There's always risk involved when launching a new motorcycle. That's especially true when the model unveiled falls squarely in the upper ranges of the luxury-touring segment. Only a few high-stakes players can sit at that table, and their fan base is very well defined and often fiercely loyal. So, entering this realm is a huge gamble. But when you've successfully fielded models like Vegas, Eight Ball, and Jackpot, you don't start hedging your bets. Letting it ride comes naturally.
Although a relative newcomer to the motorcycling scene, Victory hasn't had to overcome too many of the disadvantages a startup usually faces. After all, their parent company, Polaris Industries, has some very deep pockets. And while the V crew has had plenty of money to throw around, from all appearances they're spending it wisely.
And the company's first leap into the luxury pool was far from headlong. Six years of product research, working with focus groups, tireless engineering and evaluation, and simply listening to their customers has led to the bike recently revealed at the Vision press event. That occasion also included a visit to the state-of-the-art Polaris research facility in Wyoming, Minnesota, where all of the Victory models are put through rigorous and abusive testing to ensure reliability. That goes for the brand-new Vision too; so anyone normally afflicted with first-model-year jitters can stop worrying. Vision prototypes were subjected to 2,322,000 miles of combined on-road and lab environment testing. Coupling that with the fact that Victory scored top-dog honors in the J. D. Power and Associates 2006 Motorcycle Competitive Information Study, it's a safe wager we're looking at another winner.
The Big Twin Stomp
Horsepower and particularly torque were never in short supply with Victory's 1634cc Freedom® 100 V-twin, and for the Vision, they've upped the ante. All new for 2008, the 1731cc, 50-degree, air-oil cooled, Freedom® 106 pummels the road with 92 horses and a brutish 109 foot-pounds of torque. The 97cc increase in displacement is significant in itself, but there's much more lurking inside those cooling fins. Along with a 6mm increase in the stroke, the cam timing has been revised to improve torque. The high-volume 11-liter air box, which is actually cast into the aluminum frame, allows the dual 45mm throttle bodies plenty of free breathing, and the fire is taken care of by a fully sequential, 60-pin, closed-loop, electronic fuel injection system with idle air control. Now, cold starts are fully automatic no matter the temperature, and the 2-1-2 exhaust system meets the latest CARB environmental requirements. And when it comes to electrical output, riders caught up in gadget fever have a lot to crow about: the Vision sports a new 50-amp alternator.
As for getting that horsepower to the ground, the Vision is equipped with a wet, multi-plate, hydraulically activated clutch. The pull on the lever is slightly stiff, but surprisingly sensitive, especially during low-speed maneuvering. The gearbox is a six-speed unit with the top cog spinning as a 0.84:1 true overdrive, and though you probably won't see sixth on the back roads, it does significantly reduce the rpm out on the freeway - nothing to sneeze at if you're allergic to pumping three-dollar gas.
When the time came to ride, these new engine developments proved significant. In well over 500 miles of riding, we were able to wring this big twin out on all sorts of roads. Whether plodding along in the Minneapolis morning traffic, winding through the sweepers, or pushing highway speeds I won't disclose, the Freedom® 106 competently handled the task at hand. No matter the gear, power comes out of the woodwork whenever the throttle is cracked open. And due to features generated by extensive research into controlling NVH (Noise, Vibration, Harshness), from a single primary force balancer, redesigned pistons and rods to the belt final drive, the Vision displays a velvety smoothness that's not often associated with big V-twins.
Beneath It All
Along with their countless hours in the engine room, the Victory team has taken the frame to new levels as well. The chassis is essentially made up of three cast-aluminim sections. The top, or air-box frame casting, contains the 11-liter air box, with the front of this section channeling cool air to the engine through an opening behind the headlight and simultaneously deflecting intake noise away from the driver. The Vision's lower, or rear frame casting, houses the single, air-adjustable coil spring shock. One neat thing about this rear suspension setup is its slight offset from the seat, which facilitates dropping the seat height to a low 26.5 inches while still allowing nearly five inches of rear wheel travel. The third casting is the swing arm attached to the shock via rising rate linkage. An aluminum frame's major advantage is, of course, the gain in weight savings. And according to Victory, this one weighs 25 percent less than a comparable steel frame. Another nifty aspect of the Vision chassis is the integrated tip-over protection. Well-disguised contact points act as outriggers of sorts to help mitigate the damage from any unfortunate drops. At least one of the riders in our merry crew can attest that they work quite well.
