Cover Story First Ride: 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R
2017 SUZUKI GSX-R1000R Suzuki brings the GSX-R1000R up to speed with improvements all around
Suzuki brings the GSX-R1000R up to speed with improvements all around
There’s something to be said for being well rounded, in life and sport. The best of the best don’t win races, championships, or promotions by excelling in any one area and falling short in others. Being plain ol’ good is, well, good. Suzuki’s GSX- R1000 has always been a perfect example of this, often winning Sport Rider ’s literbike comparison tests despite lacking horsepower or adding weight. But the venerable GSX- R hasn’t undergone a major update since 2009, and a near decade of hibernation has left the Suzuki languishing when compared to its Motogp- inspired competition.
The 2017 GSX- R1000 is Suzuki hitting the reset button. Well, not just hitting it. It’s the boys from Hamamatsu slamming the thing over and over again with a bat and building on a platform that’s quite literally made Suzuki what it is today. We covered all of the technical changes in our First Look (“2017 Suzuki GSX- R1000 and GSX- R1000R,” Dec./jan. ’17), but as a recap, the bike has been completely redesigned from the ground up with a more powerful engine, redesigned chassis, and all- new electronics package. We flew to beautiful Phillip Island Circuit near Melbourne, Australia, to find out just what this reset means for the GSX- R.
The engine changes started with a specific goal of maintaining the linear low- end and midrange power as before while improving peak horsepower high in the revs. Details of the redesign start with a more oversquare bore and stroke of 76 x 55.1mm, an increased maximum rpm of 14,500 (from 13,500), and a higher compression ratio (13.2:1 versus 12.9:1). Engineers gave the powerplant a new valve train featuring thinner- wall hollow camshafts operating Formula 1 style pivoting finger followers along with revised titanium intake and exhaust valves to help with the increased maximum rpm. Maybe the most interesting detail of the engine is the addition of the new Suzuki Racing Variable Valve Timing (SR-VVT) developed by the company’s Motogp Project. The VVT engages at 10,000 rpm as the centrifugal force begins rotating the cam sprocket on the camshaft and retarding intake cam timing, which is supposed to give the bike an extra kick high in the revs and help increase power to a claimed 199 hp at 13,200 rpm (from 182 at 11,500). The Suzuki Dual- Stage Intake System (S- DSI) on cylinders 1 and 4 helps balance power delivery by optimizing airflow to the engine through stacked intake funnels.
The funny part about riding the new GSX- R is that all those detail updates haven’t changed the engine’s amiable but strong character. It just feels much faster— which is exactly what I was hoping for. Initial throttle response is exceptionally smooth, and the engine pulls stronger off the corner than before as it makes its way through the midrange. It spins through its revs quicker too, which helps you get above the 10,000- rpm threshold where the VVT engages and gives an extra punch in power all the way until redline. The best part is Suzuki was able to pack all this extra performance in the same manageable way that has made Suzuki’s engines famous for so long. It’s also important to note how useful this engine will be when it comes to street riding and how it goes away from a peaky powerband that other manufacturers have stepped toward.
Perhaps the biggest talk about the 2017 GSX- R is the new electronics package— well, the addition of an electronics package. The Suzuki finally steps into the electronics big leagues with
a six- direction, three- axis IMU measuring roll, pitch, and yaw for the bike’s traction, braking, and cornering assists. The most notable of these systems is the 10- level Motion Track TCS (Suzuki’s way of saying traction control), which is designed to help the rider extract as much performance out of the motorcycle as possible. The system works by managing ignition timing and throttle plate position based on input received from wheel speed sensors, IMU data, throttle position, and a variety of other inputs gathered from sensors located throughout the motorcycle to intervene and optimize traction in all conditions.
The TC wastes no time to impress. It has an incredible ability to manage traction while still allowing the rider to use throttle to drive forward off the exit of a corner; what it doesn’t do is cut power and kill the bike’s momentum. I set the system to Level 4 during my time on the stock Bridgestone Battlax RS10 tires and later pulled off the track with the biggest grin you could ever imagine. The system finds the balance between intervening to find traction and acceleration just as well as any other system on the market— maybe even better. The only thing it lacks is any sort of slide control (a function that uses yaw data to dictate how far the rear end of the motorcycle can slide to), meaning if you get really greedy with the throttle, it can snap sideways very quickly. But if that’s going to be a bother, you might be missing the big picture— the system is really good.
