The difference between a good, modern-day sportbike and the bike people are most likely to go out and buy is millimeters. It's one extra line of code, a few horsepower, or a bit less weight. Suzuki's GSX-R1000 has lacked a little bit of everything these past couple of years, but for 2017, that all changes with a new chassis, engine, and electronics package. Suzuki wants its "King of the Superbike" crown back, and this is the bike it plans to earn it with.

I should back up and write bikes, seeing as how the platform includes a base GSX-R1000 and higher-spec GSX-R1000R, the latter of which I had the chance to hustle around the Phillip Island Circuit in Melbourne, Australia, earlier this week. The bikes share an engine, frame, and bodywork, but on the R you get upgraded Showa suspension, more advanced electronics, and a long list of smaller details, including, for example, a lighter-weight battery.

These are exciting things if you're a GSX-R fan or happen to be in the market for a new literbike. The last time Suzuki paid any attention to its GSX-R1000 was in 2012 (updated exhaust, suspension, and brakes), and the last major update was in 2009. You could have bought $5 worth of newly invented bitcoins that same year and since made enough money off them to buy something like one GSX-R1000R for every track day you plan to do in 2017. Things happen in 8 years…

2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R
Despite the many chassis changes, this GSX-R1000R feels a lot like its predecessors mid-corner. That's nothing but good.Courtesy of Suzuki

The Bike

Suzuki hasn’t been sleeping its days away, and a lot of what you see on this GSX-R is the byproduct of its on/off involvement in MotoGP over the past decade. Milliseconds turn into microseconds at the highest level of racing, and the technology that’s come out of Suzuki’s race camp is nothing short of impressive. Race-winning, even.

Suzuki’s goal for the GSX-R engine was to make it smaller, lighter, and have more useable power. Bore and stroke go from 74.5mm x 57.2mm on the previous model to 76.0mm x 55.1mm, a ratio that promotes better top-end performance and helps keep stresses to a minimum, while also giving the inline-four a small bump in displacement to 999.8cc. Pistons have shorter skirts for lighter weight, plus a new dome shape for a higher compression ratio (13.2:1 versus 12.9:1).

The entire valve train is updated, Suzuki having moved to a finger follower system (versus a bucket tappets setup) that allows for bigger cam lobes, and replaced the steel exhaust valves with smaller, 24mm titanium pieces (versus 25mm). The resulting weight savings allowed engine designers to raise the rev ceiling by an impressive 1,000 rpm, to 14,500 rpm, which when combined with new, 1.5mm larger intake valves (also titanium) contributes—again—to a much-needed boost in top-end power output.

It’s not all about high rpm though, which is why Suzuki has added a variable valve timing system, one that it claims is identical (in design) to the one on its MotoGP bike, and that it has apparently been using on GSX-R1000-based superbikes for a few years now. Dubbed Suzuki Racing Variable Valve Timing (SR-VVT), the system uses centrifugal force to move 12 steel balls toward the outer edge of the intake cam sprocket at high rpm, thus rotating the position of the cam sprocket on the camshaft and retarding intake cam timing. The result? Good mid-range and a smooth bottom-end power delivery through reduced overlap at low rpm, and yet more top-end power through greater overlap at higher rpm.

2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R
Off-corner grunt isn't quit as exciting as it would be on an Aprilia RSV4, BMW S1000RR, or Ducati 1299 Panigale, but literbike power is still literbike power...Courtesy of Suzuki

For similar reasons, the GSX-R uses new dual-stage funnels on cylinders 1 and 4, which essentially act like a variable-length intake funnel system but without the added parts and complexity (a longer funnel sits atop a shorter one with gaps, and air flows in at different heights depending on rpm). Throttle bodies have a 2mm larger bore (46mm versus 44mm) and are 19mm shorter, which is likely what enabled Suzuki to lower the fuel tank height by some 21mm.

Other changes, like a smaller stator, re-routed oil passageways in the crankcases, and reduced cylinder angle (six degrees in total), allow for the engine to be 6.6mm narrower and 22.2mm shorter. There’s no balancer shaft on this model. Suzuki has used a new cassette-style transmission, however.

Changes to the engine dimensions and cylinder cant gave Suzuki the freedom to rework chassis dimensions (without making drastic changes to wheelbase) for better front-end feel and increased stability. To this end, the distance between front axle and swingarm pivot is 20mm shorter, while the distance between swingarm pivot and rear axle is 40mm longer. The wheelbase still grows 15mm, to 1420mm, or 55.9 inches.

2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R
Phillip Island is a fast, flowing circuit, and the GSX-R1000R was an exceptional dance partner.Courtesy of Suzuki

A new twin-spar frame is 20mm narrower at its widest point, and yet 60mm wider at the rear engine mount, which Suzuki claims will help quell whatever vibrations are gained from the balancer-free engine. The main frame weighs 10 percent less, and is paired to a new subframe that weighs 38 percent less. Moreover, the longer swingarm is now braced on both sides instead of just one, for increased rigidity.

