Of the four motorcycles in this comparison, the Star V Star 950 has the most distinctive look. Ever since Yamaha created Star Motorcycles as a separate brand for its cruiser division, the company has carved out a distinct niche in the segment. Last year, Star launched the Raider SCL (Star Custom Line) and it just released the Bolt and Bolt R-Spec, two all-new models that use the same engine as the V Star 950.
Introduced for 2009, the Star V Star 950 is powered by an air-cooled, fuel-injected 942cc 60-degree V-twin. Like the Kawasaki Vulcan, it uses a single-pin crankshaft for a loping feel and has belt final drive. The Star is the only air-cooled bike in this comparison, and the absence of a radiator gives the bike a clean look. Visually, it is the longest and lowest of the four, and custom touches abound: two-tone cast wheels, bobbed fenders, a well-balanced mix of gloss black and chrome, and special graphics on the elongated tank and rear fender. If there’s too much black for your taste, the base model ($8,590) is also available in pearl white. The V Star 950 Tourer ($9,690) adds a windshield, leather-covered hard saddlebags and a passenger backrest.
Though the Star’s 942cc V-twin is the largest in this comparison, its dyno figures are comparable to the next-smaller 903cc Kawasaki. On Jett Tuning’s dyno, the Star belted out 55.4 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheel, just nudging past the Kawi’s 54.3 lb-ft. More than 50 lb-ft of torque are available from 2,200 to 4,700 rpm. The Star’s peak horsepower—47.1 at 5,600 rpm—is just shy of the 48.1 posted by the Kawasaki.
The Star has the second-best fuel economy in this test—an average of 46.0 mpg—and the second-highest fuel capacity (4.4 gallons), good for 207 miles of range.