Long the horsepower king of Japan’s Big Four, Suzuki regained some of its superbike bona fides last year with a complete overhaul of its legendary GSX-R1000 superbike. Other highlights of the company’s lineup include a refresh of the sport-touring GSX-S1000F and two new variants of the legendary V-Strom adventure tourers. And, though it’s not new, Suzuki’s evergreen M109R is still the “GSX-R of cruisers.” Performance, style and versatility are still the hallmarks of the brand Kevin Schwantz made famous, only now more modern and with the latest high-tech electronic chassis controls to let riders of all abilities appreciate the outrageous performance these Suzukis offer.

 

2018 Suzuki GSX-R1000R

Starting price: $14,699 (R1000)
Engine: 999.8-cc liquid-cooled DOHC inline-4
Transmission: 6-speed constant mesh
Suspension: Inverted telescopic (front), link-type single shock (rear); coil spring, oil damped
Brakes: Brembo 4-piston twin (front), Nissin 1-piston single (rear); disc, ABS
Curb weight: 448 lbs

All new last year, the lineal descendent of Japan’s first purpose-built superbike -- the famed air/oil-cooled 1985 GSX-R750 -- Suzuki’s 999.8-cc superbike got a new chassis, a new engine and, most importantly in this era of rider’s aids, a completely new suite of electronic traction and braking gizmos.

The engine receives some typical upgrades -- an even shorter bore-stroke ratio at 76.0x55.1 mm, an almost racebike-like 13.2:1 compression ratio, and titanium exhaust valves. There are some major revisions as well, Formula One-style finger-follower rocker arms replace the previous model’s bucket tappets, for instance. Revs now peak at a whopping 14,500 rpm and output has been boosted to 199 horsepower -- yes, almost 200 horses from barely a liter of displacement and pushing a mere 448 pounds of motorcycle (including a full tank of gas). Suzuki really is looking to regain its “King of the Superbike” crown.

The technical highlight, however, is the new Gixxer’s Suzuki Racing Variable Valve Timing (SR-VVT) system originally developed for the company’s World Superbike racer. Unlike complex automotive systems in which myriad sensors and computers control complicated hydraulics to “phase” camshaft timing, SR-VVT uses the centrifugal force created by high rpm to move 12 steel balls along radial grooves machined into the intake cam sprocket. As they are forced outward, the sprocket rotates compared with the camshaft, retarding inlet timing and improving top-end horsepower. Simple, ingenious and small enough to fit inside a compact motorcycle engine.

Managing all this horsepower is a longer swingarm -- the better to reduce wheelies under hard acceleration -- and, at 56.1 inches, a slightly longer wheelbase. Showa’s latest BFF (Balance Free Fork) front suspension and BFRC (Balance Free Rear Cushion) rear shock feature damping circuitry designed to eliminate the momentary lack of damping that occurs as the fork/shock change their direction of travel.

More importantly, the big Suzuki finally gets a state-of-the-art traction control system -- dubbed Motion Track TCS -- with a six-direction, three-axis Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) that allows precise control of engine torque even when leaned over. Essentially, by measuring pitch, roll and yaw as well as acceleration in all three (x,y and z) directions, the big Gixxer knows if it is straight up or leaning, accelerating or maintaining a steady speed, and even when it is braking. The result is uncanny control of the rear wheel. Depending on which of the TCS’s 10 positions is chosen, The GSX-R allows the experienced rider to hang the rear end out in long, lurid slides without fear of overdoing it. The Motion Track system also adjusts the anti-lock braking system pressure when cornering, optimizing brake force and grip according to lean angle. And -- shades of Porsche 911 Turbos -- Suzuki’s topline GSX-R even offers a launch control system that, as Suzuki explains. offers Gixxer riders “a competitive advantage when launching their motorcycle at the start of the race.”

Besides the top-of-the-line GSX-R1000R ($17,199), Suzuki is offering the GSX-R1000 -- $14,699 without ABS, $15,099 with -- with the IMU-based traction control system and the variable valve timing system but with lesser Showa suspension and the transmission quick-shifter.

 

2018 Suzuki GSX-S1000F ABS

Starting price: $9,999 (S1000)
Engine: 999-cc liquid-cooled DOHC inline-4
Transmission: 6-speed constant mesh
Suspension: Inverted telescopic (front), link type single shock (rear); coil spring, oil damped
Brakes: Brembo 4-piston twin (front), Nissin 1-piston single (rear); disc
Curb weight: 472 lbs

A little tamer and a little more comfortable is Suzuki’s sport-touring GSX-S1000F. It's still blindingly fast -- its 999-cc double overhead cam liquid-cooled four is derived from Suzuki’s championship-winning 2005-2008 long-stroke GSX-R1000, but was retuned for street-riding mid-range torque thanks to lower profile camshafts and lower compression.

