The highlight of the B-King is its powerful four-cylinder mill, but the Suzuki is still a capable handler – especially when you consider it’s pushing 600 lbs.
It’s big, it’s intimidating and it turns about as many heads as an NBA player at Grandma’s Bingo night. Now, we’re not talking about an oversized jewelry-clad basketball player; we’re talking about Suzuki’s B-King. Originally debuted seven years ago at the Tokyo Motor Show, the B-King is one ultra-cool streetfighter prototype that actually made it into production.
The B-King is proof of Suzuki’s unequivocal embrace of America’s ‘bigger is better’ mantra. It is the largest, most powerful muscle bike ever manufactured, period. With this one it’s hard to find anything that isn’t big: big power, big brakes, big proportions and big weight.
I can’t help but feel just a little bit intimidated as I gaze at its bulging body pieces and huge twin underseat exhaust canisters protruding like trapezoidal double-barrel artillery guns. Twin ram-air intakes large enough to inhale witless birds sit underneath the fashionably integrated front turn signals. Stylized pieces like the chrome bezel on the top of the fuel tank, sculpted brake and clutch master cylinders and the refined-looking instrument package give the Suzuki a high-end, premium feel. Equally impressive is the high level of overall fit and finish. Unsightly fasteners are kept to a minimum and the body components fit together as if they were crafted out of one complete piece.
Once in the saddle, there’s no hiding its 578-lb mass (fully fueled, ready to ride). Due to the substantial width of the gas tank your legs are spread far apart, so riders with minimal dexterity better bring their A-game when riding the B-King. But things get better as soon as you reach out to the widely-spaced tubular handlebars. The relaxed, upright riding position and tallish bars make it a very comfortable machine. However, the high mounted foot pegs force the rider’s legs into a more aggressive bend than seems necessary.
Thumb the starter and the gigantic 1340cc liquid-cooled Inline-Four comes to life emitting a quiet, sewing machine-like purr. ‘Man, how much better would this thing sound with some pipes’ I think to myself. The engine is almost a complete carbon copy of the one used in the new ’08 Hayabusa, except for a smaller airbox and a different 4-2-1-2 exhaust system that still uses Suzuki’s exhaust tuning valve (SET) inside. Pump the hydraulic-actuated clutch a few times before you drop it into gear and notice its light feel, followed by a progressive engagement. Twist the throttle and it feels as you’re piloting an F-18 being flung off the end of an aircraft carrier. Wide-open acceleration from a dead stop is that intense.
Not quite the hulking monster of its Hayabusa cousin, the B-King’s 1340cc Four cranks out almost 160 horsepower and 96.5 lb-ft of torque.
Yet the B-King is as obedient or as wild as your right wrist commands. Feel like stunting in front of your friends? Just hammer the throttle in the first two gears and you’ll look like your neighborhood’s most-wanted villain. Feel like keeping the peace? Keep the revs low and ride the B-King’s smooth wave of 70-plus lb-ft of twist from just 3000 rpm. Power delivery is flawless throughout the 11,000 rpm rev range and is complemented by the precise throttle response afforded by Suzuki’s Dual Throttle Valve (SDTV) fuel-injection system. The B-King is also outfitted with Suzuki’s proprietary drive mode selector (S-DMS) which allows the rider to modify power output by choosing from one of two modes. By default the bike is in full-power ‘A’ mode, but all it takes is a simple push of a button mounted on top of the gas tank, (while the bike is at a stand-still, in neutral) and the rider can select ‘B’ mode which dramatically mellows its power delivery. The system works well and can allow a rider of less experience to have a more controllable ride. For those of us thrill junkies though, ‘A’ mode is all you’ll ever use.
Power is transmitted to the gold-colored chain final drive via a six-speed transmission that utilizes a back-torque limiting clutch. Shifting action wasn’t as smooth as other Suzuki’s we’ve tested recently, but nonetheless engagement was precise. We never encountered any mis-shifts despite repeated full-throttle acceleration antics. Gearing is versatile for the streets, with a short first cog allowing for easy drag races, er, I mean launches from a stoplight. Yet, thankfully, top gear is tall enough for a low-rpm, buzz-free ride at freeway speeds.
