The dictionary states that evolution is the gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form. What it forgets to mention is that the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R is a perfect example of evolution, and a very valid reason to be excited about the direction sportbikes are headed.

Having just spent a day ripping the new GSX-R1000R, the upper-spec Suzuki, around the Phillip Island Circuit in Australia, I can confidently back up that last statement, and say that the 2017 model is a positive step in the evolution of Suzuki’s literbikes. The Japanese manufacturer has poured all its eggs into the basket coming up with its most technologically advanced and most fun literbike to date. But does the 2017 GSX-R have the potential to reclaim the “King of the Literbikes” crown? Read on to find out.

2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R First Ride
Our first ride aboard the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R.Courtesy of Suzuki

It’s almost unnerving to know that Suzuki had made such radical changes to the GSX-R’s chassis for two reasons. One, the Suzuki was already one of the most comfortable supersport bikes on the market—and I really didn’t want to see that change. And two, the outgoing bike’s chassis has always been so well-balanced that it didn’t seem to need a complete redesign. In a genius step of evolution, Suzuki engineers took what they already had, built on it, and made it better all around.

The first thing you’ll notice about the new GSX-R is that it has the same homey riding position thanks to Suzuki keeping the bike ergonomically identical to its predecessor. The fuel tank, however, has been shrunk vertically by 21mm to improve your aerodynamic tuck and reshaped to allow you to better lock your knees in under hard braking and cornering. Chassis agility and feel has also improved; proving that the narrower twin-spar aluminum frame was worth the trouble. Side-to-side transitions and corner entry speed up considerably, although they still feel just slightly sluggish in comparison to some other bikes in its class. The same goes for mid-corner steering, but it’s arguable the GSX-R makes up for it with tons of chassis feel being fed to the rider. A chassis feel that boosts confidence, and, remember, confidence is fast.

2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R First Ride
Our first ride aboard the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R.Courtesy of Suzuki

Some of that feel is owed to Suzuki’s choice of using the Showa Balance Free Fork (BFF) and Balance Free Rear Cushion lite (BFRC) shock that outfits the R model I tested. It’s a combination I came to fall in love with on the Kawasaki first, and now the Suzuki, and it's something I truly wish all supersport bikes had. Both front and rear do an amazing job at not only providing feel, but also absorbing bumps of all sizes and providing stability under hard braking. After the first session, Suzuki technicians made slight changes to the bike (¼ turn of compression in the front, and ¼ turn of rebound and ¾ turn of compression in the rear) resulting in even more stability and a small band-aid for the slight mid-corner understeer—which I believe is an issue that is totally solvable with nothing more than a little more tuning.

The evolution of the GSX-R also called for a redesigned engine, which retains the same user-friendly powerband at lower rpm as before, but consistently gains steam as the engine spins faster thanks to the new Suzuki Racing Variable Valve Timing (SR-VVT). The VVT engages at 10,000 rpm as the centrifugal force begins rotating the cam sprocket on the camshaft and retarding intake cam timing, which gives the bike a noticeable extra kick high in the revs and helps increase power to a claimed 199 horsepower at 13,200 rpm (from 182 at 11,500). At corner exit though, the bike feels incredibly similar to before, meaning the power delivery is linear and entirely usable without any spikes in the powerband. It’s important to note how useful this engine will be when it comes to street riding, and how it steps away from a peaky power delivery that other manufacturers have begun to lean toward.

2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R First Ride
Our first ride aboard the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R.Courtesy of Suzuki

With a new powerplant comes a new electronics package. The GSX-R finally steps into the electronic big leagues with a 6-direction, 3-axis IMU measuring roll, pitch and yaw for the bike’s traction, braking, and cornering assists. The most notable of these systems is the ten-level Motion Track TCS (Suzuki’s way of saying traction control), which is designed to help the rider extract as much performance out of the motorcycle as possible. It works by managing ignition timing and throttle plate position based off input received from wheel speed sensors, IMU measurements, throttle position, and a variety of other inputs gathered from sensors located throughout the motorcycle to intervene and optimize traction in all conditions.

