MCUSA Editor at Large, Neale Bayly, sampled the potent new GSX-R1000 at the pictuesque Phillip Island circuit in Australia.
Pulling up out of pit lane and cresting the small rise, the view through the visor was like being smacked round the head with a piece of two-by-four. Small yellow flowers peppered the green grass to the side of the track, and the deep blue waters in the Bass Straight were a mass of white-topped waves in the mid-morning sunlight. Ahead of me, a line of new 2007 GSX-R1000
s snaked its way around the smooth, slick track surface and the sky was alive with light, airy clouds.
Breathing in the cool, crisp, ocean air, it would be the last chance I would have to enjoy my Ansel Adams moment as the lead rider got some heat in his tires and found his throttle hand. By the end of the lap, I was shredding my left knee puck at over 100 mph coming onto the front straight and was tucked in at full throttle heading for Turn 1. I could have sworn during the rider meeting someone has said something about a couple of slow sighting laps.
The next time I entered the track at full throttle was the last time I got to enjoy the view from the saddle of the new GSX-R1000
, as the rest of my time on the bike was spent staring intently forward at the insanely fast rush of asphalt coming through the screen. Whichever way you cut it, the new generation of liter-class sportbikes is capable of major-league speed at a moment's notice, and when you twist the throttle in anger you had better be paying attention as one of our colleagues found out. Winning himself a trip in the meat wagon, he brought home some extra titanium he didn't have with him on the way to Australia, while leaving some skin as deposit. Ouch.
All new for 2007, this year's big Gixxer has undergone a pretty thorough re-vamp to ensure it stays at the top of its game. It also features one of the most talked about pieces of electronic wizardry on any bike this winter, with an engine-mapping button that has widely been touted as a traction-control system. Basically, there is a button on the right-hand clip-on that allows you to set the power characteristics of the bike. Called S-DMS (Suzuki Drive Mode Selector) in corporate speak, by holding the button for a few seconds during start up you can toggle through three positions.
Wailing out 170 horsepower from its Inline-Four, the new Gixxer Thou also has three different power delivery modes to choose from.
Marked A, B and C, by a digital display, it sits next to the tachometer and the gear-position indicator. In A mode, you get full power with no changes to the maximum output and this is where I started my day. B mode, softens the power delivery at the lower rpm, and then brings it back to peak power, or A level power, at the upper end of the rpm range. C is a totally restricted mode, and cuts the power all the way through the rpm range. Apparently, the engineers made some mention of the bike losing as much as 50 horsepower at the peak, and as gutless as it feels in C mode, I could agree with them.
Testing a bike making around 170 horsepower at a fast track like Philip Island, I just let the bike do its stuff on start up. Without doing anything, the engine mapping goes into A mode, and you can't make any adjustments on the fly. Later into my sessions I primed the switch and put the bike in C mode. Even on the warm up lap I had trouble keeping up with the other journos. The bike feels so strangled it is like it is has run out of breath as the tach needle struggles toward redline on full throttle. Quickly shifting it into B mode, I didn't make three corners before I slipped it back to A. Giving a softer power output exiting the turns at lower rpm in B, I went looking for more power, cranked on the throttle and when it got back to full power the rear wheel decided to step out. Back to A for the remainder of the test for me it was. Confusing me as to what the benefits of this system could be, I am thinking that with such a wickedly powerful machine it might be useful to click into C mode if you are caught riding in the rain, but I am not sold on B mode.
With my ABCs out of the way, it was time to get on with my homework and start reprogramming my brain to deal with the forward motion available from the rocket launcher that Suzuki had hidden between the cast-aluminum alloy frame rails. In the press information, Suzuki
claims a 4% power increase this year. Checking our dyno figures from last year's shootout, I reckon the new '07 is putting out around 160 horsepower at the rear wheel. This is a serious amount of horsepower to be putting to the floor in a package that is claimed to only weigh 379 pounds dry - pinning the throttle to the stop is not for the faint of heart.
With a claimed dry weight of 379 lbs and power increase of 4%, twisting the throttle out on the new GSX-RK will curl the hair on your chest.
Tracing its roots back to the original long-stroke GSX-R750, the new Gixxer uses a 73.4mm bore and a 59mm stroke for a more compact combustion chamber. This is the same as last year's model, as are all the engine internals. The extra power is found from larger intake and exhaust ports as well as increased valve lift. Valves are still titanium and the same size; the only noticeable change in the spec charts is the use of Iridium spark plugs. There are also some changes to the fueling system, with new 12-hole fuel injectors replacing last year's 4-hole units. They are also more compact. Suzuki
claims these changes greatly improve throttle response, and while we didn't have an older model to compare, the way the new bike responds when you twist the throttle you would think it was wired to the back wheel. It is that immediate.
Paying serious attention to every detail, the Suzuki
engineers have reduced the pumping pressure to save mechanical losses by increasing the size of the cylinder ventilation holes from 39mm to 48mm. At this level of horsepower per liter, gains are being taken anywhere they can get them. With the new GSX-R1000 making its peak horsepower 1000 rpm further up the range, this is said to be an important element in helping the engine spin higher without increasing parasitic drag.
