No one builds pavement inhaling, high octane-drinking sportbikes like Suzuki with its tried-and-true GSX-R family. The GSX-R1000 represents the upper echelon of firepower from the Hamamatsu factory. This year its got something truly special with its brand spanking new 2017 GSX-R1000.
Editor’s Note: Truly all-new Gixxer’s come around only so often, so Suzuki celebrated by cutting us loose around Austin, Texas’ Circuit of The Americas for a full-day of seat time followed by a half-day street ride on the mostly straight, but occasionally hilly roads of ATX, which we’ll cover in a separate review.
For 2017 Suzuki’s GSX-R1000 comes in two flavors. In this review, we ride the base non-ABS equipped model ($14,599). Peruse the GSX-R1000R Preview article for more in-depth technical information as this test zeros-in on circuit performance.
Smooth, Broad Hamamatsu Muscle
Fifth gear pinned down CoTA’s awesomely long, one-kilometer length back straightaway. Life is good, especially when you’re tucked behind the accommodating, cocoon-like front fairing of Suzuki’s GSX-R1000. Although leaner and meaner, it’s nice to know that some things never change with it continuing to offer excellent wind protection, and high-speed stability.
Even more of a screamer, Suzuki’s overhauled and more oversquare 999cc Inline Four engine configuration has greater appetite for revs. The rpm ceiling has lifted with the limiter activating at 14,500 rpm. This affords a similar operating range to the latest near 200-horsepower heavy hitters from the competition.
Yet the powerband remains linear — even more so than before, with no discernible “hit” or Bridgestone tire spinning burst of power at high rpm. Credit Suzuki’s Broad Power System that employs Variable Valve Timing and borrows a certain German competitor’s lighter finger-follower valvetrain, replacing the more conventional (and heavier) bucket-tappet setup.
Editor’s Note: Suzuki utilized a finger-follower type valvetrain on its air-cooled 1991 GSX-R750. It then switched to a tappet system when the engine architecture shifted to water cooling.
It’s a bit of irony, as its said that the Germans copied elements of the K5 GSX-R1000 when developing its double-R superbike. Now Suzuki returns the favor. Based on our seat-of-the-pants assessment, expect around 171 rear wheel horsepower at the business end of the Bridgestone Battlax RS-10 tire.
There’s still considerable torque on tap through the mid-range, which is even more apparent during street rides, but we’ll get to that in another episode…
Up top is where this GSX-R engine wants to live. Thankfully its six-speed gearbox has closer ratios, plus with shorter final drive gearing, it’s easier to keep the engine spinning in its happy place. Like usual, shifts are crisp with precise engagement, but we do wish that this base model included the immediate, full-throttle shift response of an electronic quickshifter (standard on the up-spec $2400 more expensive R model).
If you get sloppy with the rev-matching during a rapid sequence of downshifts the slipper clutch is still there to save you and eliminate rear wheel hop — it’s especially handy when entering Turn 1, an uphill left taken in first gear. On another note, clutch lever pull is lighter yet remains properly weighted. Plus it offers 40% more clamping force than before (a big plus for those that intend on pumping up the horsepower from stock). GSX-R1000R riders also benefit from auto-blip downshift functionality as well.
The huge muffler does its best to quell the yell of this liter-sized four cylinder, but even still, you can hear the engine’s raspy GSX-RR MotoGP-type note out the tail pipe, and inside the cockpit. Watch the video and hear how much better it can sound with the fitment of a Yoshimura Alpha T slip-on muffler.
An early innovator in terms of digital fuel-injection and rider-selectable power maps, Suzuki’s Drive Mode Selector (S-DMS) mapping returns, but now manipulates throttle response by controlling the speed at which the ride-by-wire equipped throttle bodies open. The result is function similar to what the Tuning Fork brand offers with its D-Mode.
Three settings are available (A/B/C) with each giving full access to engine torque. ‘A’ mode offers the most intimate response, however the mapping proves aggressive and can be prone to on/off throttle abruptness in the lower gears. That made the ‘B’ setting, with its smoother delivery preferable (both on track and street). The final ‘C’ option would be beneficial for a new rider, or someone acclimating to the motorcycle on their first track day or AM track session.
Other handy, but less noticeable aids include the redesigned starter button mechanism that ignites the engine with one momentary touch of the red starter button. Suzuki’s Low RPM assist also trickles up from the new SV650— automatically feeding the engine fuel as the clutch is released to help you get rolling forward from a stop. Again, it’s another feature that will be appreciated by street riders.
