YAMAHA XVS650 DRAGSTAR (1997 - 2007) Review

Highlights

  • Low seat height with comfy saddle
  • Affordable Harley-Davidson equivalent
  • Wide range of optional extras available

At a glance

Owners' reliability rating: 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5)
Annual servicing cost: £400
Power: 40 bhp
Seat height: Low (28.0 in / 710 mm)
Weight: Medium (505 lbs / 229 kg)

Prices

New N/A
Used £3,100 - £3,700

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
3 out of 5 (3/5)

The Yamaha Dragstar 650 (or XVS650 as it's officially known..) is a fun and hassle-free way to enjoy your cruising. It’s got a low, comfy seat, big bike looks, ease of use and nice styling on its side.

Add that to a low purchase price and the Yamaha Dragstar 650 makes a good case for itself as an affordable alternative to Harley-Davidson’s 883 Sportster or Triumph’s Bonneville.

Prices on the used market appear to be holding well, with tidy examples available between £3500 and £5500 - depending on the age and spec. Owners have also praised the Dragstar for its ease of use and decent reliability. 

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Underneath those faux-hardtail looks, there is in fact a pre-load adjustable rear shock. Consequently, the Dragstar 650 rides very well and whilst it’s no featherweight, all the timber is carried low.

The steering is neutral throughout a bend, with overzealous riding leaving the peg, exhaust and the chassis gently chamfering on your favourite corner. Too much of this and you'll be scouring the net for some replacement parts!

Although the Dragstar comes with some degree of cornering prowess, the same cannot be said for the brakes, with a rudimentary rear drum featuring on the model until its demise. You’re well advised to proceed with that in mind, with the basic stoppers needing to haul up just shy of 230kg - that's more than a BMW S1000XR sports adventure bike.

Engine

Next up: Reliability
3 out of 5 (3/5)

With the Yamaha Dragstar 650 lacking in the brake department, it's fortunate that it only pumps out a gentle 40bhp from its SOHC, air-cooled 649cc V-twin. 

Doof-doofing quietly beneath you, you’re only ever going to be in for an unhurried ride - which is fine, because there’s more to life than tearing about. A peak power of 40bhp means it is also A2-licence compliant, without a restrictor kit - something that can't be said for some modern mid-sized cruisers like the Kawasaki Vulcan S. The Honda CMX500 Rebel does comply without retriction.

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
4 out of 5 (4/5)

The Yamaha Dragstar's finish is very good, with high quality chrome and paintwork and thoughtful touches like rust-resisting, resin-coated spokes. It’s shaft-drive, too, reducing mess and promoting longevity. The twin-cylinder motor is very unstressed and should be good for years to come.

This is reflected in our seven owners' reviews of the bike, which give it a very good mark for build quality and reliability. 

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
4 out of 5 (4/5)

The Yamaha XVS650 Dragstar replaced the Virago XV535 in the Yamaha line-up and it’s by far the better bike. What's more, you can pick up a Yamaha Dragstar very cheaply, with older bikes available for around £3000, stretching to upwards of £5000 for a newer, well looked after example.

It doesn’t have the feel or the distinctive sound of a Harley-Davidson’s 883 Sportster but your neighbours won’t know and at that price you won’t care - with even the cheapest equivalent American fetching around £5000.


Watch a video review of the A2-compliant rival Honda CMX500 Rebel here:

Equipment

3 out of 5 (3/5)

The Yamaha Dragstar is backed up with a veritable Aladdin’s cave of aftermarket booty. You can buy everything from luggage to lights, chrome bars to tassles and everything in-between for your Yamaha Dragstar 650. Yamaha updated the colours of the Dragstar in 2002, bringing a new silver paintscheme. 

In June 2006, Yamaha revealed three new cruiser models on the Japanese market to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its Dragstar range.

The 250cc, 650cc and 1100cc special edition models gained tenth anniversary brass emblems on the back mudguard, a gold-coloured Dragstar badge, two-tone black and brown seats with rivets, black and white paint and a special instrument panel.