On the outlet side of things, Suzuki has retained its SET (Suzuki Exhaust Tuning) system from last year's model. Employing a cable-operated butterfly valve right before the catalytic converter box under the engine, the valve is opened and closed by a servomotor. How much or how little is determined by engine speed, gear selection and throttle opening. The way the new engine pulls from low down through to the redline is highly impressive, and allowed me to use second gear with ease out of the two slow turns.
More power equals more heat, and to offset this, a larger trapezoidal radiator is used. Barely millimeters wider, it is enough to up the cooling capacity and looks like a full-on race unit as it curves around the back of the forks. While the radiator is slightly larger, there is no change to the oil cooler, although the oil pump has been enlarged.
The inside of the new Gixxer's mill looks the same as its predecessor, but more power is generated via larger intake and exhaust ports. The throttle response is also improved with 12-hole fuel injectors replacing 4-hole units.
In my mind, one of the best features to be found on modern sport bikes is the slipper clutch. Eliminating a lot of the headache, and potential heartache, of making an over-enthusiastic downshift, there are improvements to be found here also. To facilitate smoother and more precise operation, the number of reaction springs has been upped to four from three, and the cam settings have been revised. Rolling off and slamming a downshift from third to second at high speed going into Lukey Heights, all I can say is the system works perfectly for this ham-fisted Muppet, and it helped me make up serious time in this section.
Another change for '07 is the move from a cable-operated to hydraulic clutch. I can't say I can feel the difference, other than maybe smoother action at the lever, but the system adjusts the amount of clutch play automatically over time - especially important during a race. With Suzuki's total dominance in AMA Superbike, and its recent World Superbike title, anything that helps the race program is going to be of high priority, and this is just one more detail aimed at keeping the big Gixxers on top.
During a quick read through the spec charts before our test, I noticed the new bike has grown a tad in the wheelbase department and gained a little weight. Talking with Suzuki
, this weight gain comes from the new Euro 3 emissions-friendly exhaust, and with a full-race pipe the bike should actually be lighter than last year's model.
Out on the track the first few sessions certainly remind you that this is a big bike, and it obviously needs more input to make turns than the 600 and 750 we rode here last year. But once I had come to grips with the extra effort needed and become comfortable on the bike, I was surprised how well it turned in and how easy it was to get off the corners. Hammering into Southern loop requires dropping from third to second while applying some short, hard braking from triple-digit speed. As my lap total increased. this speed became incrementally faster, and by the end of our test I was running a long way toward my apex still hard on the brakes. The big Gixxer still turned in nicely, and coming off the brakes and back on the throttle the front end never protested once. This became one of the most enjoyable parts of the circuit for me.
Suzuki engineers had the difficult task of making their new machine better than the class-leading 2006 Gixxer Thou, but they seem to have made it happen.
The same 43mm fork is used up front; it just comes with high- and low-speed compression damping this year. Talking with my mechanic, our suspension settings were not too far from the way the bike will be delivered, other than some adjustment to the compression settings at both ends of the bike. I was perfectly comfortable with these settings, and even by the time I had found some speed at the end of the test, I still didn't feel the need to make any changes. In the rear the new shock also gets two-way compression adjustability as well as a new shock linkage. This works in conjunction with a new oil pan to allow space for the under-body exhaust system so the weight can be directly under the machine for better mass centralization. Suzuki calls this system SAES (Suzuki Advanced Exhaust System) and this contains all the emissions equipment while having two short, light aluminum/titanium mufflers exiting to either side of the bike. I am not sure if I am sold on the look of the dual pipes, but I am sure most stock systems will be junked pretty quickly for single-exit race systems anyway.
Back to the handling department, and the new Zook has an electronically controlled steering damper this year. Using a solenoid valve, which is controlled by the engine management system, a tapered needle moves toward or away from a seat in the damper to increase or reduce oil flow, depending on what is needed. Giving the bike less damping at low speed, and more at high speed, it certainly kept the front end doing what it was supposed to exiting high- and low-speed corners. With the massive amount of power available, the bike lifts the front end with ease, but at no time did it get unruly enough to upset the delicate Bayly disposition.
So with all of this ballistic speed capability from the new engine and a chassis package that allows exemplary cornering at any speeds, what happens when it is time to slow down? Fear not, dear readers, Suzuki has stayed with its tried and trusted Tokico radial-mounted calipers while making a few subtle changes for more braking efficiency. Disc diameter and thickness remain the same, but the new discs now attach with 10 pins, instead of eight. This larger number allows the disc to dissipate heat more quickly and will allow the braking performance to stay more consistent. From the rider's perspective, the system is absolutely amazing, and there is a nice sensitivity at the lever that doesn't make it tricky to use. There is plenty of stopping power available from just a light two-finger pull. I also like the adjuster wheel that allowed me to set the lever to my desired distance, something that is quite critical for me to be comfortable when riding fast.
Pricing on the new 2007 GSX-R1000
is $11,399, and you are buying an incredible amount of bike for the money. I have to admit to not being sold on the engine-mapping button, but as I mentioned earlier, it could be a real asset to the road rider during rain riding situations. Maybe it could be useful for learning a new circuit during a track day to force you to study the circuit at lower speed before applying all the power? Either way, the rest of the new bike is not going to disappoint.
Now all we need to do is wait to see how it performs in our shootout against the other protagonists in this class. Stay tuned, as that is going to be a war.
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