If you want to rule the land of superbikes, you won’t crown yourself king with just horsepower galore and a good chassis. Without electronics you won’t get there, so it was high time Suzuki reinvented its flagship bike. Last year the completely updated GSX-R1000 and GSX-R1000R appeared on the battlefield. I took the latter out for a week.
The Suzuki GSX-R1000 is “the basic model”. Its 999,8 cc four-cylinder engine has an output of 202 hp and 118 Nm at 10,800 rpm. Variable valve timing? Check. Ride-by-wire with three riding modes? Check. ABS and cornering traction control? Check. To list but a few points of its entire checklist.
The checklist of the GSX-R1000R is slightly longer, including cornering ABS, launch control, quickshifter, LED strips above the air intakes and Showa Balance Free front and rear suspensions. Which lifts the price rather displeasing: $15,099 for the GSX-R1000, $17,199 to add that extra R. If you drop ABS on the R-less Gixxer, the price tag is lowered to $14,699 (US prices).
So is that extra R worth the extra cost? Time for a ride to find out. And then you’ll notice immediately that here’s another manufacturer who nowadays thinks it’s not done to scare riders away. Suzuki’s racer is ultra-controllable and will never surprise you with a bad temper.
The ride-by-wire has three settings, and Suzuki has done it again: instead of naming them Race, Road and Rain for example, they’re called A, B and C. Although in this case OK, Not OK and Even Less OK would’ve been better. Let me explain. The A setting has the most linear power delivery. In B and C the power curve shifts to the right a lot (B) and a lot more (C), postponing the fun. Which is pointless because the A setting can be used under every condition, making the B and C settings completely useless. As an aside, the ride-by-wire does not affect ABS nor traction control.
That traction control!
Fortunately the traction control is better. A lot better. It has 10 levels (called 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10, with 1 intervening minimally and 10 maximally). Levels 1 to 4 are intended for the racetrack and allow some rear wheel spin. 5 to 8 are for the road. From a certain angle of inclination, they will make the throttle response and power delivery react more gently on the throttle impulse. Numbers 9 and 10 are the rain levels. The horsepower is never influenced by the traction control and – should you be tired of your life – there’s also a level 0: traction control off.
I started my week’s test with level 5 traction control and I didn’t bother trying a different level all week. Why? Simple: the traction control worked perfectly. Although the dashboard sometimes reported traction control activity, I never felt it operating. Correction: one time I felt something, during a sudden downpour in Brussels. On a straight stretch I opened the throttle enthusiastically and I noticed something, for a fraction of a second, as if I were riding over tiny ridges. It certainly didn’t feel like a short power interruption. Suzuki clearly didn’t opt for an ordinary traction control that cuts the ignition for a split-second. No sir, the Gixxer’s traction control varies the ignition timing. And that, it does so subtly that you (almost) never feel anything. Hats off!
Another gem is the quickshifter. Super fast and accurate, what else could you ask for? But also without using the quickshifter, gearshifts are impeccable. No complaints about the ABS either. It’s disengagable, sophisticated, though not adjustable.
Riding the rocket
Enough tech talk for now, you just want to know how this rocket rides, no? Well, like a rocket obviously. The four-cylinder in-line has a strong mid range, like the previous generation, and the top-end became even stronger. Only at 14,500 rpm it reaches the limiter. If you want to find out how that feels, beware: in second gear you’ll pass 120 km/h … Why don’t you give a few track days as a gift with every new Gixxer, Suzuki?
Going insanely fast is one thing, but does the R1000R’s handling match that? I would describe its steering behavior as precise and neutral. It’s not really light, neither can you call it heavy. Quick corner sequences require a little more effort. But the Gixxer remains very stable and gives clear feedback. Popping through fast turns feels fantastic. At least, if those turns are flat as a pancake. Bumpy curves lead to a swaying chassis too easily, diverting you from your intended line. The standard suspension settings are probably too soft for the track. Fortunately they are fully adjustable, so you can remedy this shortcoming.
Next up: ergonomics. Obviously, the Gixxer sits sporty, but at the same time very natural and not forced. There’s a lot of pressure on the wrists and only at motorway speeds your chest catches enough wind to slightly relieve that pressure. The legs, on the other hand, have no worries. Their angle is large enough, so stretch breaks aren’t necessary. My hands however did suffer: slight handlebar vibrations cause tingling hands after a while. The left hand can occasionally be relieved, but on the right there is no solution (such as a cruise control for example). Very annoying.