Keep scrolling below for more photos from the GSX-R's international press launch at Phillip Island!

Right away the TC system impressed. It has an incredible ability to manage traction while still allowing the rider to use throttle and drive forward off the exit of a corner; what it doesn’t do is cut power and kill the bike’s momentum resulting in slower lap times. Total win for an OEM system. I set my system to level 4 during my time on the stock Bridgestone Battlax RS10 tires and later pulled off the track with the biggest grin you could ever imagine. The system maintains the balance between intervening to find traction and acceleration just as good as any other system on the market—maybe even better. The only thing that the system lacks is any sort of slide control (a function that uses yaw data to dictate how far the rear end of the motorcycle can slide to), meaning if you get really greedy with the throttle, it can snap. But if that’s going to be a bother, you might be missing the big picture—the system is really good.

2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R First Ride
Our first ride aboard the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R.Courtesy of Suzuki

The GSX-R1000R’s Bi-Directional Quick Shift System (optional on the standard model) also adds to the performance of the motorcycle by allowing for clutchless shifts in both directions. Upshifts feel crisp are almost seamless as the bike just slightly cuts power (for between 50 and 75 milliseconds) as it clicks into a higher gear. Similarly, the system provides smooth downshifts by precisely opening the throttle plates to match rpms to keep the motorcycle in line under braking.

When it comes time to bring the GSX-R to a halt, the bike relies on a set of four-piston Brembo Monoblock brake calipers and new, larger 320mm Brembo brake discs. The fast Phillip Island Circuit had no problem testing the braking components, and helps prove the package has plenty of usable power when you need it. Feel through the lever is great too, allowing you understand just how hard you are braking and how you can modulate the pressure if needed. Admittedly, I never felt the ABS system kick in which is unusual on the racetrack, and raises concern to whether it would be there if an emergency called for it. I can’t say it never activated, I just never felt it. Brake fade occurred, too, although I think it is inevitable for the GSX-R at a hard-braking track, due to the extreme heat and use of rubber brake lines instead of steel.

Other bits on the bike impress, too. The full LCD display provides all the appropriate information to the rider including the first ever fuel gauge on a GSX-R, and flipping through its settings is user-friendly via the switches on the left handlebar. Aerodynamics have also improved, and the bodywork has been reshaped with an added purpose of improving engine cooling.

2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R First Ride
The 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R.Courtesy of Suzuki

VERDICT

The evolution of the GSX-R1000 has taken a huge step in 2017 with the whole package getting more advanced and more refined than ever before. It has the power. It has the electronics. It has the handling. Long story short, Suzuki is no longer struggling to keep up. Actually, the GSX-R1000R may now be leading the race towards this year’s literbike crown.

Prices for the standard model start at $14,599 and increase to $14,999 for the standard ABS-equipped model (rumors have it that we will test the standard model in the coming months). The R model we tested comes in at $16,999.

2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R
MSRP $16,999
ENGINE
Type Liquid-cooled DOHC Inline-four, 4 valves/cyl.
Displacement 999cc
Bore x Stroke 76 x 55.1mm
Compression ratio 13.2:1
Induction DFI, 46mm throttle bodies, dual injectors/cyl.
CHASSIS
Front Tire 120/70ZR-17 Bridgestone Battlax RS10
Rear Tire 190/50ZR-17 Bridgestone Battlax RS10
Rake/trail 23.2 degrees/ 3.7 in. (95mm)
Wheelbase 55.9 in. (1420mm)
Seatheight 32.5 in. (825mm)
Fuel Capacity 4.2 gal. (16L)
2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R First Ride
Our first ride aboard the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R.Courtesy of Suzuki
2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R First Ride
Our first ride aboard the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R.Courtesy of Suzuki
2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R First Ride
Our first ride aboard the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R.Courtesy of Suzuki
2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R First Ride
Our first ride aboard the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R.Courtesy of Suzuki