They’re kings of the road, land yachts of the motorcycle realm. Big bikes built to haul the most cargo possible on two-wheels, doing so decked out in chrome guards, sparkling paint and buttons to push everywhere. They perch riders up high in the saddle so they can see the world, invite them to bring along a friend with well-padded pillions, run satellite radio and navigation systems and announce their approach with high intensity LEDs that light up the night. They are a conduit for manufacturers to throw every conceivable option and gadget on as they try and outdo competitors all fighting for a demographic with a tendency to spend big money. A hot-selling luxury-touring motorcycle can fetch a good chunk of change because they’re the price of two smaller bikes. But go to Sturgis or Daytona Beach and they’re the bikes you’re going to see more of than any other.
So we’ve rounded up three luxury touring cruisers from Kawasaki, Harley-Davidson and Victory to find out which one we’d choose when it’s time to hit the open road. Ever since Harley-Davidson announced its Project Rushmore
touring updates and its liquid-cooled Twin Cam 103, we’ve been itching to test out the changes, so we landed a 2014 Ultra Limited. This is Harley’s top-shelf touring machine, and its price reflects that as the highest MSRP of the bikes in the test at $25,899. On the other end of the price spectrum, Kawasaki’s 2014 Vulcan Voyager 1700 ABS is the most affordable with a price tag of $19,399. Slotting in between those two is the final bike in our comparison, the 2014 Victory Cross Country Tour, at $22,499.
All three are powered by b
The Vulcan Voyager is ready to boldly go, but can it fight off the challenges of its V-Twin touring adversaries? Find out in our 2014 Kawasaki Voyager 1700 ABS
ig V-Twin engines with similar displacements, the Harley and Kawasaki almost identical at 103 cubic inches while the Victory’s Freedom 106 is up a bit at 1731cc. The engines on both the Voyager and Cross Country Tour use single overhead cams while the Harley runs its traditional pushrod arrangement. The Ultra Limited circulates water to the engine’s cylinder heads only with its new twin-cooling system while the Voyager has standard liquid-cooling. The Victory differs a bit with its combination air/oilcooling system.
Body design on all three includes wind-blocking front fairings that double as housings for multi-function instrument consoles. Lower leg fairings, lockable hard saddlebags, and topcases adorn all three. Each has a venting system that allows riders to control the flow of air to some extent. Fuel capacity ranges from the Voyager’s 5.3-gallon tank to the
Harley’s 6-gallon fuel cell, with the Cross Country Tour measuring in at 5.8. All three offer ample storage, the Victory leading the way with a total capacity of 41.1 gallons while the Kawasaki features a 13.2-gallon topcase and two 10-gallon saddlebags. The topcases also do double duty in their role as passenger backrests.
We spent eight days running the bikes as hard as legally possible out of the MotoUSA offices in Irvine, California. Palomar Mountain became our second home during testing, as did the nearby Ortega Highway. We used jaunts to Julian, California to both put in freeway miles on I-5 and to sample handling on CA-78 (along with sampling some pie!). We blazed a trail up to Ventura for the David Mann Chopperfest
and cruised home through Malibu.
Assisting us on this test was Cycle News contributor Jason Abbott who most recently rode the new Indian Chiefs in Sturgis on their behalf. As a mechanic he has a penchant for restoring old bikes and just scored a Honda CB550 he’s eager to work his magic on. He’s also hell in the dirt and has helped out and written numerous off-road tests, so we were happy to have him along. That said, ‘Climb On’ with Motorcycle USA for our 2014 V-Twin Tourer Test.