Pros: Price, fit and finish, handling.
Cons: the stock seat could be better.
I bought this bike new in 2004 for my girlfriend. She is a new rider, and she loves it. This is actually her third bike, having learned on - and dropped - an old Suxuki GS250, and then graduated to a GS550L. She found the 550 way to "busy" sounding and feeling, and wanted a V-twin for a more relaxed sound and ride. I had her look at and sit on a VLX 600, and she felt very comfortable both with it and on it. When I brought it home as a surpise for her a week later, she fell in love with it within minutes. She now tells me she wants to keep it forever.
Now, for the bike itself. This is a perfect beginner bike. It is designed as such, and is intended for beginners. (Of course, you can also enjoy this bike if you're an experienced rider.) Riding it is confidence inspiring. You feel in control, and it has no nasty habits. It will do exactly what you ask of it, within its limits. If racing sportscars on the freeway is your thing, you got the wrong bike in the VLX. If you like touring with 6 weeks worth of clothes, a couple of laptops and a 300# partner on the back you should probably look for a bigger bike.
But if you're a new rider, or if you're inseam challenged, or if you just like the idea of a great little bike that you can own for about the downpayment on a Harley, the Honda VLX is a great bike.
It has a 600cc engine, which puts out somewhere around 39hp, and will propel you down the road at about a maximum of 90+mph. At that speed it sounds strained, and vibrates a bit. And it is doing its level best to tell you that you are way outside of its comfort zone. Let it slow down to about 65mph or so and it will cruise all day without any complaints.
After about an hour, I'm sitting on the frame of the stock seat. My girlfriend says it takes her almost 2 hours to get to the same point. A Mustang or Corbin seat is definetly in the works. The back seat, or pillion seat is pretty much a decoration only. You can sit on it for a little while, but not much more than 10 or 15 minutes. Unless you are very, very young.
Accelleration is pretty decent, the gears are nicely spaced, and the brakes will stop you without any problems. I regard the 4 speed transmission as a plus for a beginner. Cindy is never in doubt as to which gear she is in. On my bike (5 speed)she is sometimes confused. The speedometer is easy to read at any speed, and it is high enough that you don't really need to take your eyes off the road to read it. The indicator lights are bright and easy to see any time of day or night. The rest of the controls are standard Honda layout - identical on all their cruisers. The mirrors are nice and vibration free at most speeds. The fit and finish is typical Honda. Pretty darn good. I got the Silver Metallic, with the extra chrome package. It looks stunning, helped in no small part by the single hidden rear shock. Which is adjustable to boot.
Seat hight is - as have been pointed out by most all reviewers - very low. Anybody can sit on this bike and comfortably reach the ground. Cindy is 5'10" and she can plant her feet dang near a foot and a half away from the bike and still keep her knees bent. Makes you feel very secure when coming to a stop or sitting at a red light. Still the bike has all the ground clearance you are likely to ever need. Yes, it is possible to scrape the pegs if you really want to, but Cindy has never done so.
If the bike for any reason, or no reason at all, gets a little away from you, while coming to a stop or someting similar, and you need to muscle the thing back upright; you'll appreciate that it only weights in at 458lbs. Most of it down low in the frame. Again, helping to build confidence. And after doing that, pulling away from the stop light is easy and smooth thanks to a nice, even and smooth clutch engagement. The clutch pull is also light. And on the right, the brake is equally smooth and light. You will not be doing any stoppies on this bike, but if that's what you're looking for; this isn't your bike.
All in all, Cindy loves it more and more for each ride we take, and swears she will not ever trade it. In my own opinion I keep coming back to how this bike makes me feel comfortable and in control. Just what a new rider need, and just what an old rider want. This bike makes you want to go for a ride. And then another, and another.
It is late November right now, Cindy and I have a week of vacation coming up, Key West sounds about right...