Since the debut of the Roadliner in 2006, Star has made the most of the Art Deco platform by expanding the ‘Liner family to the Stratoliner, Stratoliner S, and in 2010 jumping into the bagger game with the Stratoliner Deluxe. Using the same basic frame and engine, the Deluxe gets the basic bagger treatment with a fork-mounted fairing and matching hard bags. However, some of the luxury features such as cruise control were left out of the mix. Could the Star’s massive engine make up for its lack of creature comforts in this showdown?
A very stout 1854cc, pushrod V-Twin propels the Stratoliner and is hands down the performer in this shootout. Twist the right grip and you are immediately greeted with a surge of torque that outpaces the competition with a quickness. It’s not even really a fair fight as the undersquare engine destroyed the Kawasaki and Harley on the MotoUSA dyno with almost 20 more horsepower at 86.79 hp at 4400 rpm. And the hits just kept coming with a 111.21 lb-ft of torque at 2300 rpm, besting the other baggers by 25 lb-ft.
The Stratoliner Deluxe’s pushrod V-Twin puts out numbers that dwarf the two other baggers’ performance.
“When it came time to dial in some power the Star was the bad-boy. It feels like a Twin and accelerates like a big-bore,” says our Editorial Director Ken Hutchison. “No surprise as it’s the biggest engine in the bunch and as they say – there’s no replacement for displacement. In our roll-on tests in the real world, the Star didn’t feel like it had the most bottom end, but it came on like gangbusters and dusted the other bikes every time.”
Our straight-line testing backs up Hutch’s assessment with a 0-60 mph time that was over a second quicker than the Vaquero at 4.60 seconds. The Stratoliner Deluxe accelerated through the quarter mile in a time of 13.85 seconds with a speed of 98.17 mph. Very impressive considering the Star also recorded the best fuel economy of 44.1 mpg, however the smallest tank of 4.5 gallons shortens the range to the worst of the trio at just shy of 200 miles.
With that much motor, the brakes had better be solid to haul the 811-pound bagger back down to earth after you get a little happy with the right wrist. The dual 298mm front rotors mated with monoblock calipers deliver great feel, though modulation could stand to be a bit stronger. At the rear the 320mm disc brake locks up easily making pulling out a consistent number in the 60-0 mph braking test problematic. The best number we could achieve was 141.55 feet with just a slight chirp from the rear tire, besting the Vaquero by a couple of feet but still 13 feet further than the ABS-equipped Harley.
The drivetrain of the Star was ranked right in the middle of the field. Shifting was solid and precise with a sturdy thump as you mashed through the five-speed gearbox, although not as good as the Harley. Our video mastermind Ray Gauger pointed out that it felt like the ‘Liner could benefit from a sixth gear as the revs coming across the vast expanses of the California desert at 80 to 85 mph
were higher than the others. The only other complaint was the rear shift pedal was smaller and more difficult to find than the Vulcan or Street Glide’s more pronounced appendages.
Putting in time behind the bars on the Stratoliner Deluxe was fairly comfortable but still couldn’t match the Glide’s long haul prowess. The deeply dished and wide seat received praise from everyone in our group, but the wide handlebars put a strain on the shoulders of some of the crew. Personally, the reach to the grips had my arms spread too wide to be comfortable for long distances, but they felt great around town. Bikes like this are often about tradeoffs in regards to style and comfort; the design team won the battle of the bars but lost the war on comfort. Just an inch off both ends and the story might have been different.
With the longest wheelbase in the test, the Stratoliner did well on the highway but was a bit sluggish in the corners in comparison to the shorter Harley and moderately shorter Kawasaki. The effort to get the Deluxe to dip into a corner at speed was less than it could have been thanks to the extra leverage of its super-wide handlebars. Once leaned over the ride was solid and smooth as the suspension handled uneven pavement with confidence. Even so the Star was rated last in the handling department as the other two baggers were much more flickable, especially at slow speeds.
The Stratoliner Deluxe handles the corners just as well as the Kawasaki and Harley;
however it takes more effort to change directions due to its longer wheelbase.
“The Star felt like one of the bigger motorcycles in the test,” says Waheed. “The way you sit on it and the wide sweep of the handlebar has a lot to do with it. It felt like it was a little more cumbersome to turn around in the parking lot. At speed the weight distribution felt okay and the bike generally handled well. It offers the most cornering clearance and delivered a smooth, taut ride.”
One area the Star really let us down in was the electronics and instrumentation category. When picking up the Star at Yamaha headquarters I looked at the empty cubbyhole behind the fairing and asked if the radio had been stolen. “It’s right here,” said the Yamaha staff member as he showed me the wire with an iPod connector laying in the rectangular space that you’d expect to hold a stereo. Not what I was expecting from a bike with a price tag north of $17,000. Once an iPod was connected and secured via an elastic strap, the sound that came forth was excellent; however not having a display was frustrating.
The iPod cubbyhole is begging for a full stereo and looks unfinshed. However, the sound quality is impressive.
“The simple iPod plug in the dash is low-tech but effective. The switchgear for the sound system is bolted to the left bar so it has perfect placement even though there is no display anywhere to let you know where you are at when trying to find songs,” Hutch said about the Star’s stereo. “On the flip side, its two massive speakers blow the other two bikes out of the water. But as a package the Star instruments and interface is really basic compared to the other two bikes.”
On top of that, the lack of cruise control made the stretch between the wilderness of the Sierras and the Megalopolis of Orange County a chore. While the other machines allowed the ability to rest the right arm and wrist, the Star required unresting vigilance to maintain a constant speed that becomes tedious after 150 miles of arrow-straight road passes beneath the wheels.
In the styling department the Star is a looker, the Art Deco lines and accents harken back to the era of streamliner locomotives and Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, stunning and classically timeless. Still, our crew preferred the Hot Rod looks of the Vulcan and stripped down lines of the Harley. It is a case of Miss Iowa versus Miss California. As beautiful
The Stratoliner Deluxe has a monster motor and great looks, but finished just one point behind the Street Glide.
as she is, she will never win the pageant, but in 30-years she’ll still be as striking as the first time you laid eyes on her. What can we say; we’re shallow bastards.
The Star’s impressive engine helped it grab the lion’s share of points in the objective categories, but its third-place finish in the subjective scoring has it finishing just one point behind the Street Glide. Looking at the big picture the Stratoliner Deluxe is a great performing bagger, but was betrayed by a few cost cutting measures such as the bare-bones audio system and lack of cruise control. In the end it’s different stroke for different folks, and if you’re into smoking all your buddies from light to light and want a bike with styling that will pass the test of time, then the Stratoliner is the bagger for you.