Yamaha XJR1300 Review (2011) | By Trevor Hedge

Thanks to modern emissions legislation, lovers of air-cooled big-bore fours have little choice in the market nowadays since the unfortunate removal of the GSX1400 from Suzuki’s line-up and the liquid-cooled ZRX1200 from Kawasaki’s range to satisfy the eco-warriors.

Honda’s only nod to the air-cooled retro is the evocative CB1100 but despite that model’s charm its engine is in a very soft state of tune and quite meek in its power delivery compared the discontinued Suzuki and Kawasaki and Big Red no longer offers the excellent liquid-cooled CB1300 musclebike.

That leaves only one old school big-bore four in modern showrooms, Yamaha’s XJR1300. Apart from some minor tweaks since growing from 1200 to 1300 in 1999 and a change to fuel-injection for 2007, this big retro still brings some serious musclebike attitude to the modern marketplace.

The centrepiece of the machine is the proudly exposed 1251cc engine. With polished cooling fins and huge crankcases the engine certainly looks old school.

The 1980s styling continues from front to back with a large single headlight, exposed instrument binnacles, long sloping tank and one-piece seat through to the long upswept tailpiece and twin-shock rear suspension. It has you thinking mullets, Men at Work, Mental as Anything and INXS.

Despite the twin-shock rear and double-cradle steel frame, today’s XJR1300 feels light years ahead of what was on offer in the 1980s.

The rear shocks deal with pretty much anything that even the disgraceful state of NSW roads throw at them. The front end also acquits itself quite well and manages to cope with the strong YZF-R1 sourced four-piston calipers. No girly ABS for this big brute however.

Once committed to a line the XJR1300 tracks solid and ground clearance is quite reasonable. The pegs do touch down if you really get carried away but this can largely be avoided by adopting a more animated riding style. It is big and a little hefty but at 245kg complete with a full tank of fuel the XJR is lighter than a Hayabusa and plenty of other bikes that you suspect of being much sprightlier.

The bars aren’t spaced as wide as some comparable machines which means the XJR1300 takes a bit of muscle to turn and feels like a very big bike in the car park. A change to a different set of handlebars might be on the cards for some riders that don’t find the standard set-up to their taste. Apart from that small beef the ergonomics are overwhelmingly pleasing for both rider and passenger. The low 795mm seat height also makes parking and manoeuvring a cinch, even for short riders.

A generous 21-litre fuel tank makes for a 320km touring range and despite the lack of screen there is negligible wind blast. Sometimes you look for a non-existent sixth gear when on the highway but the engine always feels quite relaxed and the five-speed box proves ample.

While not as strong down low as its discontinued rivals, particularly the locomotive like GSX1400, the XJR always spins higher and harder in the upper reaches of the tachometer and charges quite strongly past 8000rpm.

I was genuinely surprised by the wide rev-range and it helps to give the XJR1300 more sporting character than it otherwise might. It is still quite strong down low but with its 100Nm torque peak arriving at 6000rpm and 100hp at 8000rpm the XJR does enjoy a good rev. And on the road the engine feels much stronger than those numbers suggest.

In tight terrain the XJR has no problem lofting its front wheel in the air out of hairpin bends, Even in the upper gears through fast sweepers there is purposeful drive available when time comes to wind the throttle to the stop.

The quality of finish is superb and with Yamaha making the XJR1300 $700 more affordable than before with a $13,990 plus on roads asking price the XJR1300 offers a lot of bang for your buck.

I can certainly see many buyers keeping the XJR long term and seldom yearning for anything newer. And even when or if they do, I’m certain that they would love to hang on to the XJR1300 long term also. It’s that kind of bike.

Yamaha XJR1300 Test 2011
Yamaha XJR1300 Test 2011 – Pictured here new Oberon NSW

Specs – Yamaha XJR1300 (2011)

  • Engine – 1251Cc, air cooled, DOHC, in-line 4
  • Bore x Stroke – 79 x 63.8mm
  • Transmission – Five speed, chain final drive
  • Seat Height – 795mm
  • Wet Weight – 245kg
  • Fuel Capacity – 21 Litres
  • Average Consumption on test – 6.5 litres per 100km
  • Range – 320km
  • Warranty – Two years
  • Price – Expect to pay around $13,999 plus applicable stamp duties and registration charges

Verdict – ****

Positives

  • + Surprisingly sporting
  • + Ergonomics
  • + Finish

Negatives

  • – Not quite as punchy off the bottom as you might expect
  • – Very minor vibrations at highway cruising speeds