Specs

Engine size 649cc
Engine type 4v, V-twin 5 gears
Frame type Tubular steel cradle
Fuel capacity 16 litres
Seat height 710mm
Bike weight 229kg
Front suspension Non-adjustable forks
Rear suspension Preload-adjustable shock
Front brake Single 298mm disc
Rear brake Drum
Front tyre size 120/60 x 19
Rear tyre size 170/80 x 15

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption 47 mpg
Annual road tax £101
Annual service cost £400
New price -
Used price £3,100 - £3,700
Insurance group 8 of 17
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two year unlimited mileage

Top speed & performance

Max power 40 bhp
Max torque 37 ft-lb
Top speed 96 mph
1/4 mile acceleration 15.6 secs
Tank range 160 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

  • 1997: Yamaha XVS650 Dragstar introduced to replace Virago XV535
  • 1998: 'Classic' version of Yamaha XVS650 Dragstar introduced
  • 2006: Yamaha reveal three anniversary Dragstars to the Japanese market for 2007 to celebrate 10 years of production. There was fresh paint, 10th anniversary brass emblems and more.

Other versions

  • Yamaha XVS650 Dragstar Classic: Comes with fatter mudguards and shrouded forks and was at a £200 premium over the stocker when new.

Owners' reviews for the YAMAHA XVS650 DRAGSTAR (1997 - 2007)

8 owners have reviewed their YAMAHA XVS650 DRAGSTAR (1997 - 2007) 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 YAMAHA XVS650 DRAGSTAR (1997 - 2007)

Summary of owners' reviews

Overall rating: 4.4 out of 5 (4.4/5)
Ride quality & brakes: 4.2 out of 5 (4.2/5)
Engine: 4.2 out of 5 (4.2/5)
Reliability & build quality: 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5)
Value vs rivals: 4.6 out of 5 (4.6/5)
Equipment: 4.1 out of 5 (4.1/5)
Annual servicing cost: £400
5 out of 5 Pretty cruiser with real practicality and reliability
06 June 2022 by EdsETV

Version: Custom

Year: 1999

Annual servicing cost: £10

I still love this bike. I bought it new in 1999 at exactly the same time as my Fireblade. I only bought it to take my kids for rides and found I really enjoyed it. It has not done huge miles but after nearly 23 years the finish remains excellent and it is still on its original battery and never lives in a battery tender. It is a relaxed ride for chugging around on a sunny day on winding roads. It handles well but does run out of ground clearance. Despite the MCN review the brakes are very good and as it is a long raked out machine the rear brake is much more important and does a great job. It is different to a sportsbike where the rear is useless. Shaft drive is excellent too.

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

Hidden monoshock gives a plush ride. Depending on your age it is all day comfy at cruiser sensible speeds. It will cruise at an indicated 80 mph but that feels cruel to it and the wide bars make you into a sail. I did a return trip from Oxfordshire to Whitstable in a day at high speed on motorways and my arms ached by the time I got back.

Engine 5 out of 5

Very smooth and good low down torque. Shift up early and into top and you just cruise along hardly changing gear. Very flexible.

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

Excellent build quality. It is garages and not deliberately ridden in bad weather. Absolutely nothing has broken or failed

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

It is so easy to work on the costs are minimal. Easy to change the plugs, dear diff oil plus oil and air filters. Tyres last well on the back but fronts last about 6000 miles as the edges wear due to good handling. Does around 60 mph but I seldom check.

Equipment 5 out of 5

Shaft drive means no messy chains. Yamaha accessories are expensive but good quality. The rack is useful and the backrest meant passengers can just relax plus kids don't call off the back.

Buying experience: Bought from DO all those years ago as a parallel import. Was great value and worth about the same now!

4 out of 5 Reliable if unexciting; great for commuting or weekend getaways.
06 August 2017 by XVS650

Version: 2014 Custom

Year: 2014

Annual servicing cost: £200

Reliable, gets you from point A to B without fuss. Nice-looking if you like cruisers. "Easy chair" seating position takes getting used to if you ride standards or sportbikes.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

Some complain about the stock seat, but I find it okay. Brakes are average. Handling, well, it's a cruiser.

