It’s not the headline figures of 199.2bhp and 203kg wet weight, the price, or that MotoGP replica bright blue paint that should tempt you into the world of the Suzuki GSX-R1000R, it’s the way it delivers that engine on the road.
It’s mesmerising. An engine that delivers so much grunt with such an encapsulating gravelly soundtrack to the motor, that every time you open the throttle it surprises you. It costs £80.81p per horsepower, and with coffee costing more than petrol I’d say that’s a bargain for this much intense performance. Yes, I just said that more than £16,000 is a bargain.
At 70mph it’s doing around 5000rpm in sixth gear. Roll on the power to pass a slower moving vehicle and it’s doing 100mph before you know it. There’s no need to change down, just twist and go. But be warned, change down the gears and it accelerates so fast that you need to be on your game every single time you ride the new 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R on the road.
There are plenty of fast sports bikes, the BMW S1000RR, the Yamaha R1, Ducati’s 1299 Panigale, the Kawasaki ZX-10R and Honda’s Fireblade. But I’d put money on none of them being as fast as the GSX-R1000R on real roads in the UK. But it’s not just this, the more expensive GSX-R1000R, the standard bike has the same motor and comes in at £16,099.
The differences are essentially full race spec suspension, LED running lights and colour-coded air intakes on the R version. There’s no launch control or quick shift system on the standard bike either.
For this test we’re on the top spec GSX-R1000R with the full fat Showa Balance Free (BFF) forks. The set-up is rigid, well damped and firmly sprung on the road, and capable of being easily adjusted any which way you like on the track. At the rear is a Showa Balance Free Rear Cushion Lite. Like the forks, the BFRC system changes oil pressure as it moves up and down inside the working shock allowing the damping and the oil-flow to be more precise. It certainly works a treat, allowing you to fire it in hard on its nose on the track, and get lots of feel for the rear tyre on the exit.
It’s the way the whole package works together harmoniously that makes the GSX-R the current bike to beat in terms of group tests in pretty much every magazine and every website that has tested them all together so far.
I’ve tested every sports bike since 1994, this is not just a new GSX-R1000, it’s a step up in the performance of sports bikes. It may not ultimately have the soul or the ultimate sex appeal of the soon to be outgoing Ducati 1299 Panigale, or that funky baritone bass track of the cross-plane crank Yamaha R1, or the silky smooth fully electronics suspension of the BMW S1000RR, but it’s hard to think of anything faster on your average smooth A-road with a good rider on board.
It is a new GSX-R too, completely. Where the old one was criticised for not having enough grunt and essentially being the same bike for the last 10 years, this long-awaited GSX-R1000R is new from the ground up.
Using technology developed in the Suzuki GSX-RR MotoGP race bike, the motor features Suzuki Variable Valve Timing (SR-VVT) and variable intake funnels which allows the engine to change the valve timing at a set RPM to give a torquey, smooth motor at low revs, and a high-revving screamer for maximum high rev power. It’s a system that in the way of engineering feats of brilliance, you never actually notice working, other than it simply does its job. The motor is immensely torquey low-down and at high-revs feels like the way it accelerates wants to rip your face off. It accelerates so hard that it’s almost impossible to hit maximum revs in third gear on the road, or even second come to think of it. And for the sake of any Police reading, I won’t reveal what speed it does in those gears!
There’s a slipper clutch and a faultless up and down gear change blipper system. On track it’s a great aid, but on the road to, you soon forget about using the clutch other than for pulling away, and tap the gear lever up and down even as low as 25mph.
It’s a GSX-R1000 in every way, make no doubt. But it’s more intense than ever.
The chassis is lighter, it steers quicker and it’s as sharp as a Japanese Samurai sword on the track, holding a line and letting you feel exactly where the chassis is mid-corner. That translates to a firm ride on the road, and you might guess that it’s pretty tight for bigger riders with low bars and high pegs, but roomier than an R1 or ZX-10R I’d say. Wind protection is fine. In fact, the nearest comparison to this bike is the BMW S1000RR. It’s like Suzuki took a BMW and said: ‘make it better than that.’ Which is essentially what they have done.