Essentially Suzuki’s GSX-S1000 naked bike with the addition of a wind-cheating aerodynamic fairing, the F features a rational riding position (i.e. the GSX-R’s low clip-ons have been replaced by a wider handlebar with substantially more height and rake), a flatter seat, and footpegs that aren't nearly as radically rearset as on the full-on superbike.

That doesn't mean the F is short of performance. Its 147 horses may be some 50 down on the full-zoot GSX-R1000R, but it’s still plenty rapid enough to see off all four-wheeled traffic. Nor is the 1000F shy of chassis superlatives. Its aluminum, twin-spar frame is actually lighter than that of the last-generation GSX-R1000, the front Brembo monoblock brakes are radially mounted to the inverted front fork and the suspension, front and rear, is adjustable with preload and rebound damping adjustability (the KYB 43-mm inverted front fork also adds compression damping adjustability). Traction control and anti-lock brakes complete the sophisticated chassis, though the F lacks the R’s Fancy Dan IMU-based traction control system that controls the engine dynamics when leaned over at racetrack speeds. On the other hand, the 2018 version of the GSX-S1000F retails for an extremely competitive $11,299. Lesser variants -- the base GSX-S1000 naked bike, the GSX-S1000 ABS and the blacked-out GSX-S1000Z -- cost $9,999, $10,799 and $10,999 respectively.

 

2018 Suzuki Hayabusa

Starting price: $14,699
Engine: 1,340-cc liquid-cooled DOHC inline-4
Transmission: 6-speed constant mesh
Suspension: Inverted telescopic (front), link-type single shock (rear); coil spring, oil damped
Brakes: Brembo 4-piston twin (front), Nissin 1-piston single (rear); disc
Curb weight: 586 lbs

It’s impossible to talk about Suzuki sport bikes without making mention of the wondrous Hayabusa. The original “hyperbike,” the 1,340-cc Hayabusa is at once a monster powerhouse and a civilized monster producing a very superbike-like 197 horsepower, accompanied by a stump-pulling 114 pound-feet of torque.

Long, low and designed with optimized aerodynamics, the Hayabusa is more Bonneville speedster than lithe superbike and, along with Kawasaki’s ZX-14R, has long been motorcycling’s drag racer of choice. All that power is harnessed by a twin-spar aluminum frame and rear shock that have fully adjustable spring preload as well as compression and rebound damping. Twin 4-piston Brembo monoblock calipers grip 310-millimeter floating discs up front while the inverted KYB fork boasts a special Diamond Like Carbon (DLC)  coating for reduced wear and friction.

However, the most significant thing about the current Hayabusa is that the rumor mill is predicting its replacement as early as this summer, the intensity of the speculation heightened by the fact that no one really know what Suzuki is up to. The most reliable prediction is that the Hayabusa will get a bump to 1,440-cc to recapture some of its high-horsepower allure. But there has also been speculation that Suzuki will downsize the engine to an even 1,000 cc and then throw in a turbocharger. There has even been talk that the new turbo 1,000-cc engine -- shades of McLaren P1 -- also adds an electrified hybrid component to its powertrain. Motorcycling’s blogosphere is rife with talk of the 300 horsepower necessary to take on Kawasaki’s supercharged H2R.

The current 2018 Hayabusa retails for $14,699.

 

2018 Suzuki V-Strom 1000XT

Starting price: $12,999 (1000)
Engine: 1,037-cc liquid-cooled DOHC 90-degree V-twin
Transmission: 6-speed constant mesh
Suspension: Inverted telescopic (front), link-type single shock (rear); coil spring, oil damped
Brakes: Tokico 4-piston twin (front), Nissin 2-piston single (rear); disc
Curb weight: 514 lbs

A stalwart performer in Suzuki’s lineup, the 2018 V-Strom -- the name translates roughly into “stream” or “current” from its German origins -- gets a new set of trendy tubeless spoked rims and a new, less polluting version of Suzuki’s torquey 1,037-cc V-twin.

A new fairing, a larger, adjustable windscreen and a revised handlebar render an already comfortable motorcycle even more relaxed. More importantly for the touring set, Suzuki has modified the V-Strom’s saddlebag mounting system -- a long-term issue for the second-generation DL1000 -- for easier removal.

Also new for 2018 is a Bosch-sourced Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) that allows the V-Strom anti-lock brake system to operate even when heeled over. Additionally, Suzuki’s Combined Braking System (CBS) ads a novel approach to emergency braking. While the rider still has individual control of front and rear brakes, if the ABS system detects the front wheel is about to lock, not only will it reduce hydraulic pressure to the offending calipers, CBS will increase braking on the rear wheel so that maximum braking effort is not compromised. The IMU also controls Suzuki’s three-position traction control system, which means the V-Strom’s ride-by-wire throttle will be modulated according to lean angle as well as road conditions.

