A Muscular V-Twin With Plenty Of Roll-On

The Vulcan 1700 series from Kawasaki launched in 2009 replacing the the existing 1600 series and carried forward the Vulcan family that started in 1984. The Vaquero and the Voyager — a bagger and full dresser, respectively — both come with ABS and, as the name suggests, the 1700 cc engine in the V-twin configuration with liquid cooling and a six-speed transmission. Ready for a cruise around town or hitting the open road, the Vulcan 1700s are well fitted and all-around solid.

Continue reading for my review of the Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Vaquero and Vulcan 1700 Voyager.

  • 2015 - 2018 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Vaquero / Vulcan 1700 Voyager
  • Year:
    2015- 2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    V-twin
  • Displacement:
    1700 cc
  • Top Speed:
    149 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    16799
  • Price:

Design

2015 - 2018 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Vaquero / Vulcan 1700 Voyager
- image 737313
The Vaquero has blacked-out bruiser-cruise appeal and the full-dresser Voyager, comes with a tall, touring windscreen and a top case.

Kawasaki calls it “hotrod-style” elements on the dash and I wanted to see if I agreed with their claim. I do. The color-matched dash holds analog gauges — at least the main gauges: fuel, speedometer, tach and temperature (it is liquid-cooled, yes?) that I find easier to read at a glance with my ol’ lady eyesight than digital readouts that are hard to see anyway in bright light. Tech still finds a place in the classic styling with an LCD display panel and on-board amenities such as the AM/FM/WB audio system with iPod® and SiriusXM® compatibility and speed-sensitive volume control. I expect a touring bike to have at minimum a decent sound system, so no whining here.

Do I consider dual locking side cases and, for the Voyager, a top case big enough to hold two full-face helmets noteworthy? Not really; not anymore. I expect it from a touring bike so no disappointment in the Vulcan 1700s. Small, lockable glove boxes below the speakers give you places to store your bits and bobs. The Vaquero with its blacked-out bruiser-cruise appeal got black trim on the turn signals, tail light and instrument panel in 2016 to continue that dark look. The full-dresser sibling, the Voyager, gets a tall, touring windscreen and a top case.

Cruise control is a bit easier to get to and can be set and adjusted from the right side of the handlebar. It’s a proper cruise control, not just a throttle lock. Push-button action sets the cruise control to as low as 30 mph up to 85 mph using a toggling switch to adjust your speed without leaving cruise-control mode. It does a good job of maintaining your speed even on hills.

Chassis

2015 - 2018 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Vaquero / Vulcan 1700 Voyager
- image 737322
You can expect a reasonably stable ride at speed and good tracking in a crosswind, though, predictably, they'll be a little reluctant in the corners.

The half-ton-plus operating weight shows the factory dropped all pretension of keeping things light, and built for strength instead. Steel makes up the tubing for the double-downtube, double-cradle frame and squared-off backbone member, and that brings its own obvious advantages over aluminum skeletons. The steering head angle, forks and 16-inch wheels leaves us with a 30-degree rake and 7-inch trail on 65.6-inch wheelbase, right near the upper end of the spectrum, so you should be able to expect a reasonably stable ride at speed and good tracking in a crosswind. You can also expect it to be a little reluctant in the corners, but most of you already know you don’t get to have it both ways. All this adds up to over 100 inches of bike, and one fairly large footprint. Long doesn’t necessarily equate to tall in this case — the 28.7-inch seat height is reasonably low and should be OK for all but the shortest inseams.

Air shocks and 45 mm forks tend to the suspension duties with 5.5 inches of travel up front and 3.1 in the back. While that isn’t what you would call a lot of rear-wheel travel, I will offer that air-adjustable shocks are generally fairly plush, and these come with a four-position rebound damping adjuster so at least you can get dialed in for load and conditions. Dual, four-pot calipers bind the 300 mm front brake discs, and a twin-piston binder grabs the 300 mm rear disc. All this falls under the management of Kawasaki’s proprietary ABS, the Kawasaki Advanced Coactive-braking Technology (K-ACT II).

Frame Type: Steel, double-cradle with box-section single-tube backbone
Rake/Trail: 30 degrees / 7.0 in
Front Suspension / Wheel: Travel 45mm hydraulic fork / 5.5 in
Rear Suspension / Wheel: Travel Swingarm with twin air-assisted shocks, with 4-way rebound damping / 3.1 in
Front Tire: 130/90x16
Rear Tire: 170/70x16
Front Brakes: Dual 300mm discs, dual four-piston calipers, K-ACT II ABS
Rear Brakes: Single 300mm disc, twin-piston caliper, K-ACT II ABS

Drivetrain

2015 - 2018 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Vaquero / Vulcan 1700 Voyager
- image 737316
For cruising and touring, especially at interstate speeds, this is plenty of engine for decisive roll-ons, and the OD top gear (top two, really) makes for a reasonable cruising rpm.

