2013 Light-Heavyweight Touring-Cruiser Shootout - Video
Honda Interstate vs. Star 1300 Deluxe vs. Suzuki Boulevard C90T B.O.S.S.
When Suzuki pulled the wraps off the Boulevard C90T B.O.S.S. back in November, Motorcycle.com was among the first publications to evaluate the bike, calling it a “beast” and a “bottom-heavy muscle tourer.” After extended time aboard the biggish bagger, I stand by that assessment. The B.O.S.S. is a traditional cruiser-tourer wrapped in a shroud of black.
“Its menacing, blacked-out paint scheme is a more badass than cool,” Roderick admits, “but if that’s what you’re into, the Darth Vader of touring-cruisers certainly emits its own flavor of cool.”
In this shootout, the big, bad B.O.S.S. lives up to its name. Its 1462cc powermill is larger, and at 800 pounds it’s at least 10% heavier at the curb than the other bikes. “The C90T feels like a bike a half a class bigger than the others,” Duke says. “That’s a plus for larger riders who want to chase horizons, but it’s a minus for diminutive pilots who plan to use a T-C for around-town riding,” he adds, keeping in mind the target bagger demographic.
Interestingly, the B.O.S.S.’ greater power and mass don’t impact its ride the way you’d think they would. The 150-plus extra cc’s of displacement certainly give the B.O.S.S. a leg up on the competition, nearly lifting it out of the light-heavyweight class. Unfortunately that power advantage is nominal, perhaps due to (or maybe because of?) how much bigger and heavier the bike feels under the rider. “Having the largest engine in this trio isn’t readily apparent,” Duke notes. “The Honda chugs along nearly as strongly at low revs, while the Star feels livelier at the upper end.”
Tom raved about the B.O.S.S.’ bottom-end grunt, but found its throttle action jittery at highway speeds. “Throttle application is a little herky-jerky when carrying higher RPMs,” he says. “Otherwise, Suzuki’s 54-degree Twin pounds out loads of usable, low-RPM torque.” And remember, in our roll-on test the B.O.S.S. and V Star ran pretty much even while being left in the lighter and lower-geared Interstate’s dust.
So the bagger with the biggest engine is only slightly stronger and barely faster than the others in our Shootout. Curious. Now, what if that same bagger also carries the most heft? You wouldn’t think it would sport the best handling and suspension of the three – but that’s precisely what we discovered.
The B.O.S.S. came out on top in our Handling category, narrowly outpacing the Star, and its fine suspension won that category handily. Unsurprisingly, none of these baggers overwhelmed in either department, but the B.O.S.S. was the best of the bunch in both. Its 31-degree rake makes for responsive maneuvering, and its suspension, while not preload adjustable, is ideally suited for the motorcycle.
“Somehow, although the heaviest of the three, Suzuki managed to suspend its bike the best,” Roderick points out. ”The B.O.S.S. is comfortable on the freeway and taut when navigating back roads. For aggressive canyon riding the Suzuki is a blast when competently throwing its weight around. The taut suspension can hustle it down a twisty, but the weight is apparent. By comparison, both the Interstate and V Star, while pillow-like cruising freeway slabs, are mushier in the corners.”
Another area in which the Suzuki bested its counterparts is transmission, and it was unanimous: we all gave the B.O.S.S. perfect 10s in this category. “Cruiser transmissions are typically clunky and loud, but the C90T demonstrates that’s not a prerequisite,” Duke says. “Shifting gears is a low-effort and precise operation in the Suzuki,” he added, noting that what feels like tall gearing keeps the B.O.S.S.’s engine vibration at highway speeds at a lesser level than the other baggers.
Roderick credited Suzuki’s reputation for building fine transmissions. “From sportbikes to cruisers, Suzuki transmissions almost always deliver buttery-smooth operation, and this remains true with the C90T B.O.S.S,” he said. “All bikes should shift as easily.”
The Suzuki also scored high marks for its touring saddle. “The B.O.S.S. seat is wide and comfortable,” Roderick says, “and its foam density strikes a good balance between firm and soft.” Duke also lauded the B.O.S.S.’s posterior comfort, even while noting the bike “suffers ergonomically by its wide fuel tank that splays apart a rider’s legs. And disappointingly,” he adds, “that massive tank doesn’t actually provide a useful increase in volume.” It’s true: the B.O.S.S.’s portly tank holds 4.8 gallons of fuel; the V Star’s narrower, less intrusive one manages to squeeze in 4.9 gallons.
In our opinion, what set the B.O.S.S. apart from the competition was also its downfall in this shootout. The larger motor doesn’t fully justify the bike’s extra mass; that is to say, it’s bigger and heavier than either the Honda or the Star, but when stacked up against these other light-heavyweight baggers, its girth and heft outweighed whatever advantage the larger engine brings to the fight. The B.O.S.S. was superior in many facets, but it was not significantly better in the one where it could have had a clear edge.
Suzuki also failed to counter the B.O.S.S.’s outsized mass as it relates to the C90’s brakes. “The bike’s weight can overwhelm its one front disc,” Roderick laments. The Suzuki came in dead last in this category on our Scorecard.
The B.O.S.S., we agree, also would have scored better in this comparison if it had utilized a proper fairing rather than just a plain windshield. The contoured windscreen does its job as well as can be expected, deflecting the elements better than the Honda’s. But when compared to the benefits the batwing provides the V Star Deluxe, the B.O.S.S. just doesn’t measure up. It should be noted the B.O.S.S.’s instrumentation is excellent for a tank-mounted dash, though, providing accoutrements the other touring cruisers overlooked.
“It’s the only bike with a fuel gauge and a GPI, both quite visible,” Duke reports. “Moreover, it also allows seeing time and odo/trip displays at once, while the other bikes require toggling through each individually.”
After a day switching off between each of these baggers, the three of us could only envision what a more fully realized touring machine the BOSS would have been had Suzuki added, or offered as an option, a distinctive, contemporary batwing rather than just bolting on an outmoded windshield.
That’s not to say for $13,999 it’s not an impressive package. The B.O.S.S. is still smaller, lighter and far more reasonably priced than any of the heavyweight semi-dressed touring machines mentioned at the top of this story. Still, it makes us wonder what might have been. With the Boulevard C90T B.O.S.S., Suzuki went bigger and badder than the other motorcycles in the segment. But it could have also gone better.