The BMW feels a little bigger, the motor not quite as gutsy or as flexible as the Suzuki, but it’s close. And we know that BMW are working on a new S1000RR due to be announced in a couple of months. Guaranteed they’ve been testing it against the Suzuki right now.
Think of it as a refined, updated BMW.
In the same way every GSX-R1000 before it, from the K1 to the (some say it’s perfect) K5, it’s a GSX-R1000 in every way. Make no mistake this is a serious performance motorcycle that eeks out the level of 1000cc performance motorcycles to a new level. Beginners should ride it at their peril.
And to get the most out of this bike you do have to be a good rider. If you haven’t ridden a big 1000cc sports bike for a couple of months it takes time to recalibrate your eyes and your brain to take in the scenery as it blurs towards you. It’s that fast.
So fast, in fact, that to properly evaluate the GSX-R1000’s performance you need to go a closed testing facility. We took the Suzuki to Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground in Leicestershire and fitted datalogging equipment, before heading down the two-mile runway.
The results were staggering. The GSX-R1000 run the standing quarter mile in less than 10 seconds, screaming past the mark in just 9.97 seconds, at 153mph, before topping out at 183mph a mere 10 seconds later. That’s as fast as a hyperbike like the Kawasaki H2!
But those numbers don’t show just how easy it is to live with too. During our test we had it on track at Silverstone, performance speed tested, and rode it to our Leicestershire office in the dry and in rain.
It’s always strong at low revs, the three modes, A, B and you guessed it, C, change the power delivery of the motor. C is essentially a rain mode, B is a bit softer than A. You get the idea. But after a quick experiment in the three modes, I just rode it in A the whole time. The throttle is millimetre perfect, dial I what you need and it delivers. And despite a full package of electronics powered by the six-axis Inertial Measurement Unit they never take away from the riding experience. They enhance it.
Ten settings of traction control go from ‘Oh my Gosh, I’m going to die’, to ‘It’s okay, everything is under control’. I turned it all off a few times and the bike becomes a full bareback beast. It bucks and weaves as the front wheel lifts at 120mph in fourth gear. Our time at Bruntingthorpe and Silverstone proves that the bike will do 120mph in second, but still wants to lift its wheel sky high in fourth gear.
For those who are still bleating on about electronics taking away from the rider, try a GSX-R1000R and tell me you don’t want to switch them back on before 10 miles is up. On track the electronics can be fine-tuned to the rider. I was out on track at Silverstone for Suzuki’s all-star track day with some British Superbike riders, including Suzuki’s own Sylvain Guintoli and Taylor Mackenzie. I’ve ridden with Mackenzie a lot over the years, so he couldn’t help show me just how quickly a GSX-R1000R could get around Silverstone in the damp as he overtook me at the end of the Hangar Straight.
Most of the time I opted for a casual number three out of ten on the electronic settings. It allowed plenty of feel but also enough electronics to stop you firing yourself and the shiny blue thing into a wall.
On track, level two or level one gives an amount of slide while still driving forward. Ultimately on track, the losing factor here is the Bridgestone RS10 tyres. If you’re buying a GSX-R1000R to ride on circuit you may want something stickier. But on the road where it will spend most of its time, they work well in the dry and give good grip in the damp.
Suzuki made some big claims about the new GSX-R when it was revealed at the end of last year. It lives up to every single one of them and takes sports bike on a notch. It’s not perfect, the brakes are adequate rather than stunning, and our tests at Bruntingthorpe saw it haul us to a halt from 70mph in 3.75 seconds. The clocks should be full-colour at this level too, not just LCD. It’s not bad, just a point on a bike that is this good.
And finally… I promised myself I wouldn’t mention that exhaust, but I guess I just did. Just don’t talk about that exhaust can. Interestingly, despite every mention of the bike’s GSX-R styling, the full LED lights, and that stunning blue paint scheme on the bike we tested, not to mention the near factory MotoGP spec forks and flowing modern GSX-R1000 lines, it seems like all everyone talks about ‘that exhaust’ whenever I’ve put a picture on social media.
Yes, it’s big, but Suzuki tell me that it works so well that putting a slip-on can on the bike gives the bike less power, until the bike has been remapped. So it might be ugly but it sounds a good and it’s clearly well engineered.
And you don’t see it when you’ve got your chin down on the tank anyway.
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