How does the Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Voyager ABS stand out in the crowd? Read on to find out.
The Goods: Bells, Whistles, and Bags
The 2010 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Voyager (priced at $17,299 and $18,399 with ABS) is a heavyset touring cruiser intent on getting its riders from point A to point B in optimum comfort with a dash of retro style. Unlike the pushrod-actuated Vulcan 2000's engine, the Voyager's liquid-cooled, fuel-injected 1,700cc engine utilizes single overhead cams (like the Vulcan 900) for quicker revving and better mid-to-high range power. Torque is claimed to be 108 ft-lbs at 2,750 rpm. The single-pin powerplant is mated to a six-speed transmission, with belt final drive.
The ABS model utilizes the same setup as the Concours 14, though the Vulcan's operates in only one mode. With or without ABS, the bike is equipped with 4-piston dual 300mm front brakes, and 2-piston rear units. The 45mm fork offers 5.5 inches of travel, and the rear suspension uses an air adjustable preload and 4-way rebound settings to adjust for load and handling characteristics.
Mechanical components aside, the soul of any touring bike are its luggage amenities and creature comforts— and the Vulcan 1700 Voyager has both in spades. Top-loading side cases offer 10 gallons of volume each, and a lockable 13.2 gallon top case is roomy enough for two full-face helmets while also serving as a passenger backrest. Two small storage compartments can be found up front, and an available iPod jack fits within the left cubby.
Swing a Leg Over: Large and in Charge
The exhaust note has a loud-ish, mechanical quality (though it's still an entirely different beast in contrast to Harley's famous potato-potato rumble), and decent acceleration can be produced when the V-twin is pushed closer towards its 6,000 rpm redline. Though the transmission has a fairly clunky shift action— typical for bikes in this class— fifth and sixth gears are both overdrive ratios, allowing for highway cruising at low engine rpms. Kawasaki's K-ACT system works well, allowing a small amount of skid before ABS intervenes and brings the bike to a halt.
The array of buttons on the left grip may seem overwhelming to some riders, and it takes some deliberation to remember the unusually placed horn button. But the Voyager's long distance amenities are many, including a well-padded saddle, spacious floorboards, smooth ride quality, and a windscreen that offers solid protection. Sound quality from the 2-speaker system may not be audiophile quality, but there's also no lack of wattage at interstate speeds.
Improvements to the 2010 model include better exhaust pipe shielding and radiator ducting in order to shield the rider from engine heat, though some warmth is still perceptible on warm days. At least leg shields can be opened or closed to enable varying levels of venting to the leg area.
The Bottom Line: Know Your Apples and Oranges
It may exude less charisma than a similarly equipped Hog, but the Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Voyager does what it intends to do rather well, offering a comfortable and capable touring bike with plenty of amenities. The sum of its parts-- especially the distinction of its torquey V-twin that happens to produce an unshy exhaust note-- the Voyager manages to offer incrementally more personality than its smaller stablemates in the Vulcan 900 family.
Kawasaki's Vulcan 1700 Voyager deserves a spot on any short shopper's list of metric touring bikes. But when you're looking for a new ride, do yourself a favor and resist the temptation to compare apples to oranges; if you find yourself shopping outside of the Harley mold, chances are the Voyager will satisfy your long distance needs.