Suzuki brought out the big guns to Austin, Texas for the first ride press introduction of its 2015 GSX-S750. The VIP guests included American Suzuki’s President, Takeshi Hayasaki, as well as its most famous American brand ambassador, former GP champ Kevin Schwantz. The latter would lead us during our group ride through his local Texas backroads, including a couple parade laps on the nearby Circuit of the Americas. Unfortunately, Mother Nature didn’t get the memo and dumped rain off and on during our entire ride, but we’ll get to that in a minute…
The Suzuki GSX-S750 is one of those “Euro” bikes, like the Honda Hornet or Kawasaki Z750 (now Z800), that America doesn’t know much about. Never heard of the Z750? At one point it was Kawasaki’s top-selling bike in Europe and the top-selling bike in France, of any manufacturer. These naked middleweights, based to varying degrees on their fully-faired sportbike analogs, have flittered in and out of US model lineups but never quite caught on in the States. So while this 2015 GSX-S750 is new to America, it’s a four-year-old global model.
Still, pretty awesome idea, right? A Gixxer 750 without bodywork! Well… not so fast, literally. The S750’s Inline Four is based off the 2005 generation GSX-R750, but engineers worked the 750 for better bottom and mid-range power via changes to cam timing and lift, as well as revised intake and exhaust tract shapes. Suzuki claims that while the R model has more top speed and greater peak performance, the S engine offers more street-friendly torque in lower revs. The engine changes also promise 10% better fuel economy.
Once behind the controls, riders will recognize straight away that the GSX-S isn’t as high-strung as its fully-fared R sibling, but there’s still some potent street power available. At least, as far as I could tell, as I spent most of the ride navigating wet, often dirty road surfaces. The first time I thwacked the throttle open, on a dry-looking stretch of asphalt, the rear wheel slipped and spun without traction. This terse rain check advised more caution, which I employed throughout the day. On the couple stretches where I could safely run up through the revs, the power was evident, even if the GSX-S takes some time to spin up. And once the engine is above 6500K, or so, the 750’s intake howl sounds the part a proper playbike.
The GSX-S can claim smoother fueling than the FZ-09, I’d reckon, but it’s not perfect. There were some hiccups when picking the throttle back up after full close. And the 750 doesn’t employ variable engine maps, or any other lavish electronic voodoo. It’s an analog experience, which some riders may prefer. I didn’t miss anything too much, but must admit that the conditions made me appreciate the Rain mode offered by so many other bikes these days.
A smooth six-speed transmission makes for easy shifts. While the clutch lever felt a little stiff, it’s not annoyingly so, and the bike is easy to launch. The Inline Four did produce some vibrations up through tank at times, but nothing too problematic. There’s really not much to complain about with the powertrain. But it’s also not as rambunctious or spirited as the FZ-09’s Inline Triple, which this bike demands comparisons against (Suzuki reps explicitly mentioned the FZ-09 as a rival during the tech presentation).
On the freeway, the GSX-S feels plush enough, the suspension not too jarring. Riding position is upright, with a slight forward cant. Reach to the handlebars felt natural for my 6’1” frame, with the pegs placed a little closer than I’d prefer but still reasonable. That said, I wasn’t particularly comfy because of the 750’s stiff seat, which had me shifting position or standing on the pegs for relief after 40 miles or so.
As for the S750’s handling performance, I was tip-toeing through corners rather than pushing, so I can’t put much weight behind my opinion. The neutral handling made for easy turn-in and quick transitions. The bike felt settled and balanced at our conservative, cautious pace. I suspect the Suzuki’s KYB suspension components will hold up to sporty conditions better than the softly-sprung FZ-09, particularly up front. But that’s a seat of the pants guess-timation made during the crappy riding conditions.
My evaluation of the brakes are the same story. They worked fine enough, but I didn’t hammer them at all on the wet roads. On the suspiciously damp pavement, which was frequently washed over with dirty runoff, I appreciated that the Tokico-caliper components weren’t grabby. But, again, the real performance test here, as with engine, suspension and handling, will have to wait until we can benchmark the GSX-S in a comparison review.
My first ride impressions of the GSX-S750 were obviously limited by the adverse conditions. Photo opportunities were, by and large, washed out. Later in the afternoon, as rain began seeping through my “waterproof” jacket, I looked forward the promised parade laps at COTA with K Schwantz leading the way. Instead, we slogged back to the hotel an hour ahead of schedule, disappointed. Of course, the bad weather isn’t the bike’s fault, yet I can’t help but think it emblematic of Suzuki’s hard luck in recent years.
Imagine the noise a $7999 GSX-S750 would have made in 2012. But back then currency rates (stronger yen and weaker dollar), forced much higher US prices. Plus, Suzuki was still reeling from the economic downturn, with only a handful of 2012 bikes even making it to American dealers much less introducing all-new designs. Even now the 750’s sub-$8K MSRP sounds reactionary rather than trend-setting, having been beat to the market by the debut FZ-09 ($7990).
Instead, the S750 arrives two years after the all-new FZ-09. But it is only $7999! And while it’s a budget-minded bike, the S750 doesn’t feel like a complete parts bin special – unlike, say the GSX1250F of years’ past. The 750 feels well made. I liked the instrumentation, bars and display. There’s some real styling here – a genuinely nice-looking bike. But, is the GSX-S better looking than the FZ-09? In my opinion, no. The Yamaha sports a much fresher look. Instead the GSX-S looks more like a bike from 2011, which it is. The true head-to-head rival from Yamaha would have been the Inline Four-powered FZ8, a bike the FZ-09 replaced.
Still, the GSX-S750 has arrived at last. And did we mention it’s $7999? The aggressive pricing strategy delivers an affordable sporty option that will hopefully inject some fresh blood into the Suzuki customer base. It also gives Suzuki dealers something to counter against best-sellers from the Big Four, like the FZ-09, which the S750 now undercuts by $191. It’s a positive move for Suzuki, which is still in recovery mode but showing signs of renewal. The 2016 GSX-S1000/F models look good on paper (with a First Ride report forthcoming) and Suzuki has returned to MotoGP, hinting that new GSX-R updates are on the horizon… This 750 isn’t a blockbuster addition to the lineup, but it’s a step in the right direction for Suzuki.