The Star V Star 950 presents the most refined stylistic cruiser package in the shootout, at least to our eyes.
Yamaha, the second-largest motorcycle maker in the world, has done a fine job branding its Star Motorcycles cruisers as a unique entity in the American cruiser ranks. Its relatively new V Star 950, introduced in 2009 model year, represents the marque quite well in the appearance department, the middleweight splitting the difference between the 650 and 1100 displacements of its Star-branded siblings.
Of all our comparison competitors, the Star Motorcycles’ V Star 950 looks the most ‘cruiser-ish.’ At least that’s how things seem from our angle. Wide tires, thick fork, curvy tank, backswept bars, flowing lines… Yamaha PR speak describes the V Star 950’s lines as “New Style Classic” saying “designers used the influence of a single, horizontal line along the entire body, almost as if the wind has sculpted the machine.” Sure, we’ll buy it, why not? Give the wind credit, but whatever the reason the Star held sway in appearance.
The lone air-cooled metric entry, the V Star clean front end showcases the shiny V-Twin sans radiator – a real boost to the appearance factor. The right-side 2-into-1 exhaust terminates into a broad single muffler, the only bike in our test to do so. As for the sound escaping from the pipe, it’s fine, but didn’t distinguish itself in our opinion.
The bulky muffler routes the exhaust gasses from inside the largest Twin in our shootout at 942cc. The two forged aluminum pistons barrel up and down an 85 x 83mm bore and stroke, the two ceramic-coated cylinders set at a 60-degree V angle. A single overhead cam actuates the four-valve head, while chrome-plated valve covers add to the aesthetic appeal of the engine.
The air-cooled mill holds its own on the dyno too, but falls short in peak output to the Kawasaki. Torque production at 50.2, was less than 2 lb-ft off the Vulcan. The 44.9 horsepower registered a larger six-hp gap. On the street, however, the V Star displayed the most robust feel on the top end. That’s not particularly how the dyno charts say we should interpret the feel of the Star motor, but, what can we say, that’s how it felt.
Rap the throttle and the Star barks forward obediently, but not with the menace some riders crave. Once it starts winding it out, however, the V Star thrums with ready willingness. Most riders reported the Star’s V-Twin felt best when wrung out and charging hard under acceleration, though it did well at lower rpm as well. Not as responsive, perhaps, as the Kawi while chugging along at low speeds, yet still quite easy to ride.
Unlike its smaller-displacement V Star kin, the 950 is fuel injected. Truth be told, the throttles on all the metrics seemed particularly mellow, without any harsh herky jerky response. Also mellow and smooth, the five-speed transmission disappoints only with its sticky neutral. Sometimes the N was hard to light up on the dash, particularly irritating on our test bike as it would not turn over the engine unless in Neutral. On the plus side, the cable-actuated clutch features a light pull.
The V Star’s biggest downfall was its minimal ground clearance. By minimal we mean floorboards scraping while turning right out of a parking lot. Some riders enjoy the spectacle of laying down metal on the asphalt at every opportunity, usually a sign of hard riding. Okay, okay, that’s fine. But there comes a time, say hurtling a 616-lb fully-fuelled motorcycle around a sharp bend, when you hear the scrape, and it keeps scraping, and scraping… way past the apex you blew and doesn’t stop until your edging too close to the shoulder for comfort. The Star’s big floorboards make for a cozy perch, but dial down the fun factor on curvy real estate.
“Floorboards scraped way too easily,” agrees Ray, adding. “It’s hard to have fun.”
Yet hustling around the corners isn’t the V Star’s métier really. Its true stomping grounds are the boulevard or some modest backroad jaunts where its suspension, a 41mm fork and rear monoshock, are more than capable. Both handle bumps in the road without trouble, and we never bottomed out, even on large potholes. Still, there’s no denying that turning the big Star requires more effort than its competitors, with the test’s longest wheelbase (66.3-inches) not deft at quick changes in direction.
The Star didn’t turn in as quickly as its competition, feeling the largest of all the shootout rides.
“Yamaha’s handling was kind of funky feeling. It felt like the largest bike and it didn’t really want to turn like the others,” explains Adam.
The bulkiest feel hurts the V Star at low speeds too, where it is the least nimble ride. It feels its weight in parking lot maneuvers, with steering a particular chore. Reach to the long bar taxed our grasp at times on sharp turns, though the 26.5-inch seat height offers easy access to a steadying toe tap.
Brakes deliver effective stopping power though. A two-pot caliper pinches down on a big 320mm rotor up front with the rear single-piston squeezing a 298mm disc – once the rider mashes down on the large right pedal. Maybe not quite the equal in our collective test riders’ estimations to the Kawasaki, they were pretty dang close – the front quite responsive to a moderate squeeze at the lever.
The ergonomics on the Star better suited our tastes than the smaller Harley and Honda. The V Star can handle larger riders, with a wide seat and comfortable riding position. The foot controls, however, felt cramped for our size-12 feet, the heel-toe shifter in particular. Normal-sized folks won’t complain, and we’ll concede the fact that the floorboards increase the comfort factor. The long, wide handlebars feel low in comparison to the Kawasaki (and even Honda), but the reach feels natural. All told, the ergos are comfortable enough, though the seat got less cozy the longer we sat on it.
The fit and finish on the Yamaha rated top notch amongst our testers. Star puts together a sharp package and it all looks clean and well made – the minimalist instrumentation setting inside a chrome top piece on the tank. Our only big fault is the headlight, while quite bright from the front, our test unit’s low beam aimed too low on the road ahead – enough to make night riding unsettling (more so than usual). The high beam worked well, but approaching traffic didn’t much care for it.
The 2010 Star V Star 950 looks the part of a cruiser, with fantastic styling befitting a larger design.
Recorded fuel efficiency for the 950 almost topped the list at 47 mpg, which equates to a range of 207 miles from its 4.4 gallon tank. Surprisingly, the 47 mpg mark is exactly what Yamaha promises on its website (how cynical we are… Also noteworthy, Yamaha’s claimed wet weight of 612 lbs is refreshingly close to the fully-fueled 616-lb curb weight we measured on our scales, as manufacturers are now finally listing real-world weight figures).
The V Star 950 sports an attractive $8090 MSRP for the Candy Red paint scheme we rode. Raven or Pearl While will cost an extra $200. The purchase comes with a 12-month warranty, just like the rest of the Japanese rides.
The Star delivers a lot of value for a fine-looking cruiser. Add in Star’s aftermarket accessory offerings and the V Star is a ride that can be further kitted out. As it is in stock trim, the V Star 950 represents a solid cruiser selection with riders able to score big-bike looks at a small-bike price.