Having had success in Supercross and outdoor racing the last few seasons, Suzuki knows what works and what doesn’t and the 2012 Suzuki RM-Z450 ($8399) isn’t straying from its race-winning formula. Although it sports no changes for ’12 it’s still a very competitive machine.
Like the Yamaha, the yellow bike can be finicky to start, but that’s about the only flaw in the RM-Z’s almost perfect engine. The powerband feels like a cross between the brute force of the KX and the user-friendliness of the Honda, which made it easier to ride for all testers. Bottom-end power is strong without being too violent and transforms in a very linear manner to a robust mid-range and proficient top-end.
“The power is really smooth but it also has a pretty good hit,” states Simon. “It doesn’t hit as hard as the Kawi but it still hits good enough to where it will pull you out of a turn without making it difficult to ride.”
“I doesn’t feel like you’re going really fast because the powerband is so linear,” comments See. “You end up going faster and it doesn’t wear you out as much. Overall I really like the Suzuki’s motor and it’s second to only the Kawasaki.”
On the dyno power comes on strong and is second to only that of the green machine unleashing nearly 29 lb-ft of peak torque at 7400 rpm (second highest). Horsepower figures are strong too with it churning out 43.69 horses at 8600
(Above) The Suzuki RM-Z450’s ergonomics worked well for all of our testers. (Center) With its smooth powerband the Suzuki hooks up great off corners. (Below) The Suzuki’s suspension settings worked well but were definitely on the softer side for even average-sized riders.
revs (second highest, again). Yet the Suzuki doesn’t feel overpowering behind the handlebar, where engine power trails off more rapidly than some of the other bikes. The RM-Z is fitted with a muffler emitting the second-quietest decibel reading of 92.5.
Lifting it off the stand reveals the Suzuki carries more than a few extra pounds (253 pounds, without fuel). With an empty tank, it’s a full 12 pounds heavier than the class-leading CRF and three pounds heavier than the Kawi and YZ, giving it title to second-heaviest bike in this shootout. Even with its weight disadvantage the RM-Z still rocketed into Turn 1 with the third-fastest time (4.65 seconds). It finished two positions better in the roll-on acceleration test, covering a distance of nearly 114 feet from 15 to 45 mph in 2.47 seconds. The clutch, gearbox and gearing were all more or less comparable to the other Japanese bikes but we liked the tranny’s precise engagement feel when upshifting.
Out on track the RM-Z carries its extra weight well and doesn’t require much effort to get pointed in the right direction. In fact, in terms of cornering prowess the RM-Z is the king with it being able to turn sharper than any of the bikes in this test. Plus, contrary to the Honda, the Suzuki tracks excellently and offers adequate straight-line stability.
“The Suzuki steers like no other bike in this test. It’s kind of like the Honda but it tracks 10-times better,” says Garcia. “It also doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to ride. You just look where you want to go and bam, you’re there. It does get twitchy occasionally but it’s the price you have to pay for its otherwise excellent handling.”
Most of our testers agreed that the RM-Z is undersprung for faster and/or heavier riders. The balance was a little off too with the front softer than the rear. This made the bike skittish at times when landing off big jumps.
“I would really love to ride the Suzuki with the right spring rate,” says Milan. “Nothing goes through the corners like that Suzuki does. It’s a lot of fun but not quite set-up for a guy as big as me (210 pounds). When the track is super smooth in the morning I feel like I’m on rails on the thing corners like no other bike out there.”
Ergonomics-wise the Suzuki was rated third best after the Kawi and Honda. Taylor was especially fond of the way the bike fit him as he was one of Suzuki’s principal test riders, having flown to Japan in ’07 to assist them with the design:
“They [Suzuki] flew us over there for two days to sit on the bike in a studio and form it around what we wanted,” remembers Taylor. “From the shape of the radiator shrouds to the side panels, the seat, it was all done by us. That’s why when you sit on the Suzuki it feels real narrow and your boots and knee braces never get hung up. We took into account the lowest part of the seat, the angles—there are so many little things you don’t even notice.”
(Above) Although it’s one of the heavier bikes in the test the Suzuki RM-Z450 is plenty maneuverable. (Center) You won’t find a more agile bike through turns than Suzuki’s RM-Z450. (Below) The Suzuki RM-Z450’s ergonomics worked well for all of our testers.
During Super Lap Simon recorded his second fastest time at the controls of the RM-Z450 (1’44.2). See also meshed well with it logging his flyer at 1’46.8. The average of both times gave Suzuki the win and another 10 points on the scorecard, which proves how potent the bike is at a high intensity race pace.
There’s no question that the European bikes have superior braking hardware but the Suzuki managed to be the best of the rest, netting a higher score due to just a hair bit more power than the rest of the Japanese bikes. And while the brakes work well, we still won’t categorize them as being great.
Due in part to its top score in Super Lap and Roll-On Acceleration, along with consistently high marks in the remaining performance categories, the Suzuki walked away with the top performance score (63). More high scores in the subjective group also gave it a boost, but when everything was tallied the yellow bike came up just two points shy of the winner. If the suspension would have just been a bit better, or the brakes a little sharper, the Suzuki would be walking away with this year’s win.
- Incredible handling
- Strong yet easy-to-use engine power
- Easy to ride
- Undersprung suspension
- Can get skittish over bumps
- Could be lighter