But the lack of a front fairing or windscreen can impede triple-digit fun as above 120-mph it feels like the wind is trying to peel you off the bike. Suzuki realized that this might be a hitch in the equation.
Instrumentation is easy to see at a glance and consists of a swept analog tachometer flanked by a digital speedo, gear position indicator, and a multitude of warning and indicator lights. There’s also a bar-style fuel gauge, coolant temperature as well as odometer, dual trip meters and clock inside of the tach. The B-King also has a cool miles until maintenance required countdown meter, so you’ll always know when it’s time for service.
A larger than life streetbike with more power and performance then necessary, the mighty B-King is tailor made for the American marketplace.
With just shy of 160 horsepower at your disposal, you’d hope that the engineers would have endowed the B-King with a chassis stout enough to handle all that muscle. And we’re pleased to report that they have. A clean looking twin-spar cast aluminum frame and matching three-piece cast aluminum swingarm is paired to a fully adjustable (preload, compression, and rebound) KYB 43mm inverted fork and equally adjustable rear shock. Suzuki claims that suspension damping characteristics are similar to that of their GSX-R sportbike line and after repeated “cloverleaf exploring” on the seemingly infinite freeway interchanges Southern California has, we’re believers.
While cornering, suspension feels both firm and responsive with plenty of ground clearance, yet cruising down a pothole-laden L.A. street reveals a far plusher ride than that of a GSX-R sportbike. Despite the suspension’s full range of adjustability, we didn’t feel the need to change the settings as the stock setup is a good compromise between cruising the block and spirited canyon blasts.
Contrary to what your eyeballs tell your brain, the B-King is rather nimble in most situations. Sure it’s not as flickable as a 1000cc sportbike, but it still maintains a reasonable degree of maneuverability considering its 5-foot wheelbase. It readily changes direction with just a light tug of the wide bars and once a turn has been initiated, subtle line changes can be made without drama. Simply look where you want the bike to go and it’s there. Also impressive is its stability at any speed. No matter how hard we tried we couldn’t get the front end to wiggle around or get out of shape. However, at slower speeds-especially in parking lots, there’s no masking the B-King’s girth. That, coupled with its non-adjustable steering damper, can make it rather cumbersome when you’re crawling around.
Stopping is achieved via a pair of radial-mount Nissin front brake calipers that grab onto 310mm diameter rotors. A radial-pump brake master cylinder pushes brake fluid through rubber lines and there isn’t a hint of fade, even during extra aggressive, repeated use. Considering that the brakes are stopping almost 600 lbs, there is a good amount of power and plenty of feel at the end of the adjustable brake lever. Out back a 260mm disc and single piston caliper helps keep control while you’re riding around on the fat back tire. ABS is also available for $600 to help ensure stability during braking regardless of road or weather conditions.
Beefy braking components complement a high-performance package that B-King owners will enjoy whether they’re a hard-core stunter or a weekend canyon warrior.
The B-King rolls on a set of 3.5 x 17 inch front and wide 6 x 17 inch rear three spoke aluminum wheels shod in Dunlop’s Sportmax Qualifier rubber (120/70R17 front, 200/50R17 rear). We’ve always been a fan of the Qualifier’s due to their mild steering manners, quick warm-up times and gum-on-shoe levels of adhesion, but the B-King’s OE rear tire lacked the same amount of outright grip that we’ve become accustomed to with the Qualifier. Maybe it’s the extra weight or the immense amount of power that the 200mm wide tire has to deal with, but it’s possible to spin up the rear tire on command during hard corner exit. Fortunately the tire has great feel so when it does spin it doesn’t catch you off guard.
At the end of the day, the B-King really surprised us. It’s a big, burly streetfighter that for the right rider could be the total package. It’s got a fresh, futuristic look like nothing else on the street backed up with a powerful yet refined powerplant mated to a chassis that is both composed and agile. And while it may not ever fit in with Grandma and her crew, the B-King has us shouting BINGO!
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