MCN’s Guy Procter reports from the VN1700 launch in the South of France.
Kawasaki claims fans of it cruisers prize the firm’s heavy-industry heritage and the weight of these bikes certainly evokes that earth-moving, ship-building DNA.
The Classic is 30kg heavier than a Harley Fatboy and the same’s true of the Classic Tourer versus the Roadking Classic.
Much of that’s down to the colossal engine, but it’s also because Kawasaki has packed in more technology, more metal and more durability.
This includes Electronic Throttle Valve (ETV) control, electronic cruise control and linked brakes (K-ACT ABS).
The Voyager boasts all three, the Classic Tourer the first two and the Classic just the ETV.
The ETV – which interprets throttle movement and responds with the optimum combination of ignition timing, butterfly-opening and injection behaviour – makes for very civilised machines.
All the bikes fuel perfectly from low revs and with tiny incremental throttle movements, making them puppies to potter on.
How do they cruise?
In overdrive at cruising speeds the engines sounds and feels like it’s juggling bowling balls.
It’s pleasing, but not potent: even though it tops Harley’s dyno-shy Twin Cam by nearly 10bhp and 10ftlb, it’s a mystery quite how Kawasaki managed to keep a 1700 to just 72-73bhp.
The result (thanks in part to the ETV) is a very flexible engine, but one which now and again leaves you needing to pretend you didn’t mean that failed overtake.
Are they comfortable?
Ergonomically, the Classic and Classic Tourer differ little, but the Tourer’s extra butter-soft seat and effective screen make it a much better distance machine.
Taller riders would be well-advised to run a thorough check for buffeting from the 6cm height-adjustable screen on a test-ride though.
All three machines – imposing as they are – successfully scale-up the rider’s inputs from a pretty compact triangle of feet, seat and bars. It’s no VN900, but it’s not unmanageable for 5’ 6”+ riders.
Kawasaki VN1700 Classic £9899
Colours Metallic Diablo Black
Pros: Immaculate fuelling, sweet handling, finish
Cons: Competent to the point of blandness?
Verdict: Cracking proto-custom - just needs its nasty side bringing out
Kawasaki Classic Tourer £10,799
Colours Metallic Diablo Black or Candy Diamond Red with Pearl Lustre Beige (£10,999)
Pros: Comfy, flawless handling, decently practical
Cons: Possibly buffety screen for taller riders
Verdict: Convincing middle-distance touring cruiser