Vision with a Vee: 1982-1983 Yamaha XZ550R Vision

Comparing the Yamaha XZ550R Vision to the V-twin alternatives of its day, the Honda CX500 and Moto Guzzi V50 Monza.


Yamaha XZ550R Vision
Years produced:
Power: 64hp @ 9,500rpm
Top speed: 113mph (period test)
Engine: 552cc (80mm x 55mm) liquid-cooled, DOHC 70-degree V-twin
Transmission: 5-speed, shaft final drive
Weight/MPG: 462lb curb, half-tank fuel/57mpg (period test) 
Price then/now: $3,099 (1982)/$1,000-$3,300

In the late 1970s, every Asian bike maker built air-cooled, inline 4-cylinder bikes — lots of them, from 350cc to 1,100cc. They were the sliced white bread of their day. The problem? They all tasted alike. The Big Four found themselves in a standing-quarter-mile shoot-out every year.

So why not try something different? Kawasaki and Suzuki pretty much stayed the course with their UJMs, while Honda and Yamaha tried new ideas. Among the options considered was a 90-degree V-twin, employed to such success by Italian manufacturers. But packaging an L-twin wasn’t easy. Why not try a narrow-angle twin — in spite of their association with heavyweight cruisers?

Honda came first with the 80-degree transverse CX500. Yamaha fired back with the 75-degree Virago 750 and XVR920; then in 1982 came the revolutionary 70-degree V-twin XZ550R Vision.

The Vision was all new in concept and execution: Its liquid-cooled, 552cc dual overhead camshaft 8-valve engine was well oversquare at 80mm bore by 50mm stroke, fed by a pair of honking 36mm Mikuni carburetors. To ensure adequate fueling at low revs, the Mikunis featured accelerator pumps, and the cylinder heads included Yamaha’s YICS induction control system, to improve “swirl” in the combustion chambers and promote more efficient combustion. And to negate the primary vibration inherent in high-revving, narrow vee engines, a single counterbalance shaft was added forward of the crank.

5/30/2019 4:29:51 PM

I owned one, Bought brand new, kept it about a ran like crap. The dealership, a long time Yamaha house couldn't do a thing with it and Yamaha reps could not correct the problem after several attempts. Seems the carbs were the problem but no one could actually pinpoint the problem. I offed it for a Yam XJ90RK Seca. Now this bike was one of the finest machines I ever owned and I ended up owning 7 of them.

Craig Burman
5/15/2019 11:40:56 PM

Most of the problems mentioned for the Vision were due to the inattentiveness of the owners. The Starter and Stator were common with other Yamaha models. The early carbs were funky but with later updates (before the 83 full redesign) The bike would run well for a long time. I had problems with mine that turned out to be vacuum leaks. Once addressed I rode it for 10 years without problems. The article has a couple errors in that the 83 fairing was frame mounted. The specs list bore and stroke as 80 x 55, which is correct, while the article says 80 x 50. Interestingly enough, Kevin Schwantz raced a Vision in his early days (see AMA hall of famers) There have been some interesting race efforts made with Visions; one lead a 24 hour endurance race at Nelson Ledges for about 8 hours before being out run by the big bore bikes, I think it was ridden by Schwantz. Memphis Shades was flat-tracking one a few years back with a motor built by Babe Demay. Another interesting one was built by Eddie Wilbanks and was quite fast Google "World's fastest Yamaha Vision" . I saw this bike run at Laguna Seca and it was fast. The Riders of Vision website has lots of useful information and riding Archives. Check out 25 year and 30 year anniversary rides.

5/9/2019 9:32:04 AM

That "nimble" handling was due mostly to the trailing-axle front fork. Owners fitted a wider tire up front to compensate for the too-quick steering. The carbs were just the most immediately noticeable flaw in the design. Add to that starter clutch screws that had a tendency to back out, stators that fried themselves, short-lived starter motors and you can see why the bike got a (deserved) reputation for unreliability. Oddly, the '83 model with the full fairing as if dressed-up for touring duty got the dual front disks, lower bars and more rear-set foot controls. I caféd one of these a few years back. I found the engine to be a beautiful focal point of the bike. The weird fuel tank had to go, so I designed one in foam and had it welded up. Add to that my own fiberglas tail and seating-for-one-thank-you and it turned into a head-turner at local meetups.

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