You couldn’t have fit more muscle on the original Yamaha V-MAX. With its massive V4 engine crammed into the frame, the V-MAX was one of the most muscular bikes on the streets back in 1985. And with the exception of a few tweaks and cosmetic touches along the way, the model remained largely unchanged until it was pulled from the Yamaha lineup last year. Now, when the first of the 2009 versions hits showrooms this fall, the MAX will be back—bigger, badder, and more boisterous than ever before.

The new V-MAX doesn’t back down from the original’s supermacho looks or beefed-up horsepower. The old 1198cc engine has bulked up to 1679cc, which kicks up the power output from a hefty 145 horsepower to a nerve-rattling 197 horsepower, making the V-MAX the most powerful bike on the planet.

This kind of mega-muscle doesn’t come dainty. The new V-MAX has a dark, gothic quality. Designers were careful to look for opportunities to rein in the sheer size and bulk of this hulking street rod. Particularly slick engineering went into the hybrid chain/cam drive, which deftly saves space and weight, and the gnarly looking air intakes on the side of the gas tank; they were previously little more than Hollywood props, but they’re now fully functional and add to the efficiency of the new engine. And while the new liquid-cooled V4 is similar in appearance to the earlier editions, the use of advanced alloys and electronics ups the performance. To stop this overmuscled ride, engineers have decked out the V-MAX with big Brembo wave-type disc brakes strong enough to wrestle with the bike’s massive horsepower.

Over the 23 years since the Yamaha V-MAX was first introduced, the bike’s legend and appeal have grown disproportionately to its sales; there are always more riders who long for a bike this powerful than riders who can actually afford it. At a list price of $17,990, the Yamaha star V-MAX is definitely in the discretionary purchase category. Then again, it’s a small price to pay for a massive amount of power.