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2015 Kawasaki Vulcan S ABS Review


by Pascal Bastien ,

A simple yet exciting idea gave birth to a sleek cruiser with modern lines and serious execution. The 2015 Kawasaki Vulcan S ABS borrows most of its components from the ER-6n and offers innovative solutions like adjustable ergonomics to enhance comfort for all rider sizes.

Equipment is surprisingly generous for the price. The Vulcan S features adjustable brake and clutch levers, a stylish black exhaust pipe cover, distinctive wheels (18” front, 17” rear), and a comprehensive instrument panel that includes a fuel gauge, trip computer, clock, and available gear indicator in addition to the usual info.

Styling is sharp, proportions are fully assumed, and the paint job deserves praise. Some of the plastics in the rear seem to lack quality, but the gorgeous taillight adds much flair.

The Vulcan S on a track?
Testing this new small cruiser on a track may sound strange, but Kawasaki will quickly remind you that the sporty Vulcan S shares DNA with the Ninja family, more precisely the Ninja 650 and ER-6n models. So, there we were at Autodrome St-Eustache in Quebec as part of the Kawasaki Experience.

The liquid-cooled, 649cc, inline twin-cylinder engine was revised in 2012 and is now more flexible at low and medium revs. It produces 61 hp and 46.4 lb-ft of torque at 6,600 rpm. Acceleration and passing manoeuvres are pretty convincing, unlike what you’ll get from an anemic V-twin such as in the V-Star 650. I would have appreciated a bit more character in terms of exhaust note and mechanical feel, but typical Vulcan S buyers in search of something different from the norm likely won't care.

The smooth-shifting transmission ensures optimum power delivery and jolt-free acceleration, and is a stark contrast with traditional cruiser transmissions (a gear position indicator is available, too). A belt or shaft rather than a chain would have been sweeter, though.

The brakes, meanwhile, consist of a single 300mm front and 250mm rear disc with dual-piston callipers backed by Bosch M9E ABS. This setup proved effective beyond reproach.

Sporty chassis

The 2015 Kawasaki Vulcan S ABS is built around a new perimeter frame and swingarm made of high-tensile steel. Featuring an offset, laydown shock (as seen on Kawasaki sport bikes), the rear suspension is equipped with linkage to enable a longer stroke for increased ride comfort. The bike's 225kg curb weight is reasonable at idle, and almost becomes an afterthought on the road -- perfect for learning how to ride.

As promised, the Vulcan S turned out to be surprisingly agile and aggressive for a cruiser. Braking hard, leaning into corners, and accelerating out of them was all child’s play. The engine, which happily revs up to nearly 12,000 rpm, pushes the machine past 170 km/h even on a particularly windy day. It really feels like riding a lowered ER-6n, and you know it could give much stronger bikes a serious run for their money.

Despite offering above-average ground clearance, the Vulcan S suffers from footrests that limit its sporty potential. Let’s not get too upset, though; after all, we’re talking about a motorcycle that’s primarily designed for cruising. As for fuel consumption, my tester averaged 5.6L/100km, and I sure didn’t go easy on the bike. Expect good range with the 14L tank.

Kawasaki Vulcan S ABS 2015
A simple yet exciting idea gave birth to a sleek cruiser with modern lines and serious execution. (Photo: Sébastien D'Amour)

A new breed of cruisers
After a few riding sessions, neither my back nor my butt hurt. The 41mm front fork nicely absorbed imperfections, while the firmly calibrated rear shock contributed to a good balance of handling and ride quality. The controls are properly positioned, ergonomics can be fine-tuned, and overall operation is one of the friendliest in the segment.

Rather than taking on conventional cruisers, the unique 2015 Kawasaki Vulcan S ABS focuses on delivering bold looks and sporty performance at an attractive price. It’s an easygoing, competent, and playful machine that kind of introduces a new genre -- compact muscle cruisers.

  • Agile, precise, and easygoing
  • Modern looks
  • Pleasant engine
  • Ergonomics can be adjusted by the dealer at no cost
  • Chain final drive
  • Exhaust note is a bit too subdued