Kawasaki gave the Vulcan 1700 family what the American buyer likes to see; lots of inches in a V-twin configuration. At 1,700 cc (103.7 cubic-inches), this is one of the larger V-twins in the world, and even though it has a lot of mass to get moving one can argue that it has enough ass to move it. The factory claims a whopping 107.6 pound-feet of torque out of this water-cooled, 52-degree mill, unquestionably well within power-cruiser territory.

The 102 mm bore and 104 mm stroke leaves us just a hair undersquare, and the 9.5-to-1 compression ratio means you won’t have to buy the premium champagne at the pump. A pair of 42 mm throttle bodies meter the fuel, and a six-speed, overdrive ratio transmission with a positive-neutral finder sends power down the carbon-reinforced drive belt to make the final connection to the pavement.

So, the bike is a little too heavy to use as a dragster, but for cruising and touring, especially at interstate speeds, this is plenty of engine for decisive roll-ons, and the OD top gear (top two, really) makes for a reasonable cruising rpm.

Engine: Four-stroke, liquid-cooled, SOHC, four valves per cylinder, 52-degree V-twin
Displacement: 1,700cc / 103.7 cu in
Bore x Stroke: 102 x 104mm
Compression ratio: 9.5:1
Maximum Torque: 108 ft-lb @ 2,750 rpm
Fuel System: DFI® with dual 42mm throttle bodies
Ignition: TCBI with digital advance
Transmission: Six-speed with overdrive and positive neutral finder

Pricing

2015 - 2018 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Vaquero / Vulcan 1700 Voyager
- image 737315
Prices shake out the same as last year and the Voyager gets a splash of color for 2018.

MSRP on the 2018 Vaquero is $16,799 and the Voyager, $17,499, same as last year. For 2018, the Vaquero comes in Metallic Spark Black; thank goodness. I’m still reeling from the Power Ranger green offered 2015. The Voyager comes shot in two-tone Candy Cardinal Red and Metallic Graystone; at least we have a splash of color after three years of grays and blacks. Kawasaki covers your Vulcan 1700 with a 36-month limited warranty with the option to go for 12, 24, or 36 months with Kawasaki Protection Plus.

Model: Vaquero Voyager
Warranty: 36 Month Limited Warranty (optional Kawasaki Protection Plus™ 12, 24, or 36 months) 36 Month Limited Warranty (optional Kawasaki Protection Plus™ 12, 24, or 36 months)
Colors:
2015: Candy Lime Green, Metallic Carbon Gray Metallic Carbon Gray/Metallic Spark Black
2016: Pearl Crystal White Metallic Phantom Silver/Metallic Spark Black
2017: Candy Cardinal Red Pearl Meteor Gray/Metallic Spark Black
2018: Metallic Spark Black Candy Cardinal Red/Metallic Graystone
Price:
2016: $16,699 $17,399
2017, 2018: $16,799 $17,499

Competitor

2015 - 2018 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Vaquero / Vulcan 1700 Voyager
- image 737317
2018 Harley-Davidson Road Glide / Road Glide Special
- image 737304
Low, wide and a little mean, both contenders show that Boulevard Bruiser attitude.

There are no shortage of power-cruiser/tourers to pick from, but I find the Road Glide from Harley-Davidson to be the most natural, and probably predictable, pairing. Similar enough to really get an apples-to-apples comparison, I feel like I can focus on some of the details since the broad strokes are so closely aligned. Since the Road Glide comes with the low-profile windshield and clean rear end, I’m going to go with the Vaquero here, but it is worth noting the Road Glide Ultra makes for a good competitor for the Vulcan 1700 Voyager.

Low, wide and a little mean, both contenders show that Boulevard Bruiser attitude. Between the fixed fairing, fat front end and saddle that tapers down to something just a little better than a vestigial pillion pad. I prefer the H-D style a little because of the dual headlights mainly — definitely not feeling the cyclops headlight on the Vaquero or the fairing lowers that seem to make the fairing cover the entire front of the bike. To be fair, the lowers do good things for the radiator in terms of airflow and minimizing the visual impact of the core itself.

As far as gadgetry goes, both carry a bit, if not as much as one would like. ABS and adjustable rear shocks are present across the board, but neither offers any sort of dynamic/adjustable front suspension or any sort of traction control system, nuggets that are starting to fall onto the list of expected features. While both rides carry entertainment equipment in the form of a radio with a number of input options, H-D had to give the electronics suite a name of its own; Infotainment. Kawasaki is a little reserved on the specifics of the Vulcan family radios, so I will spare the blow-by-blow and simply state that H-D comes out on top of the stereo/electronics battle.

