2018 Suzuki GSX-S1000Z Review

This naked workhorse gets small upgrades, big gains

2018 Suzuki GSX-S1000Z on road action
HEART OF A CHAMPION: Some retirements are better than others. Even now, more than a decade on, the 2005 GSX-R1000 engine is still making us smile.Jeff Allen

The thing I like most about the 2018 GSX-S1000Z is that Suzuki has given it the heart of one of the rawest 1,000cc sportbikes of all time, the 2005 GSX-R1000—otherwise known as the K5. Its meaty, long-stroke inline-four was legendary for its ruthless low-end and midrange power, and while it's been domesticated in its current form, you can still feel the beast within the GSX-S1000Z.

The 2018 model year sees Suzuki building upon that famous platform with simple yet effective performance and styling updates to the GSX-S1000 and matte-black GSX-S1000Z. The company kept upgrades straightforward in the hopes that modest price tags will attract more buyers than all-out performance. That’s much to Suzuki’s credit, considering its existing “standard” models sales are up 72 percent from last year.

Updating the GSX-S1000 without substantially increasing its cost meant only making improvements to its existing core components, which in this case is a street-tuned version of the legendary K5 engine. The most significant change is the addition of pentagonal-shaped ventilation holes placed in the lower side of each cylinder bore in order to reduce pumping losses—that’s the drag of air and fluid on parts inside the engine.

2018 Suzuki GSX-S1000Z static side view
2018 Suzuki GSX-S1000ZJeff Allen

It sounds mundane, but considering the pistons are moving back and forth hundreds of times a second at redline, it adds up. Those holes, in combination with improvements to the EFI mapping, result in a claimed additional 4 hp over the outgoing GSX-S, bringing up its total output to 149 claimed horses at 10,000 rpm. The clutch was also updated to a slip/grip unit, designed to lighten lever pull and smooth out chatter on aggressive downshifts under hard braking—good standard equipment on any bike with sporting intentions.

Ergos are identical to the previous model—including the 31.9-inch seat height—and the GSX-S1000 is about as comfortable as it gets. I found it fit my 5-foot-7 build perfectly, offering a relaxed reach to the grips and enough legroom to suggest that it would have no problem fitting much larger riders. Saddle comfort falls nicely in the middle ground between sinkhole and slab of concrete. The one-tap Suzuki Easy-start System is a nice touch, and the tidy LCD display perched above the handlebar is simple but informative.

2018 Suzuki GSX-S1000Z instruments details
NITTY GRITTY: The dash on the GSX-S1000 is simple, but very informative. No dim warning lights or clutter—it's just what you need to know, and all laid out intuitively in front of the rider.Courtesy of Suzuki

On spirited laps up and down California's famous Ortega Highway, it was easy to feel the improved power output of the 2018 model. Where the previous model felt sluggish between the 6,500 and 10,000 rpm, the new GSX-S has an added oomph that helps get it from corner to corner quicker than before. Our testbike produced 137 hp at 10,700 rpm and 74 pound-feet and 9,300 rpm, and it cranks out 60 pound-feet of torque from 3,500 to the 11,750-rpm rev-limiter.

"It was already fast, but added punch makes it more exciting than ever."

Peak numbers are similar to those of the previous model, but this bike feels stronger in the midrange, with that extra grunt lofting the front wheel during hard acceleration. It was already fast, but added punch makes it more exciting than ever. Also noticeable are the changes Suzuki made to the EFI mapping, which greatly improved the initial throttle response by softening the initial takeup. The previous model’s throttle was abrupt, especially at low speeds, and it was a common frustration for owners. The 2018 model is better.

2018 Suzuki GSX-S1000Z front brake details
BADASS BINDERS: Although the GSX-S1000 doesn't have the sexiest list of components, the Brembo calipers are a cut above.Jeff Allen

The GSX-S1000 is outfitted with Brembo monoblock four-piston calipers (the same units used on the current GSX-R1000) and paired updated brake lines—they’re still rubber but use a new inner lining material that is said to be less prone to expansion and inconsistency in performance. The combination offers impressive stopping power for any “standard” model, and the change in lines adds a notable amount of feedback through the front brake lever that boosts confidence to trail brake. The ABS system works well too by managing tire lockups without being overly intrusive. A competent ABS system can make all the difference.

Weighing in at 466 pounds with a full tank, the GSX-S isn’t a featherweight, but that's less than some nakeds and it carries itself well. It’s agile, making side-to-side transitions quickly and without much effort. The twistier the road, the more this Suzuki shines. Mid-corner steering and line corrections are no trouble either, which can come in handy when you make a blind turn to find an opossum doing its opossum thing in the middle of the road. Don’t ask.

2018 Suzuki GSX-S1000Z on road side action
2018 Suzuki GSX-S1000ZJeff Allen

It’s been nothing but praise so far for the 2018 GSX-S1000, but it does have its shortcomings. Suzuki has always been known for producing well-sorted motorcycles, which makes it interesting that the GSX-S’s suspension feels imbalanced. The shock is racetrack stiff and the fork is similarly noncompliant, and it has a direct effect on the motorcycle’s stability. At seemingly any speed, the front end jostles over bumps. That means it compromises the comfort of the ride, not to mention that at a quick pace you have to keep an eye out for imperfections in the asphalt. Luckily, the KYB fork is fully adjustable, so the behavior can likely be improved.

That aside, the revisions that Suzuki has made to 2018 model are incremental but beneficial. The best part? Even with the brushups, the price only bumps up $300 versus last year ($10,799 for the base model, $10,999 for the blacked-out GSX-S1000Z shown here), and that’s really the GSX-S1000’s shining attribute. It competes in an arena with exotic, advanced, and ultra-fast machines. Even though this Suzuki doesn’t have the most power, best handling, or gizmos and gadgets like cruise control, a color TFT dash, or a quickshifter, the GSX-S1000 does have the lowest price tag compared to any of its competition. And it’s a darn good motorcycle for the money.

Engine type Liquid-cooled inline-4
Displacement 999cc
Seat height 32.5 in.
Fuel capacity 4.5 gal.
Measured weight 466 lb. (wet)
Base price $10,999
2018 Suzuki GSX-S1000Z wheelie action
2018 Suzuki GSX-S1000ZJeff Allen
2018 Suzuki GSX-S1000Z side view
2018 Suzuki GSX-S1000ZJeff Allen
2018 Suzuki GSX-S1000Z fairing details
2018 Suzuki GSX-S1000ZJeff Allen
2018 Suzuki GSX-S1000Z engine details
2018 Suzuki GSX-S1000ZJeff Allen
2018 Suzuki GSX-S1000Z rear wheel details
2018 Suzuki GSX-S1000ZJeff Allen
2018 Suzuki GSX-S1000Z on road action
2018 Suzuki GSX-S1000ZJeff Allen