After being teased, tempted and titillated for more than a year it was a relief to finally see the motorcycle parked on the road. with the July 2007 press introduction in Minnesota of a fully dressed luxury touring motorcycle, the Vision. It joins an exclusive club with only a few members, the Harley-Davidson Ultra Glide, the Honda Gold Wing, the BMW K1200 LT and the Yamaha Venture. It is a lucrative market, a loyal market, and compared, with other motorcycle segments, filled with distinctly different motorcycles. The launch of the Vision may be the most significant entry in the motorcycle industry since BMW threw their open-face helmet into the ring with the LT. Unlike Victory models of the late 1990s, the Vision enters the market with the ability to compete legitimately with the competition, head-to-head.
The company organized focus groups, researched owner preferences and rode all the competition during the Vision’s six-year development program and Victory now feels it knows what its customers want in a luxury touring bike.
However, for the Vision to succeed, it will have to appeal not only to current Victory aficionados, but obviously also to the customer who might have otherwise chosen one of the other luxury tourers.
The Vision is offered in two variants: the Tour ($24,599), which features a top case, and the Street ($23,369), which doesn’t. You can convert the Tour to a Street model by simply removing the topcase and fitting a panel. Beyond this feature, the bikes are identical.
There is no way to discuss this new motorcycle without tackling its Arlen Ness-inspired styling; there is nothing on the road that looks like the Vision, at least from the back and the side profiles. Initially, the big American air-cooled V-Twin seems incongruous, surrounded by long, sleek, modernistic lines that flow without being organic. Its multiple bodywork planes lend a carved appearance that eschews the “heritage” styling all but owned by Harley-Davidson and since utilized by Yamaha. Victory has been original in the penning of the Vision, which has far more in common with BMW styling than anything else. With no hinges or latches in sight, the unbroken lines flow cleanly in unison with rich colour tones and chrome highlights.
The tail section is a dynamic, tapering V-shaped treatment that harmonizes the extravagant tail light and saddlebag assemblies into a tight package with molded cutaways for the exhaust pipes. The view from the side is dominated by Victory’s tall V-Twin, which the company says is “like a jewel in a setting.” However, the front profile is where aesthetics start going a little sideways. With more than a passing resemblance to Honda’s 1999 Gold Wing, the front end features a computer-designed fairing that was further shaped during wind tunnel testing to provide optimum protection for the rider. Perhaps it’s a matter of function over form, but somehow the styling exercise went awry. The front fairing seems blunt compared to the rest of the bike, and especially the flowing lines of the tail section.
The controls and dash layout are almost automotive in their simplicity. There is an analogue speedometer, tachometer and fuel gauge, while a digital readout displays gear selection, odometer figures, and fuel consumption rate. I spent some time whacking the throttle on and off watching the mileage increase and decrease. It seemed to stick around 50 mpg during normal cruising.
Closer to the rider there are controls for the stereo, an iPod should you choose to plug one in, a rider communication intercom, XM Satellite radio and GPS navigation. I had the GPS screen activated while riding the Minnesota countryside and it provided not only a detailed map but also a GPS-based speedometer. To the left there is a cubby hole for road gear, such as the aforementioned iPod, while on the right a compartment hides the filler cap.
The long handlebars pull back for an easy reach. Happily, they did not inherit the hand controls from the 2007 lineup which looked as though they might have been more at home on an industrial ATV or a farm implement. The mechanisms for the optional electrically adjustable windshield and cruise setting are also located on the hand control. This makes things a little busy but everything is located within a finger’s wiggle. The button for the electric windshield is installed whether the bike has this feature or not—presumably to remind the rider of the option.
The seating arrangement offers the rider a broad saddle with four inches of padding, forward controls that are integrated with full floorboards, and floorboards as well for the passenger. Adding to the comfort zone are conventional 43mm front forks, , and a rear coil spring air shock that can be adjusted for load or comfort with an accessory hand pump or even just the air line at your local service station. In the event you become totally unglued from your bike in a parking lot, positioned between the floorboards are cast pieces against which the bike would come to rest at a 45-degree angle after a minor tip-over.
The Vision’s 106 cu. in. motor is a 1634cc Victory mill that received a displacement boost to 1731cc, in part to cope with the increased demands of new electrical componentry. The fuel-injected four-valve air-cooled motor is said to output 92 hp at 4,500 rpm and 109 ft/lbs. torque at 3,000 rpm. Combined with a six-speed transmission and belt final drive, it’s a smooth, quiet package.
