WHILE THE OTHER JAPANESE GIANTS ARE BUSY courting fortysomething
re-entry riders with mega-buck jumbo cruisers, Suzuki has taken a decidedly
different route. With its corporate eye on America's youth, the Hamamatsu
factory has unleashed its new-for-'97 Marauder 800.
"We're looking at the young guys who really want to get into motorcycling,"
says Suzuki's Mel Harris. "They can't put out all that money to buy a big Harley
lookalike, but the Marauder fits into their price range."
At $5999, the Marauder is a full two grand cheaper than Kawasaki's
Vulcan 800 Classic and $500 less than Suzuki's own Intruder 800. Heck, Honda's
bare-bones VLX 600 is just $300 cheaper.
Cycle World got a chance to sample the Marauder's in-town capabilities at
Suzuki's recent press introduction in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Then, for the
real-world view, we rode it the 1000 miles back to California.
This is Suzuki's first new cruiser since the introduction of 1987's Intruder
1400. What took the company so long? Simple. The Intruder 800 and 1400 (which
are still available) make up 26 percent of Suzuki's streetbike sales, so why
mess with success? Since 1986, the handsome Intruders have set themselves apart
from other Japanese cruisers by virtue of their unique styling. Instead of being
wrapped in nostalgic Harley guise, they hit the boulevard with their own brand
of chopper-chic. Carrying on the tradition, the Marauder has sort of a
"You hear people complain about Harley lookalikes," says Harris. "We don't
want to be the copycat brand. We're trying to do something different here."
Well, Suzuki almost pulled it off. The Marauder steers clear of the current
trend toward nostalgic glances into the past, but there are definitely
derivative touches here and there-Honda's Magna V-Four and Harley-Davidson's
1200 Sportster Custom come to mind.
Whether it's totally fresh or not, Suzuki's new cruiser blends class and
kitsch. First the neat stuff: slick-looking inverted fork, cast-aluminum wheels
and rich, lustrous, two-tone paint. Now the campy items: chromed-plastic
sidepanels, plastic fenders and chrome-sheathed shocks. Up close, the Marauder
has more strange shapes, converging moderate pace. The 130-series, 16-inch front
tire feels planted and the chassis tracks stable and true until pushed through
fast, bumpy corners, where the Marauder starts wallowing, hinting that it is
indeed a cruiser, not a repli-racer.
Suspension action is particularly good for a bike of this genre. Both ends
lack the damping quality of more expensive setups, but deliver a respectable
ride nonetheless. The 41mm Kayaba fork-made specifically for the Marauder-dives
minimally when the powerful dual-piston caliper grips the single 11.7-inch disc.
Combined with great feel from the rear drum, this cruiser sheds speed well.
While the Marauder chassis is new, its motor, lifted from the Intruder 800,
is familiar. In the makeover, it got a restyling and now comes fitted with chain
drive rather than shaft. The finned cylinders are done in basic black, while
almost everything else is chromed. The 805cc, liquid-cooled, 45-degree V-Twin
still has single overhead cams that open four valves in each cylinder.
Going from the Intruder's shaft to chain drive, Suzuki made the Marauder's
crankcases smaller and lighter since they no longer house a set of secondary
gears to drive the shaft.
The V-Twin's transmission has five well-spaced cogs that engage with a short
throw at the lever. For more relaxed cruising, the overall gear ratio is
fractionally taller than the Intruder's, lowering engine rpm. To smooth
downshifts, the cable-operated clutch has a back-torque limiter built into its
hub. Suzuki claims this reduces torque by up to 30 percent, virtually
eliminating rear-wheel chirp during downshifts-even under heavy-handed testers.
The Marauder's starter motor is more compact than that of the Intruder, and
it's cranked by a smaller 10-amp, maintenance-free battery located under the
seat. The V-Twin warms quickly after a tug on the choke knob, located above the
front cylinder. The 800 zips away quickly enough-posting a 0-60-mph time of 5.27
seconds-but the motor's flow of power is interrupted by a pronounced flat spot
in the car-buretion at around 2500 rpm. Once done hiccuping, the Marauder's
motor still feels a bit soft for an 805cc Twin, especially one taken from the
While the motor sings a whisper-quiet tune, its offset crankpin design lets a
small amount of vibration seep through the handlebar, seat and pegs, reminding
the rider he's astride a V-Twin.
Dubbed a "Street Dragracer" by Suzuki's ambitious marketeers, the Marauder
belies this moniker by posting a quarter-mile time of 14.16 seconds at 91.28
mph, down almost a full second and 6 mph from the Intruder. Top speed is 102
mph, well off the old bike's 107-mph reading.
The CW dynamometer confirmed that the Marauder is a drag racer more in
brochure-speak than in performance. It pumped out just 41.6 horsepower and 44.2
foot-pounds of torque at 5500 and 4500 rpm, respectively-down 10 ponies and 6
pounds of stump-pulling force from the Intruder. Suzuki says the motor was
retuned to make more torque at lower engine speeds, which it does. But what
about good of American-style horsepower? We think the Intruder's punch vanished
in two ways, both stylistically mandated: First, its not-so-direct dual exhausts
have "the look," but weren't bent with performance in mind; second, the dual
airboxes lost nearly 10 percent of their total volume when stuffed between the
new fuel tank and frame.
This trend of power-robbing cosmetic considerations is disturbing. As is the
case with the detuned Honda ACE, Kawasaki Vulcan 1500 Classic and Yamaha Royal
Star, we think the Marauder would be a much better ride with its host model's
Until a bigger, badder Marauder-maybe a 1400—is thrust upon the market,
though, we'll make do with the perfectly capable, temptingly priced 800.