That longer swingarm will probably help improve outright mechanical rear-wheel traction, but in the world of modern-day literbikes, there’s no replacement for electronics, and Suzuki has finally stepped up with an IMU-based electronics package that includes a 10-level (plus off) traction control system, dubbed Motion Track TCS. Other features include Suzuki’s Low-RPM Assist system, Easy Start System, launch control (R only), bi-directional quick shifter (R only), and ABS, which on the R model uses roll data from the IMU to add a cornering ABS function. There is no wheelie control or engine brake control, though there are still three different riding modes, each of which offers different power delivery options.

2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R
A spacious rider triangle means it's easy for taller riders to get tucked in without much yoga experience.Courtesy of Suzuki

Brakes include 10mm larger Brembo discs (instead of Sunstar), monoblock front calipers, and a radial-pump master cylinder, all of which are curiously tied to rubber brake lines. Suspension varies between models, with the standard bike using a Showa Big Piston Front fork plus Showa shock, and the R the latest Showa Balance Free Front fork and Balance Free Rear Cushion Lite shock. The R also gets a lighter-weight upper triple clamp, which basically just means the clamp has holes on the right and left side of the stem. Bridgestone RS10 tires are an upgrade over S20s on the previous-generation GSX-R and sit on new, lighter-weight six-spoke wheels. The rear tire grows in height slightly, going from 190/50-17 to 190/55-17.

All of this is wrapped up in what Suzuki refers to as a sleeker, MotoGP-inspired design. The front fairing is 16mm narrower, while the bike as a whole has smoother lines for reduced drag. Lighting is LED (R model adds LED position/running lights above the intakes), and a full LCD instrument cluster is new, now with fuel level gauge—the first used on a GSX-R. Sometimes it’s the little things…

2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R
A Showa Balance Free Front fork and Balance Free Rear Cushion Lite shock come from the factory with some relatively soft settings, but came around with only a few clicker adjustments. You could probably do a race or two on these bits and not be disappointed. Seriously.Courtesy of Suzuki

The Ride

Maybe it’s because I’ve grown accustomed to rather lackluster platform revisions or because Suzuki’s overarching approach to the bike’s design seemed so much the same, but for some reason I sort of overlooked many of the GSX-R’s updates going into this test. This bike looked and sounded like the GSX-R1000 we’ve already come to know (and love), just with tweaks here and there and the obvious addition of TC and VVT. I couldn’t have been more wrong though, and my first laps around Phillip Island were a reminder that, in this case especially, all-new means all-freaking-new.

The power delivery is probably the thing you’ll notice first. At corner exit, delivery is so smooth that it borders mellow. Then at 10,000 rpm, as the VVT system starts rotating the position of the cam sprocket on the camshaft, there’s a faint punch, with the engine suddenly revving more freely and having quite a bit more steam than the previous-generation GSX-R1000. Suzuki claims 199 hp at 13,200 rpm, versus 182 hp at 11,500 rpm (measured at the crank), but around the same torque (87 pound-feet at 10,800 rpm versus 86 pound-feet at 10,000 rpm), and that’s about how the bike feels; much stronger and smoother up top, but still super user-friendly and quite similar torque-wise. It won’t dominate dyno tests, but it will prove to be a very flexible engine on the track or street.

2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R
Brakes are an improvement over before thanks to larger Brembo rotors, though we'd replace the brake lines to prevent brake fade at the track.Courtesy of Suzuki

I felt like, with the balancer shaft removed, the engine did produce more vibration than before, especially at higher rpm, but on/off throttle transition is crisp (only slightly abrupt) and the transmission buttery smooth.

The R model’s bi-directional quickshifter (optional on the standard bike) helps with those smooth shifts, and is the first real indication of how good Suzuki can make an electronics system when it puts its head down. Compared to other production-based systems I’ve ridden with (S1000RR and Panigale 1299 S, but not the latest CBR1000RR SP), this one gives you the most natural feel at the shift lever. I never once missed a shift, and downshift blips were always smooth enough that they didn’t upset the chassis at corner entry.

Traction control builds on your faith in Suzuki’s electronics engineers, and is divided into three categories, with levels 1 through 4 meant for the track, 5 through 8 for street riding, 9 and 10 for wet riding conditions. What I like most about that setup is that, in the lower settings, Suzuki has kept the gap in performance to a minimum, while in the higher settings, it’s made the gap bigger. So, while the difference between TC settings 3 and 4, for example, is relatively narrow, the difference between 7 and 8 is more dramatic. On the track, where you’re more likely to bounce between lower-level settings, this allows for you to more finely tune the system with the feeling you want, based on available grip, and without big gaps in performance as you run up through the settings to deal with tire wear.