Unorthodox for a V-Twin configuration though is that the engine itself is a stressed member of the frame—there’s not a front downtube to be found. Rather, the architecture features a two-piece cast aluminum backbone that also contains an 11-litre airbox. Air enters below and behind the headlight and travels down the frame.
Though both the Street and Tour tip the scales well beyond the 800-lb. marks (804/365 and 849/325 respectively), the seat height is actually a ground-hugging 26.5 inches. With a low centre of gravity, a tight 29-degree rake, a longish rising rate, cast aluminum swingarm and six-gallon fuel tanks that curiously extend past the front forks to balance the load of the bike, the steering is predictable and natural, even light and easy during low speed maneuvers.
The motor pulls strongly and reaches its peak torque quickly allowing for brisk acceleration. The gearing struck me as tall as I found myself in fourth gear and 65 mph often. The sixth gear is an overdrive which dropped revs to 2,600 at 70 mph. I would often still be in fourth or fifth at the same and higher speeds, however the OD would be useful on the freeway where this bike will spend many miles. There is little vibration and noise at 70 mph due to the isolation mounting of the handlebars and footboards and the excellent wind deflection provided by the fairing. It is a plush ride with little road intrusion. Extend the adjustable windscreen and crank the XM radio and you can listen to the redneck comedy channel and laugh yourself silly across endless miles of prairie. Chasing journalists around the flat-lying cornfields of Minnesota and Iowa at 75 to 85 mph wasn’t a problem for the Vision. Even through the corners that we could find the bike would hold its speed and direction nicely. Blasts up over 100 mph didn’t reveal anything unusual in the handling nor did vigourous acceleration from a stop. In fact, it was only during hard acceleration that I could really hear the exhaust note. Unnamed sources claimed to have had the bike up over 125 mph, so the top end does have legs.
Braking on the Vision uses linking technology: the front brake controls the two front 300mm calipers while the rear brake controls the rear caliper, but as additional pressure is applied to the rear foot control the front calipers are also brought into effect. The harder the rear is applied the more the front is utilized. Stopping using both the front and the rear calipers through the rear foot control allows for stopping distance only slightly longer than an experienced rider on the front brake alone. In an ideal world the use of both the front and rear controls to their maximum effectiveness would provide the shortest stopping distances. Oddly on this bike there is no optional or standard ABS. According to Victory’s surveys it isn’t something that their target audience thought important. It needs to be there whether some people think it is important or not. It is available on the Gold Wing, the BMW and, as of 2008, the Ultra Glide. At one point people didn’t think seat belts were that important either. The linked brakes are great as a first step but ABS is still a significant advancement in braking technology and on a bike of this type should be available.
The Vision’s weather protection is excellent. Victory arranged for softball sized hail and torrential thundershowers during the road test portion of the Vision launch. I don’t know how much it cost or who you have to talk to to get it done but the weather was in full force. Fortunately the hail was always a hundred miles to the south while we were on the road, but we did have to ride through several drenching cloudbursts. With the windscreen at its highest point and small wings deployed below the mirrors there was a surprisingly dry pocket for the rider. I could even hear the music. If the weather gets cold as well as wet, heated grips and a heated seat are options.
Also always a consideration and in fact an integral aspect of the dresser is the luggage capacity. The top case will hold two full-face helmets while the side bags are ample. There will be three trim levels available on the Vision Tour along with a catalogue of accessories. The Premium package includes the HID headlight, electric windshield, heated seat and grips, a chrome package and neat backlit Victory badges.
With the Vision, Victory dared to be different when they could have tried to play it safer. They had a concept from the beginning that did not follow the path of heritage or “traditional American” design. Even the acclaimed design of the rest of the Victory lineup wasn’t a precursor to the styling of the Victory Vision. But the design of the Victory should be the only area for debate as all other aspects of the bike are up to the task. The luxury touring rider demands near perfection from his or her motorcycle but in return often shows unwavering loyalty to the brand. There are HOG rallies for the Harley guys, Wing Dings for the Gold Wing riders and BMWMOA rallies for the LT crowd. There are going to be Victory Vision events as well because Victory made sure this bike could compete right out of the gate and very likely Vision owners will respond with enthusiasm.
by John Molony, Canadian Biker, #235