Suzuki GSX-R1000 Review

As the reigning three-time winner, the Suzuki GSX-R1000 has been the most dominant motorcycle in the history of our Superbike Smackdown. It is also the weapon of choice for more roadracers than any other bike we can think of in the past decade, with an extraordinary track record that includes eight of the last nine AMA Superbike titles as well as the ’04 British and ’05 World Superbike championships. It has been quite a run for the Gixxer Thou but it can’t stay on top forever. Or can it? Any bike hoping to depose this bad boy is going to need to bring its A-game because the 2008 Suzuki GSX-R1000 has set precedence as the ultimate track bike and pushes the competition on the street with its nigh unbeatable combination of comfy ergos, decent protection from the elements and that outrageous Suzuki power.

Engine: 999cc Four-cylinder, DOHC, 16-valve

Horsepower: 157.6 hp @ 12,100 rpm

Torque: 75.34 lb-ft @ 10,000 rpm

Weight: 473 lbs w/fuel – 445.4 lbs w/o fuel

Power to Weight Ratio: 0.33 hp per lbs.

Wheelbase: 55.7-in.

Seat Height: 31.9-in.

Measured MPG: 33.02

MSRP: $11,499

Given its racing success, it should come as no surprise when we say the GSX-R1000 is still one of the better bikes in the test. A race-prepped GSX-R1000 is still a hot ticket on the racetrack, but the competition has improved while Suzuki has gone backwards by adding weight and changing the power delivery to accommodate the needs of track riders more so than street riders – as we pointed out in last year’s Smackdown.

Look no further than the scoresheets from Earnest and Sid, both of whom rated the GSX-R first and second place respectively on the Best Track Bike category, despite not backing it up with fast lap times. In the overall subjective scores, the Suzuki is tops for Sid and second behind the CBR for Earnest. In the midst of all this number crunching, it is important not to lose sight of the intangible quality that the GSX-R1000 is relatively easy to get comfortable going fast on. It doesn’t require the rider to work really hard to make it happen, and that has been part of the allure of this motorcycle. Sifting through the lap times reveals that while the GSX-R is always in the hunt, it never finishes ahead of the Honda or the Kawasaki on any rider’s lap times and was bested by the Ducati half the time.

“The power delivery is very predictable and it has good power through the rpms,” says Justin Filice of the GSX-R. “It was a little twitchy initially but with some fine tuning the bike was stable and comfortable. It is hard to believe this is a production bike.”

In regard to the Suzuki’s lap time deficit, the culprit is likely the extra 35 lbs the GSX-R is lugging around. On the track, the Gixxer feels much bigger than the other bikes, although it carries the weight well. Its handling consistently ranked in the upper echelon for Turn-In and Mid-Corner Stability, and its fully adjustable DLC-coated 43mm fork and single rear shock puts up a strong showing on the scorecards as well. The fork didn’t receive any top votes, but still manages a third-best average in this hotly contested category. Trick goodies like an electronically-controlled steering stabilizer help to tame the Gixxer and add some stability on the rougher road surfaces. For the second consecutive year, the GSX-R continues to be very neutral and feels good, but bland – the same complaint Honda has endured over the years. Suzuki has managed to tune-out many potential idiosyncrasies to provide riders with a bike that performs consistently and delivers an intuitive relationship between the motorcycle and the road. In return, the GSX-R1000 can be ridden aggressively by a wide range of motorcyclists.

“Hands down the Suzuki is the easiest bike to ride,” asserts Waheed. “It does everything a bit slower than the other bikes and delivers loads of feedback from every surface. However, its suspension set-up and slower-revving engine make it feel less exhilarating on the track.”

To go along with its rider-friendliness, the GSX-R holds it’s own on the dyno with a second-highest 157.6 hp at 12,100 rpm and a ballsy 75.34 lb-ft at 10,000 rpm. Suzuki’s 999cc motor might not be top dog this year, but it didn’t lose out by much. The torque figures are slightly better than the ZX but third-highest behind the CBR and Ducati. Over the past few years, the GSX-R no longer feels like it has the unruly power it demonstrates on the dyno, but it does have decent gearing along with a precise transmission that our riders rated as one of the best of this bunch. This combination helps make it easy to ride on a wide variety of track layouts. A meaty mid-range helps the GSX-R get awesome drives with less tranny work than the R1 or ZX-10, despite all three posting similar-looking hp and torque curves. With gearing and power figures comparable to the ZX, it makes sense that these two bikes are fairly analogous in terms of their feeling on the track.

“Over the years the Suzuki has been the benchmark in the open class with its stomping motor and great handling,” says Earnest of the GSX-R1000. “It comes off the corners with authority. The brakes are excellent, though the front lever is still a little soft, but they are really good. The styling is too generic though, it’s time for a change.”

During drag strip testing, the Suzuki’s 0-60 and 0-100 times are nearly identical to the Kawasaki’s. The GSX-R takes a slight advantage up to 100 mph, only to have the ZX nip it in the quarter mile, with the Suzuki posting a 10.38 at 133.1 mph versus the Ninja’s 10.34 at 134.44 mph. This is a case when the numbers back up the seat-of-the-pants sensation that these two motorcycles make power in a similar fashion. The major difference is that the Suzuki doesn’t feel like it doles out the power as smoothly as the Kawasaki.

Motor noise and vibes combine with a slight torque advantage below six grand to make the GSX-R feel much more visceral and aggressive than the Ninja, but both bikes are now less thrilling than the new Honda. It feels every bit of that nearly 160 horsepower on the street, however, and the added poundage that hurts it a bit on the track doesn’t seem to slow it down much in the real world. The majority of our riders rate the Suzuki well on the street, citing its accommodating riding position and well laid out cockpit as tops in the group. Consider also that it has three-way adjustable footpegs, so it can be tailored to a rider’s individual needs, (our bike was set on the lowest, farthest forward setting). Taller riders like Chris Hesse and Waheed had differing opinions, with Adam saying the Gixxer riding position is “as familiar as my bed,” while Hesse found its dated look and fat feeling too much for his taste.

“This bike, though more comfortable than the Kawasaki, just feels big,” says street consultant Hesse (You can hear him and his band Hoobastank doing their job in the accompanying Smackdown videos). “I haven’t looked at the weight figures but I don’t even care. It’s soft, it’s smooth, it has gobs of power but it just doesn’t feel as nimble as the rest of the bikes.”

If we are offering advice for the K9-version, then we say make it smaller and lighter and bring back a bit of that mid-range grunt. As it is, the K8 feels big and bulky compared to the new generation of competitors and at 445.4 lbs, it’s the heaviest in this test by 35 lbs. Trim some fat and tune that monster motor for a bit more snort and the GSX-R will be back in the hunt once again. As far as the Superbike Smackdown Four-Peat goes, it ain’t gonna happen.

During the past few years the GSX-R1000 has set the open-class standard so high that half the competition simply doesn’t have the muscle to dethrone the king, but there are two purposely built warriors destined to dethrone it as Smackdown champion. Do we think the GSX-R is going to lose it’s dominance on the track stateside here in the AMA? Not even close. The combination of Suzuki’s proven high-quality base machine, the might of Yoshimura and the aces at the controls will make the Gixxer as tough to beat this season as it has ever been.