After a long wait, Suzuki comes out swinging for the new bike season, finally pulling the official wraps off two versions of its sixth-generation Superbike. Say hello to the the 2017 GSX-R1000 and GSX-R1000R. Just like the original liter-bike did 16 years ago, Suzuki attacks the competition head on, fully modernizing its top-of-the-line sportbike using technology trickled down from its overhauled GSX-RR MotoGP effort.
Both motorcycles are powered by a fully revamped and 0.7cc larger 999.8cc liquid-cooled Inline Four. The engine is even more oversquare than before, with 1.5mm wider forged pistons consuming 76 x 55.1mm bore/stroke space, squeezing fuel charge to a ratio of 13.2:1 (up 0.3). Firing order is unchanged with the crankshaft retaining the GSX-R’s signature “screamer” design.
Suzuki says it considered an uneven engine firing order (a’la its pesky YZF foe), but claims the added weight, heat, and vibration were too much to overcome in a production application, while maintaining a competitive price tag. (We still don’t know the final price tag, but 16-grand would be a fair ball park estimate.) Plus, the crew in Hamamatsu, Japan, just plain thought it sounds cooler. Somehow, Suzuki was able to ditch the old balancing shaft design, reducing weight and mechanical power loss.
Perhaps the biggest news in the motor department is the redesigned valvetrain that trickles down straight from Suzuki’s MotoGP prototype. The classic bucket-tappet setup is replaced with a finger follower system with variable valve timing. Twelve ball bearings rotate the intake camshaft drive sprocket centrifugally thereby modifying overlap of the eight intake valves (up 1.5mm in size to 31.5mm diameter).
As the engine accelerates, centrifugal force pushes the balls outward, thereby rotating the position of the camshaft and retarding intake timing. Furthermore, each of the engine’s 16 titanium valves are 62.5% lighter than before, and because each follower pivots on itself, mass in motion is just three grams according to Suzuki. This allows the engine to spin up to 14,500 rpm — 1200 rpm more than the machine it replaces, and a new milestone in terms of redline for a Suzuki Superbike. To dissipate that extra heat, the cylinder heads’s cooling jackets were modified and are now more efficient. So much so that coolant volume has decreased by 400cc.
The engine breathes via a larger velocity stack-equipped airbox and 2mm larger throttle bodies (46mm). The upper fairing’s ram air intakes are also bigger and more centered. The throttle bodies are no longer controlled mechanically, instead operated via ride-by-wire electronics. Suzuki’s mechanical throttle set-up was one of the best in the industry so it will be interesting to see how the new e-setup performs.
The Engine Control Module now controls each butterfly valve reading throttle and crankshaft position, engine rpm, gear position, wheel speeds, situational position (courtesy the Continental-sourced IMU), and exhaust oxygen sensor, in real-time, feeding fuel through by a pair of 10-hole fuel injectors.
A re-engineered 4-2-1 exhaust complements the intake and incorporates a trio of valves optimizing back pressure. The balance tubes connect cylinders one and four, and two and three, with both using independent control valves that modulate pressure to increase engine power throughout the 14,500 rpm powerband.
On the dyno, Suzuki says the ’17 GSX-R puts out 199.27 horsepower at 13,000 rpm, and torque is rated at 86.74 ft-lb at 10,800 rpm (from the crank). This equates to nearly 10 horsepower more than the 2012-2016 model. However peak torque is nearly identical.
Realistically at the back wheel, the new bike will likely pump out right around 170 horsepower. We know Yoshimura’s working diligently on hard parts and electronics, and we assume power numbers could go much further with the fitment of a racing style ECU.
To keep the engine running at peak temperature, a new radiator was fitted with dual electric fans paired with a redesigned oil cooler.
Suzuki GSX-Rs have always had some of the best slipper clutches in the business, and that looks to continue with the fitment of a redesigned cam-style clutch. It works by forcing the clutch pack together during acceleration, yet adds slipper function during engine deceleration. Another plus is it uses fewer clutch springs for reduced pull at the lever. Like before, the clutch is cable-actuated.
Lastly, the transmission gears inside the six-speed gearbox were “redesigned” but no specifics were addressed. What we do know is, primary gear ratio is a tad shorter than before, as is final drive gearing (up three teeth on the rear sprocket) which should help boost acceleration performance.
