The Suzuki GSXR-1000 feels like one of the larger bikes in this comparison offering stable and predictable handling.
Despite not importing any ’10 street bikes into the US due to excess inventory levels of last year’s machinery, Suzuki still participated in Superbike Smackdown with a 2009 GSX-R1000. Fully overhauled last year, the Suzuki put up a worthy fight in the 2009 Superbike Smackdown VI Street
finishing second in the test. This year it is competing with a favorable price tag which gives it some extra points in the objective scoring category.
And we’re ecstatic that Suzuki came out to play as its GSX-R line of high-performance sportbikes has had a long history in America. In fact this year marks the 25th anniversary of the GSX-R750—a motorcycle that completely defined the class. Read more about it in the 25 Years of Suzuki GSX-R Sportbikes
feature. Over time we’ve come to adore the Gixxer and this year was no different.
Handling propulsion is a liquid-cooled 999cc Inline Four with a conventional firing order similar to the set-ups used by the Honda, Kawasaki, and now BMW. Bore/stroke architecture is 74.5 x 57.3mm which is the least oversquare of the group. Normally this equates to slightly more bottom-end and mid-range engine performance at the expense of top-end. However, with the third-highest peak horsepower number (160.89) it still has some serious juice up top. Compression ratio is rated at 12.8:1 which is about mid-pack and in between the Ninja and the R1/1198S. Like the rest of the Inline Fours a double overhead camshaft-equipped 16-valve cylinder head is used and it receives fuel from eight fuel-injectors.
From idle until 5000 rpm, the Gixxer cranks out the most amount of torque of any of the four cylinders. After that the CBR takes over before their torque curves converge again at 9000 revs (meanwhile the BMW surpasses them all) in route to its 75.55 lb-ft peak at 9200 rpm. From there they run neck-and-neck before the Honda tapers off, giving the Suzuki the second-longest torque curve next to the Beemer.
Throttle response is superb and the powerband feels smooth but the engine buzzes more than the rest of the group. It certainly isn’t intolerable and after awhile you get use to it and just chalk it up to overall character. Speaking of character, the Gixxer engine delivers a lot of it even at low rpm. Anytime you’re on the gas you can hear the roar from the intake and at high rpm the engine’s shriek is exciting.
The motor spins up quickly—faster than all the four cylinders with exception of the BMW. In spite of utilizing the smallest piston bore the Gixxer actually posted the third-highest peak horsepower number of 160.89 at a relatively low 11,800 rpm. After that power gently signs off only decreasing by 10 hp at its 13,300 redline.
“The Suzuki’s motor is definitely one of my favorites,” comments Atlas. “Even compared to the V-Twins it has excellent bottom end. Mid-range and top-end is strong too. But the biggest thing is how smooth the engine is everywhere. Sure, maybe it vibrates a bit more than the Kawasaki and Yamaha but it is by no means out of control like the KTM.”
On the street it's important to have some range and the GSX-R is one of the most economical of this bunch. Next to the Honda the Suzuki posted the best fuel mileage. We calculated an average of 33.4 mpg. This gives you a range of 153 miles with 4.6-gallons of fuel in the tank. Refraining from the prolonged high rpm use that our test bikes are always subjected to is sure to bump the MPG even higher.
In the sound test the Gixxer had the highest noise factor of the Japanese machines at idle recording 86 decibels. At speed, however the noised belted out of the twin mufflers was identical to the BMW, Honda, and KTM at 100 dB.
The Gixxer’s 6-speed gearbox feels very similar to the one’s employed in the rest of the Japanese bikes. There is virtually no play between each of the gears and the transmission moves between each gear precisely.
As opposed to its predecessor, the new Suzuki uses a cable-actuated clutch with back-torque functionality. We’re beginning to sound like a broken record here but clutch action is as light as the rest of the bikes from the Far East with a comparable level of feel. During forceful deceleration the GSX-R’s slipper clutch functions without flaw. It offers that happy-medium between slip and engine braking and makes it fun (and easy) to kick the back end out sideways for showboating maneuvers in front of your friends.
Final drive gearing is 17/42 which is one-tooth larger on the rear sprocket compared to the Kawasaki but still not as short as the R1. Even though first gear is tall and good for 100 mph, launching from a stop required no special clutch work and considering the strong performance of its engine right off idle, the Gixxer is a really easy bike to get off the line. While it wasn’t the fastest bike in this test, posting the fourth-quickest quarter mile acceleration time of 9.94-seconds at a trap speed of 143.3 mph, the time was still sub-10 seconds. Unfortunately for Suzuki, it was only mid-pack in this field.
ERGONOMICS / COMFORT
Without question another one of the Suzuki’s strong points is its well-sorted ergonomics and cockpit layout. First thing you’ll notice is how low the seat height is (31.9-in.). It's 0.2 in.-taller than the class-leading KTM (in low seat mode) making it more easy for short riders to firmly plant their feet on the floor. As opposed to the tall, racy feeling Ducati and Kawasaki, when you’re aboard the Suzuki you feel like you’re sitting low and are part of the motorcycle.