But the real star of the show is the all-new Motion Track Traction Control System (TCS), powered via independent wheel speed, crankshaft, gear, throttle and grip position sensors that feed the ECU. It uses this data as well as the motorcycle’s position courtesy a Continental-sourced IMU (Internal Measurement Unit – combines gyro and accelerometer functions) to afford the GSX-R real-time positional awareness on the road.
When excessive rear wheel spin is detected the electronics apply correction by adjusting ignition timing and/or throttle body position, which helps to give a smoother more natural feel during slides. Ten levels of adjustment are offered, plus the electronics can be manually disabled, if desired. Adjustment is made via easy-to-manipulate switchgear on the left-hand clip-on on the fly, while the motorcycle is in motion (a big plus).
During our CoTA track day, with Bridgestone’s high-grip and racing-spec Battlax R-10 hoops fitted (Battlax RS-10 tires are standard fitment), Level 2 was the sweet spot. Level 3 restricted acceleration more than we liked, while Level 1 didn’t offer quite enough intervention for us to get comfortable. Of course, the beauty of the system is adjustability, so you can tune the electronics for your riding style/tires/circuit, etc.
Some form of wheelie control is integrated into the TCS but proved to be more rudimentary feeling than other setups we’ve sampled recently. Specifically, in a higher setting, the electronics keep the front wheel glued to the tarmac, however it is at the expense of corner exit drive acceleration.
On the other end of the spectrum, in a lower TCS setting the motorcycle can and will wheelie but we never got comfortable enough with the electronics to see if it could gracefully carry and lower the wheelie. It would be beneficial if Suzuki added separate adjustment allowing the rider to tailor the experience. Launch control is also available on the more premium GSX-R1000R.
All-digital instrumentation keep tabs on motorcycle settings. While it appeared a tad busy during our road ride, around the circuit it proved functional with key data i.e. the tachometer, gear position, and TC and S-DMS information easy to glance at. A programmable shift light is also standard however we didn’t get a chance to play with it.
Superior Maneuverability and Updated Brakes
Perhaps the most impressive feature of the new GSX-R is its enhanced agility and steering aptitude. Where the previous model was a tad lazy feeling, the ’17 chassis feels athletic, much more so than the seven pound weight reduction (non-ABS version) would lead you to believe.
It was most apparent through Turns 3/4/5 – a quick series of left-right-left bends taken in third gear. Here the GSX-R changed direction quickly from side-to-side requiring less body input than other top liter and liter-plus sized Superbikes that we’ve ridden around this circuit.
Handling response is sharp, yet not overly so, making it very easy to wield the motorcycle and put it where you want. The longer swingarm also pays dividends with tremendous drive grip as well as stability at speed. Our only real gripe on the chassis side is the older-spec Showa suspension components.
While they perform acceptably at a track pace the hardware feels dated and may mute a degree of Suzuki’s new-found chassis feel, based on our experience with a pesky green competitor’s latest and greatest Showa gas-pressurized Balance Free Fork. If track days or club racing is in your future, coughing up the extra $2400 and purchasing the R-spec Gixxer is money well spent.
Historically, the GSX-R1000’s fade-prone front brakes have been one of the only major chinks in its otherwise impregnable aluminum armor. Suzuki attempted to cure the problem by fitting 10mm larger diameter Brembo rotors (instead of Sunstars) that include the Italian company’s innovative T-drive floating mounts. This update facilitates more disc float and allows the one-piece monoblock calipers a larger surface to bite.
The system is powered by a 19mm radial-pump master cylinder through conventional rubber hydraulic hoses. Advanced IMU-enabled ABS is available as a $400 up-charge, or standard fare on the $16,999 GSX-R1000R.
Right away it’s apparent that the anchors do offer added clamping force and speed-shedding power. Initial bite is a tad mellow, but the deeper the lever pull the more bite ramps up. Still, a degree of inconsistency remains, especially if you set brake lever in position ‘6’ or ‘5’ (closer to the handlebar). Position ‘4’ seemed to partially alleviate the condition, but not entirely. Perhaps a brake pads swap or the replacement of rubber lines with stainless-steel components could cure the condition? We hope to find the remedy in a future test.
True Superbike Value
Despite a couple small squawks, if you’re a life-long Suzuki fan and appreciate the well-rounded performance of the Japanese brand’s superbike, you’re going to feel right at home— again, on this ’17 version. Faster, more maneuverable, and better-sounding, this GSX-R1000 is a competent platform for a head-to-head face off versus the best of the best from Japan and Europe. In stock form, it represents an astounding value too— priced below anything else in the class, despite being all-new from inside and out. And with that savings you could very well have enough cash to improve its minor bugs and take performance to levels beyond what’s currently available off dealership floors. We’d certainly consider that a win.