Kawasaki’s VN1700 Voyager, Classic and Classic Tourer pile on the tech

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The eye might skim over Kawasaki’s new range of 1700 cruisers as business-as-usual Harley-clones, but they’re a hotbed of new technologies that take the cruiser genre forward, as we found out when we rode the bikes on this week’s launch.

Kawasaki has spent far longer developing the VN1700s than it did the older, even bigger VN2000. That bike was rush-released for fear of rival Yamaha pipping them to the huge-capacity cruiser post.

In the end, the 2-litre Yamaha never materialised. The new 1700s feature all the extra tech Kawasaki would really have liked the VN2000 to have had…


Linked Brakes
Kawasaki’s first linked-brake system is called K-ACT ABS (Kawasaki Coactive-braking Technology), and it’s exclusive (for now) to the top-of-the-range VN1700 Voyager. Use of both brakes is important on cruisers, where geometry dictates the front alone can’t be relied on to muster maximum braking force. But these big bikes aren’t famous for their subtle inputs and feel, which makes high-performance braking tricky. Enter K-ACT – It works by taking into account the rider’s requested braking input and road speed, and determining how best to achieve the desired result using a combination of front and rear brakes. Pulling on the front lever will yield some assistance from the rear; stomping on the rear will call on the added assistance of the right-front calliper. The precise balance of power is determined by a dedicated brake ECU – and with inbuilt ABS you can confidently use full braking force without fear of lock-up (If you’re wondering about foot-up U-turns, when a dab on the front is definitely not what you meant by a dab on the back: don’t worry – K-ACT is disabled below 12mph).


Electronic throttle control
The cruiser market demand huge CCs, the EU demands squeaky-clean emissions, the rider demands smooth, progressive throttle action and good fuel range. There’s simply no way to reconcile all these things without some kind of electronic intervention. Kawasaki’s first fully-electronic throttle valve (ETV) system – standard on all VN1700s – has the task, and it does it well. Instead of having an alien-feeling fly-by-wire throttle, Kawasaki’s ETV retains a conventional throttle cable – giving the rider a familiar feel, and meaning there’s nothing too expensive in the bar should you drop the bike and damage it. Down by the butterflies is where the cleverness starts – where your tug on the throttle is analysed and converted into a much more complex demand for the precise combination of ignition timing, butterfly opening and injection mapping best suited to give the response you were looking for. The solution is digital, but the result is analogue – a smooth, natural-feeling throttle action and prompt, crisp engine response from the tiniest crack to the roughest yank of the twistgrip. And because the fuelling and ignition is always spot on, emissions and economy are as good as they can be too.


Cruise control
Since the ECU controls throttle opening, it was simple for Kawasaki to add cruise control, and they’ve done it on the Voyager and Classic Tourer models. The operation will be familiar to anyone used to the system on cars, with switches on the right bar used to initiate and incrementally increase or reduce cruising speed.
It will hold any speed between 30 and 85mph in 3rd gear or above, and can be cancelled with a touch on the brake, clutch or moving the throttle towards the closed position.


Ipod connectivity
The range-topping Voyager is the first bike ever to come with the possibility of iPod connectivity as standard (though you have to buy the connector wire from the accessories list), allowing you to surround yourself in music controlled by switches on the left handlebar. And so proud of this fact are Kawasaki, they’ll give buyers of the first, limited edition run of 400 bikes a commemorative machine-numbered 8gb iPod Nano (and the connector wire) free.




You can read a full review of the Voyager in the April 22 issue of MCN, and more on the Classic and Classic Tourer models in the following edition, on sale April 29.

Guy Procter

By Guy Procter