Engine 4 out of 5

Mechanically very reliable. Stock it is not that powerful, maybe 40 HP, but it pulls away from the light faster than most 4-wheeled vehicles, and that's all I need.

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

7000 km in 2 years. Zero costs other than oil change.

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

Costs about the same as any air-cooled Japanese twin to run.

Equipment 4 out of 5

It doesn't have much in the way of bells and whistles. I have bought some really nice saddlebags for carrying clothes or cargo, and a handlebar-mounted clock to keep track of time when riding. That's it.

Buying experience: Bought as a 'new held-over' from a dealership for a very good price (1800 below MSRP).

4 out of 5 V-star 650 MAN
14 November 2016 by Ron Coleman

Year: 2011

Annual servicing cost: £1,000

Overall the v-star 650 custom is a very good bike that has a full frame. It handles well and has a very good suspension. It's worst feature is to much plastic.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

Ride quality is surprisingly good for just a low costing machine. This is a very good handling bike. I always use both breaks to stop and find the breaks strong.

Engine 4 out of 5

Engine performance overall good. Handles well of the line and in the 50-70 mile range. However, the bike doesn't perform as well in the 30-40 miles per hour range.

Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5

The bikes quality and reliability is very good. I have had only to problems. At 22,000 a oil leak on gasket and at about 26,000 miles I needed a new plastic boot for the carburetor. Both of these repairs were completely covered by extended warranty. The bike now has 44,000 with no other problems.

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

This includes new tires and 3 oil changes a year completed at the dealership.

Equipment 5 out of 5

Equipment for the yamaha v-star 650 is very good. Lots of accessories.

Buying experience: I bought form a dealer for $5,999.00 in 2012 with 0 miles.

5 out of 5
21 August 2016 by Mad Pelox

Year: 2004

Still missing this bike after selling it to get a Triumph T-Bird 1600. Hard to say goodbye to a bike that never gave me any sort of headache in more than 5 years. Reliable as they come and powerful enough to have some fun on twisty roads on Sunday mornings, provided your rider companions ride similar bikes.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 3 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5
Value vs rivals 4 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
4 out of 5 Great looks
22 March 2014 by Jugster

I have a '99 model having passed my main bike test last year. I love the looks and the seat is very comfortable. It has plenty of acceleration and is fine on big corners. The low weight and seat make it easy to stop and get your feet down. However, you will need to do this because at very slow manoeuvring speeds it's a little awkward. Beware making a sharp turn at very slow speed because the bike becomes unbalanced and tends to fall over. Other than that, the handling is fine. Not a fan of the foot pegs - they are too far forwards, so am changing them for boards. On long trips they become uncomfortable. Also, there is little equipment in the way of fuel gauge or gear indicator, so it's pretty old school. One other annoying feature - the oil. There's no dipstick, though I think you can get them as an extra, and the viewing port is right under the engine, gets covered in muck and you can't see anything in it anyway. So, yeah, that isn't very good. Otherwise, it's comfy, it looks great, it has decent power and its fun to ride.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5
Value vs rivals 4 out of 5
Equipment 2 out of 5
5 out of 5 excellent bike
18 April 2009 by s3lee

ive had a 97 xvs650 for a couple of years and have covered thousands of miles, most 2 up with plenty of luggage, apart from the rectifier having to be replaced there has not been one day when it hasnt started 1st time, and the highway hawk slash cuts give it a brilliant thumping tone...overall a highly recomended bike..

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5
Value vs rivals 5 out of 5
Equipment 5 out of 5
4 out of 5 Dragstar 650 Classic
22 February 2008 by bobdalby

my birthday treat last year a brand new classic. Hit the big 6 - 0 and thought I needed to minimise the risk as reaction time goes south from now on. The Dragstar classic ticks all the boxes. I can still enjoy a bit of speed, but shouldn't flip it doing wheelies. Then seats 3-4 hour rating (without a break) and all in all very pleased. Oh it looks gorgeous, get lots of comments and its fun to ride. Still living the dream!

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5
Value vs rivals 5 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
4 out of 5 Good old ride!
20 December 2007 by rushybike

A great ride and very reliable. Not the most exciting ride but it does the job and really looks the part!

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5
Value vs rivals 4 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
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