The digital black-and-white dashboard presents its information (there’s a lot!) reasonably straightforward. Important info takes up more space than less needed details. In addition to trip counters, tank capacity, outside temperature, selected gear and other usual suspects, the GSX-R also has a lap timer. Nice gadget for the fast boys.
The King. Or not?
So let’s come back to that first question: is the extra R worth the extra cost? Because the GSX-R isn’t the only 1000 cc four-cylinder racer on the market. R1, Fireblade, ZX-10R, RSV4, you name it. So what if we compare it to the BMW S 1000 RR, with its last update in 2015 one of the “oldest” literbikes?
If you want to compare the price tags of more or less evenly equipped bikes, then you need to add some options to the German one. For example, quickshifter and cornering ABS aren’t standard. But even if you add these to your shopping list, there isn’t a big price gap between the two. So you’ll start comparing other things. A motorbike that was released two years later, should be two years ahead, right? And that’s exactly the R1000R’s weak spot, if you ask me. Because although the Japanese bike has a far better traction control, the Beemer has a more sensitive e-gas, an equally good quickshifter, useful mappings and better brakes. There aren’t many clear wins for the GSX-R. And that’s too bad. Just a nicer display than that dull black-and-white screen? Would’ve been so easy to score some points.
If we put the R1000 (without extra R, but with ABS) next to the standard S 1000 RR, the price difference starts playing a role ($900 euro less for the Japanese), but the actual question is whether Suzuki has gone far enough. Won’t the Gixxer age too fast? Because the rivalling literbikes will probably get their upgrades sooner than the Suzuki. And that way, it might lag behind rather quickly.
The last paragraphs may seem critical (I guess that’s the point of a review), but rest assured: I had a blast on the Suzuki GSX-R1000R. Its engine is just crazy, the quickshifter boosts the madness, and it handles excellently. Be careful for that driving license though, because going fast with the Gixxer is oh so tempting.
Of course this isn’t the most comfortable bike for long journeys, and the handlebars’ vibrations are irritating, but in return Suzuki offers the best traction control I’ve ever experienced. Hopefully the team from Hamamatsu won’t forget the mappings during the next update, because they really deserve a reason to exist.
The most troublesome point for me, however, is the level of innovation of the GSX-R. The competition amongst superbikes is hard and I fear The King could be surrounded by speed devils with stronger assets rather soonish. On the other hand, if you don’t call for high tech features as tire pressure sensors, adjustable ABS, semi-active suspension, lean angle sensors, smartphone connectivity, wheelie control, pit limiters and so on: prepare for an unbelievable adrenaline rush!
Photography : Foto PK
+ Stable and precise steering behaviour
+ Impressive engine
+ Excellent traction control
+ Amazing quickshifter
– Useless mappings
– Vibrations in handlebars
– Is the Gixxer high tech enough to keep up with its competitors?
– Don’t lose your driver’s license!
Overall length: 2,075mm (81.7in)
Overall width: 705mm (27.8in)
Overall height: 1,145mm (45.1in)
Wheelbase: 1,420mm (55.9in)
Ground clearance: 130mm (5.1in)
Seat height: 825mm (32.5in)
Curb mass: 200kg – 441lbs (GSX-R1000) / 202kg – 445lbs (GSX-R1000A) / 203kg – 448lbs (GSX-R1000R)
Engine type: 4-stroke, 4-cylinder, liquid-cooled, DOHC
Bore x stroke: 76.0mm x 55.1mm (2.9 in x 2.3 in)
Displacement: 999.8cm3 (61.0 cu. in)
Maximum power: 202 hp @ 13200 rpm
Maximum torque: 117,6 Nm @ 10800 rpm
Compression ratio: 13.2 : 1
Fuel system: Fuel injection
Starter system: Electric
Lubrication system: Wet sump
Transmission: 6-speed constant mesh
Primary reduction ratio: 1.652 (76/46)
Final reduction ratio: 2.647 (45/17)
Suspension front: Inverted telescopic, coil spring, oil damped
Suspensian rear: Link type, coil spring, oil damped
Rake / trail: 23°20’ / 95mm (3.7in)
Brakes: Disc, twin (front) / Disc (rear)
Tyres: 120/70ZR17M/C (58W), tubeless (front) / 190/55ZR17M/C (75W), tubeless (rear)
Ignition system: Electronic ignition (transistorized)
Fuel tank: 16 L (4.2/3.5 US/Imp gal)
Oil capacity (overhaul): 4.1L (1.1/0.9 US/Imp gal)