Big bikes need good brakes, that's a given. Again, that issue has been well addressed by the Vision team. Twin 300mm discs and three-piston calipers handle stopping duties on the front end. In the rear, a 300mm disc combines with a twin-piston caliper. But what really sets this bike's system apart is the unique and effective linked braking system. The rear brake is independent on light braking, but a heavier foot will bring the front into play. The front brake lever isn't linked to the rear brakes at all, and the best stopping results are still achieved the old-fashioned way, using both together manually. And while this system does perform admirably, if proper braking is employed, you may never engage it.
Perhaps the most surprising attribute of the Vision is just how well this chassis package works. A big bike, weighing 850 pounds (sans rider), yet it still rewards with almost sprightly handling when the curves kick in. Ground clearance is excellent and floorboard scraping takes some effort. Tied together, the Vision's bundles of stability and confidence-inspiring handling are quite impressive. Believe you me, this is a bike capable of burning up the miles on the back roads.
We can talk all day about engine and chassis strengths, but as soon as the luxury-touring money hits the table it's all about the bling. And when it comes to bells and whistles, the Vision can sound off with a royal flush in spades. The styling, love it or leave it, is certainly flashy, and that's the way Victory wants it. The whole concept was designed with the V-twin motor as the center of attention, which Victory refers to as "the jewel in the setting." Research revealed that people like to see the engine and Victory happily complied.
At first, the size of the bike looks overwhelming, but once you're settled into the low, comfortable seat, generously padded with four inches of foam and fitted with lumbar support, the long bars easily fall into place, inspiring self-assurance. The extremely long floorboards allow for nearly any foot placement the rider desires, and even the controls are adjustable. Passengers ought to be as pleased with their arrangements. The wide, elevated, spacious pillion provides an excellent perch for unobstructed views. Each of the testers who took a backseat jaunt returned with praises. Though the saddlebags seem to be a little small, the top case is huge, capable of holding two extra-large full-face helmets; and all told, the Vision Tour can suck up 6,750 cubic inches worth of gear.
Dedicated gadgeteers have their reasons for rejoicing, too. If buttons are your thing, the Vision won't disappoint. The audio system is all plug-and-play for CD players, MP3s, and iPods, and everything is controllable from the bar-mounted switches. The sound generated by the four-speaker premium system is remarkably good at all but the highest speeds. Some of the other considerate touches include cruise control, plug-ins for GPS and XM satellite radio, and add-ons: an adjustable windscreen and adjustable side-air deflectors. That's just a taste - I haven't the space to list all of goodies available for the Vision.
And so, whether you love or hate the look of the Vision, the New American Motorcycle Company still deserves a tip of the hat for introducing it. In my opinion, it's destined to shake up a market segment that offers precious few options. Choice is a wonderful thing, especially when the small matter of letting go of $ 20,000 doesn't stand in your way. You may check, fold, or go all in. But if your local Victory dealers ever see you coming, you can rest assured that this slick, new player they're backing will be dressed to impress.
2008 Victory Vision
+ torque and more torque, easy low-speed maneuvering, comfort, and polarizing style
- saddlebags appear small, polarizing style
Distributor Polaris Industries
MSRP $ 18,999 (Street),$ 19,999 (Tour)
Engine Victory Freedom 50° V-Twin, 4-stroke
Displacement 1731cc (106ci)
Bore x Stroke 101x108mm
Fuel System closed loop EFI
Power 92hp / 109ft/lbs torque
Ignition 60 pin ECM
Transmission 6-speed with trueoverdrive
Frame cast aluminum
Front Suspension conventionaltelescopic fork, 5.1in travel
Rear Suspension air adjustable, 4.7in travel
Rake/Trail 29°/5.4in (137mm)
Front Brake dual 300mm floatingrotor with 3 piston calipers
Rear Brake 300mm floating rotorwith 2 piston caliper
Front Tire 130/70 18 radial
Rear Tire 180/160 16 radial
Dry Weight 804lbs (365kg) Street,849lbs (385kg) Tour
Wheelbase 65.7in (1669mm)
Seat Height 26.5in (673mm)
Fuel Capacity 6gal (22.7 liters)
Fuel Consumption n/a
Colors Black, Super Steel Gray,Midnight Cherry