The rest of the big adventurer remains unchanged, which means that, despite its off-road styling, the V-Strom is really a sports touring motorcycle, albeit a little more versatile than most. Thoroughly comfortable, relaxing to ride and incredibly reliable -- one busy V-Strom owner has registered over 400,000 miles on his Suzuki without opening up the engine -- Suzuki’s big yellow bird is one of the best all-around motorcycles on the market. Wire-wheeled XTs retail for $13,299 while the base version with 10-spoke mag wheels costs $300 less. An Adventure version of the base model with saddlebags and engine “bash bars” brings the total up to $13,999.

 

2018 V-Strom 650XT

Starting price: $8,799 (650)
Engine: 645-cc liquid-cooled DOHC 90-degree V-twin
Transmission: 6-speed constant mesh
Suspension: Telescopic (front), link-type, single shock (rear); coil spring, oil damped
Brakes: Tokico 4-piston twin (front), Nissin 2-piston single (rear); disc
Curb weight: 476 lbs

Suzuki’s “Wee Strom,” the smaller brother to the larger V-Strom 1000, is perhaps the company’s best foot forward, an impressively popular adventure tourer that has managed to fend off the challenges of an increasing number of mid-displacement competitors.

Like its large sibling, the 650 is now available in XT guise, complete with wire-spoked wheels, a lower engine guard and hand guards built into the handlebar. Last year’s revisions to the fuel injection system and some new pistons saw a five-horsepower addition to the evergreen 645-cc 90-degree V-twin while something Suzuki calls Low RPM Assist automatically feeds a little more throttle as the clutch reaches its friction zone for smoother starts from stoplights. A three-mode traction control system ensures that said throttle application doesn't get too enthusiastic.

Like its liter-bike sibling, the 650’s calling card is versatility. Now with the same fairing and windscreen improvements as the 1000, the smaller V-Strom’s aerodynamic wind coverage finally match its superb ergonomics. A slimmer tank allows more knee room and a 12-volt DC outlet allows the convenient hookup of power accessories like heated vests.

Compared with the larger V-Strom, the Wee-Strom obviously offers less power, and its stopping power can’t match the security of the 1000’s four-piston front calipers, Combined Braking System, and the IMU-supported Motion Track ABS. That said, the smaller version is lighter and more maneuverable while its 90-degree V-twin is notably smoother, which is at least part of the reason the smaller version has traditionally outsold its bigger brother by about two to one. XT versions of the V-Strom 650 start at $9,299 while the base version with 10-spoke wheels retails for $8,799.

 

2018 Suzuki Boulevard M109R B.O.S.S.

Starting price: $14,999
Engine: 1,783-cc liquid-cooled DOHC 54-degree V-twin
Transmission: 5-speed constant mesh
Suspension: Inverted telescopic (front), link-type single shock (rear); coil spring, oil damped
Brakes: Tokico 4-piston twin (front), 2-piston single; disc
Curb weight: 764 lbs

Like many of its Japanese competitors, Suzuki hasn’t really updated its cruiser portfolio for quite some time, the market for faux Asian Harleys having pretty much dried up. Therefore, its cruisers look pretty much as they did a decade ago with only minor revisions. The one cruiser in its lineup that's still relevant, however, is the top-of-the-line Boulevard M109R, the GSX-R of customs as Suzuki once billed it.

Said 109 moniker is a result of the 54-degree V-twin’s 109 cubic inches (1,783 cubic centimeters), enough, when combined with Suzuki’s legendary tuning ability for the big B.O.S.S. -- Blacked Out Special Suzuki -- to crank out 127 horses and 118 pound-feet of torque. For comparison, both numbers easily outmuscle Harley’s latest Milwaukee-Eight engines. Indeed, everything about the M109R’s engine is big. Suzuki used to claim its 4.4-inch pistons were the biggest in motorcycling and certainly its twin 56-millimeter throttle bodies are hardly small. 

Chassis-wise, dual four-piston calipers are radially mounted on inverted front forks while the rear rides on a huge 240-millimeter-wide rear tire designed to handle all that low-end torque. The front suspension, with 4.9 inches of travel, proves surprisingly compliant, though the rear monoshock can be a tad harsh. And like the Harley-Davidson V-Rod that it resembles, the M109R’s ergonomics are a mixed bag. On the one hand, the reach to the handlebar is quite easy, thanks to an 8.5-inch riser. On the other, the rider’s footpegs are located dramatically forward, challenging those with fragile lumbars. Such is the price of style.

The M109R’s calling card, however, remains its overwhelming power. On a dyno, healthy M109s often pump out 110 rear-wheel horses, some 30 more than the stoutest of stock Harley Big Twins. Response is immediate -- some cruiser riders complain it's too immediate -- but the Suzuki really does feel like the aforementioned GSX-R of cruisers. Indeed, though Suzuki provides five gears in the transmission, with its prodigious grunt the M109 could probably get by with three. The rest of the motorcycle may be a tad dated, but that monster 1,783-cc V-twin feels as modern as ever.

Which is why it’s the one Suzuki cruiser that still deserves attention. The 2018 M109R B.O.S.S. retails for $14,999.

 

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