Obviously engine size, position, and rigidity play a tremendous part on how a bike handles. Despite an increase in cylinder bore, the engine is 6.6mm narrower in between its cases.
Engineers also tilted it rearward six degrees, reducing length by 22.2mm when hung inside the updated twin-spar aluminum frame. This allowed it to be moved closer to the front 17-inch cast aluminum front wheel increasing front-end sensation.
The frame has noticeably skinnier spars and attaches to the forward portion of the engine via an arm-like design instead of the triangular shape of the 2009-2016 model. The headstock and front part of the assembly is now stamped from one single cast piece. All told the frame is 10% lighter and 20mm narrower at its widest part. Steering geometry has also been tweaked for a 0.3-degrees less rake and trail reduced by 0.11 inches. Like before, an electronic steering damper is mounted above the bottom triple clamp and helps increase stability, especially under wide open accretion on bumpy pavement.
Although the swingarm appears unchanged it’s rigidity has been tweaked and is 40mm longer extending wheelbase by 0.8 inches to 56.1. Meanwhile, the subframe was simplified shedding 2.2 pounds from the machine. Although the fuel tank is fabricated from metal it is 21mm shorter (from top to bottom) and has been reshaped for extra rider control at race pace. However seat height is slightly taller.
Where the standard GSX-R uses updated versions of Showa’s BPF fork and more basic gas-charged shock, the GSX-R1000R adopts the latest and greatest Balance Free suspension setups from Showa.
The system works by isolating the damping circuits into external chambers, behind the fork leg, and adjacent the shock body. This allows the piston to move through its stroke with no added force due to the displacement of pressurized fluid. Each chamber is nitrogen gas charged so damping consistency is maintained during racing use on a hot day. The suspension is so vastly more responsive than before, that Showa eliminated the shocks’s separate high/low-speed compression damping adjuster and simplify it into one.
Front brake capabilities have never been a strong point of any modern GSX-R. Suzuki rectifies that by ditching the old Sunstar rotors for a pair of 10mm larger diameter discs from Brembo. The discs also incorporate a new floating-style T-drive mount for more optimum movement character, without increasing disc clank from rattling.
Four-piston Monoblock calipers return and are powered through a radial-pump 19mm master cylinder and rubber brake houses. Based on experience, we’ve never been fans of the inconsistent feel of Suzuki’s radial-pump master, so it will be interesting to see if they’ve eliminated its tendency to fade when hot. The front lever also has a slot cut into it, to eliminate brake drag at triple digit speeds.
Both versions roll on redesigned six-spoke cast alloy wheels and are shod with Bridgestone’s super grippy Battlax RS-10 rubber. The profile of the back tire is also slightly taller.
Wrapped in slippery, more aerodynamically focused bodywork the GSX-R’s nose is 14mm more narrow at its widest part. LED lighting is now standard (aside from the turn signals due to DOT requirements). And up-spec R model has a pair of LED position indicators giving it a more distinctive look.
All told the Suzuki is approximately seven pounds lighter than the previous version.
Despite being one of the first sportbike manufacturers to introduce adjustable engine power maps (S-DMS), Suzuki still lagged behind the competition in terms of added electronic countermeasures — not anymore.
The ’17 bike now benefits from a Continental-sourced IMU giving the motorcycle spatial awareness on the road. It tracks the motion of the motorcycle, sampling data in four-millisecond increments and feeds data to the ECM. The ECM then controls everything from engine acceleration to the ten-mode traction control system with on-the-fly adjustment control, as well as the new Motion Track Brake System.
The technology effectively mitigates rear-wheel lift during hard braking by modulating hydraulic pressure to either brake circuit. It also has built-in cornering functionality with the electronics able to help prevent front wheel lock during trail braking maneuvers.
The R-spec GSX-R also adds quickshifter functions with auto-blip (up and down) and launch control. A compressive monochrome LCD display keeps tab on engine and electronic vitals, and adds fuel economy and level information, in addition to a service reminder and freeze indicator, if you’re riding in chilly weather.
Scheduled to arrive in U.S. dealers in March, 2017, there’s no official word on either machine’s price. As mentioned before, Yoshimura plans on having kit racing parts available in the U.S. prior to the machine’s arrival this spring.