The GSX- R1000R’S Bi- Directional Quick Shift System (optional on the standard model) also adds to the performance of the motorcycle by allowing for clutchless shifts in both directions. Upshifts feel crisp and are almost seamless as the bike just slightly cuts power (for between 50 and 75 milliseconds) as it clicks into the next higher gear and continues to accelerate. Similarly, the system very precisely opens the throttle plates during downshifts to match the revs and keep the wheels in line under hard braking. The benefit of a system like this is that it allows you to take the focus you formerly used on downshifting and apply it to making your corner entry or other areas of your riding. This isn’t just faster and safer, but it helps riding a lot of laps less strenuous.
It was a little unnerving to find that Suzuki
made such radical changes to the GSX- R’s chassis. The Suzuki was already one of the most comfortable supersport bikes on the market, and I really didn’t want to see that go away. Plus the previous chassis has always been so well balanced that it didn’t seem to need a redesign. But in a genius step of evolution, Suzuki engineers took what they already had, built on it, and made it even more well rounded than before.
The new GSX- R has the same homey riding position we’ve grown to love over the years thanks to Suzuki keeping the bike ergonomically identical to its predecessor. The fuel tank, however, has been shrunk vertically by 21mm to improve your aerodynamic tuck and reshaped to allow you to better lock your knees in under hard braking and cornering. Chassis feel and agility on track has also improved, proving the time Suzuki spent designing the narrower twin- spar aluminum frame was well worth it. It now takes significantly less effort to flick the bike through side- to- side transitions and tip it into corners, though both areas still feel just slightly sluggish in comparison to some of the GSX- R’s competitors. The same goes for midcorner steering, where the chassis seems to push wide just a little, forcing you to be patient before rolling on the throttle. It’s arguable that for what the GSX- R struggles with, it makes up for with tons of chassis feel being fed to the rider. Chassis feel boosts confidence, and, remember, confidence is fast.
Some of that feel is owed to Suzuki’s choice of using the Showa Balance Free Fork (BFF) and Balance Free Rear Cushion lite (BFRC) shock outfitted to the R model I tested. It’s a combination that once you try, you’ll wish all supersport bikes had. Both front and rear do an amazing job at not only providing feel but also absorbing bumps of all sizes and providing stability under hard braking. After the first session, Suzuki technicians made slight changes to the bike (a tad more compression damping in the front and a little more rebound and compression damping in the rear) resulting in even more stability and a small Band- Aid for the slight midcorner understeer— which I believe is an issue that is totally solvable with nothing more than a little extra tuning. The GSX- R relies on the same set of four- piston Brembo monoblock brake calipers as before but
with new, larger 320mm
Brembo brake discs to help bring the bike to a halt. The fast Phillip Island course had no problem testing the braking components and helps prove the package has plenty of usable power when you need it. Feel through the lever is great too, allowing you understand just how hard you are braking and how much to modulate the pressure if needed. Admittedly, I never felt the ABS system kick in, which is unusual on the racetrack and raises concern to whether it would be there if an emergency called for it. I can’t say it never activated; I just never felt it. Brake fade occurred too, though I think it is inevitable for the GSX- R at a hard- braking track, due to the extreme heat generated in hard- braking sections and the use of rubber brake lines instead of steel.
There are more bits on the bike that impress as well, like the full LCD dashboard. The new layout provides all the appropriate information to the rider including the first- ever fuel gauge on a GSX- R, and flipping through its settings is user-friendly via the switches on the left handlebar. Aerodynamics have also improved, and the bodywork has been reshaped with an added purpose of improving cooling to the engine and braking components. Finally, Suzuki’s addition of the Low RPM Assist feature, which monitors and automatically adjusts engine rpm during slow riding or taking off from a stop, will prove useful on the street.
The most beautiful part about the new GSX- R isn’t the all- new chassis, the more- powerful engine, or the “Motogp inspired” electronics package; it’s the fact that even through all those changes the bike still feels and rides the same way it always has— only better. It doesn’t just do one thing well— it does everything well.
Rest assured, the 2017 Suzuki GSX- R1000R was worth the wait and worth reserving a parking spot in your own garage for. SR