One of the worst features of the 2009 Suzuki GSX-R1000 is its styling and this dark colorway.
The width of the bike has been decreased compared to previous models, but still it is wider than all but the Yamaha. Larger riders might actually prefer this because it’ll help make them not look like a ‘big guy on a little bike.’ The handlebars, seat and footpegs offer a relaxed riding position comparable to the Honda and the foot pegs are also adjustable.
Like the R1, the Suzuki features a wide front fairing and a tall windscreen that does a fantastic job of redirecting wind and road debris up and around the rider. Of all the bikes here the GSX-R seems the best suited to touring-type riding because it offers so much wind protection. The seat is also the most comfortable with few riders complaining about soreness after extended seat time.
HANDLING / SUSPENSION
Over the years Gixxers have established a reputation for excellent and friendly handling manners and this model continues the trend. Even though it was fully re-worked last year the Suzuki feels like an old friend. Sure it doesn’t turn-in the sharpest (Honda, KTM, BMW) nor does it flick from side-to-side the quickest (KTM) but what it does do is handle predictably without a hint of instability which elevates the level of confidence the rider has with the bike.
Part of the reason why it maneuvers slower is the extra weight it’s carrying. On the scales the GSX-R1 weighted in at 460-lbs fully fueled. That’s 19 lbs more than the class-leading Ducati but 14 lbs less than the heavy Yamaha.
“Of all the bikes I probably like the Suzuki’s handling the best,” says Gauger. “It just rides really nice. It’s comfortable and it seems to float over the pavement and no matter what you do it never headshakes or does anything weird. It’s just an all-around great handling motorcycle.”
The Suzuki is also the only bike using Showa’s Big-Piston-Fork technology. This helps keep the front end from diving and transferring weight to the front wheel excessively during quick stops. It also does a terrific job of damping the effects of bumpy roads even at an elevated street pace. We were also impressed with its stability. Unlike the Ducati and Kawasaki it never shook its head during aggressive acceleration on rough surfaces.
Similar to some of the other Japanese bikes the GSX-R1000 rolls on Bridgestone’s Battlax BT-016 tires. And while they don’t provide as much outright grip as the Pirelli’s on the Euro bikes they perform plenty well to get a knee down around your favorite bend.
Showa fork and radial-mount Tokico brakes highlight the Suzuki GSX-R1000's front end.
The Suzuki offers good braking performance for the street. Radial-mount Tokico calipers latch on to 310mm diameter rotors up front and are actuated by a radial-pump master cylinder working through rubber hoses. A 220mm disc with a twin-piston caliper keeps rear wheel speed in check.
Braking performance falls about mid-pack but could be rated higher except for the pumping issue. Initial bite is good—more aggressive than the Kawi and Yamaha and roughly on par with the Honda. As you pull back on the front lever the brakes serve up plenty of stopping force and feel is good too. The only real problem is that the brake lever tends to grow during prolonged use. In order to compensate you have to periodically adjust the brake lever closer to your hand. The Suzuki was the only bike we encountered this with.
That didn’t affect it too much as the GSX-R managed to stop in a distance of 127 feet during or braking performance test from 60 mph. This was identical to the measurement posted by the KTM and six feet off the best non-ABS equipped numbers from the Ducati.
INSTRUMENTATION / ELECTRONICS
The main instrument display on the Suzuki is large and provides all the information a rider needs including a gear position indicator and a bright shift-light. It offers a similar amount of features as the R1 but the overall design of it looks a bit cheesy as if designed by the guys who made The Fast and The Furious
chain of movies. But in the end they are clean, legible and easy-to-read.
In the electronics department, the Suzuki uses its Drive Mode Selector to up its cool factor a bit. The system alters the engine’s power map allowing riders of different skill levels to enjoy the bike without having to worry about looping it over backwards during wide-open acceleration or any other type of unwanted mayhem. It's also handy if you ever get caught riding in the rain.
The system defaults to full-power A-mode in start up. The rider can then choose B- or C-mode via a left-hand side trigger. B-mode reduces power and makes it feel like a GSX-R700 (if there were such a thing) and C-mode further reduces power down to that of a GSX-R550. This made it easy for guys like Gauger who have minimal experience at the controls of a liter-bike. But for all of us experienced cats, A-mode is all that you’ll ever use.
From carving canyons to commuting on the freeway the 2009 Suzuki GSX-R1000 can do it all.
If you’re looking for a sportbike that hauls ass and is comfortable for tackling long distance trips or to commute on, then the Suzuki is a valid prospect for you. It doesn’t handle as sharp as a few of the other bikes nor is it as pretty (it was runner-up to the Kawasaki in terms of worst appearance on our cards) but it is comfortable, fast, and fun to ride. Its low price tag gives it the honor of being the most affordable liter-bike in spite of its 2009 model year designation. And, for all these reasons the Gixxer slots into third position.