2016 Suzuki Boulevard C90 B.O.S.S.
There can be no doubt that the American cruiser market is heating up, and Suzuki looks to capitalize on that class popularity with its Boulevard C90 Blacked-Out Special Suzuki (B.O.S.S.) model. Suzuki has some fairly stiff competition from the domestic sector; Harley-Davidson takes the lions share with Indian emerging as a threat from behind. Now, Suzuki makes a good product but it is up against made-in-the-U.S.A. brands that are already well-entrenched. Let’s take a look at what Suzuki is doing to maintain a foothold with the U.S. buyers.
Continue reading for my review of the Suzuki Boulevard C90 B.O.S.S.
2016 Suzuki Boulevard C90 B.O.S.S.
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I don’t know who “they” are, but if they are correct, then the old Harley-Davidson FLST should be tickled pink. The Boulevard follows the same formula with a big front tire, fullish fender and widely spaced, large-diameter forks.
Though somewhat larger than life, the clean front end lets the lines flow across the instrument panel and fuel tank, down to the scoop saddle and through the faux rigid swingarm. Suzuki borrows from the Harley Softail, which in turn mimics the brief era when Harleys ran with rigid frames and “Glide” front ends. To that end, Suzuki did a good job of capturing the look, if not the feel (thank goodness) of that bygone era, and even borrowed from the blackout custom culture to boot. All these details tie the Boulevard in with America’s motorcycling past in a bid to appeal to a certain type of buyer in the U.S. market.
Low and wide are the first impressions when gazing upon this ride. The factory built a heavy, dual-downtube, double-cradle frame to support the engine, and tapered it down for that characteristic retro look. A triangular swingarm completes the illusion with its hydraulic shock well hidden within the guts, but the look is only skin deep ’cause it provides a ride comparable to the more conventional-looking systems while keeping the rear end nice and clean.
Large-diameter fork sliders with sheet-metal shrouds lend a certain weight to the front end, and the forks provide 5.1 inches of travel for comfortable cruising on less-than-comfortable surfaces. Though the suspension doesn’t come with any of the fancy preset maps or automatic tuning, this really isn’t the sort of bike that concerns itself with such trivialities. It’s meant to prowl the boulevards, not engage in shenanigannery.
The 17-inch front tire and 16-inch rear keep the rolling gear nice and fat. Blacked-out rims add more visual weight down low and a custom flair to the look that ties right in with the vibe Suzuki was going for. Much like with the suspension, the brakes come with no supplementary subsystems to muddy up the waters, and they provide good, plain control and feedback.
Suzuki’s engineers got a little jiggy with it on the engine, almost as if to make up for the lack of gadgetry in the brakes and suspension components. They started out with a big V-twin that more or less fits the mold for American bikes. Though it’s clearly set up at an angle greater than the 45-degree engines favored by H-D, this mill is much like a jelly-filled doughnut; the yummiest stuff is on the inside.
While not the biggest engine in its class, the 90-cubic-inch (1,462 cc) mill is big enough to satisfy the need for speed as well as providing some curb appeal. The big radiator on the downtubes give the engine away as being liquid-cooled, but at least it is somewhat inconspicuous against the rest of the blackness.
As usual, Suzuki used its nickel-phosphorous-silicon-carbide (SCEM) cylinder coating and chrome-nitride rings to reduce mechanical losses due to friction and help carry waste heat away from the swept/sweeping parts. Air-fuel induction falls under the management of the Auto Fast Idle System (AFIS) that reads coolant temp and modifies the mixture to provide easy starts and smooth idle when the engine is cold. The Suzuki Dual Throttle Valve (SDTV) assists the rider’s wrist by tweaking intake to deliver smooth, usable power based on the twist-grip position.
To make it easier for you to putt-putt sweat free around town, the factory installed the Suzuki Clutch Assist System to keep the pull nice and light and give your left hand a much-needed break. A five-speed tranny completes the running equipment, and it comes geared for highway cruising at a reasonable rpm.
You can score a brand new C90 B.O.S.S. for $12,399 — same as last year — with a 12-month warranty. Not bad for this much bike, but color choice is limited to the Metallic Fox Orange over Black paint scheme. I like the paint; it’s kind of a burnt orange with amber or whiskey undertones.
Since visual impact forms the first impressions potential buyers have when shopping, I picked a model that is not only similar in appearance, but is a direct competitor in the cruiser category; the Harley-Davidson FLSTFB Fat Boy Lo.
The most notable design difference lies in the wheels. The C90 runs with spoked cast wheels, but the Fat Boy Lo cruises on drilled solid rims that look cool and all, but produce a fearsome amount of windage – something that you will notice in crosswinds or when passing a semi on the interstate.
One thing Harley will always have going for it is engine appeal. There is no mistaking the look of that 45-degree mill, or the distinct, loping rumble of the exhaust note. To be fair, Suzuki gets close enough for the overall design and Harley sets the standard in American cruisers, so our friends in Japan had a high bar to clear. That said, the H-D Twin-Cam 103 tops the displacement category by 13 cubes, and as much as I would love to compare torque figures, Suzuki is typically closed-mouth about its dyno numbers.
Both bikes enjoy a wide stance and a low center of gravity, but the Harley slips under the limbo stick with a low, 26-inch seat height – just under the 28.3-inch saddle on the C90. While both are pretty close to the ground, these are wide bikes and the leg path around each side paints a different picture than does just the raw seat height.
As usual, the price tag is where Harley really takes a lump. The sticker on the Fat Boy Lo runs from $17,499 for the Vivid Black model, up to 18k-plus for custom paint and security options. Suzuki lets go of the C90 for $12,399, and though it’s only offered in one color, it’s a bargain at five grand cheaper. If you don’t have to have the H-D brand and are in the market for an American-style cruiser with a dark side, then the Boulevard B.O.S.S. may be worth a look. Maybe even a test ride. (wink nudge)
“My head might explode if I don’t mention how much this bike looks like the original FLST that came out in the late ’80s! No doubt that it’s a pattern for success, and having an overseas competitor with a good product is great for the free market. Riders who aren’t hell-bent for Harley, but want that classic vibe, will find that the B.O.S.S. fits the bill nicely. Now, if only they would abandon the water cooling.”
My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, "I’ve always liked the Fat Boy, and it looks like Suzuki offers a good alternative to the usual American cruiser manufacturers. The Fat Boy has been a favorite since Arnold rode one in the second Terminator movie and the Boulevard C90 B.O.S.S. is a less expensive way to get that look."
|Engine:||Four-stroke, liquid-cooled, SOHC, 54-degree V-Twin|
|Displacement:||90 cubic-inch (1,462 cc)|
|Bore x Stroke:||3.78 inches x 3.98 inches|
|Compression Ratio:||9.5 : 1|
|Fuel System:||Suzuki Fuel Injection|
|Transmission:||Five-speed constant mesh|
|Final Drive:||Shaft Drive|
|Suspension Front:||Telescopic, coil spring, oil damped|
|Suspension Rear:||Link type, coil spring, oil damped|
|Brakes Front:||Disc brake|
|Brakes Rear:||Disc Brake|
|Tires Front:||130/80-17M/C 65H, tubeless|
|Tires Rear:||200/60-16M/C 79H, tubeless|
|Fuel Tank Capacity:||4.8 Gallons|
|Ignition:||Electronic ignition (Transistorized)|
|Overall Length:||100.8 inches|
|Overall Width:||39.0 inches|
|Seat Height:||28.3 inches|
|Curb Weight:||758 Pounds|
|Warranty:||12-month unlimited mileage limited warranty|
|Color:||Metallic Fox Orange|