Not everything is built to last, usually outmoded or killed within a very short time. Automobiles reinvent themselves every few years to keep from falling behind the competition, and the exploding Samsung Galaxy Note 7 killed itself after just 70 days! Some things just never seem to go out of style, though, so why mess with a good thing? Yamaha VMAX is just one of those, basically an engine with a seat strapped to it, originally released in 1985 and still going strong some three decades later.
Yamaha V-Max – 1985 to 2007
Released in 1985, the Yamaha V-Max could best be described as a muscle-car on two wheels, the 1,197 cc DOHC V4 generating 114 hp in a 630-lb package. The engine itself was taken from the Venture, tuned and tweaked with a higher 10.5:1 compression ratio and V-Boost intake-runner valves.
As expected, it was loud, even at idle purring like a lion, if happy lions could purr. Even a mildly inexperienced hand on the throttle could easily send you skyward, but you could easily coax a 10-second quarter-mile out of it. Still, the bike was not known for handling anything more than a couple degrees of curve and had a nasty habit of wobbling at high speed. In spite of the flaws, riders loved it, and was bestowed Cycle Guide’s “Bike of the Year” award the very year is was released.
Yamaha VMAX – 2009 to present
It’s not really a short history, chronologically-speaking, but there really isn’t much to say about VMAX over the years, because Yamaha did something that some manufacturers could really learn from – they didn’t mess with it too much. Between 1985 and 2007, over 20 years, Yamaha only made minor modifications. The only major change came nearly 10 years after introduction, fitting a fatter fork, four-piston calipers, and a couple other minor safety upgrades.
After a 12-month break, Yamaha’s power cruiser came back with a new name, new engine, and new technology, ready to tempt and thrill a whole new generation. The 2009 1,679 cc 174 hp V4 is now water-cooled and is carrying a bevy of new powertrain technology to boost output. In comparison to the outgoing 2007, that’s nearly 500 cc bigger and 60 hp more-powerful, all while adding just 60 pounds to the package!
The new Yamaha VMAX has plenty of power throughout its range, but isn’t as easy to send skyward, thanks to those very same powertrain controls. The new VMAX also features six-piston calipers and ABS, a vast improvement over the V-Max, and it is slightly more docile in curves. In the end, VMAX isn’t so unforgiving to sloppy riders as before, but it’s still happiest on straight runs and turning heads.
Yamaha VMAX Life After 30
Having celebrated its 30th Anniversary, can anything be said about the future of this iconic muscle-bike? If Yamaha VMAX has anything to say about it, there is definitely life after 30, and the “most-American” Japanese power cruiser has plenty of miles left in it.