Cruiser engines are getting so huge these days that Yamaha's new Midnight Star is billed as a middleweight even though its V-twin motor displaces 1304cc, the traditional American 80 cubic inches.
The liquid-cooled XVS1300A squeezes into Yamaha's range between the Midnight Star 1900 and the Drag Star 1100 (whose days are numbered because it can't pass Euro 3). Its SOHC, eight-valve, 60-degree motor contrasts with both the other models' air-cooled units. Like the bigger Midnight Star, the new bike is fuel-injected and has belt final drive. Yamaha chose not to follow the art deco styling theme of the larger V-twin, and this Star also differs in that its frame is made from old-fashioned steel rather than aluminium. But with its long petrol tank, hefty steel fenders, distinctive headlamp, chunky forks and footboards, the 1300 is intended to have the look and feel of a heavyweight, even if they're claiming it's not one.
It felt pretty heavy too, after I'd set off from our launch base in Asheville, North Carolina, heading for the famously twisty and spectacular Blue Ridge Parkway. The Yam's kicked-out steering geometry and almost 300 kilos (fuelled-up) meant it needed a fair bit of effort in tight turns. But once onto the main road, the Star was very stable despite the blustery wind. Max power is 73bhp at 5500rpm, and there's a plenty of low-rev grunt, provided you're not expecting giant-cruiser performance. Once in top
I rarely needed the five-speed box's heel-and-toe lever, as the Yamaha stretched my jacket-sleeves through the midrange before running out of breath not far past the ton. A true giant cruiser would have had even more midrange stomp but the Star felt flexible and had plenty of character and an agreeable, slow-revving feel. Chassis performance was respectable by cruiser standards. After a damp start the Blue Ridge Parkway dried enough to get the Star scraping its footboards' replaceable tips. The twin-disc, twin-pot caliper front brake slowed it rapidly too, albeit less fiercely than the XV1900's R1-derived set-up.
The Yam gave a pretty comfortable ride, aided by its footboards and fat-butt seat. There's only 110mm of rear wheel travel, but the well-damped shock's linkage system helped make that enough. By the time I found my way back to Asheville in the gathering gloom I was chilled but impressed by the Midnight Star, which combines plenty of style and performance with a strong dose of V-twin character. I still reckon it looks and feels more like a heavyweight cruiser - but the good news is that at about £8000 it'll be a couple of grand cheaper than the XV1900. Perhaps it's just as well they're calling it a middleweight after all.
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