But at this week’s Dealer Meeting in Las Vegas, Suzuki made it clear that the brand was dropping its stagnant automobile sector in America to return its focus to the products that made it famous. Senior Director of Motorcycle, ATV, and Marine Operations Larry Vandiver said Suzuki is “looking forward by going back to our roots.”
To prove its sincerity, ASMC brought out the big guns, flying in corporate honchos from Japan to address the crowd and assuage the fears of its powersports dealer network. For star power, Suzuki brought up racing legend Ricky Carmichael and freestyle icon Carey Hart, and when motocross champion and recent Yamaha defector James Stewart rolled onstage aboard a 2013 Hayabusa, the room really began to hum.
But talk is cheap, and celebrity cameos only get you so far. In addition to the other models Suzuki introduced to the crowd, Suzuki made certain that some folks got a chance to get up close and personal with its new 1500cc tourer, the Boulevard C90T B.O.S.S. (for "Blacked-Out Special Suzuki"). I was among those lucky few, and by the time I got back to the Strip after a daylong ride to Valley of Fire State Park, the black beauty sure made me glad Suzuki remembered from whence it came.
Sharing a platform with the M90 muscle cruiser, the C90T is a low-slung, bottom-heavy muscle tourer, with sculpted hard bags and a contoured windscreen designed specifically for this bike, and it shows – in appearance as well as functionality. Filled with features for long-range convenience and comfort, the B.O.S.S. boasts classic styling with an aggressive approach – not too radical, but not too conservative.
Its blacked-out motor and cast wheels are offset by chrome cooling fins and cylinder head covers, while in the rear the dual slash-cut pipes in matte black look undeniably tough – and they make a nice rumble to match. None of this is surprising considering its lineage; the C90T shares its engine components, intake, exhaust system, cooling system and final drive with the Boulevard M90, as well as its steel-tubed frame and swingarm. The standard C90T, in red/black or white/grey, isn’t quite as aggressive in appearance, but has identical components. (Suzuki promises a base C90 cruiser will be on U.S. shores in the spring, at a price yet to be determined). Fat tires – the rear is a stout 200mm – are mounted on seven-spoke cast-aluminum wheels, and the long rear fender sports a bright LED taillight.
On the highway, the B.O.S.S. is a beast. The distinctive three-airbox set-up, borrowed from the M109, feeds plenty of oxygen into the Mikuni 42mm throat (which features Suzuki’s Dual Throttle Valve – the same design found in the GSX-R), and the five-speed transmission pulls in every phase, from a dead stop all the way into top gear. Shift cycles are so generous you won’t even need fifth until, say, 70 mph. Judging by the merits of its powerplant alone, this is a touring machine, fully capable and eager to please. But of course, it’s outfitted with a host of amenities to make the journey more comfortable.
The C90T is the first Boulevard to roll off Suzuki’s assembly line with factory-designed hard bags. The impact-resistant ABS bags fit the lines of the bike nicely, boast plenty of cargo space, and are upholstered in the same textured, soft black leather-esque material that adorns the seat and passenger pillion. They’re easily accessed from the cockpit, using the ignition key, and have a 10-pound load rating.
The broad windscreen is crystal-clear and devoid of any refraction, despite its wraparound physique and slight flip at the top, and it pushed the wind over my head and around my body with little buffeting. Both the rider saddle and passenger seat on the C90T are wider and flatter than those on the M90. Unlike some tourers (we’re looking at you, Interstate), it encourages you to move around and make yourself comfortable instead of putting you into an exacting position and forcing you to stay there. And the floorboards enhance your freedom of mobility.
Other touring amenities include: a 4.8-gallon fuel tank; a handlebar that’s wider and nearly 4 inches closer to the rider than the M90’s; a small, lockable storage space behind the left side cover; a heel-toe shift lever; and a handy helmet lock on the left side of the rear fender.
The C90T’s suspension is also designed to be touring friendly, but with a catch. The 45mm inverted fork – blacked out on the B.O.S.S., of course – uses 5.1 inches of travel to soak up road irregularities, while the link-type rear suspension uses an oil-damped, coil-over shock to produce a smooth ride. So what’s the hitch? None of it is preload adjustable. Suzuki says it is preset from the factory to accommodate the rider, a passenger and luggage, but without preload adjustability, there must be a compromise. That said, I found its comfort while riding solo to be quite plush.
Another glitch for this tourer is its lack of cruise control, even as an option. Suzuki said it has no plans to add this perk. Nor did it consider jumping aboard the Bagger Bandwagon by opting for a batwing-style fairing, into which all kinds of touring amenities – stereo system, accessory power jack, etc. – could feasibly and quite easily have been incorporated. I wasn’t the only one on our press junket who thought perhaps Suzuki missed an opportunity here, not simply to take advantage of a trend and sell a few more units, but to augment a bike that the company claims is intended to be a long-range touring motorcycle. Surely, the aftermarket will plug this gap. One more hiccup of note: neither the windscreen nor the saddlebags are detachable.
But we quibble. The big, bad B.O.S.S. was definitely a blast to ride, full of vigor and attitude without sacrificing comfort or quality. And at $13,999, it just might be a bargain. For $1,700 more, it’s sexier and more powerful than the 2013 V Star 1300 Tourer. And the B.O.S.S. runs just $700 more than the Honda’s base Interstate. So while it costs a bit more money, it’s a lot more bike than its competition. In addition to being bigger, badder and stronger than the rest, the B.O.S.S.’s price point practically out-classes the smaller bikes in its category.
Welcome back to the boulevard, Suzuki; we feel like we nearly lost you – and we’re damn glad we didn’t.