bike. the 2007 update was only cosmetic. the Fi varadero is NOT thirsty, MCN keep rolling out that old cliche, it is right up there with the GS, V-strom, guzzi... Read more etc. ive done an 850mi tour of the lakes and dales and averaged 54mpg and i wasnt hanging around. talking to other owners its also a lot more reliable than a GS too, buy a GS and expect at least 2 warranty issues. one guy i know is on his fourth final drive in 4 years, ive had to replace a tail bulb and an exhaust seal in 5 years, and i take mine offroading on salisbury plain. its also a lot more comfortable, too comfy to be honest, the seat could do with a bit less padding to make it narrower for standing up offroad. the only thing that i would say to prospective buyers to think about is the weight, if you can cope then its a great bike.

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
-
Engine
5 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
4 out of 5
-
Equipment
3 out of 5
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Read all 40 owners' reviews in full

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 2001
Year discontinued 2010
Original price £8,500
Used price £2,000 to £5,500
Warranty term (when new) Two year unlimited mileage
Running costs
Insurance group 13 of 17
Annual road tax £82
Annual service cost £310
Performance
Max power 93 bhp
Max torque 72 ft-lb
Top speed 125 mph
1/4-mile acceleration 12.9 secs
Average fuel consumption 35 mpg
Tank range 180 miles
Specification
Engine size 996cc
Engine type 8v V-twin, 6 gears
Frame type Steel tubular type
Fuel capacity 25 litres
Seat height 843mm
Bike weight 241kg
Front suspension Preload
Rear suspension Preload, rebound
Front brake Twin 296mm discs
Rear brake 256mm disc
Front tyre size 110/80 x 19
Rear tyre size 150/70 x 17

History & Versions

Model history

1999: Honda XL1000 Varadero launched.
2003: Updated version launched; new bodywork panels, headlights, screen, extra 6th gear in engine, bigger fuel tank and fuel injection replaces carbs.
2004: ABS option offered.
2005: ABS becomes standard equipment.
2006: £1000 cut off RRP.
2011: Honda offer XL1000V [£8,500] and XL1000VA [£9,125]

Other versions

2004 onwards: Varadero XL1000 ABS. Same bike but with ABS anti-lock brakes. Became standard model in UK from 2005 on.

Photo Gallery

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  • Honda XL1000 Varadero motorcycle review - Top view
  • Honda XL1000 Varadero motorcycle review - Riding
  • Honda XL1000 Varadero motorcycle review - Riding
  • Honda XL1000 Varadero motorcycle review - Riding
  • Honda XL1000 Varadero motorcycle review - Side view
  • Honda XL1000 Varadero motorcycle review - Top view
  • Honda XL1000 Varadero motorcycle review - Brakes
  • Honda XL1000 Varadero motorcycle review - Front view
  • Honda XL1000 Varadero motorcycle review - Side view
  • Honda XL1000 Varadero motorcycle review - Top view
  • Honda XL1000 Varadero motorcycle review - Riding
  • Honda XL1000 Varadero motorcycle review - Riding
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