The Vulcan 1700 (103.7 cubic-inch) plant was just a skosh bigger than last year’s High Output Twin Cam 103 (103.1 cubic-inch), and a bit more powerful with 107.6 pounds of grunt versus the 104.7 pounds from the Twin Cam. The Road Glide got the new Milwaukee-Eight engine this year, so Harley squeaks out on top with 1,746 cc and 111.4 pound-feet of torque. Seriously, anything over 100 pound-feet of torque is plenty, so I won’t quibble over a few pounds here or there. I’ll save that for the price section...

...and here we are. Kawasaki delivers a punishing blow to the Road Glide with a $16,799 MSRP on the Vaquero, a significant amount cheaper than the $21,299 Road Glide. True, H-D is still the King of Paint, and enjoys a certain name recognition, but for many without brand loyalty, something in the Vulcan 1700 lineup may be up your alley.

He Said

My husband and fellow writer, TJ Hinton, says, “Gotta say, the Vulcan 1700 family looks an awful lot like the Road Glide/Road Glide Ultra, or even the Magnum or 8-Ball from Victory. Like, an awful lot. At the very least, you can be sure that it falls within the bruiser look as is currently in-vogue, and does provide a less-expensive alternative for someone looking for that look and feel, but not necessarily enamored with the existing American fare.”

She Said

“It has floorboards — not a surprise for a cruiser/touring bike — and you’ll scrape them a lot if you like to throw a big bike around, but that also shouldn’t be a surprise. It has plenty of power and lots of torque that comes on early. For a big, heavy bike, it’s surprisingly responsive. If you plan to spend time on the interstate, you might want to go with the touring windscreen on the Varquero to save yourself some head buffeting. Even at highway speeds, you’re only cranking about 2500 rpm so you have plenty of oomph when you need to hit the throttle. All in all, it’s a nice ride and absorbs the bumps with aplomb.”

Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: Four-stroke, liquid-cooled, SOHC, four valves per cylinder, 52-degree V-twin
Displacement: 1,700cc / 103.7 cu in
Bore x Stroke: 102 x 104mm
Compression ratio: 9.5:1
Maximum Torque: 108 ft-lb @ 2,750 rpm
Fuel System: DFI® with dual 42mm throttle bodies
Ignition: TCBI with digital advance
Cooling System: Liquid, plus cooling fins
Transmission: Six-speed with overdrive and positive neutral finder
Final Drive: Carbon fiber-reinforced belt
Chassis:
Front Suspension / Wheel: Travel 45mm hydraulic fork / 5.5 in
Rear Suspension / Wheel: Travel Swingarm with twin air-assisted shocks, with 4-way rebound damping / 3.1 in
Front Tire: 130/90x16
Rear Tire: 170/70x16
Front Brakes: Dual 300mm discs, dual four-piston calipers, K-ACT II ABS
Rear Brakes: Single 300mm disc, twin-piston caliper, K-ACT II ABS
Frame Type: Steel, double-cradle with box-section single-tube backbone
Rake/Trail: 30 degrees / 7.0 in
Dimensions & Capacities:
Overall Length: 98.8 in (Voyager: 100.8 in)
Overall Width: 38.2 in (Voyager: 39.2 in)
Overall Height: 50.8 in (Voyager: 61.0 in
Ground Clearance: 5.7 in (Voyager: 5.3 in)
Seat Height: 28.7 in
Fuel Capacity: 5.3 gal
Wheelbase: 65.6 in
Curb weight: 844.5 lb (Voyager: 895.2 lb)
Details:
Warranty: 36 Month Limited Warranty
Kawasaki Protection Plus™ (optional): 12, 24, or 36 months
Colors, Vaquero:
2015: Candy Lime Green, Metallic Carbon Gray
2016: Pearl Crystal White
2017: Candy Cardinal Red
2018: Metallic Spark Black
Colors, Voyager:
2015: Metallic Carbon Gray/Metallic Spark Black
2016: Metallic Phantom Silver/Metallic Spark Black
2017: Pearl Meteor Gray/Metallic Spark Black
2018: Candy Cardinal Red/Metallic Graystone
Price:
2016: Vaquero: $16,699, Voyager: $17,399
2017, 2018: Vaquero: $16,799, Voyager: $17,499

References

2018 Harley-Davidson Road Glide / Road Glide Special
- image 737302

See our review of the Harley-Davidson Road Glide.

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: kawasaki.com, harley-davidson.com

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