2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R
Grinning from ear-to-ear under that Shoei helmet. Feels good to have Suzuki back in the mix.Courtesy of Suzuki

The system works well, and I was surprised to have pretty much stayed in level 4 for all of my quicker on-track sessions. Generally speaking, I go straight to the lowest TC settings possible when on track (I’m no badass, I just prefer the less-invasive cuts of most system’s lower settings), but on this bike I felt like the cuts were so little of a hindrance that I could still get a good drive off the corner when it was set to level 4. You’ll start to feel bigger cuts at levels 5 and 6, sure, but as a whole the system feels like it’s always trying to feed you the power that you’re asking for. By that, I mean it doesn’t just bring things to halt for the sake of safety over everything else, but rather works with you to get power to the ground. And that’s what good electronic systems do—they work with you, not against you.

As for wheelie control, Suzuki told me that, “This system is not managing wheelies.” Traction control cuts will naturally bring the front wheel down, “but if we developed a system for wheelie control, that would be much different,” the company says. Meanwhile, ABS went mostly unnoticed in the sessions where we had it on (Suzuki pulled the ABS fuse for our afternoon sessions on racier, Bridgestone R10 tires), with only one surge felt while being overly aggressive on the brakes into turn one, as I tried to find my way around Phillip Island earlier in the morning. These systems reward smoothness.

2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R
The GSX-R's dash showed 184 mph on the run into Phillip Island's fast turn one. Not bad. Not bad at all.Courtesy of Suzuki

Despite all the changes, the chassis has the same great feel that we’ve come to expect from a GSX-R1000—a feel that I was worried the bike might lose after looking at those much dramatically different frame spars. With the bike cranked over on its side, there’s near-perfect feedback from the contact patch and a good overall sense of what the bike is doing, which consequently gives you all the confidence you need to crank the thing over even harder. Or carry more speed.

Stock suspension settings on the R are a little imbalanced front to rear, the shock feeling softer than the fork at an aggressive racetrack pace. Added compression damping at the rear gave me the support I needed at corner exit and kept the bike from squatting and running wide, but without taking away the plush feel that makes this Showa suspension so great. With some setup, I’d argue you could race on this suspension and be tickled as ever. I can only imagine what that means for spirited street rides, too.

2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R
New bodywork is narrower and more aerodynamic.Courtesy of Suzuki

Even if it’s less work to ride overall than the old bike, the new GSX-R1000R steers a bit heavily, especially when compared to some of the competition. This, along with a little extra brake lever travel I encountered mid-session (a likely a result of heat and rubber brake lines), were about the only real downsides I detected. Ride-height changes (raising the rear relative to the front) might help fix the one, and steel-braided lines the other.

At 6-foot-3-inches, I felt entirely comfortable on the bike (ergos are the same as they’ve been, hold for that lower fuel tank), which I think is an advantage when compared to a bike like the short-rider-friendly Kawasaki ZX-10R. What’s cool here though is that, opposite the ZX-10R, which still feels like a very big/wide motorcycle, the Suzuki feels noticeably smaller and more compact than its predecessor. Aerodynamics are an improvement, and there are smaller, easy-to-appreciate details throughout, like that aforementioned fuel gauge on a relatively easy-to-read dash, and a traction control system that remains in its pre-selected setting even after the key is cycled.

2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R
Suzuki let us try the GSX-R1000R's launch control system, which is easily turned on by holding the starter button down. Once activated, the bike automatically goes to Low power delivery mode and Low traction control setting, while holding revs to a pre-set limit as you roll the throttle back. After the start, both systems automatically revert to the settings that you had left off with. While we'll want to test the system again to see how those launches compare to our unassisted starts, we can say that the one launch we had was completely drama free.Courtesy of Suzuki

Final Thoughts

In the end, Suzuki has created a bike that retains the spirit of the GSX-R but at the same time feels so much more refined and advanced. This may not be the absolute lightest handling literbike or the one that makes the most outright power, but it’s an incredibly confidence-inspiring motorcycle overall, and strikes a perfect balance between user-friendliness and raw performance. In a class where milliseconds and ounces make a difference, this one goes so far in putting Suzuki’s GSX-R platform back on the map that it could very well be the bike that brings the “King of the Superbike” crown right back to Suzuki’s doorstep.

At $14,599 for the standard model (a $700 increase over the 2016 model), $14,999 for the standard model with ABS, and $16,999 for the R, it’ll simply be a hard bike to argue against.

SPECIFICATIONS
ENGINE TYPE Liquid-cooled inline-four
DISPLACEMENT 999.8cc
BORE & STROKE 76.0 x 55.1mm
SEAT HEIGHT 32.5 in.
RAKE 23.2°
TRAIL 3.74 in.
WHEELBASE 55.9 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 4.2 gal.
CLAIMED WET WEIGHT 441 lbs. (Standard); 445 lbs. (Standard w/ ABS); 448 lbs. (R)
PRICE $14,599 (Standard); $14,999 (Standard w/ ABS); $16,999 (R)
2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R
2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000RCourtesy of Suzuki
2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R
2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000RCourtesy of Suzuki
2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R
2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000RCourtesy of Suzuki
2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R front fork
2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R front forkCourtesy of Suzuki
2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R switches
2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R switchesCourtesy of Suzuki
2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R dash
2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R dashCourtesy of Suzuki

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