With a new, more powerful motor the 2008 Suzuki Hayabusa was looking to regain its customary position atop the hyper-sportbike field.
2008 Suzuki Hayabusa
Our street evaluations came in polar opposite weather conditions, with our Southern California testers enjoying sunny skies, while our Oregon contingent piled on the miles in below freezing 27-degree temps. Warm or cold, however, it doesn’t take long for the action to heat up on these machines. Just twist the key, thumb the starter and hold on tight.
Arriving on the scene in 1999, the Hayabusa (the Japanese name for the Peregrine Falcon), has become a flagship for Suzuki and created an entire subculture in the motorcycling community. The 2008 Hayabusa is the first significant change to Suzuki’s popular platform.
Headlining the changes is a redesigned liquid-cooled Inline-Four. Now measuring an oversquare 81 x 65mm, the extra 2mm of stroke pushes displacement up to 1340cc, with compression ratio also increasing from 11:1 to 12.5:1. Other internal engine alterations include lighter aluminum-alloy pistons with modified crowns, as well as new valves, which retain the same diameter (33mm intake and 27.5 exhaust) but are now made of titanium. A new ECU is also utilized, which controls the fueling via a pair of 44mm SDTV (Suzuki Dual Throttle Valve) throttle bodies and a pair of 12-hole fuel injectors per cylinder. Technical mumbo jumbo aside, the engine mods are responsible for the Busa’s improved dyno results.
While we can’t make an apples-to-apples comparison to the old machine, as we used different dynos, there’s no denying the ’08 Busa has more power on demand. The hard numbers equate to 10.9 horsepower and 7.4 lb-ft of torque increases, but the real-world application is a motor that flat out hauls.
Hauls being a massive understatement, as a rider pulling up to a stop light has a veritable bundle of TNT underneath just waiting for the green light to light the fuse. Head-to-head the throttle response is not quite as crisp as the ZX-14‘s, but there seems to be an unending well of power all the way up to the 11,000 rpm redline.
“This definitely felt like the fastest motorcycle I have ever ridden,” said Adam. “Accelerating through the gears feels surreal, as everything around you passes by in an absolute blur.”
This is all in the default A-Mode, as the ’08 Hayabusa incorporates the S-DMS (Suzuki Drive Mode Selector) found on its smaller GSX-R siblings. Featuring three engine maps, the differences are evident on our dyno sheet: A-Mode is brutish power which spikes around 9K. B-Mode delivers almost 13-less ponies, but makes power in a very linear manner. C-Mode mirrors the A-Mode curve, but about 50 horsepower lower.
Looking at the dyno, the power characteristics of the A, B and C modes on the S-DMS (Suzuki Drive Mode Selector) are apparent.
All three positions are noticeable, with the C-Mode feeling, dare we say it, sluggish – in particular during low-end acceleration. There’s nothing wrong with the system, which is operated by a thumb switch on the right handlebar, but we are still scratching our heads over why anyone would want it. The raw, uninhibited power of A-Mode is addictive, even if you’re just twisting the throttle from stop sign to stop sign on city streets. Asking a rider to flip it down to C is akin to asking a drug addict to control their own dosage. Whenever shuffling through the modes on the road, we found ourselves dabbing up to A and leaving it there.
Our testers give the nod in the engine department to the Suzuki, but not by much. Looking at the dyno chart shows where the two motors swap places across the rev range, holding dead even on the low end before the Suzuki dips before punching back into contention around mid 6K, falling again until owning the top end from 8K on.
“The Hayabusa motor just feels more-gnarly than the ZX,” explains Hutch. “Both are fast, but its just got some rip-snorting power to it that makes it feel faster during roll-ons and general riding.”
Divvying out the abundant power is a 6-speed transmission with slipper clutch. The tranny is smooth, with no missed shifts reported, although the precise Ninja gearbox garnered more praise. Clutch lever pull is lighter on the Suzuki, but engagement is less seamless than its competitor. The slipper clutch is a coveted addition, however, which we would have appreciated during a track evaluation (unfortunately our trackday plans were thwarted by the weather).
One area where the old Busa was lacking in our ’06 comparo was in the braking department. This has been remedied by swapping the traditionally-mounted six-piston arrangement from the previous version with new radial-mount four-piston Tokico calipers pinching down on 310mm rotors. The improved stopping power up front is now on par with the Kawasaki, with the Busa stoppers providing a better initial bite. Out back, however, the rear 260mm disc/single-piston caliper configuration felt vague, a step behind the more responsive Kawi.
The defining difference between these two big-bore thrill machines is the riding position. The Haybusa compromises comfort for a sportier feel, pitching the rider forward like its smaller-displacement Gixxer siblings. The aggressive position causes a rider’s wrists to tap out after a few miles in the saddle, but the discomfort is forgotten once the road starts to kink.
The most distinctive advantage on the Busa comes once the road starts to twist and turn, with the Suzuki cutting corners with ease.
Here, the Busa riding position is a big advantage over the Ninja. There is just no question: the Busa is the sportier feeling bike. The question is whether the rider places more stock in comfort than handling. From turn-in, to transition, the aggressive ergonomics of the Busa make cornering easier by a slim margin.
“As soon as you swap from the ZX to the Busa you can feel the bars are lower and the general riding position is much more sporty,” said Hutch on the Busa’s position. “This aids in the sensation that the Suzuki is more at home straightening out canyon roads than the Kawasaki, even though the hard numbers seem to contradict it.”
The hard numbers mentioned above being the Busa’s steering geometry, with a lazier rake angle (24.2 to 23 degrees) and longer trail (98 to 94mm) than the ZX. Along with the riding position, credit the new Kayaba fork and KYB rear shock for the stellar handling – with the suspenders providing a solid and stable platform for the effortless steering.
At lower speeds, however, the handling advantage reverses. The Zook’s inch-longer 58.5-inch wheelbase (unchanged on both machines since ’06), combines with a wider, bulkier front end to make low-speed maneuvers less deft than the Kaw. The Suzuki’s turning radius in particular felt tighter. That said, on canyon carving jaunts, the Hayabusa is the superior mount.
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